If you look at the economic problems which Zimbabwe has faced over the last 20 years or so, you will realise that the nature of the problems has not fundamentally changed. What has changed is how that problem has been framed or interpreted in order to create new narratives which serve particular interests. It seems that everyone creates their own convenient narrative which is not necessarily factual but serves their motives.
In my opinion, the role of leadership must always be to seek to objectively understand fundamental problems and do whatever is necessary to transform the socio-economic architecture so that it may meet growing needs and aspirations of a changing society. When a society stays in one economic or social stage longer than necessary and is running on an old paradigm which can no longer provide answers to life's problems, that society struggles with life necessity problems leaving members of society in various states of destitution and struggles.
The conditions of life within any society are determined by the thinking of those in leadership which develops into a set of beliefs called a mindset. The mindset and systems that are created to help that society to sustain itself economically is called a paradigm. The mindset is also called psychology. A new paradigm must, therefore, emanate from a renewed mindset of leadership and that new mindset must come from acknowledging the fact that old systems which no longer work must be changed.
In the case of Zimbabwe, the facts from which a new mindset must emanate are as follows:
The Zimbabwe economic architecture of a dual enclave economy no longer serves the needs of our society
The devolution of economic power is critical to create inclusive growth. This devolution must be accompanied by building the necessary capacities both in the public and private sectors in each province, so that each province not only has the necessary financial resources, but the ability and competence to manage funds and chart their own economic trajectory based on its factor endowments. Devolution needs, therefore, to be taken seriously as a means to dismantle the enclave economy and skewed economic growth and opportunities and instead create inclusive broad-based economic development where every citizen has a stake.
Zimbabwe’s economy is locked into the production of primary products which cannot generate the necessary income needed to sustain our needs
Value addition and beneficiation are not just popular mantras, but key triggers to create local wealth, incomes, jobs and development. We cannot expect to create sustainable growth as long as we are subject to international commodity prices which are volatile. Each time we export raw products we are missing the opportunity of retaining value for our citizens and creating local growth and development.
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No country has ever created sustainable growth through primary product exports. Almost 80% of our exports are primary products and we need to reduce that and export finished products as much as possible. The benefits of this to our economy are non-debatable. Value addition, beneficiation and import substitution are then Holy Grail to prosperity.
Zimbabwe’s economy is too dependent on foreign capital
There is nothing wrong with foreign investment, it creates confidence in the local economy, develops important international business linkages and also creates value and jobs for our citizens. However, local investment is best as it allows us to build our own capacity to create value and develop new local skills through technology transfer. It creates opportunities for long-term wealth creation and results in citizens benefiting from our resource endowments.
Indigenisation as a policy position is necessary. The question is always how it is implemented and who ultimately benefits. The fact is we have the skills in agriculture and mining, all we need are the technologies and access to long-term capital and markets for beneficiated products. The ball is in our court.
Zimbabwe’s public institutions are not appropriately structured to meet the social needs of our people
The responsibility of public service is to make life easy, administer and provide essential services to improve safety and quality of life of all citizens. The structure of our public service institutions was inherited from a colonial system which served the needs of a minority. We must create new and devolved structures which serve the majority and it requires new thinking, new behaviour, new skills, new technologies, new processes and above all unquestionable ethics and integrity. Public service must never be a political playing field. It must be inclusive and non-partisan in its approach to improve the quality of life for all.
Our human capital development lags behind and thus limits the potential of the country
Human capital refers to processes that relate to training, education and other human capacity building initiatives in order to increase the levels of knowledge, skills, abilities, values and social assets of the citizens of any country. It also includes the preservation of that human capital. Human capital is at the centre of everything and not at the periphery. Our investment in and focus on human capital development issues must, therefore, increase significantly. This includes health and education.
Developed countries have become developed through continuous investment in research and skills development while Africa continues to underinvest in its future. Differences in economic growth across countries have become closely related to investment in the development of human cognitive skills and capacity. Unless we focus on developing these, we will remain underdeveloped operating much below our potential as a continent.
Our political architecture is divisive and creates a winners and losers mentality which divides and short-changes any collective effort to develop the country
There is nothing wrong with having different opinions on how things must work. In fact there is strength in diversity. The question is how we can harness that diversity in perspective, skills and thinking so that we can create a great country. If we take responsibility for each other we shall soon realise that our differences can create better solutions for all of us. That is all I have to say here.
If we accept the above as true, it, therefore, requires a fundamental shift of mind particularly within leadership and focus on what matters and what needs to be done to create better socioeconomic conditions and ultimately a better quality of life for all.
- Vince Musewe is an independent economist and you can contact him on [email protected]