How Zimbabwe can get out of crisis
By Trust Chikohora
Our country, Zimbabwe, lies in central southern Africa, where it is strategically positioned in the middle of the region.
This enables it to exercise great influence on the rest of the region and the continent at large.
Most countries in the region use Zimbabwe as an access route to the sea or to their markets.
The country has perfect weather conditions, which allow us to grow a good variety of crops and rear livestock that we desire.
We receive enough rainfall to be able to store and water all our crops when we need to.
Yes that soil that was watered by the blood of our heroes in all our wars of liberation was given a distinct and peculiar colour, which makes us proud to be called sons and daughters of Zimbabwe.
In terms of tourism, the Zimbabwean sunset and sunrise is world renowned, we boast of one of the seven wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls.
We are also the proud hosts of one of the largest ancient civilisation buildings at Great Zimbabwe, from where the name “Zimbabwe” is derived.
Members of the big five, lion, elephant, leopard, the rhino and buffalo roam around Zimbabwe’s national parks in big numbers.
They are such a marvel to behold that many save their hard-earned money to travel long distances to come and enjoy the Zimbabwean experience.
We had built some admirable infrastructure, which include a decent road and rail network, a huge coal mine, some huge steel works, electricity generation capacity, telecommunications, water and sewer reticulation facilities, admirable town planning and even an airline, which used to allow us to travel non-stop to various regional and international destinations.
The Great Dyke is an amazing geographical phenomenon with vast mineral deposits, which we have not fully quantified.
These include gold, platinum, chrome and iron ore.
Other parts of the country also have diamonds among other minerals that we have.
There is potential to exploit natural gas for energy, which has also been identified among other energy sources for the future.
But, the biggest asset that we have is our people, the hardworking and peace-loving people of Zimbabwe, who are full of Hunhu/Ubuntu.
The literacy rate of our people is among the highest on the African continent, and we can compete with the best that the world has to offer in human resources.
That is why four million of our best people have managed to find work outside our borders and are fending for their families and extended families back home contributing US$1 billion per year in foreign currency receipts.
So the question is how does such a well-endowed country become so impoverished that it has been rated among the poorest countries in Africa on a per capita basis.
It just does not make any sense, but, the factors below can help to explain this paradox.
At the outset I must say that culture starts and is defined from the top. What is termed, in corporate governance terms, tone at the top.
This sets out a way in which things are done in an organisation or in this case, a country.
Culture is pervasive and affects all facets of society.
Does the culture empower people or does it disempower people?
Do we reward hard work or do we reward rent seeking and cronyism?
Is there an incentive for walking the straight and narrow and is this celebrated and honoured?
Are crooks celebrated and honoured instead?
Do we encourage value addition or do we create millionaires out of tenderpreneurs, who produce nothing at the end of the day?
Do you get to the top through consistent excellence and the dignity of hard work or is it through heavy bootlicking and bribery?
The culture that has been created by our leaders stinks and needs to be totally uprooted if we are to move forward.
We have gone through a land reform programme, which was unplanned and disorderly and has consequently decreased our level of productivity and we have fallen from being the bread basket of Africa to being a huge importer of grain over the years, importing maize from countries that used to rely on us.
We will not get anywhere if we have to import maize because all of us survive on it on a daily basis.
Overnight, we reduced the value of agricultural land to zero because it can be taken away from you anytime, even if you are a new farmer.
This madness must stop.
We must give security of tenure on the land to restore land value and facilitate development as well as stimulate funding and productivity in agriculture on a sustainable basis.
We must harvest water extensively for irrigation so that we can water our crops when there is need.
There needs to be massive training and extension services for new farmers who are serious about farming.
It is painful to see the wanton destruction of electricity lines on the railway system.
We see all our raw materials and produce being transported by road, making us uncompetitive and further destroying whatever is left of the road network.
It is very sad to see people grading and turning tarred roads into dust roads.
We are moving backwards and turning our cities and towns into growth points.
Running water has become a luxury in our cities, while sewerage bursts are rampant.
Houses are sprouting everywhere and town planning is now a nightmare.
Air Zimbabwe is still trying to run its couple of planes with a huge workforce.
Such parastatals keep draining the fiscus.
Electricity generation is far below optimal requirements.
And the list goes on.
On infrastructure, the key lies in Public Private Partnerships.
It is better to have an eight lane motorway built by a private player on a Build Operate and Transfer basis for 30 years than to have a dysfunctional network run by government.
The person using the road does not really care who is operating it, provided the cost is competitive and the infrastructure is efficient.
Functionality is more important than ownership.
After all, no one can take away the infrastructure once it is built.
Mining and manufacturing
There is no point in boasting about vast mineral resources that are underground.
They can only become useful when we start exploiting them efficiently, profitably and sustainably. Again, we need to partner with the best in the world.
The Botswana example of Debswana is a case in point, where an entire country was transformed by a single mineral (diamonds) based on a joint venture between the Government of Botswana and Debeers on sound business terms.
Alternatively, we can invite bids from around the world and properly adjudicate on the most competitive investment for our country.
We also benefit from market linkages and other synergies if we deal with the best in the business.
This business of forcing foreign companies to blindly sell 51 percent of their shares to locals will not work.
We need to repeal the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act and replace it with a more competitive piece of legislation, that balances empowerment and attractiveness for investment so that we can lure the much-needed foreign direct investment to boost both mining and manufacturing.
If something does not work it does not work.
So it is wise to change it.
There is need to create a more inviting business environment with sound and consistent policies to attract both foreign and local capital.
The value generated from our tourism product has plummeted.
To put it into perspective, a country like Egypt, which is one of the top three in Africa, relies primarily on tourism largely driven by the pyramids and red sea resorts.
Can you compare that with Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe and the Big Five?
We can do better than what we are doing right now!
We need to rebrand Zimbabwe and turn it from being a pariah State that it has become to a first class economy.
Zimbabwe has not been able to access balance of payments support, development funding, aid and affordable lines of credit from the International Monetory Fund, World Bank, development partners and other international financial institutions for a long time now.
We need to seriously reengage the international community so that we begin to be treated like any other member of the community of nations.
While government is trying to do an elaborate plan to pay arrears by creating some more new debt, I believe it is better and more sustainable to mend relations and go for debt write off.
We can then use the little resources we have to rebuild and develop our nation going forward.
Our debt is simply unsustainable!
We need to fully harness our Diaspora value by embracing our Diaspora community and not treat them like second class citizens by denying them dual citizenship and disenfranchising them by not allowing them to participate in the governance system of the country through voting.
If conditions are improved some may opt to come back home and contribute to the development of the country.
Others may choose to invest back home and yet others will use the vast experience, expertise and networks that they have built for the development of our motherland.
I believe that Zimbabwe, with the above interventions, among others, can redefine itself and begin to show its true riches and take its rightful place as a leader in Africa. This selfish thinking will not help attract the much-needed foreign capital and will only dissuade interested investors from investing in enterprises around this project.
Our political class has shown a penchant for expropriation and disdain for the rule of law. Tokwe-Mukosi projects should benefit every Zimbabwean and government should resist the temptation to approach this in a partisan manner.
If this is approached in a professional and non-partisan manner, the benefits to the economy would be significant. Jobs will be created; new money will come into the country from foreign investors; and the economy will grow.
Already, we know Angolan President, Eduardo dos Santos’ billionaire daughter, Isabel, has shown interest in projects to be supported by the dam.
Trust Chikohora is a chartered accountant, economic analyst and former president of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce.This selfish thinking will not help attract the much-needed foreign capital and will only dissuade interested investors from investing in enterprises around this project.