As Zimbabwe enters into election season, the country will need leadership that can articulate and demonstrate that they will decisively move the country towards socio-economic recovery, growth & prosperity.
Regardless of the winner, the incoming administration will need to address a number of initiatives that will set the country on an aggressive growth trajectory. To become a middle income country (estimated $35-45 billion GDP) will require a strong >8-10% GDP growth per year. To achieve this requires visionary leadership, management expertise, relentless execution and the will of all stakeholders to move Zimbabwe forward on this bold journey.
To move the country into its “promised land” and rebuild the economy into a holistic and inclusive middle income country by 2030 (and high income by 2050) there are 5 strategic areas the incoming administration will need to address.
DEVELOP STRONG INDEPENDENT INSTITUTIONS
Regardless of the political party will form the government from September onwards, they will have the responsibility of ensuring that our institutions are able to deliver their mandates. The executive, legislature, judiciary and commissions will need to be independent of each other, allowing for the checks and balances that allow for accountability to the citizens, performance management as well as the impartial upholding of the rule of law. Traditional leaders will need to be impartial and identify their roles, responsibilities and relevance in upholding customs, traditions and values in a modern, middle-high income society. Civil society will be critical in holding the state accountable to the promises that they made to citizens and ensuring that the most vulnerable are taken care of and not left behind in the economic rise. The church and all religious groups will be required to be the moral compass of the nation, ensuring that the nation, its leaders and its citizens do not lose moral direction. The church will also be critical in facilitating national healing and reconciliation and upholding the social contract between government and the citizens.
- STRENGTHEN THE FOUNDATIONS & ENABLERS OF ECONOMIC GROWTH
In order to achieve the aspirational >10%/annum GDP growth required to get us to middle income status, the incoming administration will need to ensure that there is strong investment in the key areas that catalyse and enable socio-economic growth and address any outstanding legacy issues that have prevented growth. These include updating and developing new infrastructure for transportation, power, water, industrial, manufacturing and social services; Upgrading and developing new human capital skills required to create an highly skilled workforce; Embedding science, digitalization and technology into every aspect of the economy & society to improve efficiencies, productivity and ensure lasting impact; Instituting reforms in the public sector to create a results driven culture.
The incoming administration will also need to finalise the land reforms and land tenure processes to unlock capital and increase agricultural productivity; Integrate research, development and entrepreneurship into every sector to unleash new ideas and new streams of wealth creation; Engage and leverage the diasporas’ relationships, skills and financial capital & ensure sound, evidence-driven and holistic monetary and fiscal policies that engender trust, & accountability to the citizens while creating macroeconomic stability and unleashing domestic and international investment.
- PRIORITISE THE GROWTH OF OUR ECONOMIC DRIVERS
Rapid economic growth in Zimbabwe will initially be driven by 5 key sectors which are Agriculture, Mining, Tourism, Industry & Manufacturing as well as Financial Services. However as the economy begins to turn, additional sectors will start to become significant contributors and these include Information Communication & Technology; Regional Wholesale and Retail Trade; Provision of offshore services such as billing or call centers for global companies. Industries of the future such as Biotechnology, Nano-technology, bio-pharmaceuticals, as well as advanced manufacturing etc. will begin to provider bigger and more meaningful contribution to job, wealth creation and GDP growth. Zimbabwe will need to build these sectors and very quickly integrate regionally and internationally into the global value chains, in order to increase markets for these products and services.
As a priority, the incoming administration will also need to urgently work on and prioritise policy initiatives that trigger creativity, entrepreneurship, investment and growth across all sectors.
- ENSURE FUNCTIONAL SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
While the incoming administration must emphasise economic growth to ensure employment creation and ensure that the fiscus generates enough revenue to address the range of national needs; the social development sectors which also represent the core human rights must not be neglected. The incoming administration will need to be able to provide quality education for the thousands of children who are out of school and decongest the overpopulated schools; Strengthen the health system and ensure adequate financing to ensure that all citizens have adequate quality medical coverage; Ensure that all citizens have access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities; Protect the environment and ensure that it is sustainably managed by all stakeholders.
This new administration will need to facilitate access to decent and affordable housing while ensuring that our towns and cities are well planned and organised in a way that allows sustainable growth. Social protection programs, poverty reduction and rural development programs will need to be strengthened, without creating dependency and with deliberate creation of pathways that allow individuals, families and communities to pull themselves out of poverty. Women, children, youth and vulnerable groups will need to be deliberately integrated into every sector strategy to allow for equity and ensure truly inclusive socio-economic growth.
- RALLY THE NATION AROUND A STRONG SENSE OF BELONGING AND ONENESS
The nation has undergone decades of pain, with psychological trauma to the citizens. The pre and post war atrocities, Murambatsvina, 2008 election violence, cholera outbreaks, hyperinflation (and wiping out of life savings & pensions) have all taken a toll on citizens’ trust of the government and each other. The incoming administration will need to make deliberate efforts to address this polarization of Zimbabwean society.
Everything rises and falls with leadership. The incoming administration needs to ensure that strong, visionary and transformational leaders are placed in all positions of authority to ensure that the country begins on its pathway to prosperity. Capable and competent managers must be positioned in all key institutions and agencies to ensure that the vision is relentlessly executed and delivered in a timely manner. Starting with development of a social contract between government and the citizens, there is need to ensure that government delivers on its promises and commitments and creates a conducive environment for citizens to thrive and prosper.
A national healing and reconciliation process would be priority for implementation and not remain as lip service in order for it to be taken seriously and address the pains and traumas from the past. The process must not only be for the war and post war atrocities, but also address election & political violence and any other large scale psychological traumas that the citizens have faced. A new ethical and moral code needs to be established again, built upon our own national traditions and cultures while ingraining values of integrity, respect, hard work and innovation among many others. This will include deliberate and decisive action on all forms of corruption which have altered the national moral code.
While not exhaustive, I believe with this cocktail of interventions, we will start the country on the path to prosperity and will see a wealthy Zimbabwe established in our lifetimes.
Farai Charasika is a Management Consultant at McKinsey & Company