Economic Growth in Zimbabwe


The country of Zimbabwe is one of the most economically 
developed on the African continent . A fairly young political entity, 
Zimbabwe has only enjoyed recognized autonomy since 1980, the year in 
which the United Kingdom repealed its imperialistic claims to the 
African nation . Despite its youth the country has achieved a level of 
economic development uncharacteristic of sub-Saharan African nations. 
Second only to South Africa in economic development, Zimbabwe's 
economic system is one indicative of a transitional country, a country 
making the transition from dependency underdevelopment to self-reliant 
industrialization. The purpose of this essay is to make a cursory but 
adequate examination of Zimbabwean socio-economic and political 
system, as means to analyzing the countries economic development. The 
ultimate purpose of this study is to provide a model of the structure 
necessary to achieve economic development where none previously 
existed. Zimbabwe is an appropriate model because the dynamics of 
underdevelopment to development in this country are readily apparent. 
This model can be useful in understanding underdevelopment in other so 
called "third-world" countries and in determining what is necessary 
for these countries to make the transition to industrialization.


 Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in the southern, sub-Saharan 
area of the African continent bordered by South Africa to the South, 
Botswana to the West, Mozambique to the East and Zambia to the North. 
With an area of 391,090 km2 Zimbabwe is only slightly larger than the 
state of Colorado. Harare is Zimbabwe's capital and largest city with 
a population of 1,100,000. Containing vast amounts of rare 
mineralogical resources and possessing a favorable growing climate 
Zimbabwe's economy is drawn almost equally between the mining of 
minerals ($2.2 billion) and the production of staples and cash crops 
($2.1 billion).


 Zimbabweans are comprised of two primary ethnic groups, the 
Shona, comprising 74% of the population and the Ndebele comprising 
20%. Other ethnic black groups and Asians make up 4% of the population 
while whites make up just over 1% of the population. Zimbabwe has a 
population of 10.35 million people with a population density of 24 
persons per km2. 1992 census figures estimate Zimbabwe's growth at 
3.0% with 90% of this growth rate within the Shona group. This 3.0% 
growth is quite rapid given its relation to the countries declining 
annual growth rate of -15%.


 Zimbabwe's history dates back to the 9th century A.D., the 
believed period in which many great buildings were built, buildings 
clearly indicative of an early and great civilization. Of the many 
sites the most impressive is the Great Stone House or Great Zimbabwe 
the source of the countries name. Despite the impressive nature of the 
Great Zimbabwe and the other building sites, it is believed that the 
civilization that created them did not survive to see the new 
 Some 900 years after the construction of the Great Zimbabwe 
many other sights were built as Zimbabwe became the object of British 
colonialism in 1888. It was in this year that John Cecil Rhodes 
obtained mineral rights for the British throne and began the process 
of bringing Zimbabwe home to Great Britain. Pleased with his 
accomplishment the throne honored Rhodes by lending his name to the 
area, now calling it Rhodesia. Headed by Rhodes the British South 
Africa Company (BSA) was chartered in 1889 with the responsibility of 
colonizing the areas of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and bringing 
back to the Kingdom the vast mineralogical resources Rhodesia had to 
 Although a colony, throughout the existence of its charter 
Rhodesia enjoyed self-governing and perceived autonomy. The United 
Kingdom reserved the right to intervene in the policies of Rhodesia at 
any prompting, but this right was rarely employed leaving Rhodesia's 
autonomy all but assumed. The perceived autonomy the nation enjoyed 
allowed for the emergence of factions interested in developing 
Rhodesia's mineralogical and agricultural potential for the purpose of 
stimulating domestic growth only. Although growth would benefit the 
country as a whole, it would benefit whites specifically by design. An 
apartheid-type land apportionment act passed in 1934 allotted key 
resource rich areas to whites only. The perceived autonomy and racists 
nature of Rhodesia would have great implications late in the countries 
political future.


 By 1960 Rhodesia was a country of two factions: the ruling 
white minority who wanted complete independence from the United 
Kingdom and the indigenous African majority who wanted greater control 
of their country and an end to institutional racism. On November 11, 
1965 in a step to hasten along political change white progressives 
announced the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) thereby 
declaring their independence from Great Britain . The British 
government was not hostile to the UDI but did insist that the 
Rhodesian government demonstrate its intention to move toward free and 
democratic majority rule. Considering the majority of Rhodesia was 
African the ruling whites were diametrically opposed to any such form 
of majority rule government and refused to meet Great Britain's 
conditions of independence.
 On December 16, 1966 Rhodesia made history by being the first 
country subject to United Nations economic sanctions, suffering a 
complete embargo on key exports and imports . With a dilapidating 
economy and African discontent with the white ruling minority Rhodesia 
fell into a period of economic and political turmoil breeding 
uncertainty and general political instability.
 In 1974 Rhodesia's two primary black nationalists parties 
combined to form a front against Rhodesia's governing policy. Robert 
Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Joshua Nkomo's 
Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) united together to form a 
"Patriotic Front" against the segregationist regime of Prime Minister 
Ian Smith . In 1976, under great political, economic, and social 
pressure Smith ceded to foreign and domestic demands and agreed to 
majority rule in principle. Through diplomatic channels and under 
British auspices Rhodesia made the transition to majority rule and on 
December 21, 1979 political reforms were unofficially agreed upon. As 
a condition of this agreement Rhodesia was granted independence from 
the Commonwealth, and all U.N. sanctions were lifted with a decree 
that Rhodesia was to be internationally recognized as a political 
 In late February, 1980 free democratic election were held in 
Rhodesia for the first time with Mugabe's ZANU(PF) achieving an 
absolute majority. Upon the victory of his party Mugabe was asked to 
form the first government of the country of Zimbabwe. On April 18, 
1980 the British Government formally granted independence to the 
former Rhodesia and four months later Zimbabwe was indoctrinated as a 
member of the United Nations.
 Zimbabwe's political system exists to this day as democratic 
and majoritarian all implemented through a parliamentary system. 
Robert Mugabe remains as President and utilizes a foreign policy of 
non-alignment. Despite this Zimbabwe is a member of the Organization 
of African Unity (OAU) and performs primary trade with its neighboring 
African state South Africa. It is the period from 1980 to the present 
that is most fundamental in understanding Zimbabwe's economic system 
because it is in this period that Zimbabwe's economic structure best 
reveals itself.


 Zimbabwe's economic structure is one of great potential. In 
the years prior to its independence Zimbabwe put great emphasis in 
developing its mining industry and as a result it is one of the most 
developed in Africa. The mining of such minerals as copper, nickel, 
gold, and metallurgical-grade ferrochromite is responsible for nearly 
half the countries $4.9 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) . The 
other half of Zimbabwe's GDP is generated primarily in the 
agricultural sector with the majority of this produced at subsistence 
levels by most of the population.

 Zimbabwe clearly has the potential to generate agriculture 
beyond the subsistence level and thereby eliminate any degree of 
shortage. In any event subsistence would be sufficient to eliminate 
shortage if not for recent devastating droughts. Zimbabwe's mineral 
export industry is key to the nations developmental success. Although 
small, the countries mining industry is modernized and strategically 
developed toward exports. Many paved roads link mines and other 
industries together that complement mining such as heavy machinery. 
Also, the areas within the vicinity of the mines are highly developed 
and urbanized to ensure an adequate and able workforce. Finally, 
Zimbabwe participates in non-aligned trade for non-strategic products 
such as textiles. This greatly reduces the countries chance of 
becoming dependent on a trade partner.


 In many ways Zimbabwe is a model for third-world economic 
development. Although not yet fully developed Zimbabwe clearly has the 
potential to be a full fledged developed nation. Beyond its vast 
resources Zimbabwe is structured in a way to promote development. This 
fact in and of itself distinguishes Zimbabwe from most other Lesser 
Developed Countries (LDC). Zimbabwe's economic structure is one in 
which they are essentially self-sufficient and trade only for profit 
or for consumer goods. Also they perform trade with many partners with 
no single partner comprising garnering more than 15% of import or 
export goods. By structuring the Zimbabwe's economic system in a way 
that keeps its partners diversified and its imports non-strategic, 
Mugabe has successfully led his nation to the path of development. The 
barriers left to full development are quite minimal compared to the 
ones already dominated, The structure of Zimbabwe's economic system is 
truly a model of economic development.


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