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Economic development in zimbabwe

Economic Development 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recognized autonomy since 1980, the year in which the United Kingdom repealed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 millennium .

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 offer .

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

state .

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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