CACS seminar on Zimbabwe’s challenges and prospects

A street scene in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe.

On Thursday 15 August 2019, the UJ Centre for Africa-China Studies (CACS), in collaboration with the UJ Library, hosted a public seminar on ‘A New Dispensation Tackling Accumulated Challenges: Understanding Zimbabwe’s Future Prospects’.

The speaker was H.E. Mr David Hamadziripi, Ambassador of the Republic of Zimbabwe to the Republic of South Africa.

The moderator was Dr Nolitha Vukuza, Senior Executive Director in the Vice-Chancellor’s Office at the University of Johannesburg

The respondent was Prof Chris Landsberg, Professor and SARChI Chair of African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at the University of Johannesburg.


In April 2018, the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe released a policy document entitled Towards an Upper-Middle Income Economy by 2030, which sought to share key initiatives and commitments aimed at transforming the country into an upper-middle economy by 2030 with the international community as well as domestic shareholders.

While pledging to remain loyal to the principles that animated Zimbabwe’s pursuit for independence, the Zimbabwean government acknowledged that the document followed ‘more than 18 years of economic isolation and the erosion of investor confidence, which has seen Zimbabwe losing phenomenal ground in terms of development’, and stated that it was meant to herald a new era.

The isolation it referred to has generated a range of challenges, including economic stagnation and a loss of political and economic credibility, especially among those countries that have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in recent years.

While some of these challenges are specific to Zimbabwe, they cannot be entirely divorced from dynamics elsewhere in Africa, and indeed the world. In recent years, bigger economies such as China in Asia and South Africa and Nigeria in Africa have also registered lower rates of economic growth. What is more specific to Zimbabwe is its ‘brain drain’, or its loss of people with professional and technical skills tht are crucial to its economic recovery.

Zimbabwe’s potential is immense. If properly harnessed, its literacy rate of almost 95% could help to transform the country into an example for the rest of Southern Africa as well as Africa. Extensive arable land and vast mineral wealth are among its endowments that could drive economic growth. The responsibility for changing Zimbabwe’s current fortunes for the better ultimately rests with the Zimbabwean government, as well as its citizens. However, the first step in the quest to triumph over current circumstances is to correctly diagnose what has gone wrong, and then to identify remedial action.

Objectives of the seminar

Southern Africa is undergoing leadership transitions in Botswana, South Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which will hopefully consolidate democracy in the region. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) also has a key role to play in Zimbabwe’  economic recovery, among others by easing the exchange of exports and imports. Ideally, SADC should also provide effective and principled oversight over all its members, including Zimbabwe. Beyond Southern Africa, the recently ratified African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) has also rekindled hope of intensified intra-African trade, a highly significant development in an era when insular politics seem to be in vogue.

Following its isolation by mainly Western states, Zimbabwe has proactively pursued a ‘look East’ strategy, notably intensified trade relations with China. This remains controversial, with detractors arguing that China’s policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of African countries has helped to prop up odious leaderships.

Against this background, H.E. Mr Hamadziripi provided an insider’s perspective on how the Zimbabwean government viewed the current situation, and aimed to begin unlocking the country’s potential. He also addressed a range of other issues such as forging unity among citizens, combating corruption, entrenching responsive and accountable governance, and creating conditions attractive to old and new investors.

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