Zimbabwe; key factors to prosperity - Part 3
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The key factors for Zimbabwe's prosperity that I have identified are; leadership accountability, the efficient collection and allocation of financial resources, the use of technology to accelerate economic development and the respect and preservation of human capital so that all Zimbabweans have the opportunity to live up to their full potential.
Also read, Part 1 and Part 2
In this third installment I want to deal with the need for Zimbabwe to utilise technology to accelerate economic development. Zimbabwe remains somewhat backward in the application and use of new technologies as a means of accelerating economic development. I would guess that that is the price any country must pay where its policies go against the grain of international opinion.
This last week I had the pleasure of meeting a very young Zimbabwean who has a doctorate in materials science and is trying to build a plant that would not only clean up the environment but use the dumps of coal ash to produce pellets that can be used to generate additional power and also to manufacture construction materials which can be then be sold locally or exported at a fraction of current market prices
This is just one example and there is an abundance of very innovative new projects in the pipeline in every sector that are awaiting funding and my hope is that the politicians will not derail them .My other hope is that international funders realize that Zimbabwe presents significant opportunity and the quicker they come to the party the better returns they are likely to make.
My point here is that we will need to harness innovation and create an enabling environment where Zimbabweans who have had excellent exposure and experience in the Diaspora can return home and apply their skills and experiences in jump starting the economy through introducing new technologies and new ways of doing things. I am quite surprised, for example, that the use of solar power technology is not as wide spread as one would expect it to be given the high cost and inconsistent supply of power. I am also shocked at the ridiculously high prices of both voice and data communication that the Zimbabwe market has accepted.
Unfortunately my observations are that Zimbabweans seem very skeptical of new ideas and new products and this continues to arrest technological development. I would however expect that with the onset of a democratic dispensation in the country, we will also get a new beginning in industry and commerce that embraces change and innovation. Zimbabweans are well talented and all they really need will be for the new government to facilitate their growth on a non partisan basis. This will be the challenge to any new government.
Zimbabwe can be the Japan of Africa, someone said to me recently and I agree with that. Our problem continues to be the dearth of progressive thinking especially within the older generation of our political leaders. Hopefully we will get new and fresh thinking individuals in a new government.
The acceleration of economic development through technology also poses some risk in that international companies will once more "colonize" Zimbabwe is they scramble for new opportunities and come up with better and cheaper products than local companies. This has already happened in the mining sector and to some extent in the retail sector. Foreign companies are likely to eclipse local companies as the economy opens up especially in the service industry where standards are quite low. This of course will be good for competition but may reverse the gains of indigenization and the buy local campaign.
We must however be wary of international capital or monopolies whose role in Africa is merely to extract super profits at the expense of local development. Indigenization alone will not prevent this and in my opinion, we will need to put in some restrictions to ensure that most of the profits generated are ploughed back in developing our people.
It appears to me that there has been no conversation or some sort of consensus on the most appropriate economic system that Zimbabwe needs post the GNU phase. Capitalism may deliver the infrastructural development that we need but will not necessarily eradicate poverty nor will it deliver black economic emancipation. I will leave that debate for another day.
Vince Musewe is an independent economist currently in Harare and you may contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org
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Source: Vince Musewe
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