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The tale of a jewel and a giant: Facts about revival of Zimbabwe's economy

19 Jun 2018 at 17:35hrs | Views
The Country, Nation and Our World
Many have talked, written and caricatured Zimbabwe as a country of educated but inept leaders. A country once a jewel of Africa brought down by corruption, greed and jealousy of the populace and its leadership. Once a mighty country but brought down by mismanagement, exodus and migration. From the Biblical stories, when the Pharaohs of Egypt allowed the hard working enslaved Israelites, their economy was doomed and indeed when the same Israelites left Canaan and spread in all corners of the world, these countries prospered with business and technologies with many examples like Einstein and the Rothschild families. Not that Zimbabweans are special but they work hard and could make some countries prosper.  Some say they are thieves but those are a few bad eggs among a nation of hard working intellectuals and people. Indeed Nigerians intellectuals (engineers) and medical doctors have made a difference, with over 25000 medical doctors in United States of America and many more in other countries but their impact is marred by drug dealers (Nigerian) in some countries like South Africa and Europe.

The history of Zimbabwe is well known to everyone. Perhaps as a reminder, Zimbabwe was a British colony taken over by rogue sons of British explores who declared unilateral independence in 1964 but managed to stirred Rhodesian to a self-sustaining industrial state with help from sanction busting from apartheid South Africa. While the Africans were forced into the periphery, they managed to produce 80% of nation's food security. Discrimination forced people to be resilient, self-sustaining and proud of whom they are. But we are Zimbabweans despite our historical background and given that history indeed we should take the future in our own hands and make a difference from what we have now. Independence was a celebrated event. We celebrated freedom but only for voting rights (which were eventually abused) and not economic access. That was it then. But what have we done so far as proud as we are.

The Falling of a Jewel and Giant
There was a celebrated Nigerian African writer Chinua Achebe who wrote a book called Things Fall Apart. They were falling apart for the Okonkwo family but for Nigerian nation as leaders failed take advantage of their independence but embraced corruption as a normal way of doing business. So much was the same when our nation celebrated voting rights and embraced cronyism and leadership cultism as a way of running the economy. Good examples, forcing businesses to promote inexperienced friends and relatives as business leaders, some of whom were chief executives for more than 35years. Further to that compulsory or nationalisation of independently run companies and organisations and forced and violent takeover of productive farms. These were preludes to the current demise of a jewel and a giant. Can we call ourselves a proud nation when expropriated land belongs to a few unable cronies of a political party. Indeed we should be proud of our nation as united, focused and believing in what we do. Greek philosopher Aristotle noted if a nation does not work with one mind and one purpose then it can't achieve greatness. Greatness is not fostered on a nation but comes with sacrifice with recognition of our failure is the past and our current weakness. Understanding our place and where we need to go. Creating task forces is not issues but over wholling our investments laws and attitudes to others. Creating a climate for Zimbabweans (black, white blue red etc.) who left to return home with one sole purpose, to work together as a nation.

Sometimes one asks if we need grant and loans from the International Finance Corporation (IMF) and World Bank to regain our status as jewel and giant.  Yes we do but as a nation we must have one mind of purpose to embrace their prescriptions and work towards achieving our objectives without favour of where a person comes from. Indeed the memory of the Economic Structural Adjustment Program (ESAP) of the 1990s, may instil fear yet it was not about prescriptions from these Brentwood Institutions but management of liquidity provided by the facilities provided, making proper and mindful decisions to move forward. Making proper decisions is about nation wood not intimidation, merit and not friend and indeed not about moving head offices to Harare but decentralisation of industries to where they have their raw materials.

Leadership and patriotism is all about nation building not regionalism and hegemonies, building a nation for future generations not changing constitutions to prolong one's stay in power. Thus proper leadership must not be seen as grandiose in visions and missions but fostering a nation to think of what it can achieve. We are far from bullet trains and space crafts but need to build foundations and putting concrete bricks together for a take-off to reach our dreams. It is all about resuscitating what made us a jewel and a giant in the past. AGRICULTURE and allied industries.

Situational Analysis
Perhaps to define where go we need to review our current status and fine tune our needs. Our current formal employment is less that 10%, with majority of our young people are out of employment or never been employed. Universities chain out graduates who end up selling airtime and tomatoes to survive. Some of them end as sophisticated thieves and muggers. One needs to walk around towns and cities in Zimbabwe and abroad, to appreciate the plight of young Zimbabweans and perhaps think of solutions. Some say or think solution is the upcoming 2018 harmonized elections. It is not like that. Election promises are just statements of intent and many are not doable as long as leadership is focused on harnessing power. Selfless leadership may do the trick. Unfortunately over the years our leadership of today and tomorrow has become egoistic and selfish to say the least, thieves of magnitude and stars of building hotels as houses. It is called greed.

Our industry had iron and steel (Zisco Steel at Redcliffe, Kwekwe) now defunct and a museum of once the biggest iron and steel work in southern Africa, Lever Brothers, Harare manufacturing soaps, detergents and food stuff and additives now just packing for Unilever (Lever Brothers) in South Africa, Colgate Palmolive (now importing from South Africa), foundry timber processors and manufacturers, meat processing and packing (Liebig's) and whole lot of mining and processing companies throughout the country. The industry created an insatiable appetite of employment. The experience is that these industries are no longer there thanks to bad policies and inward looking and selfish leadership.
The next questions is can we revive the industries? The answer is yes but with resources and with who (employees). Creating conducive environment for investment may create part of our resources needs but the nation needs to be united on saving meagre resources it gets and wisely invest through assisting industrial development. Unfortunately 85% of our people may not be employable anymore. Imagine a tout going for a month without a coin per combi. Adjusting to proper employment is one thing and having the skills for industry is another things. The wake call for any new leadership is creating employment for the unemployable. This may not fit in the geometry of development.

Our mighty agricultural sector had descended into small small as part of the nation aligned itself to the ruling class to get a piece from the confusion and madness of destruction. A nation that had prided itself as peaceful and forward looking had became self-destructive for the egos one man. A nation with a united purposeful thinking would not want to be described as delinquent. We prided ourselves with exporting best quality tobacco (our climate is best tobacco in the world), best quality beef, best quality flowers and horticultural produce and agro industry and indeed best quality professionals. While there is wish to revive, it requires the nation to put minds together and define where to go for agriculture. Do we need to bring back former farmers? That may be a good idea. The nation must formulate new strategies of working with former white farmers (those willing to engage) and harnessing the expertise available (if any).

Our Solution to the Past (the Jewel and Giant)
The solution is not about election and choosing a visionless leader. It is not about political party exposing its vision and mission to the nation. It is about having a leader who can harness the nation to think and formulate achievable visions, missions and goals. After all grandiose statements of electioneering may not be achievable and some cases if they are forced onto the nation they can create negative results. The grandiose election statements of the current President of the United States of America are being fulfilled affecting the world on trade, immigration and even politics. The nation could think of the look east policy electioneering but failed to attract the much needed investment from the east (Chinese brought own employees creating employment for China at the expense of Zimbabwe). Some are saying Zimbabwe is up for sale as investment destiny. Not for sale but open for business. But open for business, what does it entail if the business environment is not attractive, human resources not quite fit for employment and the infrastructure is unsuitable.

May be our solutions are as follows:
Practical visions, missions and goals can only be addressed when the nation assesses what it has on the ground. What do have (natural and otherwise) and what do we need. Here is what we have and need.

Getting Agriculture Work Again
The giant and jewel was achieved as an agro-based economy. Land reform of 2000 had basically destroyed the agriculture of the country. Efforts were made over the years to support the new farmers' whose experience in farming was backyard gardens or zero and had no resources to invest in large scale food production. Command agriculture launched in 2016 made difference as recipients of inputs for maize production were threatened with arrest if they failed to produce. But it is not about command agriculture but a sustainable mechanism to ensure sustainable use of inputs while maintaining production at sustainable economic levels.

In other words, the nation needs formulate systems that would replace forced production like command agriculture. First to address a number of factors to resuscitate the agriculture sector and allied industries:
-  Creating task forces to command production working with relevant government departments to work out systems of sustainable production.
-  Infrastructure (like roads) development to move inputs and produce.
-  Transparent land policy in necessary and much needed. The nation does not need shifting cultivation. Land policy supported by a purposeful land law will foster development and conservation of every piece of land thus creating its sustainable use and investment.

-  The government must create incentives for production through pre-planting pricing and lowering taxes on livestock.
-  Retraining of agricultural personnel following industrial model of apprenticeship
-  Providing incentives for conservation of soil and wildlife
-  Export incentives for agricultural produce
-  Government stop free inputs to farmers. This is a drain on the fiscus. However, if government has control on credit facilities through banks like Agribank, creating a sustainable and revolving funding for smallholder agriculture.
-  Support for irrigation projects to offset the impact of climate  change

Task Forces
While task forces are necessary as think tanks indeed their functions must replace ministries. The nation does not need dreams from the so called Task Forces. Task forces must have a realistic and practical approach to existing situations on the ground. Spades must be called spades not shovels or spoons. Assessing constraints and realities, practical solutions based on self-financing and sacrifices. Task forces are not employment for retirees. Task forces must report directly to the president of the republic.  They must work directly with relevant government departments. Task forces will only set the ball rolling and put systems in place for continuation and sustainable production and dissolved after  four years.

Task forces must focus on systems of production. Good examples of task forces are:

Irrigation Task Force (ITF) whose functions will be:
-  Identify idle water resources
-  Identify areas that need dams
-  Identify deficiencies and status of the irrigation infrastructure
-  Identify farmers for irrigation projects and set targets for production
-  Identify rivers with sub-surface water which can be tapped for crop and livestock production
-  Allocate provincial targets for irrigated crops

Maize Task Force (MTF)
-  Set targets national for production
-  Set provincial targets of production
-  Recommend varieties for maximum production in each agro-ecological region

Wheat Task Force (WTF)
-  Set targets for national production
-  Set provincial targets for production
-  Identify and catalogue farmers for national and provincial production
-  Identify areas suitable for economic wheat production

Horticulture Task Force (HTF)

Zimbabwe has the best climate for horticultural crops especially for the export market. Horticultural Task Force will
-  To review the horticultural sector and identify constraints
-  Identify needs for horticultural production
-  Recommend crops and systems of irrigation for water use efficiency
-  Identify targets and markets
-  Work out systems and loop holes against intermediaries and market distorters
-  Develop a national catalogue of horticultural crops and suitable production areas
-   Identify export markets and work with relevant institutions is setting quality standards and processing systems as required by the markets
-   Create export processing zones for the horticultural sector

Livestock Task Force (LTF)

 The country once exported 9000mt tons of beef to the European markets before the violent land reform and this market has since been tapped by MozBeef of Mozambique. We can claim this is our market and Zimbabwe must take it back. Experience of quality beef production coupled with breeding programs and suitable climate makes Zimbabwe prime for beef importers throughout the world. Beef is not the only livestock but pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, rabbits and indeed wild life. Livestock Task Force (LTF) will

-  Establish small task forces for each sector, beef, pigs etc.
-  Set up a coordination mechanism of the small livestock task forces
-  Review current production levels including conservation practices for land used for livestock production
-  Identify constraints of production of all livestock and wild life
-  Identify market constraints
-  Set national targets
-  Set national and international standards for quality meat production
-  Work with relevant institutions (government and private) to identify markets and their quality standards
-  Set conservation land use practices in livestock practices

Land Use Task Force (LUTF)

Not all farmers understand that, not all land is suitable for anything they want to grow or raise. They need guidance from professionals and provided with necessary incentives to invest in suitable crops and livestock. Climate (temperature and rainfall) and soil type determine sustainable and profitable use of particular piece of land. For example, Zimbabwe has five agro-ecological regions and not all regions are suitable for crop production. The land use task force must therefore set the stage and fill the following tasks:
-  Identify agricultural activities for each agro-ecological region and areas within region
-  Identify idle land and ensure every piece of land in the country is used economically with suitable conservation practices especially by resettled farmers
-  Ensure land with absent owners must be allocated to those who can make maximum (intensive) use of it
-  Set production and conservation targets for land use by rural farmers
-  Establish a set of incentives for proper land use.

Electioneering is a platform to dream and for dreamers. It is not about Zimbabwe is open for business. It is about how the "business" is open. It is about committing self to conditions and incentives. Leaders must be held to account for their statements. They must deliver promises. Nation must create incentives for investors. Tax incentives and percentage profit repatriation. Employment incentives are necessary.  

Infrastructure Upgrade
-  Focus on road networks. Better road network promotes efficient agricultural production. It promotes timely input delivery and timely access to markets for agricultural produce. The much talked about Beitbridge-Chirundu upgrade will improve movement of commodities for exports and imports. The road can pay for itself if not of the abuse of resources and secrecy in handling public monies. Indeed general improvement of road network in the country will improve access to mines, farms and urban centres.
-  The collapsed railway system needs work and improvement perhaps through privatisation. If Zimbabwe is for sale for investment then railway infrastructure is the best candidate for such "sale". But we do not want bullet trains. Zimbabwe needs goods and passenger trains for accessibility and mobility.
-  Collapsed air transport system is another candidate for the "sale" of Zimbabwe.  There is need for strategic thinking about air transport given the nation's need to revive export of flower and horticultural produce.

Agro- or Allied Industry
-  Industrial infrastructure has all but collapsed. Resuscitating infrastructure will be about government committing to assistance by providing tax incentives to would be investors.
-   Labour force training and development. Zimbabwe currently has educated but unskilled personnel. Universities have produced agriculturalists, engineers etc. over the years, who are currently selling airtime and vegetables in town and cities. These are not employable unless they are trained to suite each industry. ZISCO Steel cannot come into life without expensive technicians from other countries. Perhaps for the next five years the nation must upgrade the apprentice program including the educated agriculturalists, engineers and artisans. The labour force needs reorientation especially those doing menial jobs.
-  Financial incentives to industry in tax form for labour training through apprenticeship and local content (using local raw materials) to promote increased local production from farmers.
-  Government commitment to export incentives is necessary.
-  Providing land to new allied industries through creating industrial zones and tax free export processing areas.
-   Lowering energy tariffs and improving water supply to agricultural processing and manufacturing industries.

Irrigation Infrastructure
Irrigation is necessary for a country that is now prone to drought due climate change. Zimbabwe is one of the most dammed countries in the world with many small and large rivers hosting large and small dams. There are more than 7000 dams in the country. The amount of water does not translate to increased agricultural production. Indeed use of these water resources will make a difference in food production. While there is urgent and increased demand for domestic water demand in towns and cities, there are dams with water resources lying idle. Therefore effort must be made to identify these idle water resources and channel that excess to productive use by either commercial or small holder farmers. If the nation could put 80 000ha of land under maize irrigation is summer, that could produce 450 000 to 560 000 tons of maize supplementing drying production.

Unfortunately over the past years, infrastructure has been neglected and in many cases collapsed. Donors and bilateral or multilateral agreements will there to assist revival of irrigation infrastructure even start new projects. Prioritization and guidance will enhance our chances of making irrigation part of our food security system.

Article is an extract summary of Chapter from a book on Sustainable Agriculture for Zimbabwe: A Jewel and Giant,  to be launched by Dr Vincent Gwarazimba. Tel +263 782 711 628.
Next article- Managing our climate for sustainable and economic food production.

Source - Vincent Gwarazimba
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