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Zanu-PF conference lacked strategic imperatives for economic growth

04 Nov 2021 at 06:30hrs | Views
THE Zanu-PF conference is of strategic importance due to its potential of providing simultaneous and sequential signal on the general direction or economic trajectory of the country. It is also not far-fetched to see the conference continue economic signalling up to the year 2028 unless there is internal reform in Zanu-PF or an opposition surprise win.

The Executive in Zimbabwe takes a cue and direction from Zanu-PF. Party decisions have become more supreme that those of government bureaucrats since the inception of the Second Republic, mainly because party heavyweights, who were relegated to be party functionaries, have to remain relevant. It's critical for business to follow the big politics emanating from this Zanu-PF "kaiju".

The party theme at the just-concluded conference was "Growing and modernising the economy towards vision 2021". It's this theme and public deliberations thereat which I see as a challenge to a positive outcome on the job creation front.

The party needs to invest in new thinking if it has to avoid hordes of disgruntled unemployed youths. Growth and modernisation are not exactly synonymous with job creation which unfortunately is the major albatross on both achieving a middle-class economy and delivering on the happiness index.

In the party context, I believe Douglas Alexander (former British MP) when he said we are making "a fundamental error of what makes success in the 21st century". The party seems to be making the same error.

The party needs to change its mindset and at best start looking at the economy in four ways. First, to accept that the country is dead economy-wise and then start looking at creating a new vision. Second, that a change of mindset is required to desist from always looking at the economy from an incremental innovation perspective, but look at it from disruptive, revolutionary and radical ways. Third, that failure to find a job winning formula poses an existential threat to the party itself. Fourth, that the old agro and mining industries should be in the hands of the most competent among us by discarding crony capitalism.

Part of the quagmire is that there is relentless passion for the old industrial complex mostly inherited from Rhodesia. There is no positive correlation between economic growth in those industries and job creation yet job creation is the greatest challenge.

Modernising the economy results in efficiency and competitiveness which cannot be achieved without destroying jobs in the modernisation of the old industrial complex. In fact, the old industrial complex must destroy jobs to be modern, competitive and efficient.

Without jobs, there is stunted demand which suffocates supply and the resultant economic growth. Growth benefits the capitalists especially if they can avoid the human resource entry processes by tooling for avoidance of human capital needs. It will be a growing economy without job creation and that has potential for social upheaval.

The Zimbabwean economy is at the bottom and with this level of growth it will take years to create jobs for the millions who are presently unemployed and are increasing each graduating month. We require a quantum leap in growth and this requires investment in innovation funnels for a new economy.

Inasmuch as we have to preserve the core of agriculture, mining and old industrial complexes the naked truth is that job creation in the core is a mirage. Richard McKenzie in a 1992 journal op-ed (Help the economy: destroy some jobs) criticised the misguided obsession with job creation. To ensure efficiency and competitiveness these companies of the old must destroy rather than create jobs due to modernisation, retooling, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

For example, if we outlaw modern equipment like tractors, harvesters, pumps and drip irrigation we can easily create millions of jobs yet in our plantation which was the subject of my study over the past ten years thousands of tea pluckers were replaced by less than a dozen tea plucking machines, hundreds of packers were replaced by just three packomatic machines, loaders replaced by modern forklifts, dozens of factory floor managers by robots and so forth.

The country has to create a new radical and innovative economy. The party is lousy on funding the innovative cycle by believing the rudimentary role of government to be that of provision of infrastructure and social services. Unfortunately, the new normal has high risk areas in which traditional banks, venture and angel capital are averse to as a perfect labyrinthine. For the next big thing there is need to move government commercialisation policy to include huge funding of the country innovation funnel.

As an example, the most disruptive and radical innovations in making the smart phone "smart" like internet, gps, touchscreen and microchip are all United States government and military innovations that changed infotainment and e-commerce.

There should be a discussion to move their party-led government from regulation to a market shaper. The private sector-led banks are averse to start-ups without leaders who are their cronies. The banks want bank statements, three-year audited statements, site visits and so forth not only because of belief in brick and mortar but that they are risk averse to anything they haven't met in their banking life.

The value addition forays started during the late former President Robert Mugabe era based on Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Economic Transformation (Zimasset) have always been a commendable policy initiative with potential to transform society and create reasonable jobs. The challenge is the party seems to skirt the big, hairy and audacious goals around the elephant in the room which is mining value addition. Collaboration and co-operation with regional countries for funding muscle should stop financial haemorrhage through exporting minerals unprocessed.

Without the most competitive local and international players in mining we are promoting the mining sector to its highest level of incompetence. To achieve a quantum leap in the sector there should have been loud voices of discontent on crony capitalism which is rampant in the sector. So far we aren't into serious mining and mineral marketing.

The party is captured in two additional thinking deficiencies being the idea of self-sufficiency and being driven by mimicry.

Self-sufficiency is akin to promoting incompetence. The party seems immersed to this Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) era strategy of self-sufficiency. To achieve sustainable growth which creates employment a country must follow the dictates of Adam Smith by concentrating on areas we have competitive and comparative advantages while investing in dynamic competitive advantages.

The false fad of globalisation of products and services by thinking economic success is measured by how closer our products are to those of super States like Great Britain, Europe and Canada is very defective. It results in us chasing a moving target in competitiveness giving the super States power of domination in the supply chain.

The country had export quality locally competitive products with their genesis during the sanction's era of UDI which we are surrendering due to mimicry. Buy local is also a convenient mantra at periodic conferences without the investment to enable everlasting traction and soothsay in consumers minds.

Instead, of being the core of mimicry the government innovation funnel must channel funding and effort in increasing competencies which are uniquely Zimbabwean for domestic consumption and export. This way we grow the economy and create jobs. As it is even crop varieties and animal breeds were surrendered to super State companies making the country vulnerable due to dependency on supply chain of the varieties.

This country requires a great leap not holding on to the old while pursuing the incremental. The leap should be radical, revolutionary and disruptive. This great leap should be focused on job creation. At some point growth with job creation will result in country and party existential challenges from disgruntled youth.

Brian Sedze is strategy consultant and Chief Executive of Medulla Edutainment Services. He can be contacted on

Source - NewsDay Zimbabwe
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