Economic Development and Employment Creation Critical in Igniting Zim’s Lost Potential
Zimbabwe, once a referred as the bread basket of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) has witnessed a major economic paralysis due to maladministration, corruption and policy inconsistences, among other forces.
This caused untold suffering on the majority of people as many companies and manufacturing industries shut down retrenching thousands, with or without benefits, thereby driving many into the streets and countryside.
Provision of basic social services such as education, health and recreational facilities suddenly deteriorated and eventually disappeared in the public discourse and government programming. Politics of opulence by those entrusted with public funds took a centre as politicians stampede to loot national coffers for their self-aggrandisement at the expense of the suffering majority.
Despite the shared experience of poor governance and deteriorating social welfare, most Zimbabweans particularly politicians seem to be clueless in finding remedies to resurrect the stagnant economy. With the opposition politics having emerged as a hope for many Zimbabweans in the past two decades, the faith seems to have faded away after the inclusive government of 2013. Again with much suspicion, Zimbabweans are currently celebrating the unceremonial departure of Robert Mugabe, the only serving President since independence before Mnangagwa takeover. The political fights and shifts have not contributed meaningful change in the lives of many Zimbabweans in the past.
Looking back into Zimbabwe’s political lane, the politically motivated policy interventions have had strong implications towards the economy consequently cascading down to affect the ordinary citizens. In late 1997, Robert Mugabe agreed to give unbudgeted pay-outs to war veterans, causing a 70 percent drop in the value of the Zimbabwean dollar. In 2000, the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) implemented a land reform program where war veterans carried out government-orchestrated farm takeover. This led to the almost complete collapse of commercial agriculture, and by 2008 production had declined by 62 percent. Hyperinflation peaked in 2008, reaching 250 million percent, contributing to a severe food security crisis where half of the rural population was dependent on humanitarian assistance for survival  . The uncertainty that engulfs the political and economic revival strategy lives the nation in suspension and suspicion.
It is an overwhelming reality that what Zimbabweans currently need is a leadership that prioritize economic development and employment creation in order to reshape the country by igniting the lost potential. For the past two decades, the employment options particularly those of the young and skilled have been increasingly shrinking, paving way for more informal and unsustainable ways of livelihoods across generations and social classes.
Research confirms the demise of Zimbabwe’s productive and employment capacity asserting that since the early 2000s, the country has continued to deindustrialize, currently operating at only 34 percent of its capacity. What this means is that the industry has relieved of itself skilled labour that have since occupied the informal sector through production of goods and services in the backyards and at times venturing into completely different informal trading for survival.
Poverty and poor living standards have been the outcomes of past political decisions in Zimbabwe. In 2012, 63 percent of all households were living in absolute poverty and 16 percent were in extreme poverty. At the core of this mirage of socio economic challenges has been a political leadership that doesn’t create a sustainable economic space that promotes growth of small economic players and the attraction of both local and foreign economic investment. To make the situation even more unbearable has been government’s failure to tap in to the skills, resilience and determination that players within the informal economic sector display.
The economic revival of Zimbabwe is therefore incomplete particularly if government fails to acknowledge the role that the informal sector has been playing in keeping the economy floating despite all the challenges. Secondly, the youth bulge is one of the important issues that must not go unattended. Young Zimbabweans have waited too long to see a decent living and participate in the development of their lives and that of their country. Youth skills and innovations are lying scattered and untapped across the country. It is thus critical that young people be given the chance to participate in the politics of the economy as well as elect and get elected to power in a more peaceful and inclusive electoral environment.
 USAID ZIMBABWE: Country Development Cooperation Strategy 2016-2021