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Zimbabwe: ‘Zimbabwe Should Brace for Long, Painful Road to Recovery’

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The United Nations, World Bank Group and the African Development Bank (AfDB) say Zimbabwe should brace for a long, arduous road to full recovery, with studies indicating that the ongoing economic and political transition could take up to 20 years.

While President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017 promised to implement far-reaching economic and political reforms, the Joint Needs Assessment on Zimbabwe by the World Bank, AfDB and the UN indicates there will be no quick fixes to the country’s woes.

The report was produced after the Mnangagwa administration enlisted the technical support of the AfDB, the World Bank and the UN to assess the scope of challenges and needs in Zimbabwe in a move meant to smoothen the transition following the 2017 military coup that toppled the late former president Robert Mugabe.

“The ongoing transition presents an opportunity for Zimbabwe to transform, but it also comes with significant risks and requires patience and perseverance. International experience indicates that such transitions take a long time to complete upward of 20 years, as per the 2011 World Development Report,” the report reads.

According to the 2011 World Bank report, it took the 20 fastest-moving countries an average of 17 years to get the military out of politics, 20 years to achieve functioning bureaucratic quality, and 27 years to bring corruption under reasonable control.

The report says bottlenecks to full transition included the risk of political instability and the failure to implement far-reaching reforms. “While the government’s initial focus is now on macro-economic stability, recalibrating international relations, and addressing past grievances, comparative cases have highlighted the following challenges of transition processes: difficult reforms that have negative short-term effects for the population can increase the risk of political instability and violence during transitions, which in turn can make it more difficult to advance new reforms,” reads the report.

“It is thus critical to recognise the long-term nature of the transition and to carefully prioritise and sequence critical reform paths and investments while simultaneously anticipating and managing emerging challenges and risks along the way. Communicating these challenges to the population is also critical to build support for the most difficult reforms.”

The report warns that failure to deal with errant security forces involved in several killings and human rights abuses would prolong the transition.

The use of force by the military, for instance, the August 1, 2018 shootings, where six civilians were killed in central Harare and 17 killings last January, has drawn anger from the international community.

“The use of force by the military, both in the wake of the elections and in response to more recent social unrest, has raised questions internationally about the administration’s commitment to peacefully resolving disputes and about human rights and civil liberties. Given this, there is growing recognition that the transition process might take longer to complete; Zimbabwe has the immediate task of demonstrating its commitment to pursuing reforms that put it on a more inclusive and open trajectory while upholding the rule of law as well as political and human rights,” the report says.

The study cited challenges related to the economy, poverty, governance, social development and international relations as possible threats to a smooth transition.

“Zimbabwe is faced with a precarious macro fiscal environment. Formerly one of the most advanced economies in sub-Saharan Africa, the Zimbabwean economy today is among the most vulnerable, with erosion of its industrial and agricultural base. The economic growth trend is now some 2% below the average of sub-Saharan Africa, partly resulting from exchange rate misalignment, volatile weather patterns, and unsustainable fiscal deficit,” the report adds.

Before plunging back into hyperinflation in recent years, Zimbabwe had double-digit growth rates shortly after dollarisation in 2009, but confidence started to evaporate in 2013 after the harmonised elections due to fiscal imprudence by former president Robert Mugabe’s government.

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