Bickering frustrates Zimbabwe’s economy

I WRITE this as I travel round the greater Nairobi in Kenya experiencing first-hand what is going on in this vibrant East African capital city.

With the “bee hive” activity at Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the traffic jams on the city roads, the hustle and bustle of urban commuters and so on, clearly shows that Nairobi is a “concrete jungle” that never sleeps.

What I see in Nairobi is clear testimony of a national economy that is vibrant, buoyant and on the go.

But as Nairobi roars into life, there is doom and gloom in Harare.

The city once dubbed as a “sunshine city” has simply lost its lustre.

This doom and gloom has contagiously spread across the country.

As political bickering and infighting intensifies in Zimbabwe and politicians jostle to consolidate their positions ahead of 2018 elections, the country’s economy has fallen victim and continues to drown barely achieving 1,7 percent growth in 2016 and with no significant remedial measures being put in place to stimulate the ailing economy.

One wonders whether Zimbabwean leaders are serious about this country, about its sustainable development, uplifting the living standards of people and creating opportunities for present and future generations.

God has blessed Zimbabwe with abundant wealth, natural resources, good weather and a peace loving people.

But alas, we have let God down as we continue to struggle daily and many of us can barely put food on the table.

Zimbabwe, still living in the shadows of its past glory of being the “bread basket of Africa”, an idiom which, by the way, is now alien and means nothing to the “born free generation”, is being eclipsed by other African countries like Kenya who have put development as their first priority.

Politicking

Zimbabweans seem not to realise that politicking and sloganeering do not put bread on the table. Focus, innovation, integrity, commitment and hard work does.

What has become of our priorities as a nation? When the auditor general, Mildred Chiri, issues an audit report on the deplorable state of affairs in government, public enterprises and local authorities, our leaders ignore it as a non-event. Yet when a bunch of war veterans issue a political “communiqué” they get spooked and cock firearms!

Instead of focussing on fiscal discipline, fighting corruption, creating a stimulating investment climate, job creation, infrastructure development, drought relief and so on, Zimbabwean politicians continue to be fixated on trite slogans and factionalism.
The World Bank has even remarked thus on Zimbabwe’s potential: “The fundamentals for growth and poverty reduction are strong, provided the country (Zimbabwe) can tackle its political fragilities and build a consensus around inclusive and competitive investment policies.”

While politicians continue politicking and sloganeering in Zimbabwe, fellow Africans are setting their priorities right and have stepped up their efforts by embarking on record breaking economic development projects.
Kenya

Kenya is experiencing rapid economic development characterised by mega infrastructure development projects.
A drive around Nairobi shows that the city is undergoing a developmental metamorphosis. There are construction cranes everywhere in Nairobi. A rare sight in Harare.

At independence in 1980, the size of the Zimbabwean and Kenyan economies as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP), were nearly the same size in United States dollars (USD) terms.

For example, in 1980 Zimbabwe’s GDP stood at US$6,7 billion in comparison to Kenya’s US$7,2 billion.

But in terms of development i.e. education system, industrialisation, infrastructure development and so on, Zimbabwe was far more developed than Kenya and was described as the second most developed economy in sub Saharan Africa, after South Africa.

In 2016 the picture has shifted significantly in Kenya’s favour as its economy is now five times bigger than the Zimbabwean economy, as shown by its GDP.

Zimbabwe’s economic activity, if we take activity on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) as a barometer, is very subdued compared to activity at the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE).

As at close of business on August 19, 2016, the ZSE market capitalisation stood at about US$2,750 billion, compared to NSE’s US$21 billion; ZSE equity turnover was a mere US$116 746, compared to the NSE’s US$11 million and ZSE had only 31 trades compared to NSE’s 1 285.

World Bank statistics of the two countries are as follows: GDP 2015: Zimbabwe: US$13,9 billion; Kenya: US$63,4 billion; Population: 1980: Zimbabwe: 7,2 million; Kenya: 16,3 million, 2015: Zimbabwe: 13,89 million, Kenya: 46,1 million.

The economic forecasts of the two economies are: GDP growth 2016: Zimbabwe: 1,7 percent, Kenya: 5,9 percent; GDP 2017 forecast: Zimbabwe: three percent, Kenya: 6,7 percent. Life expectancy 2014: Kenya: 61,6 years and Zimbabwe: 57,5 years.
Kenya’s infrastructure projects

Kenya is in overdrive when it comes to infrastructure development projects and uplifting the living standards of its people.
While Zimbabwean authorities are pre-occupied with the introduction of bond notes, here are some of the mega projects Kenyan authorities are working on:

•Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Project (US$3,8 billion): Construction of a 609km SGR project linking port of Mombasa and Nairobi is set to finish in 2017.

•Lamu Port (Indian Ocean) or Lapset Project (US$26 billion): Proposed construction of Lamu Port, power plant, superhighway and railway linking Lamu (Kenya), Juba (South Sudan) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia).

•The Konza Techno City (US$14,5 billion): being built on over 5 000 acres of land, 64km south of Nairobi as part of the Kenya Vision 2030. This project dubbed “African Silicon Savanna” is expected to take about 20 years to complete.

•Development of Nairobi Public Transport System (US$3,5 billion): Modernisation of Nairobi public transport system and expansion of Uhuru superhighway. Project to commence 2017 and jointly funded by the Kenyan government and World Bank.

•Expansion of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (US$700 million): Building of a new terminal and runaway.

•Tarmac Projects — 10 000km (US$3,2 billion): Surfacing of 10 000km dirt roads across Kenya. To be carried out countrywide in phases.

•Solar Power Project (US$2,2 billion): Proposed development of solar power plant by Canadian Skypower aimed to generate 1 gigawatt solar power.
Rwanda

A tiny African country called Rwanda has surprised many given its 1994 horrific history.
The leadership in Rwanda is rebuilding this country through hard work and a common national vision.

The Rwandan economy has averaged eight percent growth since 2013.

In 2015, Rwanda recorded 6,9 percent economic growth compared to Zimbabwe’s 2,7 percent.

This high economic growth has resulted in substantial improvements in people’s living standards and access to services.

The poverty rate has dropped from 59 percent in 2001 to 45 percent in 2011.

Its GDP grew by more than 800 percent from US$754 million in 1994 to US$8,096 billion in 2015.

Life expectancy has increased from 27 years (1993/1994) to 64 years (2014) compared to Zimbabwe’s 57 years.

Unlike Harare, Kigali is now ranked one of the cleanest cities in Africa.

Rwanda recently completed a US$500 million conference facility which hosted the last African Union Summit end of July 2016.

Egypt

Up north, Egyptians have not rested on their laurels since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

They completed the Suez Canal widening project at a cost of US$8 billion.

Egypt has now embarked on development of a new capital city, 45km east of Cairo in the middle of the desert.

This project, covering an area of 270 square miles, will cost US$45 billion and will be completed by 2022 — a mere 6 years from now.

The new green capital will host a population of five million people, house all government ministries and foreign embassies and also create a central park double the size of New York Central Park, 663 hospitals and clinics, 40 000 hotel rooms, a theme park like Disney, new airport, an advanced metro system and tall monument to resemble Eiffel Tower.
Zimbabwean projects

Coming back to Zimbabwe, most of our mega projects, used for political campaign, have been forgotten about and are interred in office desks and being gnawed by rodents.By the way the flyover bridge at Mabvuku turn off, along the Harare-Mutare highway, was “hastily” opened on July 22, 2016.

It took the Department of Roads close to two years to “complete” this kilometre-long flyover project.
Yet it took Egypt one year to double the size of the 193km Suez Canal.

We need to be serious as Zimbabweans.

We can do better than this.

Allen Choruma can be contacted on e mail: allenc17@juno.com. This article was originally published by the Financial Gazette

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