Zimbabwe - Hope for the future

As the dust settles and Emmerson Mnangagwa begins to form his new government, the questions concerning Zimbabwe’s future begin to circulate. Will the new president be able to open up the country to the foreign investment which it so desperately needs or will the former Chief Intelligence Officer and Vice-President continue ousted ex-President Robert Mugabe’s country-crushing legacy?

The outlook is looking hopefully, however. With a dynamic private sector, entrepreneurial spirit and vast resources, Zimbabwe has the potential to grow faster and more inclusively. Local and international investment in private equity (PE) funds in Africa has increased in the last few years, despite a slowdown in 2016. Companies such as Oxygen Africa, an investment advisory company which assists foreign investors in Zimbabwe, which has partnered with the Swiss-based Meeco Group to raise a whopping $7 million and develop two 5MW grid-connected solar plants in Zimbabwe. The future of the country lies with companies like Oxygen Africa to attract these big spending investment firms back to the fold.

Across the world, people’s ears are pricking. The UK based lobbing group, Zimbabweans in the Diaspora Organisation (ZIDO), heralded the arrival of Mnangagwa as the change Zimbabwe has needed for a long time. Blessed Kapesa, the founder of the organisation, announced in his speech that he was confident of the new president’s ability to implement measures to attract both financial and human capital. “As ZIDO, we are hoping that the new President will open a new chapter and a good working environment between those in the Diaspora and Government,” said Mr Kapesa. If Mnangagwa does as he promises, the flow of human capital out of Zimbabwe can be stemmed and top millennial talent will be encouraged to remain in the country. 

It is not only financial investment which Zimbabwe needs to raise. The level of unemployment remains at an all-time high and Mnangagwa will need to tackle this problem if he hopes to ensure an increase in productivity and retain millennial talent. The European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Philippe van Damme, urged the country to do just that. In a speech given to the third edition of The Space in Harare back in September, van Damme warned universities about the importance of education and the need for Zimbabwe to plug the brain drain affecting the country’s latest generation of working professionals.

“The universities are lagging behind the astronomical pace of technological initiatives. The technology taught at school will be outdated the moment one finishes tertiary education. There will be new technologies at the workplaces. Youths need to be taught to cope with life skills,” he said.

That is not to say that Zimbabwe is doomed. Thanks to universities such as the University of Zimbabwe and the National University of Science and Technology, and the country’s deep-rooted culture of education, Zimbabwe has one of the strongest human capital bases in all of Africa, one which Mnangagwa will need to tap into if he hopes to bring Zimbabwe back to the level of human capital development it was 20 years ago.

The Crocodile’s presidency has not got off to a good start. After public outrage on Thursday at the naming of Lazarus Dokoro as education minister and Clever Nyathi as special advisor to the president, Mnangagwa bent to public opinion and swiftly removed the two ministers, citing that the changes were necessary to “ensure compliance with the constitution and considerations of gender, demography and special needs.” Furthermore, the naming of two senior military figures as senior cabinet ministers, General Sibusiso Moyo and Air Marshal Perence Shiri, as foreign affairs minister and lands minister respectively, was also met with concern, as critics were quick to raise eyebrows at the strong military presence in Mnangagwa’s new cabinet.

It would seem all eyes are turning to the Zimbabwean diaspora and their next steps after Emmerson Mnangagwa’s inauguration. If the new president fulfils his pledge to improve living conditions, Zimbabweans from the diaspora will be more enticed to return back to the country. The same goes for foreign investments. As Mnangagwa himself said in his inauguration speech, “Key choices will have to be made to attract foreign direct investment to tackle high levels of unemployment while transforming our economy towards the tertiary sector. The many skilled Zimbabweans who have left the country over the years for a variety of reasons must now come into the economic calculus designed for our recovery.” Africa waits with baited breath to see whether these pleas are not just crocodile tears.