Zimbabwe’s real assets are its people

I know that we have quite comprehensive plans for how to revive the Zimbabwean economy. We are not short of ideas for resuscitating agriculture, industry, manufacturing and mining. We are clear what has to be in place to create jobs, rehabilitate our infrastructure and eradicate poverty. We know we are lagging behind on technology and we must use it to leapfrog our neighbours if we are to become the formidable economy that we used to be.

I often sit and try to understand what is it that we may be overlooking and every time, my mind takes me to human capital.

I have seen bit and pieces of ZimAsset, the ‘new’ economic policy being peddled by Zanu (PF). Nice-sounding document, but the underlying assumptions are false. It assumes that we have access to the funding needed, whereas we all know that Zimbabwe is broke. It also assumes the necessary political will exists to take this country to the next level, but that will not happen given our disjointed and ego-driven politics.

Zimbabweans are very well-educated and have a good work ethic – that’s well-known in Africa and abroad. The sad part is that we have failed to take full advantage of this asset as a country.

‘ZimAsset assumes that we have access to the funding needed, whereas we all know that Zimbabwe is broke’

One Sunday, I went past the University Of Zimbabwe. The car park was full because of MBA students. I wondered what the point of it all is and what businesses are these people going to administer given that we are decimating our own economy through politics.

China is ahead of the game because they are focusing on human capital development as their tool for world domination. No country can reach its full potential without ensuring that its people are skilled and have an environment in which they can be creative and innovative.

I think that our education system remains too geared to producing technocrats. We are academics and produce nothing of our own. We do not invest enough in research and we have not fully supported entrepreneurship as the driver of economic growth.

Our only assets or competitive advantage are the 12m brains that we have, and any government should ensure these brains are nurtured and fully used towards the development of the country. And let’s not forget the 4m outside the country.

I have never seen a government that wants to control everything as ours does. Instead of facilitating growth, we have a government that limits growth through over-control and over-legislation, particularly in business. We also have state enterprises that are highly inefficient and should be shut down to allow private business to take over the services.

Centralised political power no longer works simply because we are now in the information age where the centre cannot control information. Knowledge to act has now been localised and we need to encourage that as a country. After all, the centre does not necessarily have the best brains in the country.

For Zimbabwe to accelerate growth we need widespread access to new information so that individuals can use knowledge to act and create new circumstances; a well-managed social health system with universal access; an education system that identifies and nurtures talent in the early stages of life; access to capital to allow entrepreneurship to flourish so that we can produce our own goods and services, and a culture of human rights that respects the dignity of all.

If we only do the above for our communities, we will find our economy growing in no time at all.

– Vince Musewe is an economist and author based in Harare. You can contact him at [email protected]

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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