Zimbabwe: The smoking gun of Africa

By Neil de Beer

We cannot talk about the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region without talking about Zimbabwe – a country, which was once called the “Breadbasket of Africa”.

In the 1990s, Zimbabwe used to produce a lot of wheat, which is the major raw material for bread making, and many African states used to import their wheat from Zimbabwe, thus making it the breadbasket.

Some writers have disputed this claim, by saying that Zimbabwe was never a breadbasket of Africa, because none of its agricultural produce per product surpassed 10 percent contribution to Africa’s total output.

They failed to see the production capacity and diversity of products that Zimbabwe could produce, due to the quality of soil and highly favourable climate, which allowed the country to produce to the export market tobacco, wheat and maize.

The country has been through a lot politically, economically and socially.

The current economic situation in Zimbabwe has seen hunger striking in urban cities, with 37 percent of its urban populace requiring food aid, meaning the former breadbasket of Africa is failing to even to feed its own.

Zimbabwe, meaning the “House of Stones” in Shona, is a landlocked country, with an estimated population of 14.9 million and gross domestic product of $24.6 billion (R354.32bn), according to the World Bank’s 2018 data. Zimbabwe, however, managed to remain the largest producer of tobacco in Africa and 6th in the world. In the mining sector Zimbabwe has also done well in gold production, as it produced 33tons of the yellow metal, surpassing its 2018 output projections.

Drought and currency reforms have also contributed to food shortages, with prices being determined by the currency being exchanged and the payment system. The money in a bank’s account is known as – RTGS dollar; physical cash in local currency – bond note; US dollar – USD and also rand – ZAR.

Surprisingly goods prices are determined by the mode of payment. The RTGS currency traded at 3.48 per USD in the interbank market as of Tuesday, May 21, and at 6 per USD on the black market. So practically a loaf of bread going for $3.48 bond equals US$1.

On the Neil Economic Scale a litre of petrol price has sky rocketed to $4.99 ($1.43 or R20.57) per litre with a 330ml can of Coke not available in stores, but alternatives like Pepsi selling at $2 (US$0.60 or R8.63).

Today two or more friends cannot dive into an objective discussion about Zimbabwe without mentioning historical and present events, which include the land reform, currency reforms, politics and other government policies that have impacted on the day-to-day of citizens. This has blinded people to see the potential Zimbabwe has from the rich fertile soil, minerals underground, great climate, literacy and hard work ethic of the friendly nation that stands out above the crowd with its high education level.

Zimbabwe also attracts tourism. The Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River is a major thrill among tourists. Exotic bird life, flora and fauna, highland mountains and flowing rivers remarkably boost the beauty of the country.

With the end of the Mugabe rule in 2017 and the “new“ rulers trying to do all to stabilise the economy and bring prosperity to the land, one must think that with all the resources at hand, why can this nation not rise again. From tobacco to diamonds, the question of the smoking gun will remain.

* Last week’s winner of the “Neil On Africa” branded pen is Nicholas Schofield. Share with us, info@ifa.africa, your interesting fact on Zimbabwe and you stand a chance to win this week’s branded pen.

Neil De Beer is the president of the Investment Fund Africa and consults to many African states on commerce – www.ifa.africa. The views expressed heree are his own.

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