Michael Billions Correspondent
It is no secret that political activities have a bearing on the economy of any nation.
The recent harmonised elections, post-election violence that left six people dead and scores of others injured, Nelson Chamisa’s Constitutional Court challenge and the inauguration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday August 26, are just some of the few major political highlights in the recent months for the nation.
There are many points from which I can start to explain both the short- and long-term economic implications of these recent activities in Zimbabwe.
The general assertion among most economic stakeholders is that there has not been much progress to talk about in the country for the past two decades mainly due to politically related issues.
The country has, indeed, been between a hard place and a rock moving from one challenge to another.
On the one hand, the economy faced a series of asymmetric economic shocks emanating from regional and global changes while, on the other hand, there has been a series of natural challenges such as infrequent rains mainly due to climate change.
These had their fair share in contributing to the economic challenges of the nation. Although there are measures that can be taken to mitigate the effects, the causes of these challenges were to a larger extent exogenous and are to some extent beyond the control of anyone.
We can almost all agree that not all problems were influenced by external factors. In fact, it is in my view as a concerned citizen that most of Zimbabwe’s challenges were a result of a series of irresponsible behaviour on the part of policymakers in the previous regime.
With the coming in of President Mnangagwa, a point must be reached now where bitter pills must be swallowed and proper checks and balances be put in place.
I do not seek to dwell in the past for the sake of it, but to help inform us into a better future.
After all, it is within the nature of some economic models to use historical data to forecast the future.
If I were to assume the mammoth task of advising the President, one of the issues I would reiterate on is the need for the country to have a well-articulated vision, which vision I know he has.
Looking at the nation in retrospect, one of the things I have consistently asked myself was, “What is our vision as a nation?” It is my belief that a vision has power to instil discipline.
The country needs a vision. It needs something that can be easily embraced by everyone from the headmaster in Gutu, a farmer in Murombedzi to policymakers in Cabinet.
A properly defined vision not only stimulates and instils discipline among citizens, but also gives them a sense of identity and belonging (kuti zvinhu zvedu). The country needs a vision that can be easily embraced by everyone irrespective of their personal or political convictions; something that is able to cut across religious, political and cultural divides.
Over the years, several economic blueprints have been prescribed by policymakers but they reflected serious inconsistencies. That to me is a sign that there was no common vision to which the policies would derive their action plans from.
This also led to other challenges such as fiscal indiscipline, corruption among many other vices.
It is my conviction that even the appointment of strategic people like ministers should be done after the nation has a clear vision.
Their duties must go beyond just doing what is required by their job descriptions, but must be specific enough that they understand and acknowledge how their everyday decisions and actions are encapsulated in the broader vision of the country. This ultimately helps in instilling discipline.
The issue of ideological vision must be discussed even before we talk about foreign investors. We need to know, what kind of investors we need. How do they fit into the broader context of our national vision? The issue of a national vision is not just a Zimbabwean issue, but an African one.
There has been an influx of Chinese investors into the continent in the past decade. The Chinese have their model of investing in Africa, which is significantly different from the conventional European and American counterparts.
The Chinese model fits well into their national vision; they want to become the first ranked global economic powerhouse. There is evidence in everything that they do, their decisions and actions that there is a common vision that they are pursuing
Other global powerhouses like America are feeling the Chinese heat and are also responding by waging trade wars with the Chinese. This is because the Chinese vision is now compromising the American vision. The crux of my argument is not necessarily on waging economic wars with other countries, but that we need a common vision as an African nation if we are to move forward with definiteness of purpose.
If anything, I do not think that a nation like Zimbabwe should build walls, instead it should build bridges.
However, whichever bridge we build whether with the Americans, Europeans, Chinese or even fellow Africans, let us not be deluded to think that their vision is our vision, and that their best is our best.
I am a proponent of economic integration, but for whatever its worth, let us be sure that every decision whether big or small fits into our vision.
Every stakeholder, be it local or foreign, must know and understand this when they come and sit at our table that Zimbabwe has a vision and they must contribute to it if they want to have a piece of the pie.
It is our responsibility to build the Zimbabwe we want, and we can only realise that dream if we have a shared vision as the President reiterated in his inauguration speech.
Michael Billions is an economist and founding pastor of Conquerors International Christian Church with a vision to raise champions in Africa through knowledge. He can be contacted on email@example.com