28 March 2013

Zimbabwe: It's About the Economy, Stupid!

editorial

The decision by newly appointed Chinese president Xi Jinping to overfly Zimbabwe en route to South Africa and then overfly it again on his way back heading for the DRC may readily be interpreted as a diplomatic snub for Zimbabwe.

However, more closely examined, it is apparent that Jinping is more interested in economic matters than cosy political talk, hence on his maiden trip around the world, he visited Russia in an effort to continue the thawing of relations that went frosty in the early 1960s.

The two countries are now the kingpins of the emerging axis of world economic power now known as the Brics countries, the other three being Brazil, India and South Africa.

Inevitably, this is growing into a new political axis, strong enough to possibly rival the EU bloc. It is evident that for Jinping it's the economy first.

These are the tea leaves that need to be read by our own leadership. Zimbabwe is still far too engrossed in political rhetoric at the expense of economic pragmatism.

If Jinping decided to embark on a political tour, Zimbabwe would be his first port of call in Africa. But as it is, he chose Tanzania, where he oversaw the signing of several economic co-operation pacts with his counterpart Jakaya Kikwete.

He will most likely do the same in the DRC. To elucidate this point further it may be necessary to go back to the early days of Uhuru in Africa.

The Organisation of African Unity was a political animal, while the African Union has developed Africa's economy as its main focus. Granted, the OAU was central to Africa's political agenda but fortunately latter day leaders quickly realised that it had played its role and transformed it into essentially an economic bloc.

Zimbabwe still seems caught in this politics-first time warp while economic opportunities pass it by. The IMF is an institution that has drawn harsh criticism from our politicians but on many occasions its advice is apt, if not least because it is based on figures it would have been supplied by the host country.

Last year, it underscored that improving the business climate is necessary to strengthen competitiveness, build investor confidence, and boost the growth potential.

In particular, they stressed the importance of ensuring that the indigenisation and empowerment policies are implemented in accordance with transparent rules and preserving property rights.

To drive home the point of prioritising economic development, a statement by Brics summit hosts, South Africa's Trade and and Industry minister Dr Rob Davies, underscored trade and industrialisation on the continent.

Davies pointed out Africa is the second fastest growing continent after Asia, driven mainly by the boom in mineral production, the development of the service industries, the benefit of not having the financial crisis, and infrastructure development.

Figures from South Africa's department of trade and industry bear testimony to that country's economic pragmatism. Trade between that country and its Bric partners has risen to nearly US$20 billion.

Davies said African leaders were currently talking about how industrialisation would drive the next wave of African economic development. As James Carville, campaign strategist for former US president Bill Clinton said: "It's the economy, stupid."

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