Zimbabwe: Is Harare Really Like Tripoli Without War?

According to the recently released The Global Liveability Index 2019 by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Harare ranks 134 out of 140 cities around the world in terms of liveability, faring only better than war-torn, terrorism-ravaged and disaster-stricken cities such as Damascus, ranked 140, Lagos (139), Tripoli (136) and Dhaka (138).

The Liveability Index assesses which locations around the world provide the best or the worst living conditions. The index covers 140 cities around the world, which are assessed on five broad indicators: a) stability, b) healthcare, c) culture and environment, d) education, and e) infrastructure.

These five categories, in turn, evaluate the relative comfort of these cities on 30 quantitative and qualitative sub-indicators or factors.

The score for indicators range from acceptable, tolerable, uncomfortable, undesirable or intolerable, which are then weighted to reach a rating. A score of

"one" indicates an "intolerable" city, while that of "100" indicates that the city is "ideal" in terms of liveability.

Vienna, for instance, ranks tops in terms of liveability -- for a second year in succession. In four of the five indicators, it has an ideal score of "100",

while in the category of "culture & environment" it is not that far off at "96,3". Many of the other countries among the top 10 cities are from Australia and Canada.

Harare, the economic hub of Zimbabwe underperforms in all categories except for education quality and culture environment. While the rating of "100" is considered ideal in terms of liveability for a city, Harare could only score "42,6".

In terms of scores for individual categories when compared with war-torn Tripoli for instance, Harare is better on stability 40 versus Tripoli's 35, and culture (59 vs Tripoli's 40). However, the two cities have the same score on education: 66,7 out of 100.

This is really disturbing and where the ranking methodology perhaps needs to be probed as it appears questionable, since Libya is still a war zone.

For "healthcare", Harare's scores 21,8, while Tripoli garners 41,7. The score may not be that good if disaggregated for public sector health facilities, the main recourse for the majority of population, belonging in turn, to the lower income groups. At the same time, one must remember that Libya saw a war and serious disturbances in which even many hospitals were severely affected.

Harare's infrastructure is also ranked lowly when compared to Tripoli and Lagos. This data is important as it help lead the policy makers to different policy plans of cities that are performing better. For example, the country could learn about tackling the all-important climate change crisis by examining the Sustainable Sydney 2030 strategy.

At the same time, there are many cities from emerging-market countries, which should give heart to policy-makers in Zimbabwe that things can improve quickly if policy and implementation are geared up properly.

This is because the following list of countries moved fast up the ladder of liveability rating, in the past five years, and include, i) Moscow (Russia; rank:

68; scored improved by 4,9 percentage points), ii) Belgrade (Serbia; rank: 77; percentage points improved by 6.4), iii) Hanoi (Vietnam; rank: 107; improved by 5,5 percentage points), iv) Kiev (Ukraine; rank: 117; improved by 5,2 percentage points), and v) Abidjan (Côte d'Ivoire; rank: 123; percentage points improved by 6,3).

The 30 sub-indicators or factors, along with the methodology and other related details, should provide strong basis for Zimbabwe, augmented by multiple aspects it covers, to formulate its own "City or town Liveability Index".

This is very important to have for ranking of the towns and cities in the country.

This would not only help in better distribution of resources and improved policy focus in turn, but also to learn from a once similar performing cities globally, which improved over time.

The ministry responsible for urban development, its provincial departments, related ministries or departments, and the ZimStat should come together in making this index a reality for Zimbabwe cities and towns.

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