3. Make agriculture work
To start reducing poverty as soon as possible, the government needs to get the agricultural sector working again.
When agriculture does well in Zimbabwe, the knock-on effect is remarkable. It not only raises rural incomes (thereby reducing poverty) but also creates more manufacturing jobs in the cities and small towns as the “agriculture-induced” demand for goods and services rises. It also expands the tax base and enables Zimbabweans sitting on productive assets to contribute to building the economy.
The good news is that, while other sectors of the economy will take more time to develop, this is one area that can provide some quick returns. Productivity needs to keep rising and support must be provided for people who have access to farmland, but are currently too poor to use it effectively.
Getting agriculture to work ought to be a core priority. Given the nature of structural changes (particularly the emergence of opportunities through global value chains) a key starting point must be an agricultural review commission to investigate current conditions for smallholder agriculture and recommend new policies required to transform in the sector.
4. Unlock investment
With abundant natural resources and a relatively literate population, Zimbabwe is well-placed to attract a large share of the investment being funnelled through South Africa into the rest of the continent.
The country’s mining industry, for one, has already proven its capacity to attract investment, provided global commodity prices recover as expected. But even then, that will depend upon cleaning up Zimbabwe’s toxic political environment and confused policymaking, both of which increase costs for investors.
The country could also benefit from opportunities in the emerging digital economy, but again, this will mean prioritising and maintaining investment in bureaucracy and infrastructure.
All this will require huge sums of money, which the government may not have at the moment. Still, perhaps this new beginning is at least an opportunity for constructive dialogue with the donor community, something Zimbabwe struggled to manage while Mugabe was at the helm. If Zimbabwe gets the politics right, there is every reason to be optimistic that this promising country will flourish at last.
By Admos Chimhowu. This article first appeared in the Conversation