By Hopewell Chin’ono
A lot of people in Zimbabwe have asked me why Zimbabwe has now become the riskiest place to do business in Africa, and why it has become the African country with the lowest investment return according to the Africa Risk-Reward Index report for 2023.
I don’t have all the answers, but look at the bus below that was going to Mubaira/Mhondoro in Mashonaland West. The suspension collapsed, and with that collapse are many stories of bad roads, expensive servicing, lack of credit lines, fewer passengers due to a collapsed economy, expensive fuel and more.
The bus owner had the huge cost of servicing it, probably every month in a country with no credit facilities and where every part is imported when we used to make them 30 years ago.
The bus owner is competing with a South African or Botswana bus owner to attract foreign direct investment. The foreign investor who wants to invest in transport comes to Zimbabwe and looks at these roads, looks at the banking system which now only exists in name, looks at the government policies which change everyday like the weather, looks at the judiciary in case there’s a business dispute, looks at healthcare system for his workers, looks at a central bank that is run by politicians using their puppets, looks at the battered roads. Where do you think he or she will invest their money and get the best return with the least risk; Zimbabwe or South Africa/Botswana?
Now some will ask if it means countries like DRC are now better than Zimbabwe in attracting investment. The answer is an unequivocal YES, they are providing a better investment return than Zimbabwe which is now a corruption haven.
That is how bad things are for Zimbabwe, war torn countries are providing a better return than us, and the sooner we accept it the better it is for the country. Zimbabweans must snap out of their exceptionalism which started with the myth that we are the most educated on the continent when we were not.
Until we fix the disaster that is obtaining at the moment, Zimbabwe will only attract shark investors who are coming to rob and loot in tandem with the crooked political elites. It is important for us to have a broader conversation around how to change this, and why it is taking long to change.
Zimbabwe has very bright minds doing great things abroad, why does the country end up with mediocre political leadership all round? Dealing with our exceptionalism will assist in answering these critical questions. Why are young people participating in politics in war torn and former corrupt countries and not in Zimbabwe?
–Hopewell Chin’ono is a respected and award-winning Zimbabwe journalist