HARARE – Waking up to a dry water tap and dysfunctional electricals is the order of the day in mineral rich Zimbabwe. In this global village, uptime for internet connectivity is restricted to 8 hours per day for some internet service providers as the reality of the stage two electricity load shedding sinks into business and society.
Zimbabwe news headlines of the past weeks spoke of the criminalisation of pricing of goods and services in foreign currency by the Zimbabwe Government, yet a week later, hotels and mining companies have been given the green light to pay for their required electricity supplies directly to Southern African Power Pool in United States dollars. Such a policy flip-flop. Moving to the banking sector, a salary payment that normally takes 24 hours to reflect to the recipient’s account is currently taking 5 days to reflect.
Mobile money services are confronted by the daily electricity and internet availability challenges. On the public side, fuel queues have remained stubborn for both petrol and diesel as supplies remain constrained. On the public transport side, private commuter omnibus operators have hiked fares in line with fuel prices and fuel scarcity. Government, through its passenger company ZUPCO has a few buses plying key urban routes and passenger queues for these buses are astounding.
The above daily struggles of a Zimbabwean sum up Zimbabwe’s current economic status as water, energy (electricity & gasoline) and confidence become the major drivers of Zimbabwe’s economy today. The United Nations’ sustainable development goal six mandates for access to safe water for all yet in Zimbabwe today, over 2 million citizens in Zimbabwe’s two largest cities live without this fundamental human right. With 67% of the country’s 16 million population domiciled in the rural areas, Zimbabwe’s water crisis is huge.
After years of participation in reforestation efforts to reverse the impact of the land reform exercise that led to deforestation, the country’s current electricity woes have reversed these gains significantly as the majority of Zimbabwe’s urban and rural population now depends on firewood as a source of energy for cooking. Such is the situation as the deforestation wave has unapologetically engulfed the country’s urban and rural landscape with future climate related consequences that may not only affect Zimbabwe, but the entire SADC region as was the case with cyclone Idai.
Lastly, the Zimbabwe government continues to enact national policies and legislations only to break them themselves first. In a global village where global capital has a wide destination choice, Zimbabwe needs to issue monetary, fiscal and legal policies that are cast in stone. In the case of the recently issued SI 142, a policy which chased away multiple pricing in Zimbabwe through criminalising the United States dollar, and the activities that followed, it confirmed to investors that Zimbabwe wants the United States dollar but does not like what it brings to the country, including an equal economic platform for the Government and for businesses. Both players require foreign currency for survival and growth, yet one party deprives the other through policy manipulations without offering a tangible solution that works for the other party. This is why the country has a business confidence crisis.
Unfortunately, it is only through addressing these three drivers decisively, namely, national water supplies, national energy supplies and business confidence that Zimbabwe can functionally work again.