Zimbabwe’s drive towards accelerated openness to business with global market players raises both optimism and pessimism.
Optimism in this regard emanates from a broad spectrum of hopes for economic revival against a background of the country’s isolation from key global market, international monetary institutions and other global policy institutions.
This alienation mainly originated from the land reform policy taken up by the Government in 1997 to respond to Britain’s negligence to its land compensation mandate. This was of course followed by economic sanctions on Zimbabwe which further heightened what came to be known by some as the “Zimbabwean crisis”.
The policy direction by the new administration towards the urgency of re-engagement and foreign policy reconciliation has attracted a fair share of pessimist appreciation.
This protestant pessimism towards the country’s foreign policy adjustment is primarily grounded on fears of Zimbabwe’s vulnerability to the realist gravitas of the West in asserting its dominance. In a way, this may indicate some degree of hesitancy towards the approach prescribed by Government to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).
This follows the West’s historically defined leaning to capitalist realism largely characterised by exploitative labour and resource capital harnessing not only in Zimbabwe, but in Africa as a whole. In support of this perspective, in his book “Looting Africa”, Patrick Bond argues:
“Africa is poor, ultimately, because its economy and society have been ravaged by international capital as well as by local elites who are often propped up by foreign powers. The public and private sectors have worked together to drain the continent of resources which – if harnessed and shared fairly – should otherwise meet the needs of the peoples of Africa.
“Changes in ‘governance’ – e.g. revolutions – are desperately needed for social progress, and these entail not only the empowerment of ‘civil society’ but also the strengthening of those agencies within African states which can deliver welfare and basic infrastructure. The rich world must decide whether to support the African Union’s Nepad programme, which will worsen the resource drain because of its pro-corporate orientation, or instead to give Africa space for societies to build public/people partnerships in order to satisfy unmet basic needs.”
Therefore, as the nation is engrossed in celebrating the milestone stride of re-engaging the international community it is also essential for some introspection to be engaged in defining the parameters of Zimbabwe’s willingness to renew its synergies of engagement with the West.
Standing our Ground
In so doing, Zimbabwe must have a well-grounded ideological standing –one which is cognisant of the permanence of interests. These interests are anchored on the West’s quest for development at the expense of its counterpart’s under-development.
The West’s modus operandi of engaging economic powerhouses outside their locale has been traditionally Machiavellian. While Europe has set that precedence of dominance it must be noted that this is the case across the board where political-economy interests are concerned. This follows the West’s clear position on its market and democracy relational terms on neo-liberalism.
Put simply, neo-liberalism is a cross-cutting rationale which is emphatic on the value of free market competition. Neo-liberalism privileges economic laissez-faire and the freedom (or liberty) of individuals against the excessive power of government.
This position champions respect to private property entitlement.
Across Africa, neo-liberalism has been explored to widen Foreign Direct Investment at the same time alleviating employment woes.
Against this background of Africa’s exploited and massively colonially dependent political-economy structures, neo-liberalism has gained popularity as a rational course for prescribing poverty reduction and raising the standards and principles of “good governance”.
In most instances, neo-liberalism has been mainly engaged as developmental than it is an expression of the West’s attempt to spread out the uniformity of its principles of governance at the expense of the experiences of those it targets as its students.
This is the same neo-liberalism which mutilated African economies to structural adjustments in the early 90s. In some spheres, the rationale of neo-liberalism has been problematized for promoting a one sided course of the democracy debate in Africa. It is not also disputable that neo-liberalism has aided the growth of opposition politics to safeguard colonial property ownership in Africa.
In the case of Zimbabwe, neo-liberalism played a crucial role in raising a selective awareness on human-rights and democracy following the people’s driven land reform programme.
In return this prompted the need for reviving nationalism which was emphatic of Zimbabwe’s delink from the West in the early 2000. Nationalism became an emotive liberation anchored perspective for reasserting Zimbabwe’s interaction with the West.
Today this day, nationalism should be a resource for constructively defining Zimbabwe’s policy leaning with regards to improving the livelihoods of the citizenry. Nationalism must be the defining mark of ZANU-PF’s entry into this dispensation.
Nationalism must be a key resource to grounding the legitimacy of the new administration in its economic development aspirations.
A Nationalist Turn
Nationalist pronouncements to this engagement envisaged by the ruling must go beyond the narrative of employment creation.
This is because job creation mainly sustains the economic power base of the Multi-National Company and the hegemony of its mother country. The proposition of employment creation must also cascade to enhancing the supply of skills to the mushrooming “informal sectors”; likewise the notion of employment creation must add value to the absence of skills with a direct impact on crucial sectors like our extractive industry.
There is also need for emphasis on promoting indigenous specialisation in the production of high-value commodities for export markets to compete with the imports consumer culture catalysed by neo-liberalism.
Our engagement with the international community must facilitate a lucid reorganisation of capital through mutual beneficiation of our local businesses and their foreign counterparts.
In the same manner, there is need for regional trade to be strengthened so that SADC and Africa as a whole also benefits from Zimbabwe’s openness to business. This will enable Zimbabwe to be a relevant contributor to Africa’s growth particularly in terms of restoring her legacy as the bread basket of Africa.
Through this approach, it may be also easy for Zimbabwe to set the pace for fostering collective dialogue for trade negotiation for goods and services which the continent has to offer.