President Emmerson Mnangagwa has predicted Zimbabwe’s moribund economy will turn around this year following the recent discovery of oil and gas near the country’s border with Mozambique and Zambia and improvement in the country’s mining and tourism sectors. Economists are not as optimistic, as Zimbabweans continue to leave the country.
In a new year message broadcast to Zimbabweans at home and in the diaspora on national television and on social media, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said all was shaping for a prosperous Zimbabwe. He said the mining sector had surpassed the target of $12 billion in 2023, while the country was now food sufficient. That’s not all, said the 81-year-old politician.
“I am encouraged by the increased number of both local and international tourists visiting our country. Equally, investments in new tourism products and facilities which bolstered the sector are a welcome development. As we drive towards energy self-sufficiency, the discovery of oil and gas in Muzarabani confirms Zimbabwe’s potential as a future producer of gas. This should translate into meeting our energy demands commensurate with the ever growing economy,” he said.
Gift Mugano, an economics professor at Durban University of Technology, responded to Mnangagwa’s speech.
“We are in agro-based economy. We sneeze when the agriculture sector catches a cold. We know that this year there is a drought. That will have a devastating impact on the economy. With drought, we will be importing food. Because of the Russia-Ukraine war, which has seen prices of food, globally, going up around 50%,” said Mugano.
“We will be forking [out] something in the region of close to $1 billion. Which is almost 20% or so of our total foreign currency receipt. So this will weigh down on the economy in terms of the economy performance. So, to be quite frank and quite honest, the economy will underperform in this year. Yes, we are talking about the discovery of gas and oil but it’s too early to talk about that development as the driver of the economy.”
Prosper Chitambara, senior economist with the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, says the country’s agro-based economy will only improve this year if there is no drought as most farmers depend on rains.
“In terms of the discovery of oil and gas, I think it’s going to take a bit of time probably for the country to begin to benefit from this important discovery. I think they should be some gestation period, which obviously also then allows for the investor to fully set up and to start commercial activities. But overall, this year the economy is expected to grow by 3.5% which is lower than the 5.5% estimated growth there for last year,” said Chitambara.
Ranga Chivi is an electrical engineer who recently left Zimbabwe with his family for greener pastures in Australia who listened to Mnangagwa’s speech.
“It would be interesting to see how the gas and oil discoveries will turn around the economy. We did not leave Zimbabwe because we are unemployed, but we left Zimbabwe because of search of greener pastures and a much more stable economic environment you can raise a family in. So the discovery of gas and oil, it’s positive for the country and we are more than eager to help where we can, but what remains is the issue to do with stability that I am hoping that this project will bring,” said Chivi.
According to World Bank, the primary reason Zimbabweans migrate is to search for economic opportunities. It says of the approximately 908,000 emigrants counted in Zimbabwe’s 2022 census, a large majority (84%) had left the country in search of employment, while another 5% had migrated for education or training.