The country of Zimbabwe is one of the most economically developed on the African continent . A fairly young political entity, Zimbabwe has only enjoyed recognized autonomy since 1980, the year in which the United Kingdom repealed its imperialistic claims to the African nation . Despite its youth the country has achieved a level of economic development uncharacteristic of sub-Saharan African nations. Second only to South Africa in economic development, Zimbabwe's economic system is one indicative of a transitional country, a country making the transition from dependency underdevelopment to self-reliant industrialization. The purpose of this essay is to make a cursory but adequate examination of Zimbabwean socio-economic and political system, as means to analyzing the countries economic development. The ultimate purpose of this study is to provide a model of the structure necessary to achieve economic development where none previously existed. Zimbabwe is an appropriate model because the dynamics of underdevelopment to development in this country are readily apparent. This model can be useful in understanding underdevelopment in other so called "third-world" countries and in determining what is necessary for these countries to make the transition to industrialization.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in the southern, sub-Saharan area of the African continent bordered by South Africa to the South, Botswana to the West, Mozambique to the East and Zambia to the North. With an area of 391,090 km2 Zimbabwe is only slightly larger than the state of Colorado. Harare is Zimbabwe's capital and largest city with a population of 1,100,000. Containing vast amounts of rare mineralogical resources and possessing a favorable growing climate Zimbabwe's economy is drawn almost equally between the mining of minerals ($2.2 billion) and the production of staples and cash crops ($2.1 billion).
Zimbabweans are comprised of two primary ethnic groups, the Shona, comprising 74% of the population and the Ndebele comprising 20%. Other ethnic black groups and Asians make up 4% of the population while whites make up just over 1% of the population. Zimbabwe has a population of 10.35 million people with a population density of 24 persons per km2. 1992 census figures estimate Zimbabwe's growth at 3.0% with 90% of this growth rate within the Shona group. This 3.0% growth is quite rapid given its relation to the countries declining annual growth rate of -15%.
Zimbabwe's history dates back to the 9th century A.D., the believed period in which many great buildings were built, buildings clearly indicative of an early and great civilization. Of the many sites the most impressive is the Great Stone House or Great Zimbabwe the source of the countries name. Despite the impressive nature of the Great Zimbabwe and the other building sites, it is believed that the civilization that created them did not survive to see the new millennium.
Some 900 years after the construction of the Great Zimbabwe many other sights were built as Zimbabwe became the object of British colonialism in 1888. It was in this year that John Cecil Rhodes obtained mineral rights for the British throne and began the process of bringing Zimbabwe home to Great Britain. Pleased with his accomplishment the throne honored Rhodes by lending his name to the area, now calling it Rhodesia. Headed by Rhodes the British South Africa Company (BSA) was chartered in 1889 with the responsibility of colonizing the areas of Northern and Southern Rhodesia and bringing back to the Kingdom the vast mineralogical resources Rhodesia had to offer.
Although a colony, throughout the existence of its charter Rhodesia enjoyed self-governing and perceived autonomy. The United Kingdom reserved the right to intervene in the policies of Rhodesia at any prompting, but this right was rarely employed leaving Rhodesia's autonomy all but assumed. The perceived autonomy the nation enjoyed allowed for the emergence of factions interested in developing Rhodesia's mineralogical and agricultural potential for the purpose of stimulating domestic growth only. Although growth would benefit the country as a whole, it would benefit whites specifically by design. An apartheid-type land apportionment act passed in 1934 allotted key resource rich areas to whites only. The perceived autonomy and racists nature of Rhodesia would have great implications late in the countries political future.
By 1960 Rhodesia was a country of two factions: the ruling white minority who wanted complete independence from the United Kingdom and the indigenous African majority who wanted greater control of their country and an end to institutional racism. On November 11, 1965 in a step to hasten along political change white progressives announced the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) thereby declaring their independence from Great Britain . The British government was not hostile to the UDI but did insist that the Rhodesian government demonstrate its intention to move toward free and democratic majority rule. Considering the majority of Rhodesia was African the ruling whites were diametrically opposed to any such form of majority rule government and refused to meet Great Britain's conditions of independence.
On December 16, 1966 Rhodesia made history by being the first country subject to United Nations economic sanctions, suffering a complete embargo on key exports and imports . With a dilapidating economy and African discontent with the white ruling minority Rhodesia fell into a period of economic and political turmoil breeding uncertainty and general political instability.
In 1974 Rhodesia's two primary black nationalists parties combined to form a front against Rhodesia's governing policy. Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Joshua Nkomo's Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) united together to form a "Patriotic Front" against the segregationist regime of Prime Minister Ian Smith . In 1976, under great political, economic, and social pressure Smith ceded to foreign and domestic demands and agreed to majority rule in principle. Through diplomatic channels and under British auspices Rhodesia made the transition to majority rule and on December 21, 1979 political reforms were unofficially agreed upon. As a condition of this agreement Rhodesia was granted independence from the Commonwealth, and all U.N. sanctions were lifted with a decree that Rhodesia was to be internationally recognized as a political state.
In late February, 1980 free democratic election were held in Rhodesia for the first time with Mugabe's ZANU(PF) achieving an absolute majority. Upon the victory of his party Mugabe was asked to form the first government of the country of Zimbabwe. On April 18, 1980 the British Government formally granted independence to the former Rhodesia and four months later Zimbabwe was indoctrinated as a member of the United Nations.
Zimbabwe's political system exists to this day as democratic and majoritarian all implemented through a parliamentary system. Robert Mugabe remains as President and utilizes a foreign policy of non-alignment. Despite this Zimbabwe is a member of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and performs primary trade with its neighboring African state South Africa. It is the period from 1980 to the present that is most fundamental in understanding Zimbabwe's economic system because it is in this period that Zimbabwe's economic structure best reveals itself.
Zimbabwe's economic structure is one of great potential. In the years prior to its independence Zimbabwe put great emphasis in developing its mining industry and as a result it is one of the most developed in Africa. The mining of such minerals as copper, nickel, gold, and metallurgical-grade ferrochromite is responsible for nearly half the countries $4.9 billion Gross Domestic Product (GDP) . The other half of Zimbabwe's GDP is generated primarily in the agricultural sector with the majority of this produced at subsistence levels by most of the population.
Zimbabwe clearly has the potential to generate agriculture beyond the subsistence level and thereby eliminate any degree of shortage. In any event subsistence would be sufficient to eliminate shortage if not for recent devastating droughts. Zimbabwe's mineral export industry is key to the nations developmental success. Although small, the countries mining industry is modernized and strategically developed toward exports. Many paved roads link mines and other industries together that complement mining such as heavy machinery. Also, the areas within the vicinity of the mines are highly developed and urbanized to ensure an adequate and able workforce. Finally, Zimbabwe participates in non-aligned trade for non-strategic products such as textiles. This greatly reduces the countries chance of becoming dependent on a trade partner.
In many ways Zimbabwe is a model for third-world economic development. Although not yet fully developed Zimbabwe clearly has the potential to be a full fledged developed nation. Beyond its vast resources Zimbabwe is structured in a way to promote development. This fact in and of itself distinguishes Zimbabwe from most other Lesser Developed Countries (LDC). Zimbabwe's economic structure is one in which they are essentially self-sufficient and trade only for profit or for consumer goods. Also they perform trade with many partners with no single partner comprising garnering more than 15% of import or export goods. By structuring the Zimbabwe's economic system in a way that keeps its partners diversified and its imports non-strategic, Mugabe has successfully led his nation to the path of development. The barriers left to full development are quite minimal compared to the ones already dominated, The structure of Zimbabwe's economic system is truly a model of economic development.