By Brian Nichols| Blessed with abundant mineral resources, rich farmlands, ideal weather, stunning national parks, and a well-educated, industrious people, Zimbabwe should be the economic powerhouse and the breadbasket of southern Africa, and even more popular as a tourist destination and business investment opportunity, as it once was.
What then, is holding Zimbabwe back? It’s not sanctions. There are only 141 Zimbabwean people and companies on the United States sanctions’ list. That’s right, just 141, in a country of 16 million. They are on the list for good reason. These are people who have engaged in corruption, committed human rights abuses, and undermined Zimbabwe’s democratic process. Blaming sanctions is a convenient scapegoat to distract the public from the real reasons behind Zimbabwe’s economic challenges —corruption, economic mismanagement, and failure to respect human rights and uphold the rule of law.
There is no United States trade embargo on Zimbabwe. American companies are interested in investing in Zimbabwe but are deterred by the massive levels of corruption, economic uncertainty, and weak rule of law. So, investors turn to other promising opportunities in the region and wait for the country to embrace the political and economic reforms that would make it a more attractive destination.
The greatest sanctions on Zimbabwe are the limitations the country imposes on itself. Zimbabwe is ranked 160 out of 175 nations on Transparency International’s corruption list. Zimbabwe loses more than US$1 billion per year to corruption. That’s huge compared to the size of Zimbabwe’s entire economy — around US$26 billion. The government says fighting corruption is a priority but have government and government-connected perpetrators been held accountable? No. If the country’s laws were evenly applied and enforced, government coffers would be full and the economy would be humming; tax revenue and foreign exchange would not leak from the Treasury, and government would recover some of the money that has made a privileged few extremely wealthy. It’s not sanctions, it’s corruption.