By Judith Tyson for ODI.

Zimbabwe has suffered from economic decline in the recent past, with a 60% reduction in its gross domestic product over the past two decades. There have been multiple acute crises and a deep structural regression in its economy. This has included deindustrialisation, declining productivity in the agriculture sector and low capacity utilisation in the manufacturing sector. Only the mining sector has thrived, but this is mainly because of the commodity ‘super cycle’ that ended in 2015.

Ideally, there would be broad and deep macroeconomic reforms to reverse this decline, but many commentators see this as unrealistic without significant political change. Instead, new strategies that are feasible in the political economy of Zimbabwe are needed to get the country’s economy back on track.

Comparison with other similar countries indicates that conditions such as a well-functioning democracy, transparency, civil society empowerment or the absence of corruption are not necessary to begin a process of transformation. This paper argues that options are open to drive transformation even in the current political landscape. It explains how the most viable is a ‘single sector, single agent’ approach – whereby transformation is focused on a single sector with high potential and led by a single reformist agent within government – and this could ‘kick-start’ change.

Photo: LM TP (CC BY-NC 2.0)