Special report: Is Zimbabwe finally on the road to recovery?

Zimbabwe’s new administration prepares to tackle considerable economic problems as most investors and lenders watch and wait to see whether it is up to the challenge. In this special report for International Investment, Yigal Chazan assesses both the current economic challenges facing the country and the emerging opportunities for investors.

Post-Mugabe Zimbabwe is at a crossroads. A new leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has declared that his country is “open for business”, after years of isolationism. Yet while he has made all the right noises about economic reform – and, to some extent, matched words with deeds – his commitment towards democracy and the rule of law remains questionable, worrying many potential investors and lenders.

The presidential and parliamentary elections in July were seen as a test of Mnangagwa’s professed willingness to end Zimbabwe’s pariah status. The conduct of the poll, in which he and his ruling party, ZANU-PF, triumphed, was not deemed to be wholly free and fair by some international observers. Nonetheless, it was a major improvement on Mugabe-era ballots, largely sham contests, in which violence was routinely used to silence the opposition. Western governments, with the exception of the US administration, appear to have taken the view that, while the election was a disappointment, it was sufficiently credible for them to engage with Harare, albeit with a degree of circumspection and caution.

Zimbabwe’s path to recovery is likely to be long and difficult as it seeks to restore its long-lost reputation as a regional powerhouse and breadbasket of Africa.

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