You Can’t Fetch Water With Bottomless Tin: $15 Billion Lesson For Zim Govt


By Isaac Jonas

My first trip abroad was Canada. Fate had it that I had to go to Vancouver, Canada, my new base, at least for a year. I got the privilege of studying for a Master’s in Food and Resource Economics (MFRE) at the University British Columbia (UBC) in 2014, thanks to the generosity of the MasterCard Foundation scholarship program.

illegal diamond miners sift through the diamond fields after government shut down operations of companies
illegal diamond miners sift through the diamond fields after government shut down operations of companies

The scholars program trains the next generation of young leaders from Africa, who are passionate and active in community engagement.

In August 2014, just before commencing the school term, I had the chance to attend the MFRE orientation program. It was time to get ready for school again.

Apart from the excitement of learning new things in the classroom, I was equally excited to be meeting with my new classmates most of whom would become lifelong friends. It was a very enlightening experience sharing different experiences with folks from different countries.

On one of the orientation excursions, we visited the Grouse Mountains in Vancouver, Canada. I was struck by what I saw. There was well developed infrastructure all over the mountains.

There are many activities from mountain hiking and ski riding at the Grouse Mountains. It cost us $22 for us to have the fun of hiking and viewing the city from the top of the Grouse Mountains. That was half price to the fee paid by international tourists.

We were lucky to have a Canadian Coordinator amongst us. My quick conservative calculations put the daily revenue for the facility to a couple of tens of thousands of dollars a day.

This challenged me to reflect about how much my beloved country Zimbabwe could generate in from tourism given the most tourist attractive landscape across the country.

Yes, I was impressed by how these Grouse Mountains were turned into a cash flow generating venture. However, as I would learn, the Grouse Mountains were leased to a private company that developed the area over time.

The company recoups the return on its investment from the revenue from tourism activities in the facility. I quickly contrasted with the beautiful Eastern highlands in my beloved country, Zimbabwe. The mountains are so beautiful and could easily attract more tourists and generate much more revenue for the desperately needs to resuscitate the deteriorating economy.

Zimbabwe’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was recorded at approximately US$14.2billion as of 2014 (World Bank Report of 2014). GDP is the total value of final goods and services produced within the geographical boundaries of a Country. Presently, the Zimbabwean economy remains marred with many economic challenges from falling productivity and drought hence there has been little growth in terms of the GDP for 2015 and first few months of 2016.

Zimbabwe could easily tap into the diverse resource base which the country often boasts of. The country has minerals ranging from Diamonds (4th largest producer in the world), platinum, gold and a very favorable climate for agriculture.

I grew up hearing about the huge potential which this beautiful Southern African Country has. Now it’s almost three decades since I was born and the country is still stuck and hoping on this same old mantra of “potential” growth. Is this politicking or poor resources prioritization?

Although the country has recorded significant growth in many sectors like tourism and education literacy rate, there is a lot that still needs to be done.

Most of the current challenges being faced by the country are overridden by the political climate in the country.

The government needs to do more in ensuring transparency and accountability in all sectors. There has been recent reports of the country losing US$15 billion through the diamond mining deals in the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

This amount is more than the whole country’s GDP just disappearing in one sector and yet the government always complains about limited funding. To complain that the country has no money when the government ministers are splashed with expensive vehicles from taxpayer’s money is a mockery to the hardworking citizens.

This is surely unacceptable. The leadership must do more to ensure transparency and that all the corruption is nipped into the bud.

The government should also diversify the resources from the mining sector into other service sectors like manufacturing because minerals are a renewable resources and are also prone to commodity market price fluctuations.

Without accounting for the resources effectively, it would be like fetching water with a bottomless tin. The country cannot afford to continue doing that. A good example is Angola that created a sovereign wealth fund in 2012.

The country has been forced to revise its budget as the oil prices plummeted in recent years and hedge over the risks of relying heavily on one mineral to finance the national fiscus.

The government should do more in attracting investment as opposed to sending very mixed signals through contrasting messages to investors.

The current move to compensate white farmers who lost their farms during the government’s land reform is yet to be seen unfolding.

Property rights are a key conduit for investment in any economy. Nobody wants to invest into a property and just wake up being served with an eviction order without warning.

In conclusion, the Zimbabwean government must equally focus on curbing the illicit capital leakages within the country in order to free up fiscal space for other critical development sectors of the economy.

The country could do much well economically, in my view even though the sanctions are still in place. The government revenue system could unlock a lot of opportunities across all the sectors. Zimbabwe indeed has the potential to grow into a 100 billion dollar economy in a few years but there is a lot that needs to be done in terms of planning, setting up a flexible and technologically adaptive financial and resource management system.

All corruption should be nipped into the bud and have all culprits brought to book. The country’s majority of the population cannot just live in poverty in an island of corrupt and a few rich oligarchs who are mostly politically connected to ruling elite club.

Yes, it is time to change the system for a better accountability and citizen’s needs responsive model.

  • Isaac Jonas is a Zimbabwean International Development Consultant based in Canada. He writes in his personal capacity. For comments on the article please reach out to him on


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