EDITORIAL COMMENT: Building Zim step-by-step, brick-by-brick

Developmental economists are still trying to make sense of how an economic backwater such as China could transform itself into the world’s second-biggest economy in just one generation.

Perhaps what is most intriguing is that most Chinese who were born in the clutches of poverty in 1978 are now enjoying the same standard of living as their peers in the United States of America, the world’s biggest economy.

But most are agreed that the actions of Deng Xiaoping, who took over in 1978 after Mao Tse-tung’s demise, introduced far-reaching reforms that were the foundations of “China’s miracle”.

Quite evidently, something is stirring in Zimbabwe, especially after the new political administration took over in November.

Far from the dystopian world that is cast on social media, there is quite a sea-change in terms of the country’s economic growth trajectory.

Until recently, reports from international Africa-focused market watchers such as US consultancy firm Frontier Strategy Group (FSG) have been able to prove that investor sentiment has indeed been changing for the better. In fact, in March this year, FSG indicated that Zimbabwe had jumped to fourth on the list of countries in Southern Africa where multinational companies see the best opportunities.

Yet under the former administration, the country did not event figure on that list.

However, this year’s edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), which began on Tuesday, has arguably been a key test to gauge both investor sentiment and perceptions.

And the results have been encouraging; in fact, they have been very encouraging.

A total of 18 countries were represented, including the United Arab Emirates, which exhibited for the first time. Similarly, there was a marked increase in the number of new local exhibitors, with 25 percent of booked participants coming in for the first time. Incredibly, exhibition space surpassed 100 percent and additional space had to be provided to cater for public sector participation.

This shows that far from the self-deprecatory narrative that is being pushed in some quarters, international investor sentiment has been changing; and far from the doomsday tales that are being peddled by pessimists, domestic investors are becoming increasingly optimistic as well.

This is why the country has been able to attract firm investment commitments worth more than $11 billion.

So, in essence, the new administration’s four-month re-engagement drive has managed to generate positive investor sentiment, which is a valuable currency for economic development.

But, just as China discovered early in its reform process, the trick to an economic miracle lies in staying the course of reform and deepening it.

As Deng Xiaoping said in one of his famous viewpoints in 1992: “We must be a little more braver in approaching reform and opening up. We must grasp the moment and develop ourselves. Of key importance is developing the economy,” said Deng Xiaoping then.Encouragingly, President Mnangagwa in his address at the ZITF on Friday indicated that Government was definitely in it for the long haul.

Just as he did in his inauguration speech on November 24, he sounded a warning to Government bureaucrats against slothfulness, corruption and unnecessary bottlenecks.

“My administration acknowledges that actions speak louder than words, and as such, I therefore direct all public sector office bearers, in the various Government ministers, departments, agencies and State enterprises to facilitate both domestic and foreign investment and also ease the business environment, at all costs,” he said.

Again, he rallied the country to be active participants in the new Government’s Vision 2030, which envisages that in 12 years time, the country will have decent jobs, broad-based empowerment, increased investments and will be free from poverty and corruption. Step-by-step and brick-by-brick, Government seems to be making headway. This is really possible.

By 1996 — 18 years after opening up — China’s gradual-style reforms had become telling.

Although the rest of the world was increasingly sceptical about China’s economic reforms, Newsweek conceded during the same year that a new force had indeed arrived on the world scene.

The American weekly magazine, Newsweek, said: “A strong China is emerging and the country is now having a strong influence in virtually all fields.

From the Straits in Taiwan to the stores of America, none of this could have been foreseen when Deng Xiaping began reforms and opening up policies in 1979. As an economic power, China is not only entering but also changing world the world markets. It is sometimes even making up its own rules of the game.”

The rest is history.

Arguably, Zimbabwe is following in the same footsteps and, as the economic giant, it is beginning to awaken.

It’s not anyone’s fault that some continue to see the negatives only.

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