What do Robert Mugabe and ‘90s have in common? They both lasted too long. Robert Mugabe, the president of Zimbabwe, just celebrated his 93rd birthday last month with an extravagant party. Mr. Mugabe took power in 1980 and has not given it up since. The Zimbabwean economy was at a high point in 1980 as its per capita gross national income peaked. Yet, since Mugabe’s rule, the Zimbabwean economy has been in an almost constant downturn, even a free-fall at times.
In 2008 Zimbabwe experienced a hyperinflation crisis and saw the printing of a $100 trillion note. Mugabe conceived the current deindustrialization and shedding of formal wage-paying jobs in Zimbabwe, which is almost completely depleted one of Africa’s most advanced economies.
The most shocking of all this corruption and mismanagement is the human effect of a rapidly crumbling formal economy. From 2011 to 2014 the informal economy employment went from 84 percent to a staggering 95 percent of the Zimbabwean work force. This massive informal economy takes shape in the form of a sprawling market on the streets of Harare where everyone attempts to sell their wares hoping to make ends meet.
The government recognizes the necessity of the market considering the current economic climate of their country. However, Mugabe and his administration look down upon the “eyesore” and have relegated its hours to weekday nights and late afternoons on weekends.
The fortunate few who still have their wage-paying jobs mostly work for the government, many of whom benefit form patronage and don’t actually work at all. The level of corruption of the longtime president is shocking and unfortunately he has recently been selected to lead his fractured party into next year’s national elections.
There have been a number of efforts to revive Zimbabwe’s failing economy by government officials, but none have come to any avail. The desperately needed massive bailout, which would cost billions, is nowhere in sight with international lenders extremely leery of handing out any money to such a failing and corrupt government.
Zimbabwe’s chance, then, lies within the next year’s election and the hope of newer, younger leadership to bring unity and economic advancement that Zimbabwe once enjoyed. This extreme shift in leadership has been a theme throughout the continent of late and many Zimbabweans hope that the trend will continue and ignite their homeland.
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