Urban and Rural Voucher SystemsEach year, millions of pregnant women give birth without access to proper health care services. Countries such as Ethiopia, Laos and Yemen are just a few parts of the world where this is a major problem. For example, in Ethiopia, 59 percent of women do not receive care by a medical professional during pregnancy. In Zimbabwe, however, access to prenatal care has drastically improved since the 2014 implementation of the Urban and Rural Voucher Systems (UVS and RVS, respectively). These systems allow for low-income pregnant women to receive the healthcare that they need. They have already had incredible benefits on thousands of pregnant women. Additionally, they set a great precedent for governments and NGOs to come together to find solutions to pressing maternal health issues.

Qualifications

The UVS and RVS service pregnant women whose incomes place them in the bottom 40 percent of households in Zimbabwe. Consequently, women who cannot afford the required $25 co-pay at many clinics can still receive care. Providing women with this essential health care helps to ensure that these women and their babies stay healthy and safe both during and after pregnancy.

Funding

The government of Zimbabwe, the World Bank and Codaid are the main sources of funding for the UVS and RVS. Cordaid is a local NGO that has assisted with much of the program’s implementation. Clinics are subsidized based on their performance. They measure performance on overall range and quality of coverage. This supply-side solution works to help promote jobs and economic growth in local communities, which contributes to the program’s long-term sustainability.

Impact on the Poor

Access to proper care during pregnancy is essential to ensure the health of expectant mothers and their child. In many countries around the world, women do not have access to this care. As a result, the consequences have been horrific.

For instance, there are roughly 3.3 million neonatal deaths recorded per year. Neonatal refers to the first four weeks of a baby’s life. Proper prenatal care can prevent these fatalities. A woman who receives such care is far less likely to give birth to a child with fatal health issues. Proper prenatal care can help identify and fix possible health issues before they become too serious. In addition, receiving prenatal care can offer educational resources. The care can educate a woman about the ways in which they should go about raising a healthy child.

Conclusion

Zimbabwe’s Urban and Rural Voucher Systems have had immense benefits since their implementation. The thousands of women that they have helped to serve reflect such benefits. The programs provide an affordable and accessible option for pregnant mothers to receive the care that they need to ensure both their health and the health of their babies. Also, the UVP and RVP supply-side design ensure that the programs are helping to stimulate local economies and bring communities together. All in all, while much progress must still be made towards increasing access to prenatal care for pregnant women around the world, Zimbabwe has taken an important first step with its Urban and Rural Voucher Systems.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

Orphans in ZimbabweThe landlocked country of Zimbabwe in southern Africa is known for its diverse wildlife and sprawling, gorgeous landscapes. What many might not be aware of is the crisis taking place within the country. Young children and those under the age of 18 are the sole providers of their households because of circumstances causing them to become orphans. The 10 facts about orphans in Zimbabwe listed below demonstrate the severity and seriousness of this issue taking place in this diverse and culturally rich country.

10 Facts about Orphans in Zimbabwe

  1. HIV/AIDS contributes largely to the number of orphans.
    In Zimbabwe, there are more than 1.3 million orphaned children, and HIV/AIDS is the culprit. According to the National AIDS Council (NAC), over 50,000 households are headed by children under the age of 18 who have lost parents to this deadly infectious
    disease.
  2. Children are born with HIV/AIDS.
    Adults and parents are not the only victims of HIV/AIDS. This infection can also be passed from mother to child by way of pregnancy, delivery or breastfeeding. In fact, 180,000 children were born with it. As a result, these children are highly vulnerable, and often face social prejudice.
  3. Orphans can go to next of kin, but that is not always an option.
    Traditionally, those orphaned in Zimbabwe are taken in by kin living in surrounding areas. This kin often involve aunts, uncles and grandparents of the orphaned children. Because of the destruction of families that HIV/AIDS causes, this network system is under severe pressure. It is predicted that between the years of 2020 to 2030, orphaned Zimbabwean children will not only have to deal with the loss of their parents but also will not have support from grandparents or other family members.
  4. Many run away after becoming orphaned.
    In an Evaluation Report completed by UNICEF in 2001 concerning orphans and other vulnerable children in Zimbabwe, it was reported that children dealing with AIDS in some form of their life were highly mobile. This means that nearly 50 percent of children had
    left their homes after the death of their parents. They headed for rural areas to ease hardships involved with living in the urban areas of Zimbabwe. Many children in this study ran away, never to be heard from again.
  5. Their education is poor.
    Education of those orphaned in Zimbabwe is lacking and in dire need of improvement. Adequate education in Zimbabwe for orphaned children is not easily accessible. Orphaned children, especially young adolescent girls, are often unable to regularly attend school. These children are missing out on key skills needed to be a functioning member of society, as education is considered a “social vaccine.”
  6. Poverty is certain.
    In addition to the loss of parents, many orphaned children struggle with extreme poverty. Poverty is destructive to all children of Zimbabwe and the world, but it is especially devastating to orphans under the age of 18 who have become the head of their household. They are exposed to a multitude of risks. These risks include poor health, poor educational opportunities, delays in development and a lack of emotional or social support.
  7. Many are not given a birth certificate which prevents them from accessing education and health care.
    In Zimbabwe, a high amount of children never receive a birth certificate. As a result, it becomes close to impossible to secure a spot in any school. This reduces their chances of adequate and sustainable education. In addition to this, never receiving a birth certificate can make seeking medical attention, especially for orphans living with HIV/AIDS, extremely challenging.
  8. Pathways offers services specifically for orphans in Zimbabwe.
    In July of 2018, USAID announced the launch of Pathways. The program was designed to provide nutrition, health and psychosocial services for orphaned and vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. This five year, the $35 million program will provide support and offer services to 250,000-HIV/AIDS infected orphans and 59,500 households of Zimbabwe.
  9. There are programs dedicated to keeping families together.
    SOS Children’s Villages in Zimbabwe has been one of the leading organizations offering support for orphans since 1983. Goals and the work of SOS Children’s Villages are working to support and strengthen families by providing necessities and ensuring that they stay together. If families are unable to remain together, SOS Children’s Villages can place vulnerable children into SOS families. Additionally, SOS Children’s Villages in Zimbabwe also works by way of providing education and advocacy.
  10. CAMFED is helping young orphan girls gain educational opportunities.
    CAMFED Zimbabwe, an organization launched in 1993, has been working tirelessly to increase educational opportunities for orphaned female adolescents in Zimbabwe. By providing scholarships for poor girls in rural areas, building hostels to shorten long distances girls must walk to school (walks are dangerous and tedious for young girls), chances for academic success for young women in Zimbabwe is improved and attainable. Nearly 104,000 young, orphaned girls have been given secondary scholarships by CAMFED Zimbabwe.

Improvements Are Still Needed

Overall, the 10 facts about orphans in Zimbabwe listed above are important in understanding the severity and prevalence of this issue in Zimbabwe. Though many vulnerable children have been supported by a variety of organizations dedicated to orphans in Zimbabwe, a significant amount of work is still needed to truly relieve the burden that orphans in this country must take on.

– Anna Giffels
Photo: Flickr

Hyperinflation

When it comes to global poverty, an important factor of a country’s economy is its inflation rate. Inflation occurs when the value of a nation’s currency decreases, but the prices for goods increase. Inflation affects many facets of everyday life, such as nationwide poverty rates, food and medical supplies.

Hyperinflation occurs when inflation rates rise quickly and uncontrollably. Hyperinflation is reached when an economy’s inflation rate is at least fifty percent for a thirty day period. However, high inflation rates consistent over a prolonged period of time also qualify as hyperinflation.  Here are three countries in hyperinflation today.

Venezuela

In the 1970s world energy crisis, Venezuela was a highly profitable oil producer. After oil prices dropped once the energy crisis ended in the 1980s, Venezuela’s chief export greatly declined in revenue and its economy began to suffer. Despite the decline in exports, Venezuela still needed to spend large sums of funding on the importation of basic goods for its people. This led to inflation, as the country dug itself into deficit spending. To pay for imported goods, Venezuelan banks then printed out paper notes not backed by actual wealth.

Now, inflation in Venezuela has reached monumental levels of devastation. Venezuela has been in hyperinflation since November 2016, when the inflation rate exceeded 50 percent. The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation in Venezuela will exceed ten million percent by the end of 2019.

Because of this economic crisis, poverty is widespread. In 2017, the poverty rate across Venezuelan households reached 87 percent. On top of widespread poverty, food and medical supply shortages are rampant across Venezuela. The health of its people has deteriorated as weight loss and the spread of disease inflict the nation.

Currently, the Venezuelan government rejects the International Monetary Fund’s option to default on its debt. Venezuelan U.N. representatives have commented that in order for the nation to progress, it needs internal structural changes, not foreign aid.

South Sudan

South Sudan’s economy is also almost entirely oil-based. Of the countries in hyperinflation, South Sudan is the newest, gaining independence from British rule in 2011. However, South Sudan was quickly caught in a civil war from 2013 to 2018, soon after its founding. Damage to oil fields and other resources due to warfare severely affected the revenue of South Sudan’s exports. Inflation began as the struggle for resources and funding inflicted this budding nation.

South Sudan’s current economic crisis has caused mass poverty and food insecurity for its civilians. According to recent reports from the U.N., 43 percent of South Sudanese households are food insecure. At its peak, inflated food prices reached about 513 percent in December 2016. By the end of December 2018, the inflation on food prices dropped to 51 percent but is still hyperinflammatory by definition.

Unfortunately, South Sudan is currently not focusing on any poverty-reduction programs. According to the World Bank Organization, South Sudan’s overall inflation rate was an estimated 130.9 percent by the end of 2018; by the end of 2019, it is expected to drop to 49.3 percent, just under the hyperinflation threshold. However, given the financial instability of the nation, South Sudan will remain under close observation of the International Monetary Fund and similar entities for the foreseeable future.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s economy thrived in the 1980s and early 1990s, after declaring its independence from British control and creating its own domestic dollar currency in celebration. In the 1990s, however, Zimbabwe’s agricultural-based economy took a major hit after a series of crop failures. Compounded by the high costs of imports and funding for the war, Zimbabwe’s economy began to falter. In a panic to pay for goods, Zimbabwean banks rushed to print excess bills, leading the nation into hyperinflation.

Zimbabwe’s economy reached hyperinflation in March 2007, just passing the 50 percent threshold. For the next year, the nation’s inflation was a tumultuous series of highs and lows, eventually reaching a staggering 79.6 billion percent in November 2008. Eventually, Zimbabwe was forced to abandon its domestic currency, as its own population boycotted using the drastically inflated Zimbabwean dollar.

Despite the nation’s inflation rate lowering back down to 59.4 percent as of February 2019, Zimbabwe is still struggling to limit its cost of imports and boost its revenue from exports.

Potential Solutions

While there are numerous potential ways to address hyperinflation, a common solution for this phenomenon is dollarization — the abandonment of a failing domestic currency in favor of a stable foreign currency. A notable success story of dollarization is Montenegro, where the considerably weak Yugoslavic dinar was replaced with the euro, a more stable currency used widespread across the European Union. Before total dollarization, the inflation in Montenegro peaked at 26.5 percent in 2001. After adopting the euro, the country’s inflation is under one percent, as of 2019.

Of the three countries in hyperinflation today, Zimbabwe did utilize this method of dollarization; however, as of 2019, it abandoned dollarization, triggering the start of nationwide economic problems yet again. Overall, for these three countries in hyperinflation today, maintaining dollarization may be their best chance in regaining economic stability.

– Suzette Shultz
Photo: Wikimedia

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s healthcare system is in need of reformation. Since 2000, approximately three million health workers have fled the nation, and the health of the society has suffered since then. Non-governmental organizations around the world are currently working together to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe.

NGOs are working hard to fix the issue of lack of adequate healthcare; here are ways to improve health in Zimbabwe.

Ways to Improve Health in Zimbabwe

  • Investing in disease treatment and prevention: Zimbabwe suffers from a lack of health workers; there are only about 1.23 health workers per 1,000 citizens. Because of this, it is difficult to treat epidemics of communicable diseases like cholera and HIV. A cholera outbreak in 2008 killed 4,000 people due to the small number of available doctors. USAID recognizes this as a problem, and every year, the organization donates nearly $100 million to disease treatment programs in Zimbabwe.  The prevalence of HIV has lowered from 14 percent to 13.3 percent in one year, but more can be done to treat other infectious diseases.
  • Improving clinics: Another way to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe is to invest in the advancement of medical clinics. Most clinics in Zimbabwe are overcrowded and undeveloped, but the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) plans to renovate 52 clinics in the region. The renovations include storage for crucial medications and space for sanitation and hygienic facilities. Additionally, UNDP’s Global Fund implemented a new health information system to hasten responses to outbreaks and epidemics. These positive changes have contributed to steady rates of health workers’ job retention.
  • Aiding expectant mothers: Pregnant women are one group that is most reliant on Zimbabwe’s healthcare system. Since 2014, World Bank’s Global Funding Facility has helped rebuild the deteriorated system. One revamping program, the Urban Voucher Program, provides free maternity care to women living in the bottom 40 percent of average annual income. Before the UVP, women would have to pay a $25 fee to visit a health clinic, and most of them were not able to afford it. After the implementation of the vouchers, family planning and neonatal services have strengthened in low-income communities, significantly reducing the amount of money that families spend on healthcare. While maternal mortality rate was 614 deaths per 100,000 births in 2014, it decreased to 443 deaths per 100,000 births during the first year of the UVP.

More can be done to improve healthcare in Zimbabwe. The success of these NGOs can mobilize others to join in on the efforts against disease and poverty.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Zimbabwe
Various organizations have made it a priority to increase access to girls’ education in Zimbabwe. Previously, many girls did not have the opportunity to pursue an education. However, initiatives dedicated to increasing girls’ education, particularly in Zimbabwe, are working to change that.

Zimbabwe and Education

Zimbabwe has been a progressive country in terms of providing educational opportunities for its children which shows by the significant rise in the number of children enrolled in school over the years. However, in recent decades, an increase in enrollment is becoming less common as poverty rates continue to plague the country’s rural population. The result is that girls’ education is declining in Zimbabwe, as parents are more likely to opt to send their young boys to school if given the opportunity.

While high poverty rates have led to a decrease in both male and female students, young girls are especially at risk of losing their access to education. This is because families can use girls as a source of income if they choose to marry them off.

Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) Program

Zimbabwe’s government has a program to aid poor families in funding education, though the program is often lacking in funds. This program is called the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) program.

Zimbabwe’s constitution has required that children have access to free elementary and basic education as of 2013. While enrollment increased, a report states that more than 1.2 million children between the ages of three and 16 are not enrolled in school. Additionally, a 2017 report found that at least 63 percent of children were unable to pay for their schooling and that the school subsequently sent them home.

The DREAMS Partnership

In an effort to reduce the number of children without access to school, USAID has created an initiative known as the DREAMS partnership. DREAMS stands for determined, resilient, empowered, AIDS-free, mentored and safe, and strives to keep children healthy and decrease new outbreaks of HIV/AIDS. Through this initiative, schools in rural parts of Zimbabwe have seen changes that ignite hope. One school in a rural area previously had a 40 percent enrollment from girls, but with the implementation of the DREAMS program, it has increased to a 51 percent enrollment rate.

Introducing educational family programs is a significant first step towards increasing girls’ enrollments in school. While a portion of Zimbabwe’s budget goes toward education, it largely focuses on human resources instead.

UNICEF and Girls Speak Out (GSO)

In 2016 alone, UNICEF and many of its partners took an initiative to combat the obstacles preventing many from the chance to be educated. Ninety-eight percent of the schools that UNICEF set out to help improve ended up receiving funding, meaning that more than 750,000 children received an enhanced education opportunity. More children were able to access education through improved learning materials and decreased costs for poorer students.

Anoziva Marindire, founder of the Girls Speak Out (GSO) movement, has taken a unique approach to enable girl’s education in Zimbabwe by teaching them to code. Searching for girls ranging from 14 to 24 years of age, Marindire says that computer and technology skills are more useful than one may think. The GSO program has reached over 160 girls in various cities and regions of Zimbabwe, and it is looking to expand further.

The goal of this coding initiative is to take young girls from underdeveloped communities and teach them how to create apps and use technology to their full advantage. Not only does this directly benefit these girls, but their communities as well. Because of the exploding job market in science and technology, giving girls the opportunity to learn how to code in a hands-on approach will prove to be highly beneficial to them.

Zimbabwe has and continues to make strides in the name of education for children, particularly the opportunities that are opening up for young girls throughout the country. Through multiple organization’s continued efforts, many hope that the 1.2 million children out of school will one day become zero.

– Emily Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Typhoid in Zimbabwe
Typhoid fever, a serious disease affecting between 11 and 21 million people worldwide, is commonly found in the developing regions of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Symptoms include high fevers, weakness, stomach pains, headaches, loss of appetite and diarrhea. Severe cases even lead to serious health complications and even death. Typhoid occurs most often in areas with poor sanitation and contaminated food and water. There are 128,000 to 161,000 typhoid-related deaths every year.

Typhoid in Zimbabwe

On 24 February 2018, the Harare City Health Department (HCHD) suspected 3,187 cases and confirmed 191 cases of typhoid in Zimbabwe. This was the latest major typhoid outbreak in Zimbabwe. Most typhoid outbreaks in the capital, Harare, are caused by municipal water shortages and the use of contaminated boreholes and shallow wells. HCHD works to improve water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) throughout the city in order to lower typhoid cases and outbreaks in Zimbabwe. They repair boreholes, fix burst sewers, conduct water testing and sampling and educate local residents about water quality and typhoid.

Resistance to antibiotics creates another problem. Around one in five typhoid patients are already resistant to the common typhoid antibiotics and in some areas, resistance raises to a staggering 73 percent. For example, ciprofloxacin is an antibiotic widely used in the treatment of typhoid. However, 20 percent of typhoid patients in Harare show resistance to ciprofloxacin. Alternative antibiotics are more expensive and less available to patients, and although the sale of these medications without a prescription is illegal, over-the-counter purchases are a common practice.

The Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine

A solution to the problem of ineffective medicine is the typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV). The current typhoid vaccines can only provide short-term protection to patients and more importantly, cannot be given to children. The typhoid conjugate vaccine can reduce the need for antibiotics and unlike other vaccines, it provides longer-lasting protection, requires only one dose and works for children older than six months. The creation of the typhoid conjugate vaccine is a large step in global health.

Kathy Neuzil, leader for the Typhoid Vaccine Acceleration Consortium at the University of Maryland, said: “I have been in my career for around 25 years but these sorts of opportunities, where everything comes together, don’t happen very often. Here we had a vaccine that had been tested but wasn’t being used. Now it is licensed by the World Health Organization and Gavi is supporting countries to introduce it.” The TCV is making history, especially helping with typhoid in Zimbabwe.

The Typhoid Conjugate Vaccine in Zimbabwe

A major vaccine campaign began in Harare on 22 February 2019. Approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), carried out by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and funded by Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, this campaign is the first in Africa to use the typhoid conjugate vaccine. It targets children aged from six months to 15 years old, and in high-risk areas, it will provide adults up to 45-years-old with the typhoid conjugate vaccine. By the end of the campaign on 3 March 2019, the typhoid conjugate vaccine will be available to 325,000 people throughout the capital city.

Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, is optimistic about the typhoid conjugate vaccine, saying: “These new conjugate vaccines will be a game-changer, not only in the battle against typhoid but also in the global effort to tackle drug resistance. The fact that they are now ready to be used to contain this devastating outbreak in Zimbabwe is fantastic news.”

Although vaccination campaign will significantly decrease typhoid outbreaks in Zimbabwe, vaccines are only a short-term solution. Completely eradicating typhoid in Zimbabwe will also require sustainable solutions for clean water and improved sanitation and hygiene. Together, the typhoid conjugate vaccine and sustainable WASH measures in Harare and other cities will help control and fight typhoid in Zimbabwe.

– Natalie Dell
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Zimbabwe
Mental health is something that is often easy to overlook, especially if you come from a low-income background. The intersection of mental health and poverty is one that interests many social scientists, yet it is a relatively new comparison. Several studies show that living in an impoverished setting makes one more likely to experience a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. With many impoverished countries lacking the resources needed to provide substantial help for those affected by mental illness, programs like The Friendship Bench Project, who are working to improve mental health in Zimbabwe, are making a big impact.

Important Facts About Mental Health in Zimbabwe

  1. One in four Zimbabweans suffers from a common mental disorder (CMD), i.e. depression or anxiety.
  2. In a population of 13 million, there are only 11 psychiatrists and 20 clinical psychologists. That’s fewer than one psychiatrist per one million people.
  3. Only two of nine mental health institutions in the country have psychiatrists.

In a country with only eleven psychiatrists where one in four citizens have a CMD, it’s easy to wonder if there is anything being done to help improve mental health in Zimbabwe. That’s where The Friendship Bench Project comes in.

The Friendship Bench Project

During a Ted Talk, Dr. Dixon Chibanda, founder of The Friendship Bench Project and one of the eleven psychiatrists in Zimbabwe, explained why he started this project. Simply put, there just weren’t enough psychiatric resources in Zimbabwe to provide the aid for those who needed it. He decided to do something about it. He says that “One of the most reliable resources we have in Africa are grandmothers… there are hundreds of them… and they don’t leave their communities.” Using this knowledge, he came to the conclusion that these grandmothers can be trained to provide the necessary support for individuals who need it.

The Friendship Bench Project is an intervention of sorts that is based on problem-solving therapy where a patient and a trained community grandmother come together to identify issues impacting the patient and brainstorm ways of solving them. It is unlike conventional therapy in which the patient is diagnosed with an issue or symptom and is then treated based on their diagnosis.

Community grandmothers are trained to listen, to show empathy and are empowered with the skills needed to provide behavior activation and schedule activities. Technically, they are trained as lay health workers, but patients who go to see them recognize them only as the community grandmothers that they have always been. There are seen as someone to talk to, as someone who will listen. Together, over several sessions sitting on a park bench outside of a community health clinic, the grandmother and patient talk and work through the issues that are most affecting the patient.

The Impact of the Friendship Bench Project

A randomized clinical trial was conducted in order to see if these friendship bench sessions were working to improve the mental health in Zimbabwe. The trial split 573 patients into two groups: one group would receive psychological intervention from the community grandmothers while the other group (the control group) would receive the usual mental care from mental health professionals.

The trial found that patients who worked with the grandmothers displayed symptom scores (as measured on two symptom scales) that were lower than those who worked with doctors. This means that they had fewer symptoms of common mental disorders when they worked with lay health workers than when they worked with mental health professionals.

As of right now, there are 400 grandmothers working on 70 benches located throughout Zimbabwe, helping 35,000 people through The Friendship Bench Project. These women are changing mental health in Zimbabwe for the better. While The Friendship Bench Project is currently centered in Zimbabwe, it’s an innovative solution to combating mental health that could soon be used worldwide. In fact, Dr. Chibanda’s next goal is to do just that.

CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr

investing in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe, a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, is becoming an interesting area for foreign investments. China is planning on investing more than $3 billion in the country this year. Some of the projects include investments in the hospitality, steel, mining and manufacturing sectors. China has been a major investor in Zimbabwe, accounting for more than 70 percent out of total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Current Economic Climate

Acting Chinese Ambassador Zhao Baogang, stated that China has strong confidence in Zimbabwe. After the efforts made by the Government of Zimbabwe, China believes that more investments will be attracting, the economy will go back to normal and the country will become prosperous and strong. Baogang is referring to the past government corruption under dictator Robert Mugabe and the hyperinflation that caused many inhabitants to struggle to afford food.

With a per capita GDP of $1,000, many Zimbabweans struggle, finding it hard to afford even the essentials. One such indirect solution has been provided by external companies and nations investing in Zimbabwe, creating jobs and bringing the country out from poor economic conditions. Zimbabwean politician Patrick Chinamasa stated that he believes working with China is necessary and wise because they have been able to take almost 300 million people out of poverty. Chinamasa is the Finance Minister and trusts China to help the poverty-stricken nation grow financially. He believes that more jobs and less government corruption will help renew business interests in Zimbabwe.

China’s Past Investing Success

China has had previous success with investing in Africa. This year is not the first time China has partnered with an African country in a business venture. Shoemaker Huajian Group had a huge financial success in Ethiopia thanks to Chinese investment. The shoemaker is set to expand to Zimbabwe, opening a $2 billion shoe factory in the country. It will be Huajian Group’s second-largest shoe factory, second to their largest facility built in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. If the deal is followed through, over 15,000 jobs will be created.

Future of Investing in Zimbabwe

According to Baogang, 2019 is an important year, as many international companies have discussed or already began their projects in Zimbabwe. Jinan Sinotruck Co. is a Chinese light truck maker that is collaborating with Quest Motors, a struggling vehicle manufacturer based in Mutare, to help them succeed again. More outside investors are seeing future financial prospects in steel, a basic component in building automobiles.

Investing in Zimbabwe is one opportunity external investors view as crucial for lithium mining. The Bikita and Kamatavi mines are seen as viable investments as the world turns to electric cars, which, such as the Tesla Model S and Chevy Volt, utilizes power from lithium-ion batteries. Pacemakers and other battery-utilized medical equipment make use of lithium batteries as well. With the future automobile industry appearing battery-powered, more companies are becoming interested in lithium mining. Zimbabwe’s ambassador to China Paul Chikawa has echoed Baogang’s optimistic statements, stating that Chinese investors are interested in projects involving tourism, manufacturing and mining.

Other International Investors

The outside involvement in the country’s lithium mining is good news for Zimbabwe. Various companies, such as Prospect Resources, founded in Australia and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, invested more than $165 million in Zimbabwe’s lithium mining industry through the Arcadia Lithium Project. The company stated that $3 billion in export revenue is feasible. Baogang mentioned that two other companies are interested in lithium mining in the Kamativi mine in Matabeleland North province and that some progress has already been achieved.

According to diplomats from Australia and China, several more investors are interested in investing in Zimbabwe. They are keen on expanding to a nation with many prospects in the mining, hospitality, steel, agriculture, rail and timber industries. With many investors interested in Zimbabwe, the nation is set to create new jobs and grow financially, providing its citizens with better living conditions along the way.

– Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr

poverty and dictatorship
Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s ElectionZimbabwe recently held the first elections since President Robert Mugabe’s regime was ousted after nearly four decades of rule. With the end of his dictatorial version of democracy, Zimbabweans were optimistic that these elections would bring much-needed change. Despite the resulting post-election violence and crack-downs, there were many positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election, which was necessary steps towards a true democracy.

Ending a 37-Year Rule

The military leaders intervened after Mugabe fired his vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, while intending to make his younger wife his successor. With Mugabe ousted, Mnangagwa—a former security chief who is still seen as Mugabe’s ruthless enforcer—took over as Zimbabwe’s second head of state.

Mugabe began as a promising president after Zimbabwe’s independence, but he soon turned autocratic. Under him, people suffered from violent land reforms and devastating economic measures. He cut ties with international banks and monetary agencies. Mugabe’s policies led to some of the worst hyperinflations in the world and nearly collapsed the economy.

Amidst social and economic crisis, Mugabe resorted to oppression and intimidation to retain power. In fact, in the 80s, over 10,000 supporters of opposition parties were massacred in an event now known as The Matabeleland Massacres. Although elections were held, they were riddled with voter intimidation and often rigged.

In November 2017, Mugabe reluctantly resigned after a military coup surrounded his house for six days. Parliament had also already begun impeachment procedures. Mugabe’s resignation was met with cheers and celebrations across Zimbabwe.

Positive Aspects of Zimbabwe’s Election

As the July 30 elections drew nearer, Zimbabweans had high hopes that this time it would be different. Two candidates established themselves as the frontrunners. The incumbent President Mnangagwa, representing Zimbabwe’s leading ZANU-PF party, faced off against the younger Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), an opposition party.  

One of the most significant positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election was allowing Western observers enter to monitor the elections for the first time in 16 years. The observers noted that the use of state resources to run advertising campaigns provided the incumbent party an unfair advantage, which was a cause for concern, but the elections themselves were peaceful.

The main complaint was disorganization at some of the polls where voters stood in long lines and some waited up to six hours to cast their ballot. In other locations, everything ran smoothly and on-time. Zimbabweans demonstrated their hopes and enthusiasm at the polls. Around 75 percent of the 5.6 million registered voters showed up. This high voter turnout was viewed as another example of the positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election, an indication of an educated and receptive electorate, according to the electoral commission chief.

Preliminary assessments by observers suggested a relatively free and fair election. There were minimal signs of intimidation or bribery, but further analysis is necessary to consider the effects that the public media campaigns, a lack of transparency and the disorganization at the polls might have had on the results. The European Union’s chief observer said that at the very least, there was an improvement from previous elections.

However, with delays in the official counts for the election, unease rippled throughout the country. The accusations of vote-rigging triggered opposition supporters to take to the streets. The response of security forces was swift and severe; a reminder of life under Mugabe’s oppressive autocracy. Six people were killed in the violent clashes and another 14 were injured. Then 18 members of the opposition party were arrested.

Despite the issues, the incumbent Mnangagwa won the election with 50.8 percent of the vote, just enough to avoid a runoff. Some critics fear that his presidency will just be a continuation of Mugabe’s regime—Mnangagwa is accused of leading some of the worst atrocities during this era, and the political power still rests with Mugabe’s comrades.

President Mnangagwa’s Plans for Zimbabwe

As president, Mnangagwa has been trying to shed his ruthless reputation. His main focus has been on reviving the country’s devastated economy through much-needed reforms. By reestablishing relations with the West, he promises to reverse Mugabe’s isolationist attitudes.

During Mnangagwa’s first 100 days as president after Mugabe was ousted, he has already begun setting some of these changes in motion. His plan is partially based on recommendations for Zimbabwe by the British neoliberal think tank, Adam Smith Institute.

The government promised to reopen industries and is currently investing in organizations such as The Cold Storage Company to help boost production for the meat industry. Many are hopeful that these changes will create jobs for Zimbabweans. 

He has also begun tackling the rampant corruption and arresting several high-profile offenders—although critics argue that he needs to look within his own cabinet. During a three-month amnesty period, he even encouraged corrupt officials to return money taken illegally.

Reducing corruption is necessary to improve life for Zimbabweans as well as to attract foreign businesses. For similar reasons, Mnangagwa has made trade deals with Belarus, China and Russia. A commission with a South African rail company will have the dual benefit of improving transportation and increasing investment.

Zimbabwe is desperate to receive foreign assistance from the West to help jumpstart the economy. However, this aid is predicated on political reforms, which include peaceful and credible elections. It looks as though some of these reforms could come to pass under Mnangagwa’ presidency.

Although there were allegations of fraud and the government’s post-election crackdown can’t be overlooked, no fraud has been found and Mnangagwa’s presidency is considered legitimate. Mnangagwa has outlined many positive plans for the future of Zimbabwe. If he makes good on his word, then that will be another of the many positive aspects of Zimbabwe’s election.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr