Sunday, July 29, 2018

Putting Our Revolution in Context
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
Tau Tawengwa

On July 4, the United States celebrated its independence day.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on July 4, 1776, US politicians and military officers made a declaration announcing that the 13 colonies – which were then at war with Great Britain – would regard themselves as 13 sovereigns no longer under British rule.

This makes the United States 242-years-old.

Interestingly, at the time that the American founding fathers made the declaration of independence, the American economy was only beginning to industrialise, and this was the process of expanding cottage industries – what we call “home-based industries” in Zimbabwe – to large-scale industries.

Historians say at the time the American declaration of independence was made, agriculture was the major activity in the 13 colonies and at least 90 percent of Americans made their living off the land.

It must be considered that black slaves had been working on American plantations since 1619.

Slaves undoubtedly helped America to become an economic powerhouse through the production of lucrative crops such as tobacco and cotton.

The import of the foregoing is that at the time of the American declaration of independence in 1776, America had three key economic assets – land, minerals and labour.

Sounds similar?

Zimbabwe is also very rich in those three key resources.

Yet it was the deliberate and focused policies of American leaders at the time of the of the Industrial Revolution that transformed that country into the giant it is today.

The Industrial Revolution was largely characterised by automation, which in the American context at that time was the steam engine.

In our context, this is what President Emmerson Mnangagwa has repeatedly referred to as the mechanisation of agriculture and mining.

Also, the Industrial Revolution saw the urbanisation of America’s rural communities and, consequently, the expansion of markets for goods and services.

Ultimately, this improved the standard of living for the American people.

Furthermore, the proliferation of free-market capitalism, despite its flaws, incentivised scientific innovation and rewarded hard work.

Overall, 200 years after its independence, America has become a global force.

In fact, by 1900 the United States had half of the world’s manufacturing capacity and had overtaken Great Britain both in iron, steel and coal production.

I have often heard people speaking negatively about vendors, and how the informal economy in Zimbabwe is nothing more than a nuisance.

I do understand the logic behind those arguments, especially when they come from rate-paying shop-owners and businesspeople that have to accommodate vegetable vendors who sometimes relieve themselves within the environs of the same shops.

However, I have argued before that our informal economy is a constant reminder of our slide from an industrialised, advanced, middle-income economy to the informal economy we are today.

Yet if we reflect on America’s experiences from 1776, it becomes clear that the future is filled with possibilities.

Just like America then, Zimbabwe abounds in land and mineral resources and has an expansive informal sector that is ready to be transformed from “cottage industries”.

But more than anything else, we now have the political will to industrialise, which is largely credited to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” project.

In this light, I give credit to President Mnangagwa drive’s for investment-led growth.

Zimbabwe is now back on the international radar, and this time for the right reasons.

Since November last year, Zimbabwe has been hosting delegation after delegation from different parts of the globe that are willing to explore investment opportunities in Zimbabwe.

Clearly, what we need now is to allow President Mnangagwa to see through the process of re-industrialisation.

What is certain is that judging from America’s history, Zimbabwe’s reindustrialisation is a real possibility if we focus our energies after July 30.

At the end of the day, President Mnangagwa’s business-oriented administration presents a real opportunity for Zimbabwe to undergo an economic revolution and consequently an economic boom going forward.

For that reason, I believe he deserves a full term in office.

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