Interview with Director, A. Beileh, following the AfDB Board’s adoption of a Short-Term Strategy Concept Note on Zimbabwe

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Abdirahman Beileh

“Increased private sector activity is key to the recovery  of Zimbabwe’s economy”

Question: How does the Bank intend to engage Zimbabwe given the country’s long-drawn governance problems?

Answer: The Bank’s assistance to Zimbabwe is intended to support the implementation of the Government’s Short-Term Economic Recovery Program (STERP), especially, in the areas of technical assistance and advice to the key economic institutions in the country.  The institution of STERP and related economic and financial reforms was a culmination of efforts by Zimbabweans to achieve a sustainable solution to the governance issues, starting with the Global Political Agreement which led to the formation of the Inclusive Government.  The Bank and other partners are indeed encouraged by these developments, and seek to support the Government’s efforts to consolidate the political, economic and financial governance reforms that have been instituted. The Bank is working in collaboration with other partners including the World Bank, IMF, European Union (EU), UNDP and bilateral agencies to provide the financial and technical support that the Inclusive Government so urgently needs to move its agenda forward.   

Question: What are the immediate urgent concerns in Zimbabwe at the moment?

Answer: Zimbabwe’s immediate needs  are many. Among the most serious are:  the  restoration of  government capacity to  deliver  public services in  the areas  of  economic  management, financial management, social services, water and  sanitation  and  roads. This is against the background of  brain drain across these sectors.  Any support in these areas must include, a robust arrangement in skills attraction and retention, re-tooling of staff and improvement of the work environment.

Question: What role would AfDB play in helping Zimbabwe get back on its feet?

Answer: A major task of AfDB will to play an effective lead role as the focal point for Bank assistance to Zimbabwe. It will constitute part of the Bank’s extended mission to Zimbabwe which includes experts from various departments.  It will also chair and be the secretariat for the Tunis Zimbabwe Team which will include members from other stakeholders in the Bank.  The intention is to work with the Government to convene and coordinate support from other donors on the ground.  The Bank will be selective and focused in its assistance, and as a matter of principle,  seek to leverage its operations by coordinating and co-financing with other partners, including, in particular, SADC countries.  The Bank extended mission is currently participating in the preparatory Needs Assessment Mission together with the EU, World Bank and the UN, which exercise will map out the needs in all sectors of the economy.  In addition to our efforts on initiating actions on the programmes outlined in  the Zimbabwe Short Term Strategy note, we will conduct  economic  and  sector  work to  further  understand the key  issues underlying quick economic turn around.

As you are aware, Zimbabwe is not a poor country. It has a solid resource base and a dynamic private sector which is currently undermined by a lack of confidence in the economy and financial system, as well as the loss of critical skills which have emigrated to neigbouring countries and beyond.  This is coupled with a lack of financial resources for new investments in the economy. A key objective of the Bank and other partners’ activities is to rebuild confidence in the system and to encourage existing and new private investors in agriculture, manufacturing, mining and services, which should spur the economy and increase incomes of the ordinary workers.  In addition to pushing for strengthening financial and economic governance, the Bank will intervene directly in the private sector by catalyzing lines of credit from commercial and regional Bank’s to support the private sector.  Increased private sector activity is key to the recovery of the economy.