That Zimbabwe Is Open For Business Is Not A National Vision. I Am Still Waiting For That One

Tinashe Nyahasha Avatar
President Emmerson Mnangagwa

I am not as critical of Emmerson Mnangagwa as a few people seem to be. I actually think people’s expectations of him are a tad too high and some of the calls that people make are just mere politicking.

However, I am still waiting for the president to cast a national vision. Yes, he is more of a caretaker president but that’s all the more reason for him to communicate a clear vision not just for the caretaking period but to convince people to vote for him.

But Zimbabwe Is Open For Business…

Yes, the president proclaimed at inauguration that Zimbabwe was open for business. This became his mantra and he has said it in South Africa, in Davos and on several other platforms locally. It is a catchy thing to say and very goose-bumpy: you can’t but be hopeful and say I hope he means it.

He does mean it, I think. The moves taken so far indicate that he wants to follow through with this openness. Shredding up the indigenisation act would not have been done by a guy who doesn’t mean what he’s saying (yes the act is yet to go through due process).

Open For What Business?

What the president has not articulated is what our economic priorities are. Just inviting investors into the country is disastrous if they do not have a sense of what the long-term play is. As I said before about Rwanda, every other person there knows what the country is building towards.

Locals and foreign investors understand clearly that Rwanda is becoming a knowledge economy in which ICT will be central. So what do you see happening? You see a Silicon Valley startup going into Rwanda to set up the first fully functional drone delivery system in the world. Rwanda is still the only country in the world that has a drone delivery system and it is being used to solve a real problem in healthcare. You see a local bank setting up a technology startup in preparation for the next 50 years. You see a startup work with the government to transform a chaotic transport system through technology.

I will share the above stories more fully in other articles.

Does It Need To Be ICT?

I have been accused before of being biased toward ICT being the all and be all. Of course, I am biased toward ICT. I belong to and I am writing on a platform called Techzim so what would you expect? Besides that, I have a firm belief that technology especially information technology particularly the internet has the potential to change all aspects of our societies and economies.

However, Mnangagwa doesn’t need to point towards ICT as the national vision. All we need is a vision. It can be any industry, any concrete goal, any vision that causes a vibration in every business and individual.

ICT Doesn’t Need It To Be ICT

The thing with technology is that it is a cross-cutting issue. All technology needs is the goal to be identified and it will kick in and evolve towards it. If the president tells us that agriculture is the goal we are going towards, technology ‘will deploy itself’ to solve that problem.

The modern state of Israel set itself an impossible goal to have a robust agricultural sector in the middle of a desert. That’s all technology needed. Now Israel arguably has the most technologically sophisticated agricultural sector in the world. They produce 95% of their food and then export some. Agriculture contributes 2.5% of GDP, 3.6% of exports whilst it only employs 3.7% of the workforce working on the scarce arable land (20% of total land is arable). This excludes food processing, agritech and other pieces of the value chain. Did someone say efficiency? I say technology.

What if Mnangagwa says tourism? It will still work. The United Arab Emirates decided to have tourism replace oil as a major economic commodity before their oil ran out. Very simple goal but not easy. When goals are not easy, technology develops to achieve them. Everybody knows their story. They built in the sea to expand their territory and increase their coast line, they built remarkable, tall buildings in Dubai. Now, Dubai is a recognised technology hub.

So, Mr President, we in technology are waiting for you to point and we will dash and steer Zimbabwe towards that direction.

What A National Vision Enables

A national vision is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It allows us to build and solve for the future. The Rwanda Bank I mentioned above is the Bank of Kigali. It is the biggest and oldest financial institution in Rwanda. A couple of years ago, they celebrated their 50th anniversary. As they celebrated, they asked themselves the question, “What do the next 50 years look like and where will we be?”

They realised the next 50 years were going to be dominated by technology and so they asked themselves how they were going to be relevant in that digital Rwanda. They decided to start a technology startup and they did. The CEO of that technology business is a 32-year-old ‘kid’ who is so clear about what he is doing. Already they have solved a problem in agriculture because the ‘kid CEO’ asked himself, “If farmers are going to be using digital tools in the future, how can I make them digital customers right now?”

When there is a vision you can imagine what the environment of the future will be and so you don’t have to wait to get there before you build for it. That’s the only way you stay ahead, that’s why Japan is ahead with its 100-year planning cycle. That’s why the US is ahead. That’s why Zimbabwe is behind.

Startups should be forming right now to solve problems that don’t exist yet but problems they know will exist as the national vision is fulfilled.

The Cost Of Just Being Open For Business

Just being open for business without a clear vision leads to exploitation. Exploitation of the country’s resources and its people. Investors who come in, need to come within the framework of a national vision and national priorities otherwise they will just come to make money and go away without any regard for the country’s future.

If the ruling royals of Dubai had just issued a blanket declaration that the United Arab Emirates was open for business, investors would have come in and drilled for oil and gone away and the UAE would have been in a worse off place after the oil runs out. The UAE vision was clearly about tourism and trade and engineers came to build the relevant infrastructure and now a little piece of land built on the sea costs more than some former president’s farm in Mazowe.

Our mineral resources are gonna run out some day. What economy do we want them to build before they do? Do the Chinese or any other nationals who are coming to mine know of this vision? Mr President, please open Zimbabwe for specific business such that those who come will find ready partners who are already determined towards something concrete.

May Zimbabwe have a coherent vision soon.


  1. Tony

    This is the most wonderful piece I have read from Techzim so far. Thumbs up.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Thank you Tony

  2. boph’ijambo

    thanks for the great article! those are some of the questions I’ve been asking myself. unfortunately, I don’t think those guys read this or think like us, the masses. it’s all about politicking, voting and more campaigning without direction! I’m happy UAE has the infrastructure coming from their vision. I’m more than excited Ruanda is having more IT infrastructure. again, all due to the vision!we’re are dealing with people who have been with the former president Mugabe so I don’t think they don’t see anything beyond their party! lolz!

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      They do read hey and it’s our job to keep saying. Sometimes it’s easier for us to see these things because we do not sit in the seat they are in. I am optimistic about Zimbabwe right now and we should continue to push for dialogue. The generational gap can easily be covered by dialogue

      1. marshall

        very good keep it up i follow u guys tho my self i am not a it fundi

        1. Tinashe Nyahasha

          Thanks for following us Marshall. Actually Techzim is not for ‘tech fundis’ as you put it. Techzim exists to make tech and business an everyday part of conversation. We are not experts, just a bunch of ordinary folks who are trying to understand things in simple terms. Thanks again

  3. Trust

    Good piece but try not to delve too much into politics,

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      I don’t agree hey. I think it is our responsibility to say what needs to be said. Of course we are not a political publication but whenever politics interfaces with tech and business it becomes important for us to comment on it: the positive and the negative.

      Thanks for the compliment

    2. Tonde

      My brother Trust, Zimbabwe is where it is at the moment socially and economically because of political acts or omissions. Without the necessary political dialogue and engagement, nothing will change socially and economically. So yes, the old guards must be engaged politically and educated about what works. Zimbabwe does not need to reinvent the wheel or dream up some prosperity gospel inspired miracles. We need to get the basics right; strong institutions undertaking their roles with diligence, property rights, rule of law, ease of doing business, government creating the right environment etc

      1. Tinashe Nyahasha

        Very true Tonde. Institutions are key

  4. Al kwarizm

    Its so saad that with all this said its going to b tough for zimbabwe as if we really look into it there was no real change from the previous regime all the old people and the same state officials remained in their positions except fo a few and they did not even make an effort to bring in expects at least in every sector to outline a way forwad fo every industry in Zim .What i mean is we are expecting different results from the same experiment (Albert Einstein) lookin at South Africa and Kenya for instance they are allowing students people who have studied fo the particular fields to have a greater voice in how things are done unlike in zim where u find the CEO or top official is on the post because he went to war or so …we are sufferin fo that ..yes we are grateful they fought for our freedom or “is it still” , but what they need to know is its time fo them to rest and allow experts to run the ministries we cant keep on living in a trial annd error economy or country

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      I am not too harsh in my judgement of the old new government hangu. Politics is a complex space and decisions are not always straight forward. Let’s see how things continue to unfold

  5. Mtombeni Lovemore

    It jolts one into being reflective. I sure do hope that the powers-that-be drop this lip-service to patriotism, wake and smell the coffee. Populism is anti-developmental; political parties come and go; but Zimbabwe will remain forever. Look at Botswana, next door, they are indeed a marvel- they love their country and just like Rwanda are cognisant that nonrenewable resources are finite. Let’s develop Zimbabwe for good of posterity.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Very true. We can’t keep pushing the extractive sector as the hope of the nation. It’s a sector that we should exploit to the max but with a clear focus on converting the resources we gain from there into the establishment of a sustainable self perpetuating economic system.
      Rwanda wants to be a tech hub: services
      Botswana wants to be the financial hub: services
      Kenya wants to be an entrepreneurial hub: services

  6. Brighton

    Great piece. I must disagree with one of the comments above saying try not to delve into politics because the link between business and politics is critical, if the government does not have a clear strategy about where the economy is going and which sectors will be prioritized and how they will be prioritized then we are on a path to nowhere. The president needs to show through action and not just words that he is serious about the Zimbabwean economy, we need action and that action needs to come from the top. He needs to prove that Zimbabwe is not just a country run by A Zanu-PF elite and that the economy will be prioritized over their political and self enriching agenda. We need to stimulate growth in the economy, clear goals must be put forward and a system of checks and balances implemented that must be transparent to the public. Government spending must also be transparent and all those accountable for fraud and corruption over the past years must be brought to account( we know who they are as does the government). All these steps will prove that he is serious about business and investors will flock on their own. Investors need a clear long term strategy, not just a verbal guarantee. Allow international observers into the country and cut the sanctions narrative, it is only working against the government as investors are not interested in excuses anymore they want to see action. Finally, Zimbabweans need to start holding the government and those profiting unjustly from the government to account and not idolizing them when they buy a new car or a mansion saying “it’s their money let them spend it how they see fit.” Those are tax dollars in many cases and if you don’t understand that tax dollars are your own then you should probably head baby to school and figure out how governments are supposed to function, secondly we need to stop seeing each other as enemies because of our political differences, if we cannot work together with our own how do you think investors will ever believe we will be able to work with them?

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      I agree with you Brighton. We owe it to ourselves and to government itself to point out issues whenever we see them. There is a strong relationship between politics and business. Non by itself can deliver development and economic prosperity. We as business can’t shy away from politics as we did before: we are equally responsible for this mess because we washed our hands and complained in whatsapp groups. Let the government have any other excuse except that we didn’t tell them our thoughts, concerns and priorities

    2. Tonde

      Brighton, my brother couldn’t agree more. Zimbabwe needs to get the basics right and politics can either be an enabler or a hindrance to development.

  7. Nqah

    Great I want to know who is Tinashe? If I had power I would be asking for his CV and considering giving him a position in government…

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Hahaha Nqah, I don’t think I would survive in government. Not because government is bad but my personality does not match what government would require, I think I am more useful to the country in business particularly the business I’m in… to each his own right?
      Thanks for the compliment. I hope we meet one day, one way is for you to come visit us or to attend one of our meetups, hopefully soon

  8. Anonymous

    If all as a country we can embrace the points articulated in this peace of work we will move in the direction of developed countries. This is the kind of advice we need right now whether be it from an influential person or not.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Thank you

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