Zimbabwe is an African nation blessed with a wide variety of natural resources such as minerals and arable land. Despite the vast amount of natural resources in the country, the Zimbabwean economy has not been able to achieve the same level of success as other nations in the region. In 2015, the International Monetary Fund estimated that the Zimbabwean GDP was $17.105 billion while its per capita GDP was $1,149. The country’s economy shrunk dramatically in 2000 leading to high levels of unemployment of 95% and unprecedented hyperinflation of 231 million percent in 2009. The country had to suspend its currency and ever since there has been a slow recovery.
Zimbabwe's Natural Resources
Data from the World Bank indicated that in 2014, arable land accounted for 10.34% of Zimbabwe's total land area. The data showed that since 2004, the size of arable land in Zimbabwe had remained relatively constant. The agricultural sector is one of Zimbabwe's most essential industries as it contributed 18% of the country's gross domestic product in 2015. Zimbabwean farmers grow a wide range of crops such as tobacco, potatoes, and corn. Zimbabwe's agriculture sector faces several challenges such as droughts, pests, and diseases. The government of Zimbabwe has put in place several measures to ensure the growth of agriculture with one of the major one is to establish several institutes to train farmers on modern agricultural techniques.
Tobacco is one of the principal crops in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean tobacco farmers grow three varieties of tobacco Virginia flue-cured tobacco, oriental tobacco, and burley. The Zimbabwean government estimated that Virginia flue-cured tobacco accounted for more than 90% of the tobacco grown in the country. Zimbabwe’s tobacco industry has faced several significant challenges, particularly during the early 21st century. The sector began experiencing a resurgence in 2005 when major companies such as the British American Tobacco introduced the contract system to the country. Through the system, the company would provide farmers with farm inputs such as fertilizers and seeds while the farmers would sell their entire crop to the company after harvesting. During this period, the Chinese government, through Tian Ze Tobacco, invested heavily in Zimbabwe’s tobacco industry. The investment of the Chinese government enabled the Zimbabwean tobacco sector to grow exponentially. In 2015, China bought nearly 54% of the tobacco grown in Zimbabwe which earned the country $168,450,831. Other countries that bought significant amounts of Zimbabwean tobacco in 2015 included South Africa and Belgium.
Potatoes are some of the major crops grown in Zimbabwe which have been cultivated in the country since the 20th century. Despite the importance of potatoes to the Zimbabwean people the quantity of potatoes grown in the country has declined significantly mainly due to the increased cost of agriculture. Most of the potatoes grown in Zimbabwe were used for local consumption with FAO estimating that in 1986, roughly 90% of the potatoes grown in the country were used for local consumption. The government of South Africa has attempted to introduce measures to make potato growing cheaper for the local farmers in Zimbabwe.
According to FAO, roughly 40% of Zimbabwe's land was covered with forests in 2010. Between 1990 and 2010, Zimbabwe lost roughly 30% of its forests. Some of the regions in Zimbabwe with large areas covered with forests include Matabeleland and the Midlands. The regions are famous because they have indigenous hardwood forests made up of trees such as teak, mahogany, and Leadwood. Zimbabwe's hardwood forests face several significant challenges such as illegal logging and deforestation. Illegal settling is also a significant challenge facing forests in Zimbabwe. The illegal settlers have been accused of starting fires that significantly affect the country's forests.
Although Zimbabwe is a landlocked country, the country has vast quantities of fish resources which are vital to the country's economy. Fishing is one of the major employers in Zimbabwe as it employed more than 4,700 people in 2004 according to data from the Zimbabwean labor department. Most commercial fishing in Zimbabwe is carried out within reservoirs such as the Chivero, Manyame, Kariba, and Mutirikwi. The most important source of fish in Zimbabwe is Lake Kariba which accounted for more than 90% of Zimbabwe's fish production in 2003. Most of the fish caught in Zimbabwe were sold to other nations with the government estimating that in 2005 fish exports earned the country $2,741,000.
Zimbabwe has been blessed with different types of wildlife which are critical to the country's economy. The Zimbabwean government has designated several areas as natural parks to conserve the country's wildlife. Some of the most famous natural parks in Zimbabwe include the Matobo National Park and the Zambezi National Park. The Matobo Park is famous since it is home to more than 175 bird species, 39 snake species, and 88 mammal species. The Matobo Park is also home to more than 200 species of trees. On the other hand, the Zambezi Park is famous because it is home to more than 400 bird species. Some of the mammal species inhabiting the Zambezi National Park include lions, elephant, and buffalos.
Zimbabwe has different mineral deposits such as coal, gold, diamonds, and iron ore which contribute significantly to the Zimbabwean economy. One of the most famous diamond mining areas is the Marange Diamond Fields which is located in the country's eastern edge. It is believed that the area could have one of the wealthiest diamond reserves in the world. In 2013, it was estimated that the field produced roughly 16.9 million carats which were believed to be 13% of the diamonds produced in the world. The Zimbabwean diamond sector faces several challenges with one of the major ones being corruption. Gold mining is also one of the significant activities in Zimbabwe because, in 2015, the country produced 40,565 pounds of gold. Most of the minerals produced in Zimbabwe are sold to other nations with the government estimating that in 2013, mineral exports earned the country roughly $1.8 billion.
Challenges Facing the Zimbabwean Economy
One of the significant challenges facing the Zimbabwean economy is corruption which greatly discourages foreign investment in the country. The Zimbabwean government has attempted to reduce the level of corruption in the country to promote economic growth.