via We must stop behaving like a colony – NewsDay Zimbabwe 1 July 2014
It is a pity that we still behave like a colony — shipping raw materials to the West and East—in this day and age.
Why do we continue to gift the world with our raw materials that include minerals such as diamonds and platinum? The answer lies in many destructive aspects of our culture as Africans and Zimbabweans fostered by policies crafted by those who should guide the nation to prosperity had they been wise to do so.
It is the irony of our times that we behave like a colony whose major significance is the shipping out of raw materials to the colonising nation(s).
And it is tragic irony that these countries, having cheaply acquired our raw materials, oblige us with expensive goods in return made from the very same raw materials. And we beat our chests declaring that not only are we clever, but we will never be a colony again.
And Reader, have you ever noticed how delirious we become when we manage to sell our raw materials especially when we are tricked to make it look like some kind of political victory?
The effects are there for all to see — a dead economy, poor or non-existent industries, poverty, failure to service debts and a bad image among other things.
One does not need to have read any textbook on economics to understand that raw material exports disadvantage domestic industries and enrich the developed nations.
The way we export our raw materials is tantamount to turning our backs on the downstream sector of the country’s industries.
What is our problem? Is it stupidity or lack of common sense? There are several explanations to our export culture that exposes us to underdevelopment.
Greed is the leading weakness among our rulers that makes them addicted to shipping out our raw materials for a song as it were. Deals involving the export of large quantities of raw materials for the benefit of the oligarchy are easy to make and they guarantee quick money.
This is why our diamonds are extracted and shipped out enmasse by a small powerful clique, robbing the fiscus of the much-needed revenue and industry of the much-needed raw materials.
It is almost being sarcastic for ZimAsset to proclaim that value-addition is one of its prime targets. The raw materials thieves will ensure that this will not happen. And since most, if not all of them are decision-makers in the system, they will succeed.
Our contempt for value addition is seen in the way we lose skilled manpower without batting an eyelid. The current brain drain does not augur well for innovation and value addition at all. It is a pity that most of our technocrats are adding economic value elsewhere, including in countries that we deem hostile to us. It is sad irony that we are training specialists for them.
And this is not helped by our contempt for research and development.
Developed countries invest millions, if not billions in research but we have the audacity of closing down research centres such as the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Zimbabwe because the research findings were not “politically correct”.
And we dream of homegrown solutions when we simply import technology and parrot policies developed elsewhere. Ask anyone involved in research in this country and they will tell you how difficult it is to access information, even public information for that matter, as rotten people manning our parastatals display paranoia.
And above all, we love politics more than economic development. Rent-seeking politicians make sure that only those aligned to their party get business contracts and the irony is that the same people who are MPs, ministers, bureaucrats and bootlickers among others, are the ones that masquerade as businesspeople. Where we need to consider the economy, we smuggle in politics. We should be more serious than that.
Because we export raw materials and fail to manufacture, we cannot talk of comparative cost advantage on the international market. We have no goods to export; we are simply importers, meaning that our import bill will always make a mockery of our export bill.
And we lack vision. While it is good to empower our own people, it is dangerous to do so without vision. The chaotic land reform destroyed symbiotic industries and some greedy people grabbed more than they could chew.
This is also worsened by the fact that the land is no longer bankable, making it difficult for genuine farmers to obtain money from financial institutions. This effectively killed the agricultural industry and we pretend that exporting raw tobacco is a very high economic achievement.
So, like the colony that we have chosen to be, we continue exporting our raw materials cheaply to enrich the “parent” countries in the West, East and Americas.
We should just stop behaving like a colony and manufacture our own goods for international trade. Shipping out raw materials will only deplete our resources for a mess of pottage.