By Senior Writer
African Development Bank (AFDB) chief, Akunumwi Adesina has many times appeared to be a lone voice in support of Zimbabwe on the international financial system regime.
The AFDB president, who is a Nigerian national, is no stranger to Zimbabwe – a country famed for its beauty and warmth of its people – and makes his love for the country counts.
“I have lived in Zimbabwe,” Adesina told a meeting in Egypt last week.
“When I lived in Zimbabwe and worked there for the Rockefeller Foundation. I was in charge of the Southern African region Zimbabwe was bursting with economic activities, critical for the southern African region — jobs, first-class hospitals, everything was world-class. Zimbabwe was like a little Switzerland,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate what happened. Once a very prosperous nation, we are now championing arrears clearance and debt resolution.”
And, of course, sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe. I have gone“I have lived in Zimbabwe. When I lived in Zimbabwe and worked there for the Rockefeller Foundation (New York-based organisation), I was in charge of the Southern African region.
Zimbabwe was bursting with economic activities, critical for the southern African region — jobs, first-class hospitals, everything was world-class. Zimbabwe was like a little Switzerland,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate what happened. Once a very prosperous nation, we are now championing arrears clearance and debt resolution,” he said.
Adesina and former Mozambican President Joachim Chissano were recently in Zimbabwe for a high level debt talks which appear on course to resolve Zimbabwe’s debt that is over US$17 billion.
As the AFDB leader, he is using his influence to help Zimbabwe back into the international financial system where it was frozen out because of politically-inspired motivations of global lenders post-2000.
At the turn of the century, Zimbabwe embarked on the land reform programme that saw Government redistributing arable land to over two million families that had been previously marginalised in colonial history.
Only 6 000 white farmers had inherited 80 percent of Zimbabwe’s land.
When Zimbabwe tipped the status quo, it attracted backlash from Western countries, which included financial and economic sanctions, with the United States of America and the European Union enacting a battery of punitive measures that restricted Zimbabwe from accessing markets, development finance, loans, debt relief, budgetary and lance of payment support, a situation that is not applicable to no other country in Africa.
Two decades later, dynamics have changed. Somewhat.
The European Union has progressively relaxed sanctions, with the only declared sanctions being imposed on defence industries.
The US has not been so forthcoming with a majority of sanctions against a number of State and state-linked entities and individuals on the blacklist.
Global intermediary banks are still being punished for processing Zimbabwe payments while US companies need a special license to be allowed to do business with Zimbabwe for large projects.
Sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, estimated to cost around US$42 billion, have had a negative impact on Zimbabwe and held back its development, something that has also affected the Southern Africa region.
Regional economic powerhouse South Africa, Sadc and the African Union have all called for the removal of sanctions on Zimbabwe.
Adesina believes Zimbabwe’s problems have become a fatal strike at the heart of Southern Africa.
“We have a situation that has affected the rest of the SADC region because Zimbabwe is centrally located, linking transport — railways infrastructure, energy, everything that is needed for SADC to be moving.
“Just because Zimbabwe is not what it used to be, it’s not just Zimbabweans who are suffering — the rest of SADC is suffering because of that.”
For Zimbabwe’s young generation, it’s a case of robbed opportunities.
“If you look at the young people of Zimbabwe, some of them were not yet born when this happened. So, we have a situation where the sanctions are compromising their future and it’s time to put the past behind us.
” It’s time to discuss real issues, heal the wounds of the past and make a new pathway into the future,” he said.
Sanctions are a divisive issue in the country, often subject of political football.
The ruling party and Government often blame them for many woes that the country faces economically, while the opposition and Western Embassies say this is an excuse for mismanagement and corruption.
Ordinary people are equally divided, and there is not much comprehensive information on the matter beyond political rhetoric and soundbites.
The United Nations Commission on Human Rights has produced a report on sanctions that bemoaned their destructive effects.
Adesina revealed that he had accepted the role to mediate in Zimbabwe’s debt resolution so as to address the developmental problems Zimbabwe has faced.
“So, when President Mnangagwa called me, why did I say yes? …I said yes because when one part of the body hurts, the entire system hurts.
“I said yes because it’s very important to lift SADC (Southern African Development Community) and we cannot lift SADC up without Zimbabwe.
I said yes because the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) — African’s biggest opportunity today — and we cannot do that without the resurgent and new Zimbabwe.
And, of course, I said yes because I love Zimbabwe; I love the people of Zimbabwe and I want, as President of the bank, to be able to create a new prosperous future for those young people who were not even there when this happened,” he said.
Zimbabwe’s debt resolution is also liked to political developments in the country, including the forth coming elections and compensation of former white commercial farmers.
Recently, Adesina revealed that he would help Zimbabwe pay the farmers US$3.5 billion, which is likely to end the acrimony with Western powers, some of whom lost farms that were under bilateral agreements.