Unpacking Zim's engagement strategies under the NDS-1: Will it work?

by Correspondent

Looking at the recently launched economic blueprint, the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) launched by President Emmerson Mnangagwa on , Zimbabwe has tied its hopes for stability on both the domestic front as well as the external front. In any case, the country recognises that in the globalised, interconnectedness of things, it needs to take its rightful seat in the community of nations through international engagement and re-engagement. As espoused in NDS 1 paragraphs 705 and 706 (page 175-6) Zimbabwe “in line with the aspirations of Vision 2030, Government, (through NDS1) will accelerate engagement and re-engagement process aimed at re-integrating Zimbabwe into a favourable global position”.

Firstly, Zimbabwe intends to bolster existing relations with the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), African Union (AU), BRICS member countries and its traditional friends. The regional and continental bodies and countries have traditionally been Zimbabwe’s bedrock, especially since the post-2008 era when Zimbabwe had slipped into a pariah state status. These relations are also important at a time Zimbabwe has accessioned to the implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) that will promote intra-African trade. Zimbabwe’s blueprint indeed speaks to SADC and Africa’s support before the country goes East or West.

The country over the next five years will also continue its political dialogue with the European Union (EU) and prioritise to re-join the Commonwealth as a launchpad to unlock international goodwill. These two platforms, the Commonwealth and the European Union re-engagement efforts are critical for Zimbabwe’s political, social and economic aspirations. Since the country left the Commonwealth hurriedly in 2002 due to concerns raised over the deteriorating human rights situation in the country that was obtaining at the time, the country seem to have realised that it cannot sustain remaining in isolation. As for the European Union, and in light of the BREXIT, Zimbabwe and the EU has so much potential if differences between the two can be ironed.

In addition to the political re-engagement, Zimbabwe under NDS 1 has also made commitments for domestic economic reforms with a positive impact on international relations, international trade and international economic and financial diplomacy. These country has committed to ‘develop a post-Staff Monitored Programme (SMP) economic reform programme to enable re-integration onto the global financial markets’. Pertinent to note is that the country has undertaken 3 phases of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) recommended SMPs to monitor micro and macroeconomic fundamentals and targets the country needed to set itself on a sound footing and attract financial assistances and loans again. Unfortunately, the country has failed to meet some of the targets under the SMPs such as on inflation targeting and money supply growth. It remains to be seen how the post SMP programme will be structured, but as has always been argued, Zimbabwe is good at crafting blueprints but always fail in implementation.

Key to Zimbabwe’s re-engagement efforts has been the need to bring finality to the Land Reform and various strands of contention it created. Zimbabwe has under NDS1 committed to compensate former white farmers affected by the Land reform programme through the accelerated implementation of the Global Compensation Deed (amounting to USD3.5 Billion). Farmers who were affected by the Land Reform yet their farms were under BIPPA agreements are being catered for, with various arrangements.  With Zimbabwe's precarious credit rating, funding for this programme remains ambitious but possibly attainable.

The country will also fast-track the resolution and ratification of outstanding Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPAs) to increase investor confidence. The country has also committed for the next five years to accelerate domestication of outstanding trade and economic cooperation agreements and implement market access commitments. These areas speak to investor protection concerns and respect for property rights. The country will need to show extra sincerity in terms of respecting BIPPAs given the recent past where farms under such provisions were taken. Investor protection is key for Foreign Direct Investment.

In addition to this, the Zimbabwe government under NDS1 has also noted the need to 'guarantee timely payment of international commitments concerning subscriptions and general capital increase to international organisations'; as a key strategy for international re-engagement. Who remembers Zimbabwe's pledge to the Global Fund which created a furore on social media? Zimbabwe commitments at multilateral institutions may have the capacity to mend Zimbabwe’s image and goodwill.

The country has also made an ambitious undertaking to launch bids to host internationally accredited global events and conferences as a way to increase its visibility within the international arena and bolster its re-engagement efforts. Hosting global events can also be a boon for Zimbabwe’s foreign trade as the country seeks to monetise its foreign relations. The NDS1 also highlights that Zimbabwe will seek to organise trade, tourism and investment missions to and from targeted markets. However, the government noted that these strategies will need to be complimented by four (3) further strategies aimed at sharpening the country’s diplomacy capacity. These include the need to a) build a robust and vibrant diplomatic corps with requisite capacity to represent the country in foreign missions; b) accelerate rationalisation and streamlining of diplomatic missions; c) develop and implement a robust cultural diplomacy policy and d) fully operationalise e-Government to enhance consular services. Our country’s diplomats now need to put more emphasis on economic diplomacy anchored on cultural diplomacy that can tell the unique Zimbabwe story for the country to attract the world’s attention.

Lastly, Zimbabwe also acknowledged that it understands that Development Cooperation Agencies such as USAID, UKAID, CHINAID, DANIDA, the Global Fund and many others play a crucial role in Zimbabwe’s development aspirations. These also have a critical role in consensus building with their Capitals, some of whom Zimbabwe has not been relating to very well. To this end, the country through the NDS blueprint highlighted the need to operationalise the Development Cooperation Architecture as well as operationalise Sector Working Groups (SWGs) to improve coordination and interface with various Development Partners. Improving relations with agencies domestically also has the potential to translate to a cordial working relationship with their mother countries.

The National Development Strategy 1 economic blueprint thus recognises the multi-layered and multifaceted-ness of international and diplomatic fronts Zimbabwe needs to engage and re-engage to move out of the current quagmire.


Written by Taurai Mutoti, a Masters of International Relations and Diplomacy Student, University of Zimbabwe. Author can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.