Can Zim End Poverty by 2030?

by Udo Etukudo and Adolphus Chinomwe 

Ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions remains the greatest global development challenge. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that Zimbabwe has ascribed to resolves to free the human race from poverty.

The first goal of the 17 SDGs aims to “End poverty in all its forms everywhere”, and Zimbabwe has prioritized this goal of ending poverty as an integral part of its national development plan for socio-economic transformation under Zim Asset.

So would Zimbabwe achieve this ambitious undertaking to end poverty by 2030? The response is in the affirmative; firstly, because global experience to date suggests that it is possible; and second, because it is a country with so much untapped wealth and opportunities. But the road ahead will not be a stroll in the park as there is need for transformative change, particularly to the institutional landscape and to mind-sets.  

What has been the Global Experience on Poverty Reduction?

Globally, the number of people living in extreme poverty was reduced by more than half during the Millennium Development Goals era – from 1.9 billion in 1990, to 836 million in 2015, with Asia accounting for much of that success. For example, during the 20-year period from 1990 to 2010, China was able to reduce by 80% its population living in poverty.

Similarly, India in the same period, was able to reduce by 40% its population living in poverty. What these two countries had in common over the period were rapid rates of economic growth in the order of 6 to 9 percent per year.

The growth success and consistency of performance in both countries is largely attributed to policy reforms that provided for macroeconomic stability, private sector development, and greater openness to trade and investments which translated into rapid rates of economic growth.

Where does Zimbabwe stand on the poverty atlas?

According to ZIMSTAT data, incidences of poverty in Zimbabwe are multifaceted and occur in various dimensions, including income levels, health, education and employment. Data shows that the levels of poverty have persisted over the last decade, with about 63% of Zimbabwe households deemed poor and 16% categorized as extremely poor.

From an SDG perspective, the extreme poor are those unable to afford minimum food intake of about 2100 calories a day, not to speak of meeting basic consumption requirements of clothing, shelter, transport, and other necessities.

The poverty levels in rural Zimbabwe is closely associated with food security issues, while the poverty for majority of urban dwellers is income-related. In fact, employment and economic opportunities, or their lack of, are key determinants of poverty in the country, given that both these factors have sharply deteriorated with deepening economic challenges; characterised by high levels of informalization affecting output production across all sectors of the economy.

What could be done to end poverty in all its forms in Zimbabwe?

First, a long-term transformative National Development Plan, whose centre-piece is an inclusive growth and investment framework that fosters an investment climate conducive to growth, productivity improvements, job creation, and the empowerment of people so that they can participate fully in the growth and development process. In this regard, the transformative plan, chief among others, should advance national capacity to attract investment. Foreign investments will serve as an important catalyst for domestic investment and the sustenance of inclusive growth.

Second, invest in developing requisite skills, especially targeting youth and women. The aim is to strengthen capabilities mostly, so that they can participate in the growth process and take advantage of opportunities. Special measures to support and encourage entrepreneurial spirit in the Medium and Small Enterprises sector will go a long way. This is necessary for the country to benefit from the demographic dividend as larger populations, particularly young people, work out of poverty and secure their future through decent work.

Third, despite best efforts to grow the economy, create decent jobs, there will be sections of society such as senior citizens, people living with disabilities, and child headed households that would still need some form of safety nets.  Better planned and robust social protection systems can go a long way to cushion the needy from harsh shocks.

Therefore, a special scheme such as the recently launched National Social Protection Policy (NSPP) supported by the United Nations to provide safety net to about 500,000 households deemed to be below the Food Poverty Line, would be helpful in the short to medium term.

For the long term, there is need to establish a social protection floor to provide a set of basic social security guarantees that ensure, as a minimum that, over the life cycle of the population, all in need have access to essential health care and to basic income security which together secure effective access to goods and services. Full implementation of the national social protection strategy that aims to cover all 900,000 households in the country is a step in the right direction

Fourth, tackling the effects of climate change would require deliberate action towards national risk reduction and mitigation strategies. This is important in key areas such as developing alternative energy sources, water harvesting and use as well as managing waste.

The ultimate objective of such a strategy should be to build a robust early warning system, so as to build community and house-hold resilience to natural shocks and, strengthen their capacities to bounce back from any disaster. It is worth mentioning in this regard, that during the recent drought, where Government had to declare a national disaster, a quick response by the United Nations and the generous financial support from development partners, helped to provide relief assistance to some 3.1 million vulnerable people.

Adopting the aforementioned strategies and lessons coupled with fostering strong partnerships, Zimbabwe will end poverty, vulnerability, and achieve full employment by 2030.  

Mr. Udo Etukudo is UNDP Senior Economic Advisor and Mr. Adolphus Chinomwe is ILO Programme Specialist in Zimbabwe