By Lincen Masarirambi
Despite having a rich natural resource base, Zimbabwe is struggling to harness its resources and achieve development. Natural resources have fuelled conflict and filled the pockets of political leaders more than they have benefited the population in post-colonial Zimbabwe. Furthermore, sustainable development has been affected by poor policies, poor participation of minority groups and the youths, weak industries and lack of information or direction on how to effectively harness these resources. There is need to adopt policies of good governance, inclusiveness, value addition, legal frameworks and poverty reduction which will ensure resources develop the citizens. Natural resources can support sustainable and inclusive growth in Zimbabwe if key policy areas in the natural resource management chain are tackled and strong institutions are put in place. This essay will suggest various strategies to ensure natural resources are harnessed for development.
DEFINITION OF KEY TERMS
The World Trade Organisation (WTO, 2010) defines natural resources as “stocks of materials that exist in the natural environment that are both scarce and economically useful in production or consumption, either in their raw state or after a minimal amount of processing. Therefore, natural resources can mean natural capital assets, distinct from physical and human capital in that they are not created by human activity. Natural capital may be a potentially important input in a country’s production function. Natural resources are subdivided into four categories: mineral and energy resources, soil resources, water resources and biological resources.
The United Nation Development Programme (UNDP, 2009) defines good governance as “participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law”. Good governance assures that corruption is minimised, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.
Many countries define youth also known as young people as the age at which a person is given equal treatment under the law: often referred to as the age of majority. This age is often 18 in many countries. The UNDP (2000) states that the word youth comprises a series of transitions “from adolescence to adulthood, from dependence to independence, and from being recipients of society’s services to becoming contributors to national economic, political and cultural life”. In Zimbabwe the youths comprise of those people aged between 18 and 35.
A strong involvement of Zimbabwe’s minority groups in natural resources management will boost sustainable economic development. However, participation of youth, women, disabled and women in natural resources is very low. According to Bukar (2013) the poor participation of Africa’s minority groups in natural resources management is a threat to the continent’s food security and overall development. Stakeholders can address this problem by formulating policies which encourage involvement, participation thus reducing inequalities. These strategies require innovative interventions like changing the current misconception, addressing meaningfully the profitability issue, natural resource-based investments, mitigating the land tenure constraint and access to financial services.
The youth are an integral part of society not only due to their large numbers. According to Karikari and Gyimah-Brempong (2011) a broad-based participation of the youth, would enhance good governance across all facets of development. Developing countries are making strides to ensure the full participation of youth in the social and political process through different channels of representation, including the creation of national youth councils, youth parliaments and regional youth advocacy groups. In Zimbabwe, the channel would result in consultations with youths on economic issues that have an impact on them which include resource management, unemployment and poverty. Hence, participation by youth in the political process is crucial in addressing the high poverty rate that negatively affects them and ensure they are mainstreamed into natural resource management.
Appropriate policies should be formulated for the efficient natural resource management and its efficient exploitation through conservation, afforestation, increase in watersheds, strengthening the conservation of water flows through bundling, development of green cover, development of alternative techniques of collecting and harvesting the forest produce to maintain the ecological base and to protect the natural environment (Logan City Council, 2005). Tribal societies or indigenous people who depend on natural resources for their livelihood should adopt systems or policies for natural resource management. Poor land use leads to the brutal circle of soil erosion and the destruction of the vegetative cover.
Incorporating the youths into sustainable natural resource management is very important after it has been observed that these youths are usually left and they deplete the environment through constructing inhabitable homes, artisanal mining, chemical poisoning of fisheries and rivers, poaching among other illegal activities. The UNDP, 2014 postulates that the youth are the most active group in environmental degradation when compared to other groups. This is largely because they are seeking to better their lives and fend for their families. Hence, it is critical for the government of Zimbabwe to introduce youth friendly policies which will mainstream them in the natural resource management and ensure they have rights to land, mines and other resources. These strategies not only reduce the depletion of the environment but also ensure the youths pay their taxes to government and it can have revenues to promote other developmental priorities.
Harnessing natural resources for economic development requires good governance. “Good governance of natural resources starts with the development of a shared national strategy or vision with clear and realistic timelines and indicators of achievements”, (McPhail, 2008). Without such policies, even if vast resources are discovered, poorly structured programmes may produce little revenue. Furthermore, Zimbabwe may raise large revenue amounts but then spend on poorly selected projects like uncompetitive industries. Therefore, Zimbabwe should have a national strategy or vision premised on comprehensive understanding of the resource sector’s full social and economic impacts and be embedded in the broader planning and budgeting tools of the government.
The water scenario calls for a sustainable development policy formulation which takes into account technical, economic, social, environmental, and institutional factors. According to Collier and Laroche (2015) degraded conditions of most of the watersheds are limiting factors for the development of the region and can be addressed by the implementation of short and long term strategies for proper development of micro and macro watersheds. There is also need for proper water resource management which would require irrigation management, flood management, water supply facilities, hydro-power, industrial requirement and other uses. Furthermore, legal policies in the management of water and coordinated approach towards the better utilisation of resources for different is vital in facilitating development activities.
To achieve the most from resource harnessing, Zimbabwe has to adopt policies that maximise the amount of value and resource rents. According to ICMM (2009), “a sound competitive and predictable legal regime is a prerequisite for optimal revenue capture”. Furthermore, strong legislation and regulatory frameworks create a more transparent and non-corrupt process and set the parameters for negotiation between governments, the stakeholders and companies. Governments can also maximise revenue gains by creating structured competition and providing transparent award processes particularly among the SMEs and emerging youth innovators. It is worth realising that in some countries efficient taxation and revenue management can optimise revenue capture by increasing investors’ willingness to invest.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN, 2013) is the way forward for achieving sustainable resource management while at the same time enhancing the role and contribution to poverty reduction by implementing policies which promote research, assessment and monitoring resources and development. Zimbabwe can achieve this by improving the capacity for and institutionalise regular resource assessment and mechanisms to acquire comprehensive knowledge and information on the particular resource sector. Thus, formulation of policies and plans which will translate to effective management remains critical.
Many African countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa lack an adequate institutional, policy, legal and regulatory framework that could help address resource and energy problems. For example, Zimbabwe is struggling to attract private sector participation in the operation and management of their energy enterprises for it has not put in place the required governance in terms of legal and regulatory framework for the sector (Sturman, 2014). Therefore, there is need to formulate an attractive energy policy and put in place an adequate institutional, macroeconomic, legal and regulatory framework that will help attract private capital and managerial resources in the resource management sector.
Strategies to ensure effective youth political participation have generally not been successful, partly because of a lack of meaningful access and integration of youth into the political apparatus of the state, along with youths’ and the government’s limited capacities, due to inadequate skills and resources (Mlatsheni, 2017). To effectively involve the youth in the process, youths can be provided with the opportunity to participate in politics at all levels and quotas including providing them with the information and training required to understand key aspects. This is crucial because some national policies are based on consensus developed at the regional and local levels. Youths can be directly and indirectly involved in natural resource management. Directly as those on the ground involved in natural extraction and harnessing and indirectly as public law enforcers and watchdog to ensure a more accountable sector
In conclusion, Zimbabwe is lagging behind other countries in terms of development required to put the country on the path of economic growth and sustainable development despite an adequate natural resource base. Zimbabwe could greatly benefit from its natural resources if it adopts procedures and policies promoting growth and benefiting all citizens. These resources can produce the necessary supplies required for its social and economic development. This can be achieved in an environmentally sound manner and by fostering cooperation and integration while ensuring that the policies reflect participation of all stakeholders.
Bukar, T. (2013). African Youth in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development. Accra: FAO Regional Office for Africa.
Collier, P. and Laroche, C. (2015). Harnessing Natural Resources for Inclusive Growth. Madrid: International Growth Centre.