When a Crisis Brings Opportunity

Aspiration No. 2, of the continental vision known as Agenda 2063, is for Africa in the next 50 years to become an “An Integrated Continent, Political Unity based on Pan-Africanism & African Renaissance.” This vision has been informed by the historical abuse Africa received under colonialism. Current events throughout Africa, specifically focusing on Zimbabwe’s currency problems, highlight the potential for Southern Africa to unite economically. Unfortunately though, it seems as if we might miss this chance, making Agenda 2063 - like most African policies - a pipe dream.

AFP -Aaron Ufumeli
The Zimbabwean Dollar’s ($ZD) fall from grace is well documented and well known. The currency had the highest inflation in recent world monetary history. This crisis highlighted an opportunity and more specifically the question of which currency Zimbabwe would use to stabilize its monetary problems. The Zimbabwean Finance Minister in 2009 proposed adopting the South African Rand as the official currency of Zimbabwe.

The logic for such a proposal was rather simple. South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest economic partner (60% of Zimbabwean imports come from South Africa). They have more or less similar economic structures which rely on commodities and agriculture, making the nations home to one of the busiest trade routes in Africa: Beitbridge Border Post (not to mention the myriad of South African companies already in Zimbabwe).

Most importantly, Southern Africa already has what is called the Rand Union. It’s a block of economies that include Namibia and Botswana where the nations have their own currencies pegged with the Rand. Zimbabwe could have been incorporated into this scheme, [with a prospect of] the Union being altered to accommodate Zimbabwe’s situation.

The opportunity was unfortunately missed in the political circles of both nations. The ruling parties in both nations (ZANU PF and ANC) are steeped in deep nationalist ideology with national sovereignty being an all important issue for either of them. Zimbabwe was worried of the control SA would have over its own economy because SA has a significantly larger economy. On the other hand, SA was worried of allowing an unstable economy into its monetary structures. 

This was a highly unfortunate situation which highlighted one vital issue. African nations still define themselves, their wealth and future in the confines and definitions forced upon them by colonialism and current neo-liberalism. We ignore the possibility of a United Africa with one currency as envisioned by Pan-Africanists like Gaddafi and Nyerere, [opting instead] for a selfish outlook propagated by men in the halls of the White House, Westminster and more recently, Beijing.

8 years later after adopting a “multi-currency basket” in which the US Dollar is the dominant currency, Zimbabwe is consequently suffering from an incessant cash crisis. One which is crippling any possibility for economic growth in the nation. It leaves one to wonder, how much better Zimbabwe’s monetary situation would have been if we had adopted the Rand, leading to a Southern African currency back in 2009. It leaves us wondering, how much closer we would have been with our South African brothers and sisters. Maybe xenophobic attacks wouldn’t have happened! Maybe we would have realised that the future of all Africans is within all our hands and it’s time we hold hands as we walk towards a grander future.

About The Author
Kudakwashe Andrew Manjonjo
Kudakwashe is youth activist from Zimbabwe. His activism is centred on delivering Zimbabwean youth from  an unemployment crisis. He has been active in many public campaigns, featuring in prominent protest groups and agitating for youth empowerment to be institutionalized.  

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