There is a famous Zimbabwean proverb: “Muzivi wenzira yeparuvare ndiye mufambi wayo” (He who knows the way across a rocky surface is the one who regularly uses it. To all others there is no path there.)

As Zimbabwe is facing a myriad of economic challenges, it is time she took more time to learn from the development paths of others and perhaps moreso that of her closest ally: China.

This resonates with the idea behind Rostow’s growth model where developing nations need to follow the stages taken by those ahead in the development process.

As Zimbabwe begins a new economic era with the availing of a new economic blueprint; the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1); there is need to develop learning relationships and strengthen existing ones.

Zimbabwe and China have enjoyed relations since pre-independence time when China assisted the former to gain independence from its coloniser.

As the nation seeks to achieve significant economic gains to become a middle-income economy by 2030, Zimbabwe could maximise its relations with China as their newly availed economic development plans are in harmony.

Zimbabwe has crafted the NDS1, a plan that runs from 2021-2025 and succeeds the Transitional Stabilisation Programme which ended last
year.

On the other hand, China has also released its 14th Economic Development Plan also set for 2021-2025.

The Zimbabwean NDS1 seeks to make Zimbabwe “an upper middle income” economy by 2030 and  to accelerate economic growth, improve the public sector and strategic infrastructure such as energy, ICT, transport and house delivery, among others.

Other objectives under the new economic blueprint include maintaining fiscal balance at no more than 3% of gross domestic product (GDP), single-digit inflation, increase in international reserves to at least six months import cover from the current less than a month, as well as maintaining domestic and external debt at below 70% of GDP.

The Chinese 14th Five Year Plan (2021-2025) on the other hand seeks to make China a “moderately developed economy by 2035” and to replace high-speed growth with high-quality growth, to build China into a technological powerhouse, re-balance the Chinese economy with supply-side structural reform, and to expand domestic demand, while continuing to support international export markets among other ambitious goals.

Already one can begin to see how these two plans sync.

It is apparent that both countries are focusing on growth economics, while balancing this with an emphasis on sustainability.

However, Zimbabwe seems more ambitious in declaring an annual growth of over 5% through to 2025 while China only speaks of “high quality growth”.

With China striving towards being “a global leader in innovation” it is apparent that there is an opportunity for Zimbabwe in terms of learning from China with regards to its ICT growth and abilities.

Zimbabwe can harness the much-needed technological advancements through knowledge and skills transfer which can be made possible through people-people and cultural exchanges as well as allowing more Chinese ICT companies to operate in the country.

The goal is to move away from just the production of knowledge to encompass the practical application thereof in what former Cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo noted as a move from “craft competence” to the much-needed “craft literacy”.

China’s plan demonstrates the economy’s wish to focus on improving internal demand while maintaining its hegemony in export markets in what has been termed, “dual circulation at home and abroad”.

Zimbabwe could also emulate this as the Chinese economy grew to its current recognisable status through import substitution and its ambition to dominate international value chains.

As Zimbabwe sets out to strengthen its agricultural, mining, manufacturing and tourism sectors as per NDS1, she could borrow the modernisation aspect of the Chinese five-year plan to improve agricultural quality and competitiveness abroad by speeding up modernisation of its agricultural sector.

Zimbabwe can also take a leaf from how China abandoned numerical targets for growth and settled for “quality growth over speed”.

The former has pegged  its growth target at over 5% through to 2025 which is quite ambitious but, however, not impossible.

As a new economic era begins for the nation, it is time for Zimbabwe to meaningfully tap into its strategic partnerships for sustainable development and eventually shift its position in international affairs.

The ailing economy can take lessons from the development paths of others including its favourite ally, China, arguably the largest developing country.

The future looks promising if the staggering economy holds on to the leaping giant.

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