Industry and the Urban Sector in Zimbabwe’s Political Economy

by Pdraig Carmody and Scott Taylor

Abstract

The land question and Zimbabwe’s current crisis of governance appear to be intimately related. However, an extensive survey of the population in the mid-1990s ranked land access very low on the list of priorities when compared to employment creation. Zimbabwe’s current constitutional and political crises spring primarily from the urban, not the rural areas. Initially the MDC’s primary support base was in the urban areas amongst workers disaffected with rising prices and unemployment. Even if the MDC acceeds to power, it will have to face the same set of expectations from workers for improvement in their living and working conditions. Consequently, the regeneration of Zimbabwe’s political economy will depend, in part, on the rehabilitation of Zimbabwe’s urban industry. This paper examines developments in Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector since 1997. It explores trends in employment, output and exports by sub-sector in order to understand the evolution of sector during the years of crisis and the implications for Zimbabwe’s political economy.

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Padraig Carmody is a Lecturer in Geography at St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra (a College of Dublin City University). His research interests include: economic restructuring and impacts of economic liberalization on the development of manufacturing in Africa, globalization and corporate restructuring in South Africa, as well as poverty alleviation and alternative development strategies. He is the author of Tearing the Social Fabric: Neoliberalism, Deindustrialization, and the Crisis of Governance in Zimbabwe (Heinemann, 2001).

Scott Taylor is an Assistant Professor of African Studies at Georgetown University. He teaches African Politics and Government, Contemporary Southern Africa, US-African Relations, and African Political Economy. Dr. Taylor’s research interests include contemporary African politics, politics and business in developing countries, southern African politics, comparative politics, and international relations.