In a report this month, the World Bank predicts Zimbabwe’s economy will grow 3.9% this year even as the country sees an alarming rise in poverty levels, especially in urban areas. The report says a record 7.9 million Zimbabweans are “extremely” poor, earning less than 30 U.S. dollars a month.
Forty-one-year-old Richard Luzani is one of many unemployed Zimbabweans hoping the economy will recover and that the coronavirus pandemic will end soon.
Each day he pushes a cart full of water buckets while selling the scarce precious liquid in Hatcliffe — one of the poorest suburbs of Harare. He works with his 58-year-old father, Weluzani.
“I wish I could a get any formal job," Luzani said. "I am just barely making a living from this hustle of selling water so that my family can survive. But so far everything is down.”
He said on a good day they go home with $5 each — but other days, nothing.
That is not case with 40-year-old Tafadzwa Gamanya in Goromonzi, a rural area about 50 kilometers east of Harare.
A World Bank report says Zimbabweans living in rural areas are doing better than their counterparts in the urban areas thanks to subsistence farming. So is Gamanya.
“This year is much better for us here. We had good rains. We have enough water to irrigate our crops until the next rain season," Gamanya said. "I have maize and sweet potatoes; my peas are at flowering stage. I sell my vegetables to get money for sugar, for tea which we have with sweet potatoes. Our maize is enough for this year. We have nothing more to ask or cry for.”
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government said the number of food insecure Zimbabweans has drastically fallen because of the good rains the country has enjoyed during the 2020/2021 agriculture season.
Mukami Kariuki, who heads the World Bank in Zimbabwe, says the economy could recover faster depending on how the pandemic and regional economy perform.
“Zimbabwe’s economy is expected to grow faster than its neighbors, rising from 3.9% in 2021 to 5.1% in 2022," Kariuki said. "By comparison, the average growth rate for sub-Saharan Africa in 2021 is 2.8%. So overall, we note that the recovery of the country is on a positive trend and if sustained, this momentum will impact positively on the lives and livelihoods of people of Zimbabwe.”
An upward swing would be welcome news for Richard Luzani and millions of Zimbabweans like him. The World Bank reports 49% of the country’s population now live in poverty due to both the pandemic and ailing economy.