The coming of Covid-19 added a big challenge to an already strained global economy

By Dr Eddie Mahembe


Last week The Sunday Express newspaper led with the story of the South African banks that had invested millions into the refurbishment of Beit Bridge. Even Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube was tweeting about the news, moments after it was on the weekend front page.

When we look back at the history of Africa, we read of the exploits of the Egyptian Pharaohs who built the mighty pyramids around 1700 BC.

At the northern border of modern-day South Africa with Zimbabwe and Botswana lays what historians refer to as the first indigenous city, the Kingdom of Mapungubwe.

This archaeological site is estimated to have been established around 900 AD.

In Zimbabwe, there is the mighty Great Zimbabwe, the former capital city of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe built during the country’s Late Iron Age, around the 11th and the 15th century.

Present day Zimbabwe got its name from these beautiful and extensive stone ruins of an African Iron Age city.

What is the common denominator in the three infrastructure projects cited above? All of them were built by Africans and have stood the test of time!

This means that in us is the ability to build massive infrastructure for this and future generations.

Another look into history shows us that the quote by Frantz Fanon that “each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity”, remains relevant.

Global Industrial Revolution

One begins to understand the importance of the First Chimurenga and the Second Chimurenga in Zimbabwe and the Liberation Movements across Africa and beyond.

Our forefathers had to respond to their respective generational calls. This generation is faced with its own challenges. The question is, can we answer our generational call?

While Africa has grown in leaps and bounce during the First Industrial Revolution (1IR), Second Industrial Revolution (2IR), Third Industrial Revolution and now Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR); the continent lags behind in development as evidenced by high levels of poverty, low economic growth, high unemployment and widening levels of inequality.

Despite being blessed with abundance of mineral resources and arable land for agriculture, the majority of Africans face severe food shortages annually.

Generational Call

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the world was grappling with the shift from the 3IR to the 4IR. Several sectors were already shading jobs and many countries, were experiencing recessions, characterised by high unemployment and very low economic growth rates.

The coming of Covid-19, therefore, added a big challenge to an already strained global economy.

It is important to note that Covid-19 is not only a health pandemic. It is also an economic and social pandemic.

It has caused untold socio-economic challenges with many big companies closing shop, many losing their jobs and some falling into extreme poverty.

We are at a point where we need to revoke the legendary Oliver Mtukudzi’s question, posed to us, when the world was facing the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the early 1980s. Mtukudzi’s question then was: Todii? Senzeni? What shall we do?

Given the challenges of this novel Covid-19 and the 4IR I mentioned earlier, we are also being asked the same question, today: Todii? Senzeni? What shall we do?

For those who follow Tuku Music, you would have heard that the Zimbabwean national hero answered this question for us in his song titled “Wake Up. Open Your Eyes”. In this song he clearly made a call for us to unite, saying:
“Vukanini madoda isikhathi sesiphelile (Wake up men, the time is gone)
Open your eyes
Lalelani madoda isikhathi sesiphelile (Listen men, the time is gone)
Open your eyes
Bambanani lonke isikhathi sesiphelile (Unite all of you, the time is gone)
Open your eyes
Asibambaneni sonke isikhathi sesiphelile (Lets all unite, the time is gone)
Open your eyes
Unite don’t waste time!”

For Christian readers, I am sure you might identify with this powerful declaration by God Almighty:
“…If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6, NIV).

Scientists have told us that Covid-19 could be fatal to people with pre-existing medical conditions. We can also use the same analogy that the socio-economic impact of the 4IR and the current coronavirus pandemic could be severe to countries or regions with pre-existing socio-economic crises.

Our generational call therefore is to unite and come up with solutions to the socio-economic challenges of our time.

Proposed Socio-Economic Partnership for Development

We have all heard about public–private partnership (PPP), especially on infrastructure development projects. The Government of Zimbabwe recently announced the US$300 million Beitbridge border post modernisation project deal, which a PPP project. Why cannot the Community (Citizen) be involved in a Public-Private-Community Partnership (PPCP) framework?

Given the importance of the Beitbridge border post to the economy of Zimbabwe in general and the Zimbabwean travelling public in particular, would it not be ideal to involve them in the modernisation of this critical infrastructure?

What are the advantages of involving citizens not only at participation level, but funding too?

These and other questions will be answered in Part II of this series, which will be published next week.




Dr Eddie Mahembe is an Interim Chairperson: Zimbabweans United for Progress (ZUFP). He holds a Doctorate Degree (PhD) in (Development) Economics and Master of Commerce (MCom) in Economics both from the University of South Africa (Unisa), a Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) Honours in Econometrics from the University of Pretoria (UP), Bachelor of Science (BSc) Honours Degree in Economics from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ). He can be reached on:


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