High-productivity transportation investments increase connectivity and reduce congestion, by doing so they improve economic well-being.

The government of Zimbabwe has once again missed the 2021 National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) targets set for transport and infrastructure development. Gazetted in 2021 January, the NDS 1 was optimistic to deliver a modern transport and infrastructure development that is aimed to elevate the country to achieve an upper-middle-income class by 2030. 

Placed under NDS 1 National Priority Area 4, transport and infrastructure shout that the success of an economy largely depends on its ability to resuscitate infrastructural development which is sore to attract foreign and local investments. 

One of the key measures of macroeconomics is economic growth and logistics and transport play a pivotal role.

As a mechanism to encourage economic growth, governments need to invest in logistics infrastructures such as roads, railways, airports and ports. Additionally, they need state investment to be considerate of the environment and protect citizens’ rights to clean air, clean water decent places to live and work, as well as fundamental human rights and equalities.

In a mixed economy like Zimbabwe, one of the ways of measuring the success of the government’s influence on the economy is by comparing how it has affected logistics and transport growth.

An efficient transport system allows easier internal and external trade. It ensures the movement of labour, goods and services. Additionally, it allows labour to easily move between firms and products and services from firms to households which ultimately contributes to the gross domestic product of the state. 

Because there is a direct correlation between transport infrastructure and utility development and economic growth, the government set ambitious targets for 2021 from energy supply, roads, rail, air transport water and sanitation. However, most of the targets went astray.

According to data released by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD), water insecurity remained a challenge throughout Zimbabwe in 2021, especially in Chitungwiza, Harare and Bindura. Cities Mabvuku, Tafara, parts of Glen View and Budiriro 4 have gone for years without the unclean tap water. Areas such as Mbare have endured long term sewage leakages which have affected the right to a safer environment, a reflection of poor water piping infrastructure.

Problems relating to quality water supply had been contributed to dilapidated water piping infrastructure. In 2021, the government set to increase the percentage of people using an improved drinking source to 79%. However, official data shows that only 68% was achieved. To achieve the 68%, the government embarked on drilling boreholes in high-density suburbs and encouraged citizens to drill deep wells if necessary. Tap water remained unclean to drink despite its scarcity. Even the boreholes drilled in the local cities were not enough to cater for the growing population which led to large queues and bribes to access the facility quickly. To date, water quality remains a concern in Zimbabwe. Revival of the piping infrastructure remains a history.

 In terms of road rehabilitation, the government initiated the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme to revamp the ailing road sector. In February 2021, all roads were declared a state of national disaster, a declaration that attested to the poor road network and an impediment to national economic growth. 

Research indicates that Zimbabwe has a 98,000km road network made up of 89% unsurfaced gravel and earth roads. Sealed roads, mostly in urban areas and the main highways, constitute 18%, or 17,846 km.

Under NDS1, the government is targeting to increase the percentage of roads that meet the Southern Africa Transport and Communications Commission (SATCC) standards from 5% to 10% and to increase the number of kilometres of road network in good condition from 14,702km to 24,500km by 2025. 

The percentage of roads network in good condition to meet SATCC standards was set at 6% while an ambitious target of 12% was set for the percentage of road networks in good condition. 

According to a report released by the government in June 2021, 515 km out of the targeted 13 313 km of road network had been pothole patched, while 4,115km had been graded, 874 km re-gravelled and 164km rehabilitated. As of December 2021, the government claimed to have gravelled over 2,000kmwhile 6,627,9km have been graded with 701 drainage structures constructed or repaired and 184 wash-ways reclaimed. A total of 4,491.5km of drains had been opened, 6,141.2 km of verges were cleared, and work had begun on at least 4 794,8km.

The reconstruction of the Harare-Beitbridge highway became the anchor infrastructural development in 2021. By April 2022, Information Ministry reported that the Harare-Masvingo-Beitbridge road rehabilitation was on track with a total of 300 kilometres opened to traffic.

However, of the ambitious targets set, only 3% of the road network set to meet SATCC requirements were achieved while only 11% of roads are in good condition. Thus, the government missed its target. 

The graph below shows stats of buses and depots from ZUPCO against the total population

On transport availing, the government banned combis to operate in 2020 and this stressed to 2021. The banning of combis resulted in the monopolisation of the transport system by the Zimbabwe United Passenger Company (ZUPCO)which was however, incapacitated to provide sufficient and reliable public transport. 

This does not only created a transport desert for the public, but also played a key part in the rise of crimes such as rape, robbery and murder. Statistics released by the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) showed that rape and robbery cases between January to August 2021 increased by 14% and 103% respectively compared to the prior year. 

On rail infrastructure, all set targets were missed. Track Quality Index, which is the proportion of track meet set in standards targeted at 58% for 2021 achieved 47%. Rail services on freight cargo moved was set at 4.5m with only 1.7m achieved. Intercity passenger volume moved set at 0.899m for 2021 only registered 0.231m. Commuter passenger volume achievements for 2021 were not announced while the number of locomotives wagons and coaches available remained unchanged at 32:3568:59.

Data released by ZIMCODD in their research dubbed Abridged Civil Society Monitoring Mechanism Report reflected that officials failed to release 2021 data for airport infrastructure achievements. This was the same as data for national fuel retail capacity and power transmission and distribution lines constructed in kilometres. 

Failure to release statistics does not only impede transparency and accountability of sectors, but also lead to incompetence by those in power.


Therefore, Zimbabwe’s infrastructure, transport and utility development remained below 2021 targets. Transport and infrastructure development should be given priority as they don’t only affect economic prowess but also the living standards of Zimbabweans. Government should take a bold step to correct the poor service delivery to accelerate economic growth. 

The number of ZUPCO busses amid the ban on combis should be increased and government should consider innovative financing through public-private partnerships to cater for transport shortages for intra-and inter-city movements. 

UNECA classified Zimbabwe among the worst countries with the worst roads nationwide hence government should speed up the construction and refurbishment of the roads. Sound transportation investments lower the costs of moving people and goods that in turn buoys economic productivity, which roughly can be measured as the output of goods and services per dollar of private and public investment.

Improved productivity leads to a higher standard of living. Because productivity is a central component of economic growth, it should be of major concern when assessing the value of transportation expenditures.

It is important to focus on improving productivity even when policymakers strive to serve other important long-term transportation objectives, such as improving safety, energy independence, and environmental sustainability. High-productivity transportation investments increase connectivity and reduce congestion, by doing so they improve economic well-being. Short-term job creation, while vitally important to economic recovery, should not cause us to ignore the longer-term view.