•  Gold exports declined to 20.8%
  • Nickel mattes overtook gold as the country's top export in April 2024
  • Corruption and mismanagement are major factors behind the decline

Harare- Zimbabwe's gold exports decreased from 23.6 kilograms in March to 20.8 kilograms in April according to the latest data released by ZIMSTAT. This marks a continued decline in gold's dominance as the country's leading export commodity.

Since January 2024, gold has lost its position as Zimbabwe's top export, ceding that status to tobacco. In April, nickel mattes have now overtaken gold as the most traded export, accounting for 25.7% of the country's total exports.

The top exports in April were nickel mattes (25.7%), semi-manufactured gold (20.8%), nickel ores and concentrates (8.7%), and medicaments (6.8%). South Africa remained the top export destination, increasing its share from 35% in March to 46% in April, while the UAE came in second at 22%. 

The decrease in gold exports is concerning, as gold is Zimbabwe's biggest foreign currency earner. The newly introduced ZiG currency is backed by gold reserves, so the falling gold exports mean a depletion of both gold and US dollar reserves needed to support the struggling currency, which has already shed 36% of its value.

Corruption and mismanagement within the gold sector are major factors behind the decline.

It is estimated that over US$1 billion in mineral revenues is lost annually due to corruption, with gold being a key area of concern.

High-profile cases like that of Henrietta Rushwaya, who was caught allegedly trying to smuggle gold but faced no consequences, demonstrate the deep-rooted issues of political interference and lack of accountability.

To address this, Fidelity Printers and Refiners, Zimbabwe's sole gold buyer, plans to implement a new gold traceability system starting September 30, 2024.

This system aims to monitor the gold supply chain and curb smuggling. However, the success of this initiative will depend on robust, independent auditing and enforcement mechanisms to overcome the vulnerabilities to corruption and elite capture that have plagued previous efforts.

Without comprehensive anti-corruption safeguards, the traceability system risks becoming merely a facade rather than an effective deterrent to illicit gold flows.

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