Zambia recently published its Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) for the period 2017 to 2021, the successor to the Revised Sixth National Development Plan (RSNDP) following its expiry last year. The Plan, just like the three national development plans (NDPs) that preceded it, is aimed at attaining the long-term objectives as outlined in the country’s Vision 2030 of becoming a “prosperous middle-income country by 2030”. There are some lessons Zimbabwe should grasp from its northern neighbour in terms of economic planning.

Zimbabwe’s economy has shrunk considerably due to poor policy planning, formulation and implementation. Lack of a clear national agenda and vision has resulted in the nation implementing ad hoc policies which to some extent do not augur well with development thrust. Zambia which has grown rapidly over the years has had three development plans since the re-introduction of the medium-term development planning process in the early 2000s, namely the Fifth National Development Plan (FNDP 2006-10), Sixth National Development Plan (SNDP 2011-15) and the Revised Sixth National Development Plan (R-SNDP 2013-16). These Plans were formulated with a view to meeting the national aspirations as articulated in its Vision 2030. These aspirations are to transform the country from a primary product-dependent economy to a strong, dynamic middle income industrialised country by 2030. Notable progress can be seen from Zambia as the country has transformed itself from just a single commodity exporter (copper) to a multi-products exporter including maize and other agriculture related products.

Zimbabwe lacks a clear national vision and development agenda. The current national policy document, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-Asset) although noble in terms of its policy thrust, lacks accountable benchmarks. This is a result of lack of clear long term national vision. If the country had a clear national vision, national development policies could transparent, complementary and more accountable. Since 2000, unlike Zambia which just implemented three development plans Zimbabwe adopted various ad hoc plans which include Millennium Economic Recovery Programme (MERP, 2001-02), Ten Point Plan based on Agriculture (2002), National Economic Revival Programme (NERP, 2003), Macroeconomic Policy Framework (2005-2006), National Economic Development Priority Programme (NEDPP, 2007), Zimbabwe Economic Development Strategy (ZEDS, 2008) which was aborted at conception, Short Term Economic Recovery Programme (STERP I, 2009-10), Short Term Economic Recovery Programme (STERP II, 2010-12), Medium Term Plan (2011-15), ZimAsset, (2013-2018) and the Ten-Point Plan of August 2015. Clearly, this shows lack of shared national vision and poor policy planning. The Ten-Point Plan, the country’s latest blueprint, aimed to buttress ZimAsset, a cluster based plan, although clear in terms of policy thrust, brought more confusion to the country’s economic planning landscape. The successor blueprint to the ZimAsset and or Ten Point Plan should address the shortfalls of predecessor NDPs, guided or improving on the Zambian experience.

Zambia’s 7NDP departs from the traditional sectoral-based planning to an integrated (multi-sectoral) development approach under the theme “Accelerating development efforts towards the Vision 2030 without leaving anyone behind”. This shows the country’s determination towards achieving its shared national vision and agenda. Zimbabwe still uses sectoral-based planning as evidenced by implementation of policies such as Command Agriculture and Special Economic Zones which are targeting certain specific sectors and regions. The integrated (multi-sectoral) approach recognises the multi-faceted and interlinked nature of sustainable development which calls for interventions to be tackled simultaneously through a coordinated approach to implementing development programmes. Through the use of the integrated (multi-sectoral) development approach, Zambia with its 7NDP has the advantage of considering the comparative and competitive advantages of its regions. This helps in allocation of resources towards implementation of the multi-sectoral strategies and setting in motion a series of mutually supporting activities in different sectors with the general objective of delivering the national agenda or vision. Integrated (multi-sectoral) approach also helps change the focus of Government line ministries from competing with each other, to more of coordination and harmonisation. Several notable disputes between various line ministries have been noted over the past few years which the Government should address through policy.

Zimbabwe therefore has to consider having a clear national vison first before even thinking of having a national development plan.

Kaduwo is an economist at Equity Axis. Contact