Zimbabwe’s refreshed cabinet has an Oxford economist and a world record holder

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa promised economic growth and jobs. To achieve this, he has appointed economist and former African Development Bank Vice President Mthuli Ncube as the country’s next finance minister and Olympic swimmer and former world record holder Kirsty Coventry as minister for youth.

Estimates say 90 percent of people are unemployed in the country where more than 50 percent of its population are below the age of 25. Also, over 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s population lives in chronic poverty.

“In the next five years we will be able to transform our people into middle-income citizens,” Mnangagwa said at a press briefing in Harare on Friday.

The president had earlier said at the 2018 Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on Tuesday that his government was undertaking comprehensive economic reforms set to improve Zimbabwe’s investment climate and enhance policy clarity, consistency and predictability.

Zimbabwe held its first post-Robert Mugabe era presidential election in July, nearly four decades after he became president. With the election seen largely as successful, the southern African country seems to be regaining the trust of international investors and foreign governments, with an estimated $16 billion in investments since Mnangagwa took over in November 2017. The Indian government said it will provide a $310 million soft loan to rehabilitate the Hwange Thermal Power station. New businesses in Zimbabwe will also enjoy $100 million in lending from the CDC and Standard Chartered Bank. In a similar vein, Swiss company Nespresso has announced a long-term plan to revive the country’s coffee industry. But there is need to repeal international economic sanctions, address international debt, resolve the chronic cash shortage in the short-term, create a new Zimbabwean currency in the long-term and deliver better public services. Mnangagwa, 75, needs people, who will help him deliver on these important tasks and he seems to have made a great choice in Ncube.

Ncube has a PhD in economics from the University of Cambridge and previously lectured finance at the London School of Economics. He was a Visiting Professor at the University of Oxford and the Former Vice President and Chief Economist, African Development Bank. He is also a Board Member of the London-based Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum (OMFIF).

In what looked like a manifesto, Ncube had on 1 September published an article on how to kick start Zimbabwe’s economy.

“There is a lot of work to do on the economic front but what is important is to draft a very clear economic vision and strategy for the country, to create an economy that exhibits strong GDP growth over a period of 10 years which should be sustained and shared,” he wrote.

“The real evidence in growth that is shared is in job creation and opportunities in business among other opportunities. In order to achieve that vision of growth which is shared and sustained and inclusive there are some steps the country would need to embark on.”

Ncube highlighted actions to be taken on debts, currency, trade, domestic investment and jobs.

Coventry, who was made Zimbabwe’s new youth minister, is the most decorated Olympian from Africa. The 34-year0ld retired swimmer is a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Chairperson of the IOC Athletes’ Commission.

Mnangagwa also appointed Oppah Muchinguri as defense minister, Mangaliso Ndlovu as head of the industry portfolio, and Jorum Gumbo as energy minister.