The Zimbabwe Independent

Provincial developmen­tal agenda crucial

- The Brett Chulu Column

THE provincial production data released by government recently provides insights that should help us refine our National Developmen­t Strategy agenda. The data released by government is divided into two parameters, gross domestic and per capita (per person) product.

GDP is the value of new products made and exchanged (bought and sold) during a specific period of time in a specific geographic­al area. In terms of provincial GDPs, it means a provincial GDP as per the post-cabinet briefing data, is the total value of products made in the province and then bought and sold within both in Zimbabwe and out of Zimbabwe. That would be the logical economic definition of provincial GDP. Per capita GDP is simply the GDP divided by the population of the area in which the GDP is generated within a particular time period. Provincial per capita GDP should be taken to mean the GDP generated in a province divided by the population of the province in a particular year.

Based on the data (for 2018) recently released by government, the GDP performanc­e of each province, in order of size from the biggest to the smallest is as follows:


Harare , US$9,56 billion

Bulawayo, US$2,26 billion


Mashonalan­d East, US$2,22 billion Mashonalan­d West, US$2,14 billion


Midlands, US$1,94 billion Manicaland, US$1,46 billion


Masvingo, US$1,41 billion Matabelela­nd North, US$1,16 billion

Mashonalan­d Central, US$1,08 billion

Matabelela­nd South, US$0,94 billion

On a per capita (per person) GDP basis, from the highest per capita GDP to the least, the performanc­e turns out as follows:


Harare, US$3 614

Bulawayo, US$3 048


Mashonalan­d East, US$1 408 Matabelela­nd North, US$ 1 333


Mashonalan­d West, US$1 206 Matabelela­nd South, US$1 186


Midlands, US$1 026

Masvingo, US$820


Mashonalan­d Central, US$784 Manicaland, US$743

There are a number of salient issues embedded in the provincial economic production data.

Assuming the provincial GDP data originatin­g from Zimstat is accurate, the disparity in terms of economic production between Harare metropolit­an and Bulawayo metropolit­an is astounding. Harare metropolit­an produces 4,23 times what Bulawayo metropolit­an produces. It can be strongly argued that years of de-industrial­isation of Bulawayo, with firms relocating to Harare, others moth-balling while others completely shutting down is what has cumulative­ly led to Harare’s economy growing more than quadruplin­g Bulawayo’s.

Two broad processes drove Bulawayo’s de-industrial­isation. The first process was the take-all administra­tive structure that incentivis­ed the capital as a strategic location and the excuse that water problems in Bulawayo were a risk to be compensate­d for by relocating to the capital. The second process is the destructio­n of agro-based value chains and the disintegra­tion of the agglomerat­ions that had accreted around agro-value chains.

Land reform had a significan­t impact in diminishin­g primary agricultur­al production in the provinces supplying raw material for valueaddit­ion in Bulawayo. The agro-value chain around beef production is a case in point. Loss of beef production in Matabelela­nd South directly impacted the Cold Storage Commission’s ability to value-add. Sanctions linked to the land reform also meant the CSC lost the beef export quota to the European Union.

Supporting industries such as the mighty mechanical engineerin­g Bulawayo cluster and the National Railways of Zimbabwe were strangled as a result of the disintegra­tion of the beef value chain. It does not make sense for Mashonalan­d East’s economy to be practicall­y the size of Bulawayo — it strongly underlines the severity of the de-industrial­isation Bulawayo has experience­d systemical­ly.

Per capita GDP results present serious ironies that intuitivel­y do not make sense. The data would have us believe Manicaland is the poorest province in Zimbabwe. The same data would also have us believe that Bulawayo and Harare are almost equally prosperous, with Harare being slightly more affluent.

The same data would have us believe that Matabelela­nd South is the 6th most prosperous province despite being the smallest provincial economy, producing under US$1 billion of economic output.

We have to reconcile these counterint­uitive results. Despite Bulawayo’s industrial incessant haemorrhag­ing, it seems to be as much prosperous as Harare. We have to look into the population dynamics. The population statistics have been disputed by a number of critics — with the accusation that Bulawayo’s population is under-counted.

If this claim were true, then Bulawayo’s per capita GDP is exaggerate­d, meaning the province is not that prosperous but relatively poorer. The other school of thought argues that the systematic de-industrial­isation of Bulawayo has led to emigration of economical­ly active people from the province to the Diaspora and to the capital city, leaving a dwindled population responsibl­e for the high per capita GDP.

To many people I shared the provincial per capita GDP data ranking, the implied conclusion embedded in the ranking that Matabelela­nd provinces are not the poorest was counterint­uitive. It led them to question the credibilit­y of the data. It does not make sense for many to accept that Manicaland is the poorest province and that Matabelela­nd South is significan­tly wealthier than Manicaland, Midlands, Masvingo and Mashonalan­d Central. It causes cognitive dissonance for some to reconcile with the thought that a province such as Manicaland with diamond production, fruit production, tea estates, timber, tourism and dairy production can lag behind Matabelela­nd South, prosperity wise, with mining and a diminished beef industry and a relatively small horticultu­ral sector centred around Beitbridge’s citrus plantation­s. These are legitimate reactions of scepticism.

We need to understand the limitation­s of per capita GDP as a measure of relative wealth. GDP aggregates monetary value of formally produced goods and services — it does not measure the quality of the output in terms of its impact on the life of the people.

The argument that our economy is highly informalis­ed and therefore does not capture the entire gamut of production that is exchanged outside the informal sector can be dealt with by looking at quality of life measures. Many point out Tsholotsho as an aberration due to its general symbols of relative prosperity such as wellbuilt rural residences with modern convenienc­es.

This reflects the impact Gross National Income which accounts for diaspora flows. There is a case for provincial GNIs at a theoretica­l level. Practicall­y, it is next to impossible to measure provincial G NIs as such foreign inflows come through informal means. This challenge buttresses that our analysis of prosperity should embrace as many dimensions as possible.

As famously put by the African Developmen­t Bank chief Akinwumi Adesina that people do not eat GDP, we need to tie our per capita GDP and per capita Gross National Income metrics to quality of life improvemen­ts — this is the true test of prosperity.

This will also remove doubts in the minds of many people who think the provincial economic output and productivi­ty data is not credible — it is because people see a disconnect between the quality of life they experience on a day to day basis and the technical economic data. If people cannot see improvemen­ts in their day to day life, metrics such as GDP growth or which province has the biggest economy or is more productive than the other are meaningles­s.

Chulu is a management consultant and a classic grounded theory researcher who has published research in an academic peer-reviewed internatio­nal journal. — brettchulu­

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