As one can see from the OECD DAC chart, Zimbabwe has been receiving increasingly more overseas development assistance (ODA) in the last five years. Aid has become an increasingly important part of the budget, accounting for increasingly more of state spending in the country. The vast majority of this aid comes in the form of humanitarian aid, aimed at alleviating the many humanitarian crises that are continuously unfolding in Zimbabwe. As one can see from the table below, $ 611 million dollars were given to Zimbabwe. This equates to roughly $50 dollars per person in the country.
What does Zimbabwe need its aid for? Judging from this chart from the OECD-DAC, we can see that the vast majority of the aid sent to Zimbabwe is spent on the most basic services; those that keep or try to keep Zimbabwe's people alive. This comes in the form of humanitarian aid, whether it comes in the form of money, or food or medicine aid. Very little of the aid is given towards debt relief, a process whereby a country cancels the debt owed to it by Zimbabwe. A considerable amount of aid is given to the health and population services sector. Although having a reputable health service at the time of independence, Zimbabwe's introduction of health service fees for even the most basic and crucial services has pushed the health service beyond the means of the ordinary working Zimbabwean. Aid given to this sector is mainly towards ensuring that services provided are accessible.
There are several challenges that are in Zimbabwe's path on its road to development. First of all, the political situation have made it difficult to think of Zimbabwe as a reliable partner who has its people as its primary concern. This trend was shown in 2010. Finance Minister Biti sought $810 million for 2010, but in the first quarter, only $3 million could be collected from international partners.1 As Zimbabwe is so reliable on international aid, a set back like this can have huge consequences for the people of Zimbabwe. Similarly, failure of international partners to deliver on aid promises in the 2000's caused a series of strikes which brought the education service to near collapse. Another challenge faced by Zimbabwe is its growing debt. In May 2010, it owed $1.2 billion in arrears to the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank. 2
The future currently looks quite bright for Zimbabwe. It is seeking to restore financial order and end hyperinflation. By doing this, and establishing proper macroeconomic policies, it can qualify to become a "Heavily Indebted Poor Country", by the IMF and World Bank. If this is achieved, its arrears and debts will begin to be cancelled3.
One large development in 2010 was the increasing importance of the establishment of micro-finance projects in Zimbabwe. These projects are funded mainly by the Austrian and Australian government, and aim to help the poorest help themselves by the provision of micro-loans.
Politics is, as is often the case in Zimbabwe, at the heart of the issue. With the establishment of a semi-democratic government in 2009, some financial order was restored to Zimbabwe. 2010 is expected to see a 7% growth in GDP, hyperinflation is set to end, and hopefully, a resumption of a normal economic system. If this is achieved, Zimbabwe will become less dependent on aid. Aid is not an efficient way to develop. As it stands currently, aid is the stopgap that prevents the collapse of the Zimbabwean state. Future elections will hopefully reflect the political nature of aid, and how the aid has been politicized in Zimbabwe, doled out to political favourites, or hijacked for personal use or personal projects.
Aid is necessary for Zimbabwe and her people to survive. The moral issue of whether continued aid support to Zimbabwe is propping up an illegitimate government, or assisting in the denial of human rights is an interesting one. What this page can say is that aid has become increasingly important to the running of the state in the last five years. Without it, almost no services would be available to the people of Zimbabwe. With economic developments, Zimbabwe's reliance on aid will begin to diminish, and hopefully, earnest efforts of development can be made.
 Bloomberg News, "Zimbabwe Seeks 810 Million, Gets 3, Biti Says", http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-28/zimbabwe-seeks-810-million-in-aid-gets-3-million-biti-says.html
Original Challenge Question
What Does Zimbabwe Need?- The Herald, Sunday October 10th, 2010
When the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released its latest figures for aid donated to Zimbabwe, one thing was made shockingly clear. Aid was not reaching the people and sectors which we need to reach the Millennium Development Goals and improve the living conditions in this country.
Zimbabwe received $611 million (USD) in the year of 2008. Of this, $532 million came from the OECD- Development Advisory Committee, DAC, coming mainly from western European nations.
Of the aid received in 2008, almost half was given as humanitarian aid. Roughly 15% was spent on improving the health of the country, 25% was spent within the other social sectors, excluding education. Education received a mere 3% of the amount of aid flowing into this country.
With five years remaining until the deadline for the UN Millennium Development Goals expire, we must try earnestly and seriously to apply the aid received in a more constructive fashion. Less than 5% was spent on production in the latest aid figures, and less than 10% was spent on project assistance.
Three areas where Zimbabwe needs to improve are food security, child mortality and maternal health. We need to look at areas where humanitarian aid can be invested in more long term programmes. An increase by $200 million, as well as a reallocation of the current aid budget to more long term, sustainable, and Zimbabwean led projects would improve the situation vastly. This $200 million could be spent on researching ways to improve Zimbabwean agriculture, combating AIDS through increased anti-retroviral availability schemes and training community health workers to prevent needless deaths amongst under-5’s.
Thomas Caffrey Osvald
Local NGO worker