Economic Structural Adjustment program in Zimbabwe

All the countries in Southern Africa have gone through many changes throughout recent history. They have gone through a series of struggles in political, economic, and social aspects. Even after independence, the struggles for their proper forms of government have been very difficult, and some still struggle today to be adequately represented. However, perhaps being the most affected nation in the Southern Africa region, Zimbabwe stands at the pits of utter devastation (Darnolf & Laakso, 2016). For instance, intending to put an end to its economic crisis, Zimbabwe adopted Economic Structural Adjustment Programs in 1990. Even with the adoption of the program, inequality widened further. Therefore, the paper will discuss the issue of growing inequality in Zimbabwe.

Internal and external forces

There exist different internal and external forces that have shaped the political debate on the issue of growing inequality in Zimbabwe. To begin with, the main role of the ESAP was to uplift Zimbabwe from its economic crisis. However, about two years after its implementation in the system debate sparked around it consequences especially in widening the gap in inequality. Among the internal factors that sparked political discussion on the issue were increasing poverty levels, gender-based inequality, and worker’s struggle in Zimbabwe and the design of ESAP (Darnolf & Laakso, 2016). First, among the initiatives of the Economic Structural Adjustment Program was the introduction of school fees. As a result, most families shifted to training and educating male children living female. Therefore, the feminist movement emerged, questioning the issue of gender-based inequality.

The design of ESAP resulting to misrepresentation of personnel in Zimbabwe shaped the political debate. According to Gogo (2011), the process of designing the program is un-democratic, and most of its officials are from IFIs which yields a product that is not owned by the country itself (Gogo, 2011). The issues have been determined through the raised objectives by the program’s advocates as their inception and not materializing. Also, the program has failed to recognize the differences in developing countries to spur the change in their programs. The program’s advocates’ assumptions of African countries to be the same have shaped the debate on ESAP’s ability to solve the economic crisis in Zimbabwe. 

The rising poverty levels in Zimbabwe despite the implementation of ESAP contributed to a political debate over its effectiveness and efficiency in solving economic problems. The national budget cut initiative of the program affected many people in Zimbabwe, especially the poor. For instance, the initiative affected the health and education sector because people began to pay more to get health services as well as to take their children to school (Darnolf & Laakso, 2016). As a result, people were spending more and getting less, which widened the poverty gap. Increasing poverty levels among the Zimbabweans shaped a political debate on whether the program is the right tool for solving the country’s economic situation. 

The workers’ struggle resulting in a strike paralyzing the work sector in Zimbabwe was among the failures of ESAP that fueled political debate. It is challenging to improve the economy of a country without workers. As a result of this, the inefficiencies of the program were being revealed promoting public discussions. For instance, instead of the economy rising, it was declining at an alarming rate (Darnolf & Laakso, 2016). During the period, Zimbabwean workers were unable to afford some of the basic needs such as health. Therefore, due to the ESAP initiatives, there was a trending increase in inequality levels, both socially and economically. 

On the other hand, apart from the internal forces, some external forces contributed to the political debate of ESAP in Zimbabwe. The critics from the United Nation Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is among the external factors that shaped the political debate on ESAP. According to ECA, the initiatives under the ESAP are too narrow, depend more on fiscal and monetary tools, and have little significance to long term development objectives worsening problems experienced in developing countries (Darnolf & Laakso, 2016). As a result, many people in Zimbabwe began to question the impact of ESAP in their economy. Therefore, combined with the increasing social and economic inequality in the country, many people supported the abolishment of ESAP as a program meant to uplift its economic status.

Role of the state in shaping the growing inequality

The government of Zimbabwe has played a key role in shaping the issue of growing inequality. The implementation of ESAP by the government contributed to the economic inequality between small scale or communal area farmers and large scale farmers. The main challenge with ESAP was its inability to directly discuss the major constraints which faced the small scale farmers. Also, the ESAP initiatives increased the cost of water (Darnolf & Laakso, 2016). As a result, it was very challenging for the small scale farmers to use the water in farming, especially during drought. It continued to widen the gap between the rich and the poor. Therefore, because it was only the large scale farmers who could afford water rates, the country relied on their products, which was also expensive for low-income earners.

However, to assist shape the issue affecting small scale farmers, the government of Zimbabwe after the 1992 and 1994 drought mobilized funds for the construction of dams in communal areas to increase the small farmers’ share of water rights and to motivate private dam development. The construction of the dams to assist the small scale farmers was a political move to gain trust from the farmers and low-income earners because they form the majority of the people compared to large scale farmers (Skalnes, 2016). Therefore, the government of Zimbabwe created a platform for displaying their interest in supporting all its citizens regardless of their social status.

The government of Zimbabwe abandoned its social ideology of free primary education declared in 1980 in favor of Economic Structural Programs. The main reason for the government implementing the strategy was to get funds from the World Bank. The reform program led to the enactment of cost recovery measures contributed to the cut of government expenditure on education, scraping off education subsidies, and come up with school fees. The situation resulted in not only a decrease in educational standard but also a scenario where poor parents were unable to pay the stated school fees (Ranga, 2004). Therefore, Poor families ended receiving inferior education while some other children drop out of school.

The government desire to get funds from the World Bank led to the introduction of IMF and World Bank policies. The major effect of the cost recovery initiative of ESAP was the fact that it reinforced for gender inequalities and disparity in education which the government of Zimbabwe has been trying to end since independence (Muderedzi & Ingstad, 2011). The end of 1992 determined that a good number of girls than boys were dropping out of secondary schools due to lack of fees. The girl child was disadvantaged, and gender bias escalated. However, even with the negative impacts of the ESAP program, the government wanted to borrow funds to facilitate its development initiatives. Thus, despite the government having a good plan, the ESAP program escalated gender inequality. 

Role of civil society and social groups

The civil society plays a major in confronting the government on issues that are affecting the country. They have helped in pushing for various agenda, which can be explained with how the crisis arising from the IMF and World Bank sponsored program had been handled. For instance, the Zimbabwean trade union organized for a national strike for all workers seeking a pay rise as well as solve the problems that were being experienced at work. It is apparent that the pressure from the trade union strike led to a positive reform with the government agreeing to their terms and conditions (Mwaradzika, 2015). Therefore, apart from the civil society fight for a wage increase, they have also pushed from various national agenda like corruption in the government.

Moreover, social groups have also contributed to seeking solutions to the challenges facing Zimbabwe. In Zimbabwe, the religious groups are among the social group has a significant role both as a platform for economic development and as a tool for a socio-economic transition of the whole nation. In regards to its nature, religious centers like the church and mosque exist as a platform for caring for the spiritual and materials needs of the society. For instance, God’s provided options in his book for poor people is a significant procedure for the involvement of religious groups in solving the challenges of the poor. Therefore, with the operations of religious groups, the quality of life of societies where the services of the agencies are serviced have improved.

Political engagement and status quo

Political engagement on the issue of growing inequality has challenged the established status quo. Political groups such as the movement for democratic change engaged the civil society to fight the existing economic crisis, which is perceived to result in more social and political problems (Cain, 2016). Also, the engagement challenged many academics and middle-class to move away from continuous power broking politics. Thus, with the groups speaking one language, it was easy to challenge the established status quo.

Yes, the status quo is changing. With the exit of Mugabe, people have hope that President Mnangagwa will assist improve the economic crisis of Zimbabwe. People believe that the new era of governance will turn their previous challenges experienced through the former government will change for the better. Also, the current president served as a Mugabe’s chief enforcer (Kurupati, 2018). In this position, he addressed the collapse of the rule of law as well as the explosion of the Zimbabwean economy.


Zimbabwe has been experiencing an economic crisis that has contributed to aspects such as social and economic inequality. In the 1990s, the country sought assistance from the World Bank in improving its economy, which led to the introduction of ESAP. The program introduced initiatives like cost recovery measures to reduce countries expenditure. In education, recovery measure escalated gender bias because the parents could not afford to pay for all children forcing them to focus more on the male children. However, the new president of Zimbabwe changed the status quo, and people are hoping for a democratic society.


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Muderedzi, J., & Ingstad, B., (2011). Disability and social suffering in Zimbabwe. Disability and poverty: A global challenge, 171-188.

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Prince Kurupati (2018, July 26). Will any outcome in the upcoming Zimbabwe Election change the status quo? Retrieved from;

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Skalnes, T., (2016). The politics of economic reform in Zimbabwe: continuity and change in development. Springer.