How Poverty in Zimbabwe Has Changed over Time?

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Compare the internal and external causes of poverty in a given country

Poverty can be understood as the inability to meet a variety of basic needs and entitlements, through a lack of income, access to resources or empowerment. Poverty at a national scale is complex and is caused by an array of factors including many generated within the country but also others that are caused by external factors (figure 1).

I will examine the internal and external causes of poverty in the landlocked Southern Africa state of Zimbabwe (figure 3). In the last century Zimbabwe has experienced massive economic and social change. Once Africa’s 2nd biggest economy, it is now ranked 15th(figure 3). Overall Zimbabwe ranks 173rd in the world in terms of HDI (Human Development Index), 153rd in the world for GDP and ranked 5th in the world for the lowest life expectancy[1], indicating significant poverty especially when compared to the relative developmental success of other southern Africa states (figure 5).

When considering levels of development, countries can be placed on Rostow Stages of Economic Development[2], the majority of countries move up the stages from experiencing economic growth. However Zimbabwe has slipped back down the Stages of Development; early 1970 it was experiencing ‘take off’ & ‘acceleration’ however in recent years it is now at ‘pre-development’ (see figure 4), a ‘step back’ in economic growth development.

Figure 5 – Southern Africa development indicators[3]
|Country |HDI |GDP (billion) |Life Expectancy |HIV Prevalence (%) | |Zimbabwe |0.376 |7.78 |52 |23.2 | |South Africa |0.67 |363.7 |50 |18.8 | |Botswana |0.65 |14.86 |48 |24.1 | |Namibia |0.65 |12.17 |51 |19.6 |

An external cause of poverty in Zimbabwe is the geographic position. They are a landlocked country; they have no access to the seas for trading, limited border crossings and they are dependent on other countries for trade (figure 6). This leads to huge transport costs and inadequate infrastructure, on average a country which is landlocked experiences 60% less volume of trade plus it limits their economic growth and this external factor is a major cause of poverty[4]. Also, Zimbabwe has experienced severe drought in the past few years, it only has 8.32%[5] arable land and climate change is threatening to lessen their available land further. Arguably, these effects are already being observed in regions of Zimbabwe as the physical climate of the country has changed largely over the last three decades with the worst drought being experienced in 1991. However in recent years failure of the 2004-2008 rains reduced crop production by an estimated 95%, this has impacted heavily on Zimbabwe’s productivity, reducing both commercial trade to earn income and subsistence poverty. In years of severe drought the GDP growth was negative indicating a shrinking economy (figure 8), such unreliability of production limits their growth (figure 5). The unreliability of their economy stems from the external factors which also lead to national scale poverty through a lack of income, and an inability to meet basic food security needs which Maslow includes at the very base of his Hierarchy Of Needs (appendix 2), therefore pushing huge sections of society into poverty.

Despite this geographical and climate disadvantage, I feel that poverty in Zimbabwe was serverly exacerbated as a result of political...
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