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Effects of Globalization on Zimbabwe


Globalization is as much a part of the modern world as the air we breathe. Especially in the United States, it seems that everywhere you look you can find products made from China, India, Japan, or Taiwan. From our electronics to our silverware, and even the very food we consume, Americans participate in the global market on an everyday basis. What is not so obvious to the average American might be the way in which this global market operates.

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One important function of the global market is to give countries access to resources that can’t be found domestically. However, at a national level America, has a set of rules for fair trade between companies, states, and individuals. There is a high amount of interest in promoting the welfare of each domestic party. Historically, international affairs have been handled much differently. Colonization and the exploitation of other country’s resources have been a common trait of the past few centuries.

In addition to accessing resources in other countries, globalization has also been used to circumvent the established fair trade and labor laws in developed countries. If a manufacturer were to pay ten dollars an hour to a factory worker here in the United States, they might be able to find labor in a less-developed country, where there are more relaxed or no labor laws, for a tenth of that amount.

This cheap labor might take the form of a poor farmer, a single mother, or even a young child (Elsbeth 2004). This also means that globalization isn’t only affecting those who work for low wages in less-developed countries, but it is also affecting domestic labor in the United States by outsourcing available jobs.

This paper will focus on Zimbabwe and how globalization has contributed to its poor current situation. Ultimately, globalization in Zimbabwe has been a means to funnel more wealth to already developed nations while sacrificing local economies and living conditions. It has put Zimbabwe into large amounts of debt, threatening its existence as a truly independent nation, and thrown the country’s infrastructure into a tailspin that it has yet to recover from.

Development of Capitalism in Zimbabwe

The modern history of the territory that would come to be called Zimbabwe begins with one of the earliest forms of globalization; colonization. In the late 19th century, Zimbabwe was colonized by the British because of their interest in mining the territory for precious metals (Alexander 2006). This was the beginning of globalization in Zimbabwe, and as with most instances of globalization, its motives were not pure.

The British had no interest in spreading wealth to the area, but instead this was an instance of a developed country looking at the un-utilized resources of a lesser-developed country and wanting to utilize them for their own gain. The colony would remain as such for over seventy years. Policy and housing settlements over this period of time would favor Europeans over the indigenous African population, further proving British motives as not being about what’s best for the Zimbabweans (Alexander 2006).

In the mid 1960’s, the situation in Zimbabwe would deteriorate between the British, who were becoming less prevalent in the area, and rival African factions seeking to gain their independence. The end result would be a civil war between a white-minority government (which declared its own independence from the United Kingdoms) and African-majority factions that lasted for over a decade, along with political turmoil in the region that still exists even today (Alexander, 2006). All of this happened while the British were able to get up and leave, leaving the country to deal with its newfound internal problems by itself.

Without deviating too far from the purpose of this paper by delving into specific historical events, a summary of the modern history of Zimbabwe paints an accurate picture of what capitalism, and by extension globalization, has done to the country. A developed country entered a less-developed country in order to make a profit, upset the existing power structure, exploited the lands and its indigenous people, and then left the mess for others to try to pick up when it became no longer worth it to be there. This is a recurring theme in globalization and the world market.

Poverty in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a country that lives ridden with poverty and disease. Despite having natural resources like gold, copper, iron and lithium, 68% of the population lives under the poverty line. 80% of the people in Zimbabwe are unemployed, and even those that are employed are seeing the money they earn diminished because of hyperinflation caused by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe printing excessive amounts of money to fund their budget deficit (CIA World Factbook).

The International Money Fund (IMF) has also cut off their support of Zimbabwe due to Zimbabwe’s inability to pay back past loans and refusal to enact IMF reforms (CIA World Factbook). However, there have also been claims that IMF and World Bank reforms in the past have hurt Zimbabwe and only made the poverty there worse.

Programs that were aimed at globalizing Zimbabwe by funding urban businesses have only succeeded in raising the private incomes of a select few, pushing further class distinction between the rich and poor and doing little to settle Zimbabwe’s national debt. Some experts claim that the focus must be on promoting the interests of the majorities, like putting price-controls on staples like maize, in order to promote the type of growth that raises the standard of living and can endure as something more than a get rich quick scheme for the already wealthy (Kawewe & Dibie 2000).

A possible motive for providing these developed companies in less-developed countries with incentives and funds is that they are able to get involved with the global market and provide products at cheap prices to the developed world. There have been many accusations that the IMF and the World Bank favor developed countries when they restructure less-developed countries economies.

The World Bank itself claims that their proposals to Zimbabwe have been aimed at supporting social welfare, assisting the fight against AIDS and assisting Zimbabwe in assessing their land use and agricultural exports. However, as of September 13, 2007, Zimbabwe still owed the World Bank 521 million U.S. dollars and the IMF 134 million U.S. dollars (World Bank 2008). A debt like this gives the World Bank and the IMF, a part of the developed world, a large amount of power over Zimbabwe. Whether that power is or has been abused or not, it is important that Zimbabwe recover so that it can begin asserting its own economic structures to support its own people. Only then will Zimbabwe enjoy the benefits of the developed world.

Effects on the Population

Zimbabwe, like most nations dealing with globalization, has seen an increase in city life in recent history. When globalization affects a nation, subsistence farming that feeds that nation’s people often becomes more modernized. This means that land owners attempt to have less people working their lands, because if they can replace paid labor with cheaper technology then they pay less to produce equal, or sometimes greater, yields. Then these can be sold into the international market where they make a select few in the developing nation money and drain the food supply for many others.

This model of globalization has particularly affected women and children in Zimbabwe. With the increase in city life has come a need for those in poverty to send their children to work in order to support their families. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that HIV/AIDS runs rampant through Zimbabwe, often breaking up family structures when a mother or father become too ill and can no longer work. For many, there just isn’t any choice.

Robson Elsbeth, the author of several articles focusing on the sociology of Zimbabwe, argues that child labor is a necessary evil for developing countries right now. Elsbeth calls the western idea that children should grow up happy and playing, with little to no responsibility, a myth for much of the developing world. There is simply no way to support these families otherwise.

Perhaps the best thing we can do for these children at this point is to simply recognize the work that they do. If western nations stop fooling themselves, they can put pressure on Zimbabwean leaders to help improve the lives and working conditions for those children that have to work by recognizing them as a legitimate work force, rather than standing around in denial and doing nothing to help the situation (Elsbeth 2004). To the west, it may be somewhat tragic, but this is part of the reality of life faced by less-developed nations struggling to make money for their countries in the international market.

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A good model for the type of progress that Elsbeth argues for can be found by looking at Zimbabwean women since the end of colonial rule in Zimbabwe. They were recognized as a legitimate work force, and as such they have been receiving higher average incomes, better healthcare and greater amounts of education. From this involvement in education and the work force, they have been able to secure public official jobs and have more and more political influence (McFadden 2005).

If children can follow the model of progress that Zimbabwean women have already created, they would be able to have a larger voice. However, even for women, the recent political strife in Zimbabwe has threatened to diminish their status once again, with several woman (among other men, though) have been ejected from their spots as public officials (McFadden 2005).

Disease and Healthcare

As has been mentioned, HIV/AIDS is a national epidemic in Zimbabwe. In 2001, there was an estimated 1.8 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, which represented 24.6% of the total adult population (CIA World Factbook 2008). That essentially means that one out of every 4 adults had HIV/AIDS, and since then Zimbabwe has shown little signs of progressing.

If you combine this problem with the financial problems and national debt that Zimbabwe is in discussed earlier in this paper, it is not hard to predict that there would be many people living with HIV/AIDS and without sufficient healthcare.

Distributing methods of safe sex is something that gets very little, if any, funding, and once an average person does become affected it is very hard for them to find the sorts of treatment that can prolong their lives and help them deal with it (Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation 2008).

As tragic as this is in its own right, it also has a cyclical effect on some of the things previously mentioned in this paper. As has been discussed, often HIV/AIDS has renders people too sick to work, or left families with a dead mother or father. This means more people living in poverty, and more families having to send their kids to work rather than to get an education. This, generally speaking, will relegate them to poverty in their adult lives as well. HIV/AIDS, and their health care system’s inability to deal with it, is a huge contributor to the cycle of poverty in Zimbabwe (AVERT 2008).

Indigenous Religions

With globalization comes the spread of ideals. Western religion has gained a huge foothold in Zimbabwe. Throughout the colonial period and even up until now, Christian missions have flooded Zimbabwe converting indigenous populations into westernized Christians. Current estimates show that only 24% of the Zimbabwean population remains strictly adhered to indigenous beliefs. The rest of the population is made up of 25% Christians, 1% Muslim and 50% syncretic (a mix of Christian and indigenous beliefs) (CIA World Factbook 2008).

Environmental Problems in Zimbabwe

Many of the environmental problems being experienced in Zimbabwe are things we have seen before; air pollution from industrial compounds, deforestation to make room for building or agriculture and a decline in certain wildlife populations. However, Zimbabwe is faced with a major crisis regarding one important natural resource, and that is water.

Polluted water is a huge problem in many rural parts of Zimbabwe. The water is flowing down from developing areas, polluted by many different sorts of industrial and agricultural wastes or compounds, and infecting the rural water supply. The problem is that there is no great infrastructure to help bring these people safe water. For the most part, the only existing infrastructure for water exists in the cities (Derman & Ferguson 2003).

At the risk of sounding like a parrot, it must be mentioned again that Zimbabwe’s current financial crisis affects yet another part of life in Zimbabwe. How does a country find the money to bring safe water to its own citizens if it has none to do so with? Unfortunately, with the amount of money Zimbabwe owes, the welfare of their citizens gets pushed off the table as the main priority of the Zimbabwean government. There’s only so much they can do.

Relief Measures

Relief measures are being taken by some international organizations in order to try to better the lives of citizens in Zimbabwe. Organizations like the Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation attempt to raise money to support programs that help those with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, as well as providing funds to help educate children and the less fortunate in Zimbabwe. Their efforts are there for help empower citizens, which will hopefully produce a bottom-up effect and make them active leaders in their country (ZBF 2008).

Yet developed nations themselves are seeing the unstable situation in Zimbabwe are placing things like sanctions on them. Citing human rights violations in which Zimbabwe has conducted a concerted campaign of violence, repression, and intimidation on their citizens, the United States put a sanction on Zimbabwe in 2004. These sorts of responses aren’t uncommon, but it remains to be seen if they actually help the citizens in trouble. Can keeping the government of a poor society poor help the financial crisis and thereby help Zimbabwean citizens?


Poverty in Zimbabwe has been a cyclical effect, often perpetuated by the financial crisis in which the Zimbabwean government is in severe debt. The funds borrowed have been used to fight wars for control of the government ever since British colonial forces moved out of Zimbabwe, leaving behind an upset power structure with no system of rebuilding in place. This has all lead to the suffering of Zimbabwean citizens through poverty, disease and death.

Globalization in Zimbabwe has only been successful in funneling more wealth to already developed nations through the use of colonies and exploitation of natural resources, while sacrificing Zimbabwe itself. It has put Zimbabwe into large amounts of debt, leaving its citizens to suffer and to try to pick up the pieces.

Reference Page

  • McFadden, Patricia (2005). Becoming Postcolonial: African Women Changing the Meaning of Citizenship. Meridians: feminism, race, transnationalism. 6(1), 1-22.
  • Elsbeth, Robson (2004). Hidden Child Workers: Young Carers in Zimbabwe.Antipode, 36(2), 227-248.
  • Derman, Bill & Ferguson, Anne (2003). Value of Water: Political Ecology and Water Reform in Southern Africa. Human Organization, 62(3), 277-288.
  • Kawewe, Saliwe M. & Dibie, Robert (2000). The Impact of Economic Structural Adjustment Programs on Women and Children: Implications for Social Welfare in Zimbabwe. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare, 27(4), 79-107.
  • Central Intelligence Agency (2008). CIA World Factbook. Retrieved July 26, 2008 from //
  • Zimbabwe Benefit Foundation (2008). Empowering Zimbabweans. Retrieved July 26, 2008 from //
  • Boucher, R. (2004). Zimbabwe: Sanctions Enhancement. U.S. Dept. of State. Retrieved July 27, 2008 from //
  • AVERT (2008). HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe. Retrieved July 26, 2008 from //
  • The World Bank (2008). Zimbabwe. Retrieved July 27, 2008 from //,,menuPK:375744~pagePK:141132~piPK:141121~theSitePK:375736,00.html
  • Alexander, Jocelyn (2006). The Unsettled Land: State-making & the Politics of land in Zimbabwe. Ohio: Ohio University Press.


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