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Discussion paper: Re-thinking aid policy in response to Zimbabwe's protracted crisis
Kate Bird and Stefanie Busse, ODI
May 2007

Prepared for Roundtable discussion: Re-thinking aid policy in response to Zimbabwe's protracted crisis

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The aim of this discussion paper is to contribute to debate at a Roundtable on Zimbabwe at the Overseas Development Institute on 4th June 2007. The paper is organised thematically to present a brief overview of the current situation in Zimbabwe before outlining alternative visions for the future for Zimbabwe and the role of the international community in that future.

It is important to highlight that some of the assertions made in this paper are drawn from the media. They are uncorroborated and the Overseas Development Institute cannot be held responsible for any errors in fact or interpretation.


Zimbabwe is in the grip of its worst humanitarian crisis since the start of majority rule. Life expectancy has plummeted to 36 and is expected to fall to 27 years by 2010, 1.4 million people are in need of food aid, the economy has shrunk faster than any other in peace time and has the highest inflation rate in the world.

How has the former breadbasket of Africa collapsed in this way? Adverse climate conditions and the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS can only partly explain the high levels of poverty and vulnerability among Zimbabwe's once prosperous population. The Zimbabwean government blames the country's collapse on US and EU sanctions but these are limited to (i.) a ban on travel to the EU and US by 95 ZANU PF officials; (ii.) a ban on arms sales to Zimbabwe and (iii.) a freeze on Zimbabwean owned assets in European and American banks. This suggests that the root cause is elsewhere.

In the sections below we outline what we see as the key drivers of the current economic crisis.

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