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Updated Mar 4, 2020

Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa has appealed to the international community for assistance in pulling the southern African country out of “financial isolation” after failing to solicit new loans from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, and the Paris Club due to outstanding debts of US$8 billion. President Mnangagwa issued his plea at the Africa Regional Forum on Sustainable Development held in the town of Victoria Falls in February, amid one of the country’s worst famines in decades, with more than 5.5 million rural Zimbabweans facing starvation. Humanitarian agencies have estimated that US$200 million is needed to provide enough food.

 

Why It Matters

Health, environmental protection, gender equality, and poverty reduction efforts have yielded positive results across Africa since the start of the 21st century, but there are sizable shortcomings that the continent is yet to overcome. Youth unemployment rates are still more than twice that of adults, and the total number of Africans living in poverty has actually increased since 2013. Sovereign debt is a factor in why certain countries struggle to meet the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—set in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly and intended to be achieved by 2030—or implement initial reforms to get on the way to achieving them. Zimbabwe is certainly a massive outlier, but its predicament is not wholly unique. Although Mnangagwa and the ruling ZANU-PF are still engaging in corrupt practices that defined the decades of kleptocratic rule under former president Robert Mugabe, there have been stirrings of reforms that could be encouraged if new loans could be secured combined with debt forgiveness.

 

Sustainable Development Goals: A Long Way to Go

Zimbabwe may be the least able to meet the SDGs by 2030, but it is hardly the only one. No African country is set to meet the goals despite significant improvements made by Cabo Verde, South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Algeria, Rwanda, and Morocco. Paul Mpuga, economic affairs officer at the UN Economic Commission for Africa, estimates that US$2.5 trillion is needed in funding if Africa wishes to meet SDG targets by 2030.

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