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Zim land reform under African spotlight



ZIMBABWE’S contentious land reform programme will be on the agenda during negotiations for a continental free trade area scheduled for March, the country’s investment agency says.


The government embarked on the fast-track land redistribution programme at the turn of the millennium to address a racially skewed land ownership system and critics say while the exercise was justified, the modus operandi was chaotic.

Official records show that nearly 4 000 white former commercial farmers lost vast tracts of land to locals during this programme.

The redistribution of land to locals has been an emotive undertaking, which also intensified the international isolation of the southern African nation.

Critics say failure to compensate previous owners and the modus operandi used under the programme resulted in Zimbabwe being slapped with sanctions by some Western governments.

According to the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (Zida) quarterly report for the period ending 31 December, issues relating to the land reform programme will be discussed during the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) meetings.

AfCFTA is the largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995.

The free trade area was established to increase intra-African trade which currently ranges between 15-18%, stimulate production through the development of regional value chains, strengthen the capacities of African businesses to access and supply world markets, and strengthen Africa’s economic and commercial diplomacy.

Trading under the auspices of the AfCFTA began on 1 January 2020.

“Currently, State Parties are focusing on finalising the negotiation of Phase 3 Protocols to the Agreement, namely: Digital Trade, Women and Youth. These are expected to be finalised by end of Q1 [first quarter] of 2024,” Zida says.

“Regarding the Protocol on Investment, negotiations for the Protocol were concluded in November 2022, and the Protocol was adopted by the AU Assembly in February 2023, together with the Protocol on Competition Policy and Intellectual Property Rights.

“However, negotiators were further instructed by the Assembly to review the section on government expropriation and compensation, to ensure that the provisions are sensitive enough to the colonial history of African countries, especially regarding land acquisition. The Committee of Senior Trade Officials will deliberate on the said provision, in an extraordinary session to be set by the AfCFTA Secretariat in Q1.”

Zida was invited to participate in the AfCFTA capacity building workshop for African investment promotion agencies held in Accra, Ghana, from 30 to 31 October 2023. During the workshop, Zida made a presentation on agribusiness in Zimbabwe and participated in the discussion on the draft statutes for the Association of African Investment Promotion Agencies.

In 2020, Zimbabwe undertook to pay US$3.5 billion in compensation to white farmers whose land was expropriated by the government to resettle black families, moving a step closer to resolving one of the most divisive policies during long-time leader Robert Mugabe’s era.

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