The current situation of Zimbabwe (the new name assumed on April 18, 1980 by Southern Rhodesia) is characterized by a phase of transition from tribalism to a more modern form of socio-economic organization. The country is populated by the two large ethnic groups of the Ndebele (or Matabele) and the Shona (or Mashona), who increasingly tend to abandon agricultural areas, which are very poor, to urbanize; the population, which reached 10,401,767 residents (1992 census), lives for more than a quarter in urban areas, and the capital Harare has over 800,000 residents (Bulawayo 400,000), with serious social and urban problems.
According to topschoolsintheusa, the population of rural areas still lives according to traditional models by practicing agriculture and livestock in the ” common land ”, the agricultural areas reserved exclusively for Africans. The demographic pressure on these districts is very strong and creates serious problems of soil erosion and progressive degradation. Since 1980 the government has started an agricultural reorganization program by purchasing more than one million hectares from European owners to distribute it to 18,000 African families, but the hunger for arable land is still very strong and such as to seriously compromise any policy of modernization of agriculture.
A quarter of the products of the primary sector derive from livestock farming and three quarters from agriculture, which suffers from frequent droughts. Important commercial crops are tobacco (26% of exports), cotton, sugar cane, coffee and tea; corn is also exported in the most favorable years. But the country’s real wealth is its mineral resources, with more than 40 different minerals (gold, asbestos, nickel, coal, copper, chromium and iron being the most important). The mines also feed the metallurgical industry, which is highly developed and largely controlled by the interests of the industrial countries. The manufacturing sector as a whole contributes 26% to the formation of GDP: alongside the metallurgical industry, the food, chemical and textile industries are of great importance, all concentrated in the most important urban areas. The country is connected through the railway network to the ports of South Africa and to the ports of Beira and Maputo in Mozambique; the oil pipeline that supplies crude oil to the only refinery in the country, in Mutare (formerly Umtali), departs from Beira. Over the last decade, foreign trade has seen a gradual decline in the predominance of South Africa in favor of other African countries.
HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
Internal state of southern Africa. The population (11,634,663 at the 2002 census) is growing at a modest pace, as the positive natural movement (28 ‰ the birth rate in 2006, 21.8 ‰ the death rate) is contrasted by a migratory flow that has become increasingly consistent due to the political crisis affecting the country and the disastrous economic situation, which pushes the workforce to seek better job opportunities in the South African Union and in Botswana. Furthermore, the land reform implemented since 2000, which expropriated white landlords to redistribute the land (it is estimated that around 6 millions of hectares) to veterans of the liberation war (the Freedom fighters) and supporters of the regime, has pushed the former owners to a massive exodus. According to an estimate, in fact, in 2006 there were over 4 million Zimbabweans living abroad. It is difficult to define the demographic consistency of the capital Harare (according to United Nations estimates, in mid- 2003 it received 1,470,000 residents in its agglomeration) and of the other cities, as in May 2005 the government has launched a campaign against illegal sellers who work in the capital and urban areas, deporting them to rural areas or some specially built camps, and razing their homes.
Government development programs had allowed the country a certain economic solidity until the mid-nineties of the 20th century, but starting from 1997-98, with the deterioration of the political situation, there were also negative repercussions on the economic level. Despite the substantial natural resources, the diversification of productive sectors, the presence of good infrastructures and, finally, the macroeconomic indicators marked a progressive deterioration: in 2005, for the sixth consecutive year, the gross domestic product of the Zimbabwe (- 6.5%), exports continued their decline, accentuating the shortage of foreign exchange, inflation was out of control and unemployment rose sharply (over 80 % of assets were unemployed). The country, once considered the granary of the African continent, is in a food emergency, and over half of the population suffers from malnutrition (5 million people depend on humanitarian aid). This agricultural disaster is only partly due to a period of drought, while it is largely attributable to the agrarian reform mentioned above, which, by entrusting a large part of the land to people who did not have adequate techniques or skills, caused a immediate deconstruction of the primary sector.