|  NEWS

Zimbabwe's president forecasts the country's economy will turn around this year following the recent oil and gas discovery close to the border with Mozambique and Zambia, along with improvements in mining and tourism.

During a New Year message, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe's mining sector had exceeded the $12 billion target in 2023, the country was now food sufficient, and this year could see a prosperous Zimbabwe, Bulawayo 24 News reports.

"I am encouraged by the increased number of both local and international tourists visiting our country. Equally, investments in new tourism products and facilities which bolstered the sector are a welcome development. As we drive towards energy self-sufficiency, the discovery of oil and gas in Muzarabani confirms Zimbabwe's potential as a future producer of gas. This should translate into meeting our energy demands commensurate with the ever-growing economy," the president stated.

However, Durban University of Technology economics professor Gift Mugano is not as optimistic. 

"We are in agro-based economy. We sneeze when the agriculture sector catches a cold. We know that this year, there is a drought. That will have a devastating impact on the economy. With drought, we will be importing food. Because of the Russia-Ukraine war, which has seen prices of food, globally, going up around 50%," Mugano stated.

"We will be forking [out] something in the region of close to $1 billion. Which is almost 20% or so of our total foreign currency receipt. So this will weigh down on the economy in terms of the economy performance. So, to be quite frank and quite honest, the economy will underperform in this year. Yes, we are talking about the discovery of gas and oil but it's too early to talk about that development as the driver of the economy."

Meanwhile, senior economist with the Labor and Economic Development Research Institute of Zimbabwe, Prosper Chitambara, said the country's economy will only improve in 2024 if there is no drought.

"In terms of the discovery of oil and gas, I think it's going to take a bit of time probably for the country to begin to benefit from this important discovery. I think they should be some gestation period, which obviously also then allows for the investor to fully set up and to start commercial activities. But overall, this year the economy is expected to grow by 3.5% which is lower than the 5.5% estimated growth there for last year," said Chitambara.

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