Britain may be breaking ranks with donors and creditors over conditions for restoring Harare’s access to finance, Africa Confidential reports.
The International Monetary Fund continues to take a firm line, insisting that new loans be contingent on settling $9.4 billion in arrears and on deep cuts to government salaries, perks and agricultural subsidies.
The UK is, however, promoting debt write-offs in exchange for a commitment to – not necessarily delivery of – reform.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has been sending economists to Harare in an effort to persuade other donors of the merits of a debt relief programme, we hear.
Both approaches are risky. A lack of access to finance will consign the best-intentioned reforms to failure, while too ‘soft’ a line will leave the government with no incentive to change.
The UK’s proposal is not motivated solely by altruism.
London would like to include Zimbabwe in its plans to broker post-Brexit trade deals with African members of the Commonwealth, which Zimbabwe left in 2003.
These will be discussed at the organisation’s Heads of Government Meeting in London later this month.
Britain’s overtures have probably led to accusations that it is biased towards President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which Britain has denied.
But Africa Confidential is reported to have close links to the British establishment.