Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Media and telecoms landscape guide September 2011

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  1. Introduction

Zimbabwe is at risk of drought, chronic food shortages and conflict as it faces an uncertain political and economic future.

The country‟s once prosperous economy, based on agricultural and mineral exports has suffered a catastrophic decline since 2000.

This has led to falling living standards, soaring unemployment and massive emigration, mostly to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least three million Zimbabweans have gone abroad in search of better opportunities.

About 13 million people remain resident in the country.

Agricultural output has declined as land reforms aimed at transferring the control of Zimbabwe's richest farmland from white to black ownership have resulted in lower productivity.

The decline in food production, aggravated by recurrent drought, has made a large swathe of Zimbabwe's population dependent on food aid.

Falling living standards and crumbling water and sewerage infrastructure led to a cholera epidemic in 2008 which killed almost 4,500 people.

HIV/AIDS is a major health problem. UNAIDS estimated that there were 1.2 million people living with HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe in 2009, giving the country an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 14.3%

President Robert Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe continuously since independence under black majority rule in 1980.

He has been accused by local and international human rights groups of using violence against the opposition and manipulation of the media and the electoral process to stay in power.

Human rights organizations accuse Mugabe of using the security forces and militants from his Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party to harass and attack opposition sympathisers.

Mugabe was once lauded by the business community for his liberal economic policies, but in recent years he has been accused of gross economic mismanagement.

Hyper-inflation forced Zimbabwe to abandon its devalued and virtually worthless currency in 2009. The country now relies on the US dollar and to a lesser extent the South African rand for domestic monetary transactions.