Country Risk Rating

The highest-risk political and economic situation and the most difficult business environment. Corporate default is likely. - Source: Coface

Business Climate Rating

The highest possible risk in terms of business climate. Due to a lack of available financial information and an unpredictable legal system, doing business in this country is extremely difficult.


  • Abundant mining resources (platinum, gold, diamonds, nickel)
  • Agricultural wealth (maize, tobacco, cotton)
  • Tourism development potential
  • Member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC)


  • Liquidity and currency shortages
  • Dependence on volatile commodity prices
  • Rain-fed agriculture exposed to climatic hazards
  • Economic and financial situation affected by the long period of hyperinflation (2000 to 2009)
  • Under-investment in infrastructure (especially energy)
  • Precarious food and health situation: the majority of the population depends on humanitarian aid, and AIDS prevalence rates are among the highest in Africa and the world
  • Payment arrears with international donors
  • Subject to numerous international sanctions

Current Trends

Despite persistent challenges, the recovery continues

After two consecutive years of recession precipitated by the shocks associated with Cyclone Idai, drought, and the COVID-19 pandemic, activity rebounded, supported by an exceptional 2020/21 agricultural season and mining activity. In 2022, although growth is expected to moderate, it will remain relatively robust. Private consumption should provide support as the COVID-19 vaccination campaign progresses. With more than a quarter of the population receiving at least one dose of the vaccine by the end of 2021, one of the highest rates on the continent, restrictions associated with the pandemic are expected to be eased. This will support spending, which is also set to benefit from reduced erosion of household income as inflation moderates while remaining extremely high. Decent rainfall would further boost purchasing power among two-thirds of the population that depend on agriculture. Reliance on rain-fed agriculture means, however, that the sector is likely to continue its 2021 performance. Public investment in transport and energy infrastructure under the National Development Plan will promote growth but will be hampered by the country’s limited access to international financing. Private investor sentiment will remain dampened by a complex operating environment and the unstable exchange rate regime, further limiting the contribution of gross fixed capital formation. Rainfall would also support hydroelectricity generation and, by extension, mining production. While exports are expected to grow accordingly, the net contribution of foreign trade is likely to be negative, as imports are set to grow faster in the wake of the recovery in domestic demand.


Limited access to international markets

In 2022, the budget deficit was expected to widen but remain moderate. While revenues are expected to rise as the economy improves, they will be outpaced by spending, focusing on support for agriculture and industry and investment in health, education, and infrastructure. Spending on state-owned enterprises, including recapitalization of the national airline, and wages, which absorb over 30% of revenues, will also contribute to the increase. Part of the IMF’s 2021 special drawing rights (SDR) allocation will go towards financing the deficit, domestic Treasury issuance, and some external loans. Beyond Afreximbank’s support, external loans will remain limited as the country is distressed by debt. External arrears (about 60% of public debt), including with the World Bank and the AfDB, are a significant obstacle to accessing financing. The authorities should continue to avoid monetary financing, which was primarily responsible for triple-digit inflation in the past.


In 2022, as since 2019, the current account was expected to record a surplus, driven mainly by expatriate remittances, which maintain a positive balance on the transfer account. The rest will narrow, however, due to increased imports of goods and services in response to the recovery in domestic demand. Despite the authorities’ attempts to reduce them, imports of energy, food, and capital goods are expected to grow faster than ore exports. The primary income account will remain in deficit due to profit repatriation by foreign firms. Despite the current account surplus, the external position is fragile due to low capital inflows. Although the SDR allocation helped rebuild foreign exchange reserves, they remain shallow, at less than two months of import coverage. High demand for the USD is expected to continue to fuel the depreciation of the Zimbabwean dollar, which lost 30% of its value in 2021 after being formally reintroduced in 2019 following the scrapping of the multi-currency system. The Zimbabwean dollar’s official rate, which an auction system has determined since June 2020, was still about half that of the parallel market rate at the end of 2021. The foreign exchange retention rule, which requires most companies to convert 40% of their export earnings into local currency, is expected to remain in place to finance the auctions. While it may be less pronounced, depreciation will keep the cost of imported goods rising.


Increased risk of instability as 2023 elections approach

President Emmerson Mnangagwa came to power following the November 2017 “military-assisted transition” that forced Robert Mugabe to resign after more than 30 years in power. Despite his victory and that of ZANU-PF (the party in power since independence) in the 2018 general elections, he will continue to be weakened by a harsh social and political climate. Fuelled by repeated economic crises, tensions could intensify in the run-up to the 2023 presidential and parliamentary elections. Although economic conditions are expected to improve slightly in 2022, protests and strikes will continue regularly. However, President Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF control the main levers of power and have support in rural communities (70% of the vote in 2018), putting them in a pole position to win the elections. A disrupted electoral process would damper the government’s international re-engagement strategy. Progress in this regard (beyond aid to address the COVID-19 pandemic) has been slow, despite the stated goals when President Mnangagwa came to power.


Coface (02/2022)