Zimbabwe’s Mugabe seeks help from West as growth slows across Africa – by Geoffrey York (Globe and Mail – August 27, 2015)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous influence on Canada’s political and business elite.

JOHANNESBURG – After furiously spitting fire at the West for decades, Robert Mugabe abruptly changed his tone this week. With his economy in tatters and unemployment soaring, the Zimbabwean autocrat now wants help from Western creditors and investors.

“My government values re-engagement of the Western world in the Zimbabwe economy,” Mr. Mugabe told the Zimbabwean Parliament on Tuesday in an unusually conciliatory speech. He pledged to “repeal all laws that hamper business,” and he called for stronger relations with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The 91-year-old President can’t afford his traditional disdain for the West any more. In recent weeks, more than 20,000 workers have lost their jobs in Zimbabwe and its earlier 3.2-per-cent economic growth forecast for 2015 has been cut to just 1.5 per cent.

Zimbabwe is just one of many African economies suffering from bleak economic news this month. Faced with weakening prices for oil and other commodities, along with a slowdown in Chinese demand for their resources, African states are slashing their growth projections and trying to stem the erosion of their currencies. Chinese imports of African commodities have dropped steadily since late last year, oil prices have collapsed and mining is in trouble.

The two biggest African economies, Nigeria and South Africa, both released dramatic new data this week. Nigeria, heavily dependent on oil revenue, said its economic growth has fallen to 2.35 per cent in the second quarter of this year – the slowest rate in a decade – as its oil sector shrinks. This means that Nigeria’s growth is less than half of its average 6-per-cent annual rate over the past decade.

South Africa, meanwhile, suffered a 1.3-per-cent decline in its economy in the second quarter, far worse than analysts had forecast. The drop was due to a broad slump in several major sectors, including manufacturing and mining.

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