"You just went to the post office in order to pick up a certified letter your boss is opening a new branch in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and he offers you the opportunity to become the manager. What are your geographical thoughts about moving there?"
Zimbabwe is a South African nation located between South Africa and Zambia. It's capital, Harare is home to about one third of the nearly twelve million citizens (Rowntree 2003). It is a poor nation, whose politics are filled with trouble, and whose economy has been moving backwards. While there may be some good reasons to accept a position as manager of the new Harare branch, the problems that plague Zimbabwe will far outweigh them for a long time to come.
One key aspect to a branch in Harare is that with an average annual income of less than $600, it would be very inexpensive to staff with the best local employees at rates much higher than they could get from a locally owned company. Furthermore, this extremely low average income would mean that a manager like me could afford a life of relative luxury, including house staff (Rowntree 2003). Despite the poverty of the region, a 91% literacy rate implies that even if no skilled locals could be found, they are sufficiently educated (at a minimal level) to allow effective training (CIA 2003).
Also, despite its age and relatively poor maintenance, the telecommunications infrastructure of Zimbabwe is available in Harare, and remains one of the most advanced systems in southern Africa. This would make Harare the logical choice to open a new branch. Likewise, with the official language being English, and Christianity being the primary non-native religion, American expatriates like me would be better able to adapt to the area than to other parts of the region. (CIA 2003)
Unfortunately, there are many problems that prevent me from taking advantage of the opportunities that might be present. Zimbabwe's head of state, President Mugabe has been in power in 1980 and has done many things to damage the viability of the Zimbabwe economy. Over the past several years, his policy of redistribution of land has destroyed commercial farming, costing nearly a half million jobs since 2000. Mugabe's involvement in a four year long war in the Democratic Republic of Congo cost Zimbabwe large amounts of money. These and other policies, including a history of violence against opponents of his regime, caused the IMF to suspend its support for Zimbabwe until it can better meet its budgetary goals. (CIA 2003)
Furthermore, as Zimbabwe is located on the border between tropical savanna and tropical steppe, it is prone to drought. This coupled, with the AIDS epidemic (the disease inflicts over one quarter of the population), does not allow for the stability necessary to run the branch of a western company (Rowntree 2003).
Therefore, despite some of the benefits that might come from a branch in Harare, it seems that at this point in time, the country is simply not stable enough to welcome branches of foreign companies. If the regime could be replaced and economic aide restored, and the AIDS epidemic brought better under control, the existing benefits could motivate me to accept a position at the new branch. Until that time, it simply would not work.
Rowntree, et al. Diversity Amid Globalization. Pages 222-242. 2003, Prentice Hall.
"Zimbabwe". CIA World Factbook. December 18, 2003. Accessed on May 10, 2004. <http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/zi.html>