Norwegian aid to Zimbabwe goes mainly through support to civil society organizations. Governance and social sectors is a priority.

Facts about Zimbabwe

The flag for Zimbabwe
Life expectancy
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GNI pr capita
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Percentage poor people (below 1.25$)
The flag for Zimbabwe
The flag for Zimbabwe

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

Bilateral assistance million kroner

At the five-year congress of Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party in autumn 2014, 91-year old Robert Mugabe was once again elected party leader. His wife, Grace, was appointed to head the Women's League.

So far there are no signs that Emmerson Mnangagwa, the more influential of the two new vice-presidents, will contribute to solving the country's economic problems in the short term, despite tentative government rapprochement with international financial institutions in 2014.

The lack of security acts as a deterrent to both domestic and foreign investment. The country's use of a strong US dollar as its sole currency further exacerbates the situation for Zimbabwean manufacturing and competitiveness. Economic growth of 3 per cent is projected for 2015.

Food security remains weak, and is being eroded further by poor rains in 2014 and 2015. Food and seed grain were distributed according to political criteria in connection with the 2013 elections.

The opposition is divided and unable to map a navigable way forward for the country. No serious efforts have yet been made to submit a joint list for either the many supplementary elections in 2015, or with elections in 2018 in mind.

Mugabe's assumption of the rotating SADC chairmanship at the SADC summit meeting in 2014, and his election as AU chairman in January 2015, are interpreted as personal acceptance of Mugabe in Africa.

Democracy, governance and the struggle against corruption

A new Constitution has been in place since 2013, but the implementation is proceeding slowly, and only a few statutes have been amended in accordance with the new Constitution. This has particular consequences for amendments to the Election Act.

The security and human rights situation

There are fewer infringements of human rights than during the crisis period around 2008, but on occasion demonstrations are suppressed with violence. In one case, a central human rights activist was abducted, and after four months had still not been released (as of July 2015).

As a result of widespread poverty, the basic social needs of only a relatively small portion of the population are met, but mother and child health has improved significantly in recent years.

In one case in 2014, about 2 000 people were forcibly relocated in connection with the construction of a dam, which unleashed major protests. The razing of street stalls and small shops, a weak economy and land invasions produce internally displaced persons and migrants, but on a lesser scale than during the crisis years.

Many are still trying to find work in neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa, for economic reasons.

Discrimination, women's rights and gender equality

Eighty per cent of all women can read and write. They take active part in working life and have the same legal rights as men.  The situation is a dual one nonetheless, as traditional norms and rules tend to prevail, with the result that women are still responsible for the bulk of work in the home.

Gender-based violence is not uncommon, and there are ongoing campaigns to raise the legal age for girls to marry. There is colour-based discrimination of non-black farmers and business people.

Environment and climate  

The existing supply of electricity and coal does not meet the energy needs of the population and the manufacturing industry. The energy supply varies substantially from one province to the next. Deforestation is accelerating, but the Ministry for the Environment has large annual tree-planting campaigns. Environmental measures necessary in connection with the mining industry are not always adequate, and unnecessary accidents occur frequently.

Climate change has added to the difficulty of securing sufficient food, particularly maize. Some areas are expected to suffer from drought in 2015, with the result that maize production will be 20 per cent less than in a normal year. At the same time, heavy downpours over a short period of time have caused periodic flooding of rivers in lower-lying areas.

Zimbabwe scores low on social indicators such as life expectancy, unemployment, distance to a safe source of water, and HIV infection rate, while other indicators including mother and child health improved appreciably in the period 2009–2013.  The 2012 population census, published in 2013, revealed great differences among the various regions of Zimbabwe and between urban and rural areas.  

The census also shows that although the level of education has declined, it is still relatively high, as 87 per cent of the population have completed primary school and 50 per cent have completed secondary education. However, the percentage of students today who do not pass their examinations is rising each year.

Norwegian development cooperation with Zimbabwe

In 2014, Norway's cooperation with Zimbabwe focused on strengthening democracy and good governance, including human rights. Norway supports the health sector through UNICEF. Support for infrastructural measures (energy and water) through the Bank of Africa was frozen, even though the Norwegian Embassy in Harare followed up previously disbursed aid.

Democracy, governance and human rights

Norway's contribution to governance included establishing a new fund commissioned by the World Bank, with special emphasis to be placed on the development of private and public-private partnerships and public financial management. Support for social sectors was channelled through UNICEF's Health Transition Fund.

Norway still has no bilateral cooperation with Zimbabwe, and only cooperates through multilateral and regional institutions/organizations and voluntary organizations. Norway provided a total of NOK 130.577.000 in aid to Zimbabwe in 2014.

The new Constitution, adopted through a referendum in March 2013, provides a foundation for the establishment of several commissions for advancing democracy, including the Human Rights Commission, which Norway supported through the Danish Institute for Human Rights.

In 2014 Norway also supported local human rights organizations (Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, Legal Resources Foundation, Counselling Services Unit and the Norwegian Refugee Council Zimbabwe). Through UNDP, the Norwegian Embassy supported the ongoing periodic human rights review (UPR), both the public process and through civil society organizations.

Results achieved in 2014:

  • Bringing the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission's offices in Harare and Bulawayo into operation
  • Increased access to the legal system for the local community through legal aid provided by voluntary organizations
  • Increased access to legal aid and protection for human rights defenders through legal and medical support and counselling
  • The Mid-Term UPR was submitted to the UN Human Rights Council in October 2014. Twenty-nine recommendations had been fully implemented, 63 had been partially implemented and 59 had not been implemented.
  • The situation for internally displaced persons was discussed in the public debate, and the authorities commenced the work of amending national laws in line with the Kampala Convention.

Almost NOK 27 billion was channelled to multilateral institutions and local, regional and international voluntary organizations to support democracy and governance. Smaller amounts went to Norwegian expertise associated with a Norwegian natural resources management model.

The support contributed to:

  • Building the capacity of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), with emphasis on constructing a voters' roll. Although a new election act was not adopted in 2014, the ZEC attempted to take over voter registration in accordance with the Constitution. The ZEC held two conferences at which their Needs Gaps Assessment Report was presented to and discussed by civil society organizations, political parties and aid donors.
  • In 2014, the World Bank established a fund (ZIMref) with improved public financial management as one of its primary objectives. The fund will also contribute to private sector development and to the establishment of public-private partnerships. The fund was established in November 2014, and it is too early to report on results achieved.
  • Norway's media support was channelled through International Media Support (IMS) to ten independent partners. The programme led to an increase in the capacity of free media institutions, and the following results have been noted:
  • Independent radio stations in South Africa continued to broadcast programmes that covered most of rural Zimbabwe, and as such were a real alternative to the state-owned, ZANU-PF- dominated ZBC.
  • 35.000 copies of the new Constitution were distributed and discussed in local communities in marginalized areas
  • Norwegian expertise was engaged for discussions and proposals concerning the pension fund and taxation of mineral resources. A study trip to Norway was also arranged for bureaucrats in the Zimbabwean Revenue Authority and Ministry of Finance. Greater transparency surrounding natural resources management will contribute to improved governance and benefit the country economically.

Women and gender equality

A contribution of NOK 9,5 million was made to boost work for gender equality and the improvement of conditions for women. Support through the organization UN WOMEN  for a programme on women's role in conflict situations and peace processes enhanced the skills of women leaders and politicians in the field of conflict resolution, and enabled more women to contribute to peace and reconciliation programmes.

The support provided in 2014 contributed to the following:

  • More women have taken part in the process of developing security policy documents, and a place has been created for dialogue between security sector actors and women in their local community. Three women's peace committees were established.
  • The gender equality perspective has been included in the teaching programme of training institutions in the security sectors. Three of the five institutions will implement the new programme from 2015.  
  • Thirty woman political leaders from different parties have contributed to better networks for women and shown interest in working together at local level.
  • Greater understanding for gender equality, peace and security through research and production of material.

Support was provided for cooperation between several universities in the region and the University of Oslo, which has created interest in the subject of women and gender equality in several countries in the region. This has made it possible for several universities to have "Women and Law" courses in their own faculties, as a separate academic discipline.


NOK 15 million of support to the health sector was channelled through UNICEF. A fund committee on which donors, authorities, voluntary organizations and multilateral institutions are represented has been established. An indicator review prepared in 2014 shows major improvements in health since 2009, which can be partly attributed to UNICEF's input. Results in 2014 include:

  • Access to essential medicines and health services for pregnant women and children under the age of 5 years met over 80 per cent of needs in the provinces.
  • Maternal and child mortality rates continued to fall as a result of greater availability of trained midwives.
  • Result-based financing of the health sector was launched in 60 districts, compared with only 18 the previous year. This contributed to more effective use of resources in the health sector.
  • The health facilities in eight rural districts now have equipment that enables them to provide life-saving nursing in connection with births and treatment of newborns.

Other cooperation



Norway spent NOK 6 million on cultural support in 2014 to help create important, independent meeting places for cultural expressions and to safeguard the right to communicate one's culture. The situation for many cultural institutions and actors is still difficult because of the economic and political situation.

The support for culture has contributed generally to:

  • creating meeting places for cultural expression
  • boosting institutional and professional capacity through seminars
  • increasing the emphasis on freedom of expression and cultural rights through support for festivals and educational programmes

As in previous years, much of the support was channelled through a framework agreement with the organization HIVOS, which administered the funds according to agreement with the Norwegian Embassy. The funding has contributed to increased building of capacity in skills in the fields of theatre, music, film, literature etc. and the use of new media. Support also went to enhancing accounting, administration and network-building skills.

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Voluntary organizations

Norad disbursed NOK 61,153 million to Zimbabwe through Norwegian civil society organizations in 2014. The organizations supported include Save the Children Norway, Plan Norway, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions (LO), the Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sport (NIF), Norwegian People's Aid, Digni, the Norwegian Students' and Academics' International Assistance Fund (SAIH), the Norwegian Red Cross, Shelter Norway, the SOS Children's Villages foundation, YWCA-YMCA Global, Sabona and the Norwegian Refugee Council.

Sectors that are supported are education, health, media and information dissemination, human rights, gender equality, governance and emergency aid.

Published 28.08.2014
Last updated 02.10.2015