Zimbabwe - Country Portrait Simbabwe Zoom

  • Name: The name Zimbabwe originally derives from the stone structures of Dzimbabwe and means "stone houses". 
  • Area: 390,757 Quadratkilometer
  • Population (2014): ca. 13 million
  • Population density: ca. 32 inhabitants per square kilometer (compare Germany: 229 inhabitants per square kilometer) 
  • Official language: Englisch
  • Independent: since 1980
  • Capital: Harare
  • Form of government: Parliamentary democracy
  • Average life expectancy:  52.7
  • Illiteracy rate: 20% (population above 15 years) 
  • Top 3 export goods: maize, cotton, tobacco
  • Number of "Cotton made in Africa" farmers (2013): 32,300 
  • Zimbabwe is known for: Lake Kariba which forms the world's largest natural reservoir. 

Zimbabwe borders the states of Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zambia and is dominated by mountainous land. The climate is tropical with a rainy season between November and March. Formerly known Southern Rhodesia, it has belonged to the British Commonwealth since 1923. Since the first free elections in 1979, Zimbabwe has been independent since 1980. 

Culturally, Zimbabwe is still strongly influenced by the former colonial power Britain. The language, education, habits of the educated class and preferences for football clubs are closely connected with the British heritage. The education system which was largely supported by the churches during the colonial period was further developed by the government since the country's independence. However, it suffers from severe under-funding due to the economic crisis. The illiteracy rate is around 20 percent.

Zimbabwe has fertile soil, abundant mineral resources (gold, platinum, diamonds, copper, nickel, chromium, coal, and rare earths) as well as natural touristic attractions such as the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi Valley. The country thus has considerable economic potential. Until the mid 1990s, agriculture, mining, and tourism flourished. Since the late 1990s, however, Zimbabwe has steadily decreased tapping this potential. At the end of 2008, hyperinflation, foreign currency shortage, lack of investment, import and export restrictions, and energy shortages caused all sectors of the economy to almost come to a complete halt. Zimbabwe is still one of the poorest countries in the world. Life expectancy is almost 53 years. It ranks 172 out of 187 on the Human Development Index. Much of the population lives in extreme poverty.

Sources: Human Development Report 2013 (UN); Auswärtiges Amt 2014; World Development Indicators 2014; The World Fact Book 2014.

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