A series of trading states developed in the area of Zimbabwe prior to the arrival of the first European explorers; the largest of these was the Kingdom of Zimbabwe (ca. 1220-1450). In the 1880s, European colonists arrived with the British South Africa Company (BSAC), which obtained mining rights and established company rule over the area. The southern portion of BSAC holdings were annexed by the UK in 1923 and became the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. A 1961 constitution was formulated that favored whites in power. In 1965 the government unilaterally declared its independence, but the UK did not recognize the act and demanded more complete voting rights for the black African majority in the country (then called Rhodesia). UN sanctions and a guerrilla uprising finally led to free elections in 1979 and independence (as Zimbabwe) in 1980. Robert MUGABE, the nation's first prime minister, was the country's only ruler (as president since 1987) from independence until his resignation in November 2017. His chaotic land redistribution campaign, which began in 1997 and intensified after 2000, caused an exodus of white farmers, crippled the economy, and ushered in widespread shortages of basic commodities. Ignoring international condemnation, MUGABE rigged the 2002 presidential election to ensure his reelection. In 2005, the capital city of Harare embarked on Operation Restore Order, ostensibly an urban rationalization program, which resulted in the destruction of the homes or businesses of 700,000 mostly poor supporters of the opposition. MUGABE in 2007 instituted price controls on all basic commodities causing panic buying and leaving store shelves empty for months. General elections in both 2008 and 2013 were severely flawed and widely condemned, but allowed MUGABE to remain president. As a prerequisite to holding the 2013 election, Zimbabwe enacted a new constitution by referendum, although many provisions in the new constitution have yet to be codified in law. In November 2017, Vice President Emmerson MNANGAGWA took over following a military intervention that forced MUGABE to resign. MNANGAGWA was inaugurated president days later, promising to hold presidential elections in 2018. In July 2018, MNANGAGWA won the presidential election after a close contest with Movement for Democratic Change Alliance candidate Nelson CHAMISA. MNANGAGWA has since resorted to the government's longstanding practice of violently disrupting protests or opposition rallies. Official inflation rates soared in 2019, approaching 500% by the end of the year. MUGABE died in September 2019.



20.0° S, 30. 0° E
Southern Africa, between South Africa and Zambia


390,757 sq km
386,847 sq km
3,910 sq km

land boundaries

3,229 km


0 km


tropical; moderated by altitude; rainy season (November to March)


mostly high plateau with higher central plateau (high veld); mountains in east


961 m
lowest point
junction of the Runde and Save Rivers
162 m
highest point
2,592 m

natural resources

  • coal
  • chromium ore
  • asbestos
  • gold
  • nickel
  • copper
  • iron ore
  • vanadium
  • lithium
  • tin
  • platinum group metals

land use

arable land
10.9 %
permanent crops
0.3 %
permanent pasture
31.3 %
39.5 %
18 %

population distribution

Aside from major urban agglomerations in Harare and Bulawayo, population distribution is fairly even, with slightly greater overall numbers in the eastern half



  • 14,546,314
  • 73
    global rank


  • Zimbabwean(s)
  • Zimbabwean

ethnic groups

99.4 %
0.4 %
0.2 %


  • Shona
    official; most widely spoken
  • Ndebele
    official, second most widely spoken
  • English
    official; traditionally used for official business
  • minority languages
    official; includes Chewa, Chibarwe, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Shangani, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda, and Xhosa


74.8 %
Roman Catholic
7.3 %
other Christian
5.3 %
1.5 %
0.5 %
0.1 %
10.5 %

birth rate

  • 33.6
    per 1,000 population
  • 24
    global rank

death rate

  • 9.3
    per 1,000 population
  • 53
    global rank

urban population

32.2 %

major urban areas

  • Harare
    pop. 1,530,000

life expectancy

  • 62.3
    total population
  • 210
    global rank

adult obesity rate

  • 15.5%
    percent of adults
  • 126
    global rank


government type

presidential republic


17.49 S, 31.2 E


national holidays

  • Independence Day
    18 April

legal system

mixed legal system of English common law, Roman-Dutch civil law, and customary law

age of suffrage


flag description

seven equal horizontal bands of green (top), yellow, red, black, red, yellow, and green with a white isosceles triangle edged in black with its base on the hoist side; a yellow Zimbabwe bird representing the long history of the country is superimposed on a red five-pointed star in the center of the triangle, which symbolizes peace; green represents agriculture, yellow mineral wealth, red the blood shed to achieve independence, and black stands for the native people

national colors

  • green
  • yellow
  • red
  • black
  • white

national anthem

"Kalibusiswe Ilizwe leZimbabwe" [Northern Ndebele language] "Simudzai Mureza WeZimbabwe" [Shona] (Blessed Be the Land of Zimbabwe)



Zimbabwe's economy depends heavily on its mining and agriculture sectors. Following a contraction from 1998 to 2008, the economy recorded real growth of more than 10% per year in the period 2010-13, before falling below 3% in the period 2014-17, due to poor harvests, low diamond revenues, and decreased investment. Lower mineral prices, infrastructure and regulatory deficiencies, a poor investment climate, a large public and external debt burden, and extremely high government wage expenses impede the country’s economic performance. Until early 2009, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) routinely printed money to fund the budget deficit, causing hyperinflation. Adoption of a multi-currency basket in early 2009 - which allowed currencies such as the Botswana pula, the South Africa rand, and the US dollar to be used locally - reduced inflation below 10% per year. In January 2015, as part of the government’s effort to boost trade and attract foreign investment, the RBZ announced that the Chinese renmimbi, Indian rupee, Australian dollar, and Japanese yen would be accepted as legal tender in Zimbabwe, though transactions were predominantly carried out in US dollars and South African rand until 2016, when the rand’s devaluation and instability led to near-exclusive use of the US dollar. The government in November 2016 began releasing bond notes, a parallel currency legal only in Zimbabwe which the government claims will have a one-to-one exchange ratio with the US dollar, to ease cash shortages. Bond notes began trading at a discount of up to 10% in the black market by the end of 2016. Zimbabwe’s government entered a second Staff Monitored Program with the IMF in 2014 and undertook other measures to reengage with international financial institutions. Zimbabwe repaid roughly $108 million in arrears to the IMF in October 2016, but financial observers note that Zimbabwe is unlikely to gain new financing because the government has not disclosed how it plans to repay more than $1.7 billion in arrears to the World Bank and African Development Bank. International financial institutions want Zimbabwe to implement significant fiscal and structural reforms before granting new loans. Foreign and domestic investment continues to be hindered by the lack of land tenure and titling, the inability to repatriate dividends to investors overseas, and the lack of clarity regarding the government’s Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act.


34,270,000,000.000,004 USD

agriculture products

  • tobacco
  • corn
  • cotton
  • wheat
  • coffee
  • sugarcane
  • peanuts
  • sheep
  • goats
  • pigs

poverty level



  • 3,800,000,000
    revenue (USD)
  • 5,500,000,000
    expenditures (USD)



    fixed lines

  • 268,849
    total subscriptions
  • 119
    global rank

    mobile cellular

  • 12,908,992
    total subscriptions
  • 71
    global rank

broadcast media

government owns all local radio and TV stations; foreign shortwave broadcasts and satellite TV are available to those who can afford antennas and receivers; in rural areas, access to TV broadcasts is extremely limited; analog TV only, no digital service (2017)


country code


  • 3,796,618
  • 27.06
    % of population
  • 93
    global rank


electricity access



air transport

    national system

  • 2
    registered air carriers
  • 370,164
    annual passenger traffic


  • 196
  • 17


3,427 km
total length


97,267 km
total length



expenditures here

service age