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Policy & History
March 27, 2020

U.S.-Zimbabwe Relations 

The United Kingdom formally granted independence to Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) in 1980, following years of conflict between minority white rulers and majority black guerilla movements. The United States was the first nation to open an embassy in the country, and it pledged assistance toward Zimbabwe’s economic development.

U.S. enduring interest and commitment to the people of Zimbabwe has not changed. The U.S. stands by the commitments that we made to the people of Zimbabwe at independence in 1980; to work together to promote democratic institutions, equitable economic growth, public health, and food security.

The United States plays a leading role in condemning the Zimbabwean Government’s increasing assault on human rights and the rule of law, and joined much of the world community in calling for the Government of Zimbabwe to embrace a peaceful democratic evolution.

In 2001, the United States began imposing restrictions on U.S. support for multilateral financing, followed by financial sanctions against selected individuals and entities, travel sanctions against selected individuals, a ban on transfers of defense items and services, and a suspension of non-humanitarian government-to-government assistance.  Despite strained political relations, the United States is the ‎largest provider of development and humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe.

It is important to note that the Government of Zimbabwe as a whole is not subject to U.S. sanctions.  Within the confines of the targeted sanctions program, the U.S. Government works to promote Zimbabwe’s economic recovery following years of decline, and to highlight opportunities for trade and investment that will benefit U.S. and Zimbabwean businesses alike.  The U.S. Government provides guidance to U.S. businesses about how they can take advantage of opportunities in Zimbabwe while complying with U.S. law. Our development assistance programs in health, agriculture and food security have not stopped and underline our long term commitment to the people of Zimbabwe. 

The United States shares the same fundamental interest as the Zimbabwean people: a stable, peaceful, democratic Zimbabwe that reflects the people’s will and provides for their needs. Our support for the people of Zimbabwe includes ensuring that those Zimbabweans using their positions of power to undermine Zimbabwe’s democratic progress are not benefiting from their actions. We have made it clear that the easing of restrictive measures, including targeted sanctions and travel bans, will only occur in the context of credible, transparent, and lasting democratic reforms. 

U.S. Assistance to Zimbabwe 

In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began a direct assistance program. CDC’s program consists of prevention of HIV transmission; improved care of persons with HIV/AIDS; surveillance, monitoring, and evaluation of the epidemic; and health sector infrastructure support. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided assistance to Zimbabwe since 2002, focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention, democracy and governance programs, humanitarian assistance, economic growth and agriculture, and investing in people.  Since 2003, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has made a $1.7 billion cumulative investment in Zimbabwe, vastly and positively changing the direction of the HIV epidemic.  Among all Zimbabweans on HIV treatment, 90.3 percent had achieved viral load suppression, meaning they effectively have no risk of transmitting HIV to others.  

Commitment to Future Relations 

The United States remains committed to maintaining relations with the people of Zimbabwe, a commitment exemplified by the construction of a New Embassy Campus, dedicated in May 2019.  The $200 million dollar investment employs 700 Zimbabweans on a daily basis and has had a $30 million dollar direct impact on the local economy so far.  The project is a concrete representation of the U.S. commitment to future relations with the people of Zimbabwe.  The United States will also maintain its assistance programs in health and food security; continue its vibrant cultural and educational exchange programs, including the Young African Leaders (YALI) Mandela Washington Fellowship program, one of the most robust per capita in Africa; and will continue to work with local organizations and government on a wide variety of critical issues, including eradicating trafficking in persons, wildlife conservation, ending gender based violence and empowering women, among many other critical initiatives.