U.S.-Zimbabwe Relations

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

Zimbabwe elected Robert Gabriel Mugabe as the country’s first prime minister in 1980. Mugabe became president in 1987 after changes to the constitution created an executive presidency; he remained in power for 37 years.

In the mid-1990s, the country’s flourishing independent agricultural and industrial sectors, which benefited from a highly educated workforce, led Zimbabwe to become a net exporter to regional and international markets. However, beginning in the late 1990s, the government’s economic mismanagement and corruption resulted in Zimbabwe becoming a deeply indebted country, heavily reliant on humanitarian assistance.

The Mugabe Administration’s undemocratic practices, human rights abuses, and economic mismanagement prompted the United States Congress to pass in 2001 (and amend in 2018) the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA). The law purports to restricts U.S. support for multilateral financing to Zimbabwe until Zimbabwe makes specified political and economic reforms.

Since 2003, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has imposed targeted financial sanctions against individuals and entities in connection with undermining democracy, human rights abuses, or public corruption. In response to Mugabe’s continued repression, the United States also imposed visa restrictions on certain individuals, a ban on transfers of defense items and services destined for or originating in Zimbabwe, and suspended certain government assistance.

In November 2017, military pressure, public demonstrations calling for President Robert Mugabe’s removal, the ruling party’s vote of no confidence, and impeachment proceedings led to Mugabe’s resignation. Former Vice President and Minister of Defense Emmerson D.

Mnangagwa replaced him and was sworn in on November 24, 2017, to serve the remainder of Mugabe’s term.

Mnangagwa won the presidency in his own right in July 2018 in an election that was improved compared to Zimbabwe’s previous elections, but still very flawed according to international election observers.

Despite promises of reform, the Mnangagwa Administration continues to use violence against peaceful protestors and civil society, as well as against labor leaders and members of the political opposition. The Zimbabwean government has made little progress in implementing the broad reforms the country needs.

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 democratic progress are not benefiting from their actions. We have made it clear that credible, transparent, and lasting democratic reforms must precede an easing of restrictive measures.

U.S. Assistance to Zimbabwe

In FY 2021, the United States provided over $317 million in bilateral assistance to support democracy and governance, agriculture, and health programming. In addition, the United States provided $51 million in FY 2021 in humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe. Since 2002, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance has supported the people of Zimbabwe to strengthen health services, increase food security, support economic growth, and promote democratic governance. Notwithstanding ongoing anti-democratic and repressive practices by the Government of Zimbabwe which continue to affect the bilateral relationship, the United States remains the largest provider of health and humanitarian assistance, including through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), food assistance and disaster relief, to the people of 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. Since 2006, PEPFAR has coordinated intensively with the Global Fund, health development partners, civil society, and others contributing to the national HIV response.

Educational and Cultural Exchanges

The United States maintains a thriving series of educational and cultural exchange programs with Zimbabwe that focus on deepening ties between American and Zimbabwean professionals and leaders, particularly amongst academics, researchers, journalists, entrepreneurs, and emerging leaders. We leverage tools like Fulbright Scholars, grants, and Education USA to establish university partnerships that will increase U.S.-Zimbabwe research collaboration and expand professional networks on shared priorities. Zimbabweans prize U.S. tertiary education above all others – with over 1,300 enrolling in American universities each year. Education USA enables us to invest in Zimbabwe’s future leaders and deepen their ties to the United States and its values.

As our Mission does its part to encourage the return of democracy in Zimbabwe, the United States has focused on encouraging members of the public to defend their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the media as set forth in Zimbabwe’s Constitution. The ruling party has “captured” media houses to control the editorial narrative. They have overtaken independent commissions whose role is to protect media freedoms. They have also deployed a disinformation campaign that overshadows the voice of both the public and the press. The United States uses programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), the Humphrey Fellowship, Speakers programs and more to keep on the public’s mind the importance of the right to freedom of expression in and of itself for a thriving democracy. Further, the underpinning of good journalism is a strong business plan. U.S. programs aim to connect media leaders with their American counterparts to be part of a global discussion on the evolving business of good media in a digital age.

The American value for entrepreneurship means more than just building a business. It is the essence of what makes an economy inclusive. U.S. initiatives such as the Young African Leaders Initiative, our American Centers’ professional development curriculum, and the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs, help emerging leaders build business skills to create jobs, enter e-markets, design successful campaigns, and network with their American counterparts to realize their potential.

Bilateral Economic Relations

The U.S. Government works to promote Zimbabwe’s democratic and 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 to help them take advantage of opportunities in Zimbabwe and promote economic ties between the two countries. U.S. policies such as targeted financial sanctions do not prevent U.S. or international businesses from operating in Zimbabwe—only prohibiting them from transacting with sanctioned persons.

Zimbabwe’s Membership in International Organizations

Since independence, Zimbabwe has enunciated and follows a policy of “active nonalignment.” Zimbabwe and the United States belong to several the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

Bilateral Representation

Principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

Zimbabwe maintains an embassy in the United States at 1608 New Hampshire Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20009 (tel. 202-332-7100).

More information about Zimbabwe is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

U.S. Embassy
CIA World Factbook Zimbabwe Page
USAID Zimbabwe Page
History of U.S. Relations With Zimbabwe
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Country Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Office of Foreign Assets Control: Zimbabwe Sanctions Page 
Office of Foreign Assets Control: Searchable Sanctions List (search “Zimbabwe”)
Library of Congress Country Studies
Travel Information
Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act  (ZDERA) of 2001
Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) of 2018 


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