Last updated in June 2017

Political relations

The Federal Republic of Germany established diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe immediately after the country gained independence in 1980. Since then, Zimbabwe has been ruled by Robert Mugabe. During the first 15 years of Mugabe’s rule, Germany became a valued economic partner of Zimbabwe as well as a supporter of the country’s development efforts. This changed as a result of the illegal farm occupations in the late 1990s, human rights violations, the politically motivated violence during the 2002 presidential election and the increasing disregard for law and order. In 2002, the European Union imposed targeted restrictive measures, such as travel bans and asset freezes, against leading figures in the Zimbabwean Government and the ruling party, ZANU-PF. It also imposed an arms embargo. Economic sanctions were not, however, placed on the country as a whole. Starting in 2012, the restrictive measures were progressively lifted almost entirely. The only measures that remain in place are the arms embargo and targeted restrictive measures against President Mugabe, his wife Grace Mugabe and the company Zimbabwe Defence Industries. The Mugabe Government, however, continues to blame the sanctions for the country’s economic decline over the past 20 years. Conversely, the Zimbabwean opposition sees Germany as a preferred partner in its plans for the political and economic reconstruction of the country.

Since the July 2013 elections that saw ZANU-PF once again become the sole ruling party, the Zimbabwean Government has shown interest in improving bilateral relations. Germany’s willingness in principle to engage in political dialogue has been demonstrated by visits to Zimbabwe by the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid in November 2014, the Federal Foreign Office’s Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa and the Sahel in March 2015 and the Federal Chancellor’s Personal Representative for Africa in October 2016.

Germany continues to support efforts to establish a free, pluralistic democracy in Zimbabwe, based on the Constitution approved by an overwhelming majority of Zimbabweans in 2013.

Economic relations

Zimbabwe is in the midst of an economic and social crisis, the roots of which lie primarily in the Government's misguided policies. Following a catastrophic economic decline between 1998 and 2008, Zimbabwe’s economy stabilised to a certain extent, mainly due to the revival of the country’s mining sector (particularly gold, platinum and diamond mining). Since 2013, however, the country’s economy has again fallen into a dangerous downward spiral, which has been further compounded by the effects of the droughts of 2015 and 2016. Zimbabwe’s economic growth in the past few years was just barely positive. Foreign investors are deterred by the lack of legal certainty and the weak protection of property rights, as well as the continued pursuance of the policy of “indigenising” Zimbabwe’s economy and the lack of transparency in implementing this policy. Despite this difficult climate, Germany remains a major trading partner of Zimbabwe’s, although the economic and social crisis has meant that bilateral trade lags far behind its potential and investment has practically come to a standstill.

In 2015, Zimbabwe exported goods worth 40.78 million euros to Germany and imported goods worth 45.1 million euros from Germany. German investment in Zimbabwe is predominantly in sectors such as mining, logistics, agriculture, tourism and textiles.

A bilateral investment protection agreement entered into force on 14 April 2000. Its implementation remains difficult – especially in the agricultural sector – due to the political intervention by Zimbabwean Government agencies. An air transport agreement between Germany and Zimbabwe has been in force since 1999. However, a year later Lufthansa ceased operating flights to Harare, instead providing flight connections to Germany via Johannesburg through cooperation and code-sharing with South African Airways.

A double taxation agreement is in place between Germany and Zimbabwe.

Development cooperation and humanitarian aid

Owing to political developments in Zimbabwe – such as human rights violations, the undermining of the rule of law, the lack of development-oriented economic policies and the occupation and expropriation of farms – no further commitments have been made concerning development cooperation since 2000. Germany’s official bilateral development cooperation with Zimbabwe was suspended at the end of June 2002. Since then, the only projects being supported are those implemented by civil society actors with help from a development fund. By providing humanitarian aid and emergency and transitional relief (food, medicine, etc.) to Zimbabwe’s population, the German Government sought, at the height of the general crisis, to alleviate the hardship caused by misguided policies. While Zimbabwe’s Government of National Unity was in power (2009-2013), German development cooperation supported humanitarian measures as part of transitional aid coordinated with the international donor community, as well as measures designed to strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Following the controversial elections of July 2013, funding was reduced once again. At present, the only measures being supported are those designed to immediately improve people’s living conditions and to promote democracy and the rule of law at local level. Despite the above-mentioned restrictions, Germany remains one of Zimbabwe’s largest donors. It is a contributor to the Zimbabwe Multi-Donor Trust Fund (ZimFund), which is managed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group and provides urgently needed reconstruction assistance in the water and energy sectors. In addition, Germany is a major donor to the UNICEF-administered Education Development Fund (EDF), which is succeeding in its goal of ensuring access to primary education in Zimbabwe. Germany also provides assistance in the areas of food security and water supply. In 2015, Germany’s official development assistance (ODA) to Zimbabwe amounted to 26.82 million euros.

Since the beginning of the 2015 drought, the German Government has been providing support for numerous measures by multilateral institutions, NGOs and civil society actors to combat famine and promote projects to grow food. This especially benefits Zimbabwe’s poor rural population.

Cultural relations

A cultural agreement concluded between Germany and Zimbabwe in 1996 entered into force in 1998. For decades, German cultural activities have focused on the education sector. Since 2010, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has provided 652 scholarships enabling Zimbabweans to study at German universities, as well as sur place scholarships at the University of Zimbabwe. There is a German section at the University of Zimbabwe’s Department of Modern Languages, where more than 100 Zimbabwean students are learning German.

Despite the overall poor political situation, Germany has continued to provide annual support to the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), the Zimbabwe International Film Festival (ZIFF) and the International Images Film Festival for Women (IIFF). This support is highly appreciated by the Zimbabwean partners.

The Goethe-Zentrum in Harare, together with the Zimbabwe-German Society, conducts an active cultural programme, which is held in high regard in Zimbabwe. The numerous events it organises, in particular concerts, are very well received. It also offers German courses.


This text is intended as a source of basic information. It is regularly updated. No liability can be accepted for the accuracy or completeness of its contents.

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