I am a Zimbabwean and I believe that the only way my country can move out of the economic mess we are in is not through politics. But simply giving away the country to anyone/any country that may be able to carry our burdens and debt in return we give them all the minerals and resources which are being misappropriated. So I would like to know - if I were to start a campaign to look for someone to claim the country how would I go about it?

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    I'm curious as to whether you think that previous colonialism might have been part of what led to the current situation in the first place? At the least, colonialism has a very poor track record for increasing GDP and standard of living.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 24, 2019 at 7:02
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    Also, Afrobarometer's survey of Zimbabwe attitudes suggests that about 80% percent prefer democracy to any other system. Since colonialism is intrinsically undemocratic for the colony, I don't think your proposed campaign would win much support.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 24, 2019 at 7:07
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    @Obie2.0 It doesn't need to be undemocratic, just like territories of the US (or States, for that matter) are under the control of the Federal Government but are still democratic and still retain significant local control.
    – David Rice
    Jan 24, 2019 at 15:53
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    @DavidRice - I think few people would qualify internal political divisions (states, provinces) as colonies. To start with, they have representation, and thus a measure of input over their governance. Their local systems of government are also usually more autonomous than those of a colony. There are, however, some non-self-governing territories that people argue are colonies for precisely the reason of having no representation and highly controlled local government.
    – Obie 2.0
    Jan 24, 2019 at 21:17
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    @Obie2.0 US Territories don't have representation in the federal government.
    – David Rice
    Jan 24, 2019 at 21:42

5 Answers 5


Welcome to Politics S.E. I'm afraid that your question does not quite fit our question-and-answer format. I'll try some comments anyway:

  • International law does not recognize colonialism any more. There are a few holdovers from earlier days, but for political legitimacy they require both tradition and the consent of the governed.
    Consider the French overseas departments, whose inhabitants are full French citizens, or American Samoa, whose inhabitants are almost but not quite US citizens.
  • Only sovereign nations could become colonial powers. I don't think any is interested in running Zimbabwe these days. Consider how much the war and occupation in Iraq has cost.
  • For that matter, look at the mess in Somalia.

So for both practical and political reasons, forget it. Zimbabwe has to solve her own political problems. The rest of the world may be able to help, but it can't take over.

  • 4
    And if the OP is looking for the British to return … the mess they're in with Brexit should demonstrate what a bad idea that is. Jan 24, 2019 at 7:32
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    "International law does not recognize colonialism any more." - what legal course under international law do Tibetans, Uighurs, or Crimean Tatars have?
    – Golden Cuy
    Jan 24, 2019 at 10:23
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    @AndrewGrimm, the Chinese pretend that the Tibetians are Chinese.
    – o.m.
    Jan 24, 2019 at 16:18
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    @JohnDallman As a Brit, that stings, but you're not wrong. We're making a colossal mess of running our own country these days, never mind trying to run someone else's.
    – F1Krazy
    Jan 25, 2019 at 20:52
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    @F1Krazy: I, too, am British. Jan 26, 2019 at 9:47

This question misunderstands the nature of colonization. During the Colonial period, European nations saw Africa, Asia, and the Americas as 'open' unclaimed land. Colonizations was mainly done by private individuals and corporation, subsidized and authorized by European nations. These nations established Colonial boundaries by treaty among themselves — without much consideration of native populations — and used their militaries to defend those borders and suppress or extirpate native populations. Once these colonies separated from the colonial powers they became nations in their own right, and were no longer seen as unclaimed land.

There is no established mechanism for a nation to 'give up' its status as a nation and return as ostensibly 'open' unclaimed land. Even in a case like Somalia, where government has collapsed completely, the nation of Somalia continues to exist as a failed state. Colonists cannot merely move in with military support (as happened during the Colonial period) without it being considered an invasion and act of war.

The closest to recolonization Zimbabwe might manage would be to pass legislation turning the management of its political system and natural resources over to some large private corporation: e.g. Amazon, Apple, Walmart, Bank of China, JP Morgan... This company would then 'manage' the nation as a for-profit business, taking on responsibility for debts, restructuring social and political institutions, developing infrastructure, etc, with the natural resources and local population used to turn a profit. That was the essence of the Colonial world in any case, saving that a modern corporation could not rely on any specific nation to provide military power, but would have to establish and fund 'private' security forces to protect its interests and suppress opposition.

You might have to rename the capital city Bezosia or iHarare or some such; just sayin'...

  • It's worth mentioning that companies are just as good as, if not better, than colonial powers when it comes to asset stripping. You may find everything of value in your country is seperated and everything, and everyone, else is allowed to go 'bankrupt'.
    – Eric Nolan
    May 19, 2021 at 9:12
  • I also think the OP doesn't fully understand what being a colony was like (speaking as someone who lives in a former colony too). Colonial powers routinely massacred indigenous population to 'keep order' and looted everything of value leaving the natives to suffer or starve. That sort of behaviour would be a lot more difficult to engage in today, at least without a lot of condemnation from the rest of the world. That makes it less appealing to potential colonizers.
    – Eric Nolan
    May 19, 2021 at 9:25
  • @EricNolan I dunno. Look at photos of African cities during the colonial era, and look at the same places now, and it's like night and day. Competent management by people who seek to exploit the country can be preferable to incompetent management by people who aren't. After all, the exploiters have incentives to build and maintain infrastructure and enforce law and order.
    – nick012000
    May 20, 2021 at 1:43
  • At least they made the trains run on time eh? Whether having fancy civic buildings for the colonisers to look at and the lucky elite of the colonised to work in is worth the price of brutal extermination of protestors is up to you to judge I guess.
    – Eric Nolan
    May 20, 2021 at 9:11
  • @EricNolan sadly Zimbabwe has brutally exterminated populations after colonization was over. The current president is accused of having had a critical role in the Gukurahundi and in January 2019 twelve protestors died during a crackdown.
    – gormadoc
    May 20, 2021 at 17:48

A sovereign country such as Zimbabwe could apply to join a federation (for example, to join the United States as a new state, or as several new states), or it could appeal to any sovereign country to be annexed to that country in some form or another as an "overseas territory". Depending on the prospective country's constitution, there may already be mechanisms in place for this. Most countries would probably insist on seeing clear signs that at least a majority of the population supports the move.

As pointed out elsewhere, the prospects for convincing another country to do this would probably be slim, even without considering Zimbabwe's structural problems.

if I were to start a campaign to look for someone to claim the country, how would I go about it?

I would probably start by looking at the world's larger countries to see whether their foreign policy indicates that they might have an interest. Countries with strong anti-immigrant sentiment, especially if it is directed against African immigrants, might be less likely to be interested. Countries with strong geopolitical ambitions might be more likely to be interested, but I would be concerned that such countries would be less likely to act in the interest of Zimbabwe's people.

In practice, I suspect that this is more useful as an interesting thought experiment than a way out of Zimbabwe's political woes. I do not know much about Zimbabwe's current affairs, but speaking generally, if the country's politicians or people cannot agree on how to run the country, how could they agree to give its management over to another party? If mineral resources or other kinds of wealth are being misappropriated, wouldn't the beneficiaries of that misappropriation use the same tactics to thwart this plan that they now use to protect their interests within Zimbabwe's current political system?

To put it another way, any potential suitor would probably respond by saying "clean up your act first, then we can talk." That would of course frustrate the very reason behind your desire to pursue the plan.


Maybe you can take inspiration from the book or movie "The mouse that roared". Seek out a nice country by which you would like to be colonized and declare war on it. If things play out well, you will lose and get occupied by said country. With a bit of luck Zimbabwe will end up as rich as Germany or Japan after a few years of US-occupation.

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    It would take a lot of luck: the outcomes for Germany and Japan were driven more by geopolitical concerns (that Zimbabwe doesn't address) than by any desire to improve their situations. Germany and Japan were former great powers in strategic locations. Zimbabwe is not. Iraq and Afghanistan might be better occupations for comparison.
    – gormadoc
    May 19, 2021 at 20:50

Get into debt with China, then surrender your sovereignty one piece at a time in exchange for loan forgiveness.

China is getting into Africa in a big way; they've built infrastructure projects in every African country but Swaziland, and many of these projects are built by Chinese engineers and paid for by loans from Chinese banks. This is part of a strategy by the Chinese government often referred to as "debt trap diplomacy", wherein China makes loans to the governments of impoverished nations, knowing that they're unlikely to be able to repay them long-term. Then, when their victims aren't able to repay their loans, China demands ownership of important strategic assets in said nation, such as ports, electrical networks, or mineral deposits.

So, in short, if you want your country to become a colony again, become a political leader, get your country heavily into debt with China, and then surrender your country's sovereignty one small piece at a time in exchange for loan forgiveness.

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