U.S. Relations With Zimbabwe

Bureau of African Affairs
Fact Sheet
March 15, 2016

More information about Zimbabwe is available on the Zimbabwe page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.


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.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was elected as Zimbabwe’s first prime minister in 1980 and became president in 1987 after changes to the constitution created an executive presidency. He has remained in power ever since.

In 2001, the United States began imposing targeted sanctions on the Government of Zimbabwe, including restrictions on U.S. support for multilateral financing, 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 a leading provider of humanitarian assistance to the people of Zimbabwe.

During the period between 2000 and 2008, the United States took 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.

While relatively peaceful, the presidential and parliamentary elections of July 2013 were deeply flawed, and the United States and others in the international community concluded that the polls did not represent the will of the Zimbabwean people.

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 few 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

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance to Zimbabwe since 2002 has focused on HIV/AIDS prevention, democracy and governance programs, humanitarian assistance, economic growth and agriculture, and investing in people. 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.

Bilateral Economic Relations

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.

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 a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to Zimbabwe is Harry K. Thomas, Jr.; other 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:

Department of State Zimbabwe Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook Zimbabwe Page
USAID Zimbabwe Page
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative Countries Page
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Office of Foreign Assets Control Sanctions Page
Library of Congress Country Studies
Travel and Business Information