EDITORIAL COMMENT: Diasporans must lead investment drive

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s first foreign trip since inauguration, where he charmed Zimbabweans based in South Africa and foreign investors, marks a major milestone towards rejuvenating the country’s economy.

The standing ovation President Mnangagwa received and the huge interest Zimbabwean and South African businesspeople displayed to listen to his new policies and economic order, shows huge confidence the world has in the country. Indeed, Zimbabwe has the best climate, soils and minerals in the region, if not the world that need to be sustainably exploited for the benefit of her people.

With the new thrust President Mnangagwa has embraced, it is true the country can attain massive economic empowerment for its people while at the same time attracting billions of dollars in foreign direct investment. In his acceptance speech as President and the recent State of the Nation Address, President Mnangagwa stressed he was targeting the economy, economy and more economy.

In his maiden visit to South Africa on Thursday, the President declared Zimbabwe open for investment in all sectors and the new administration is leaving no stone unturned to create a conducive environment for investors by amending various pieces of legislation. The President told a highly-subscribed business meeting it was no longer business as usual in Zimbabwe and the Diaspora was supposed to grab opportunities created by the new dispensation and come home to invest.

The appeal was apt because charity must begin at home. He noted: “Zimbabwe is open for business. Yes, there will be political issues, but primarily it’s economics and trade for Zimbabwe. To achieve that, we need to revisit our own legislation in Zimbabwe to open for business.

“With my team, we first began to look at the indigenisation legislation. We are in the process of amending and updating that legislation, but we allowed the Minister of Finance (Patrick Chinamasa) to announce a major shift to that policy with regards to extractive industry in Zimbabwe. In the past, the policy was that investors coming to Zimbabwe were required to agree to 51 percent for Zimbabwe and 49 percent for the investor,” he said.

“We have now changed to limit that application to two minerals only, which we believe for now we do not have adequate technology or know-how to access the quantum of those minerals, that is platinum and diamonds. We have reserved those two minerals so that question of 51/49 applies to those, but for the rest of other 19 minerals in Zimbabwe is totally open.”

There have been complaints of policy inconsistency in the past, which sent conflicting signals to the investing community. With the new economic order, we believe this will be a thing of the past and that investors are willing to engage Zimbabwe on a win-win basis for mutual benefit. While the new administration is willing to bend over backwards, it is certainly not the intention to revert to exploitative relationships in which only those with capital benefit in the name of employment creation.

To demonstrate its willingness to work with all investors across the globe, Government has already awarded a US$400 million contract for the refurbishment of the National Railway of Zimbabwe to Zimbabweans in the Diaspora. Given that many countries have seen people based in the Diaspora investing billions in their economies, President Mnangagwa’s pro-business approach should strike the right cord in South Africa and beyond for the Diasporans to become major investors in the country and a source of foreign currency.

Zimbabweans based outside are de facto ambassadors of the country and we implore the new dispensation to incetivise these sons and daughters of the country to market Zimbabwe as a safe investment destination.

Zimbabweans should play ball in local economic development and make sure that supply tenders for the dualisation of the South-North highway – that is Beitbridge to Harare-to-Chirundu – are also awarded to local players under strict supervision as they gain experience in executing such major projects.

Due to sluggish development in the past as the country dealt with the ramifications of the land reclamation programme, Zimbabwe needs to adopt robust policies to catch up with other countries in the region and the world and we believe together we can move forward. Local resourcefulness, paired with skills of Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and backed by proper policies consistently applied, the country should not take long to start gaining lost ground.

Remember, divided we fall and united we stand. We have the capacity to accelerate our economy past most African nations which have not yet resolved the resource-ownership imbalances inherited from the colonial era. We are already ahead of South Africa which is working on implementing its “radical socio-economic transformation”.

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