|Zim, Australia relaunch trade ties|
|Wednesday, 09 May 2012 00:00|
ZIMBABWE and Australia are set to relaunch a business council to foster trade and investment between the two countries.
The council, which stopped operations around 2002 due to Zimbabwe’s growing economic crisis, seeks to promote trade and investment in tourism, mining and education, Australian Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Matthew Neuhaus said in an interview yesterday.
“We have been in deep freeze for the past 10 years but we have covered much ground and we are hoping to relaunch it in June,” he said.
Trade between Zimbabwe and Australia steadily rose to A$66 million in five years in 1998. It then fell to about A$23 million in 2000. Since then, there was no meaningful trade between the two countries.
Last year, exports to Australia totalled A$6 million while imports stood at A$1,5 million.
Zimbabwe’s major imports are telecommunications equipment, vehicle spares, agricultural machinery and animal oils and fats while Australia mainly imports tobacco, fresh and crude vegetables.
Some landmark Australian investment in the country included BHP Resources, which incorporated Hartley and Selous platinum projects, RioTinto and Delta Gold.
Beyond mining, Australian investors had various investments in agriculture, education and tourism.
“There was going to be a big take-off (before the economic downturn) and we need to get back to that level,” said the ambassador.
The envoy, who is also attached to Zambia, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, said Zimbabwe was an attractive destination but needed to re-look at policies that were deterring investments.
While acknowledging that the country’s indigenisation programme was a good policy, he felt Zimbabweans did not have capital to provide for the 51 percent, the minimum equity which locals must have in foreign-owned companies.
Foreigners are required by the law to own not more than 49 percent stake.
“Zimbabwe’s mineral potential is one of the greatest in Southern Africa but is still struggling due to unfriendly policies. Most investments from Australia are going to Zambia where the policies are good.”
He said Australia hosted a business luncheon for Zimbabwe at an investment conference in Perth last year, which was oversubscribed, a clear show of confidence among Australian businesspeople.
Australia, under the leadership of Prime Minister John Howard, imposed sanctions on some individuals, following a similar move by the EU, which Government said was a response to the country’s land reforms.
The embargo on 83 individuals was lifted and concentration is now lifting restrictive measures on civil servants and business people. Canberra also actively sought Zimbabwe’s suspension from the Commonwealth in 2002, prompting Harare to pull out of the club of former British colonies the following year.