Lloyd Gumbo Mr Speaker Sir
So many foreigners have been flocking to Zimbabwe of late to explore investment opportunities after a decade of being shunned by capital particularly from the West due to perceived country risk, or more accurately, pursuant to Western sanctions to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy.
Foreign businesses had little appetite to come and do business in Zimbabwe. One of the major reasons was the misinterpretation of the country’s empowerment laws which, in actual fact, are in sync with most countries in the world, including developed ones such as Britain and United States of America.
However, to our undoing, starting a business in Zimbabwe is an exercise that requires unprecedented patience and commitment given the several offices that one has to go through before they start operating.
This could be the reason some mega-projects that were promising are yet to take shape because of the processes that investors have to go through.
Mr Speaker Sir, it should be noted the issue is not necessarily about waiting for the law to be amended, but for officials to immediately implement some of the proposed arrangements such as reducing bureaucratic red tape when investors come here.
Zimbabwe has become associated with excessive bureaucracy to unprecedented levels, something which should be done away with as a matter of urgency if we are to attract both domestic and foreign direct investment.
The Government has for sometime been pronouncing itself loud and clear that the red tape must be done away with as a matter of urgency.
President Mugabe reiterated this position when he delivered the State of the Nation Address last week when he said Government wanted an urgent overhaul of the Companies Act and all pieces of legislation that hinder the ease of doing business.
“Instead, we expect a clear and robust legislative and regulatory framework to be urgently put in place in order to create a One-Stop-Investment Centre that streamlines processes and procedures. This is now a very urgent and high priority matter for which those responsible will be held to account,” said President Mugabe.
As if that was not clear enough to some authorities as to the direction that President Mugabe wanted the country to take,barely a week later authorities were implementing the same system that hinder the ease of doing business.
Mr Speaker Sir, Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote who flew into the country on Monday morning will testify to this, having zigzagged and gone up and down in several offices just to tell ministers of his decision to invest in sectors under their ambit.
Dangote, who is understood to have flown straight from Lagos in the wee hours of Monday before touching down at the Harare International Airport around 7am, first met Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa at his New Government Complex offices before driving to Munhumutapa Buildings where he met Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.
From Munhumutapa Buildings, the delegation drove to John Boyne building at Corner Speke Avenue/Innez Terrace near Joina City.
The delegation was first taken to the third floor to meet Energy and Power Development Minister Samuel Undenge before going to the seventh floor of the same building to meet Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister, Walter Mzembi.
After that meeting, the delegation was taken to Zimre Centre Building at Corner Leopold Takawira/Kwame Nkrumah to meet Mines and Mining Development Minister, Walter Chidhakwa before driving to Kaguvi Building at corner Central Avenue and Fourth Street to meet Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister, Obert Mpofu who is doubling up as Industry and Commerce Minister.
According to the schedule, the delegation was supposed to then meet Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa, but the meeting failed as the delegation was then called to the State House to meet President Mugabe.
Mr Speaker Sir, this is how hectic Dangote and his delegation’s day was in Harare.
Here is an investor who has decided to bring in billions of dollars by flying here in his private jet only to be subjected to traffic jams as he moved from one ministry to another.
Mr Speaker Sir, there are things that Government can adopt before the official overhaul of the law.
For instance, if an investor comes here, respective ministers can meet him in one place at the same time where they discuss the proposed investments.
There is no magic in ministers’ offices or boardrooms that they insist on meeting investors in their offices.
Government should already be implementing practices that point to reformation if amendments to the law is to make meaningful contributions to the way investors are treated when they come here.
It’s all about change of mindset and attitude.
In all fairness, there was no need for Dangote and his delegation to be visiting each and every ministry where some of the ministers took their time to attend to the delegation.
As a result, there were murmurings by members of the delegation as they waited.
Since Dangote was seeing VP Mnangagwa in the morning, all the ministers who were on the itinerary could have been summoned to the same meeting or a nearby office so that they could discuss the terms at the same time and place.
Mr Speaker Sir, remember they say time is money, so there was no need to take Dangote and his team up and down and to and fro.
It should not take change of the law for Government to implement policies that guarantee ease of doing business in Zimbabwe.
After meeting President Mugabe, Dangote was to drop a hint on the onerous process that investors have to go through before they operate in the country.
“You know there are so many permits and whatever. . . but the Government promised to accelerate (the process) and as soon as we get things right, we will move. We are not here looking to invest, we have already made up our mind to invest, so we are here and we will invest,” he said.
Earlier on after meeting VP Mnangagwa, Dangote had said: “The timeframe for the investment is dependent on getting all the documentation, for instance the mining licences, but if we get everything this year, we will start construction by first quarter next year. We will move very fast, but that all depends on the Government.”
Bureaucracy is usually a breeding ground for corruption, where offices can deliberately stall projects until they are guaranteed of kickbacks.
As the President alluded to during the SONA, cutting the red tape is a matter of urgency that should not take even a week.
But before the law is amended, Government ministries and departments must be implementing policies that are in line with enhancing ease of doing business in the country.
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