Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
INDIGENOUS Business Women Organisation (IBWO) has hailed President Mnangagwa’s policy thrust saying his proposed cocktail of reform measures and programmes, some already being implemented, will turn around the economy, transform the lives of poor people, create employment and grow exports among others.
IBWO president Jane Mutasa told The Herald Business in an interview that President Mnangagwa’s policies had significant potential to change Zimbabwe’s economic landscape following decades of stagnation and meltdown that led to loss of jobs, widespread poverty, closure of industries and plunge in agriculture productivity.
Finance and Economic planning Minister Patrick Chinamasa projected in his 2018 National Budget that the economy would grow by an estimated 4,5 percent mainly driven by growth in mining and agriculture sectors. Zimbabwe’s economy, Dr Mutasa said, had suffered for nearly four decades and while the new dispensation had come up with a cocktail of measures to address the economic ills of the past, it would take some time before everything fell back in place.
The IBWO leader also praised Government for efforts to readmit Zimbabwe into the global family of nations saying no country could thrive as a pariah state in a globalised village. Zimbabwe is on a crusade to re-establish sour relations with western countries, multi-lateral institutions and gain readmission into the Commonwealth.
According to President Mnangagwa Zimbabwe has realized well over $16 billion in foreign investment commitments since his administration took over from former president Robert Mugabe in November last year, on the back of growing investor confidence, policy and legal reforms.
President Mnangagwa has also opened Zimbabwe’s once tight political space, which sees 23 vie for presidency in the July 2018 harmonised elections, pledging free, fair and credible elections while promising respect for and protection of foreign investors’ rights.
Dr Mutasa said Zimbabwe’s economy will draw significant benefits from the new dispensation’s new thrust targeting both foreign and domestic investment, which President Mnangagwa has relentlessly championed through the mantra “Zimbabwe is open for Business.”
The IBWO president said the policy thrust will attract foreign investment, which would result in robust growth in capital inflows to start new businesses and boost established ones that are currently struggling, which will create new jobs for the unemployed youth and women.
“As women of Zimbabwe, we are very happy with the new dispensation; the way things are going, which has created an environment friendly to business and investment. Many women wanted to get into (commercial) farming, but they did not have the capital required for this.
“We applaud the (new) Government for the Command Agriculture programme, which has provided inputs such as fertilisers and chemicals, which women could not afford, but now they can participate and produce enough food for their families and if any, sell the surplus.
“The Command Agriculture programme will improve food security in the country and reduce the import bill, which will help serve elusive foreign currency in our country.
“And when this happens and when we save the foreign currency, the businesses that need hard currency to import critical raw materials will be rejuvenated. As such, we can only lower the import bill by producing more locally. New investment in mining will also help generate the much needed foreign currency,” Dr Mutasa said.
“We welcome the new dispensation’s Zimbabwe is open for business approach because that has created an enabling environment for business and investment to thrive. This will restore Zimbabwe to old glory as the giant of Africa
“We are happy also that the new dispensation has brought peace across the country. When there is no peace in the country, it is the women and children who suffer the most. Dr Mutasa hailed Government for interventions in terms of capacitating farmers through farm mechanisation, which entailed installation of centre pivots, saying this was critical to ensure Zimbabwe produces enough to feed its people.
“Farmers were not able to invest in mechanised farming such as centre pivots for irrigation. This will ensure that farmers realise high yields; whether it’s rainy season or dry season or there is rainfall or not; the farmers will be able to produce all year round,” Dr Mutasa said.
The IBWO president also commended President Mnangagwa’s administration over its plans to open a new bank for women saying this will address their funding needs. She said while the available capital from the newly established bank will start small, the idea behind its set up was noble and that the bank would grow gradually with time.
She noted that a bank dedicated to provide funding for women was critical given the fact that under the traditional banking system, women were not considered worthy borrowers due to lack of the requisite collateral.
Dr Mutasa said with source of capital to support indigenous people’s businesses starting to gradually build up, it was critical that every Zimbabwean played their part and be productive to help rebuild the economy.
“But the interest rates are very high. When women get some funding from the banks, the interests charged do not match what the women will realise from the proceeds of their businesses.
“It makes the cost of what they produce very high; to be competitive and to export, we need lower interest rates.”
Dr Mutasa also spoke glowingly about efforts the new Government was taking to repair and rehabilitate damaged roads, which were no longer trafficable due to potholes and effect of rainwater and years of wear and tear without attention.
“The roads are being repaired in low and high density suburbs; they are being repaired in every city and province.”