Bernard Bwoni Correspondent
Zimbabwe is an extraordinary country that is setting a whole different standard to the concept of economic development. The country has faced challenge after challenge and has withstood all adversity and continues to do so. There have been challenges of communication (or lack of) and consistency (or lack of).
The fact of the matter is that Zimbabwe is a country on the cusp of a phenomenal economic take-off and that is unavoidable.
The difference between this impending take-off and what most African countries temporarily achieve (and then inevitably falter) is the fact that the Zimbabwean model is backed and manned by genuinely economically empowered natives.
That is crucial.
I will clarify and quantify this later on in the article. The bottom line is that the country’s land reform and economic empowerment strategies have been a success and are starting to bear fruit.
Zimbabwe has one of the most elaborate financial and banking systems by regional standards with an array of commercial banks, merchant banks, building societies, asset management companies, finance houses and insurance companies.
The investment process in Zimbabwe is also made fluid by the highly effective Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA).
ZIA is the first port of call for all investors and their website www.investzim.com is vibrant and provides up-to-date investment information and processes.
All investment information, facilitation, procedures and documentation to be completed and submitted are clearly explained.
ZIA is there to assist investors and potential investors to obtain all necessary permits, licences and all authorisations to fully set up business in Zimbabwe.
The country is surging ahead with initiatives to improve the economy and to make for smooth and ease of doing business. There have been genuine and practical efforts on the part of Government to spruce up the business environment, cleansing it of all obstacles that make Zimbabwe less attractive to capital.
The country has already reduced the time it takes to register a company from 90 days to 13 days with the aim of reducing it to three days in due course.
This has already caught the attention of potential investors and when I visited the ZIA, I was informed of the surge in enquiries and the interest investors are taking in the country.
I was met with unmatched professionalism and high standards of service at the ZIA offices. The offices are clean and airy and staff from reception all the way to all the main offices could not do enough to assist and provide you with information.
One of the executives we met, Mr Ranga, was responsive and provided us with relevant and precise information about business registration and all the processes. Now this is the standard of reception the potential investor is expecting and it is world class.
The young lady at reception was smiling and warm. This is a country setting the tone, the right tone for its inevitable and impending economic take-off. This is a country shouting and shouting loudly that it is open for business. And it is and there are business opportunities.
Zimbabwean law recognises the issue of property rights and this is enshrined in the new Constitution. It guarantees the right to private ownership and Chapter 4, Part 2, Subsection 71 of the Constitution addresses the overall issue of property rights fairly and again in line with international law.
These rights are extended to all people and the rights to compensation are recognised. Part 2, Section 72 of the Constitution points out that access to agricultural land is seen as a “fundamental right” and that “every citizen of Zimbabwe has a right to acquire, hold, occupy, use, transfer, hypothecate, lease or dispose of agricultural land regardless of his or her race or colour’’.
The rights are extended to all people and the rights to compensation are recognised. However, the issue of property of agricultural land needed to be and was addressed in line with the need to “redress the unjust and unfair pattern of land ownership that was brought about by colonialism”.
The issue of property rights is clearly covered under Zimbabwean law and no investor is going to have their investment taken from them. This has never happened in the country and is unlikely to happen.
The country has been making significant strides in infrastructural development initiatives. There have been practical and sustained efforts in the rehabilitation and construction of road networks, power generation, information technology and water treatment.
Tokwe-Mukosi is nearing completion and Kariba is halfway through retooling and rehabilitation. The completion of the Hwange Thermal Power Expansion, Gwayi-Shangani and Makomo will generate additional thousands of megawatts for the national grid.
In the next few years once all the power generation projects are completed, Zimbabwe will potentially be exporting power to its regional partners.
As we speak, load shedding has become a thing of the past in Zimbabwe. Power supplies have been constant and consistent even before the completion of all the power generation projects taking place in the country. Work at Morton Jaffray Waterworks is nearing completion in Harare and water treatment rehabilitation and retooling are being cascaded nationwide.
There is evidence on the ground of dualisation of the country’s major highways with Harare-Bulawayo almost complete, the Harare-Beitbridge set to begin soon. The Plumtree-Mutare Road and Airport Road have now been completed and are world class.
Zimbabwe has made inroads in information and technology assimilation with a 100 percent mobile penetration, according to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (potraz).
Zimbabwe has in excess of 13 million mobile phone subscribers, which easily translate to every individual in the country having access to mobile phone communication.
The strength of the housing market in any country is a very important indicator and in the current economic environment in Zimbabwe, it needs to be used with caution. It could be that houses are overpriced but it is a demand and supply issue. The strength of the Zimbabwe housing market lies in the fact that most homes are owned outright with no mortgage or outstanding loans. There is money in brick-and-mortar.
The Zimbabwe agricultural sector is set for a revival in the coming season as there has been significant investments in the sector. Crucially, the Presidential Inputs Scheme will continue to benefit many households throughout the country for the current agricultural season. This strategic scheme targets maize, small grains and livestock which are important for the country’s food security and national self-sufficiency. These are positive and proactive initiatives on the part of the Government to stimulate agricultural growth as this ensures that seeds are readily and timely available at the start of the planting season. It is from an agricultural base that the country’s economic revival is stemming from.
One of the key stumbling blocks to the revival of the agricultural sector has been access to financial resources, in particular the small-scale and newly resettled farmers. The Government has been proactive and made good progress in terms of facilitating resource mobilisation from the country’s financial institutions.
The Prescribed Asset Status (PAS), the Liquid Asset Status, tax exemptions and Government guarantees are some of the key strategies the Government has been pursuing to ensure that the agricultural financing institutions are more willing to fund the sector.
Now is the time to invest in this unique and strategically placed African country. Africa’s safest and most peaceful country.