ZIMSUN Leisure group chief executive officer Shingi Munyeza says attending the recent World Economic Forum (WEF) in Durban, South Africa, helped local businessmen explain Zimbabwe’s current e
conomic crisis and suggest a way forward.
Munyeza was among 18 top business executives who attended the three-day event held from June 11 to 13.
Finance and Economic Development minister Herbert Murerwa led the delegation accompanied by his counterpart Samuel Mumbengegwi of Industry and International Trade.
Murerwa and Mumbengegwi were, however, grilled by international business executives over Zimbabwe’s poor macroeconomic situation.
The WEF ranked Zimbabwe among the worst governed and most “corrupt countries in Africa”, only scoring better than countries such as Nigeria and Chad.
The country was ranked 16th out of 21 African states polled and scored the lowest for the independence of the judiciary and second lowest for the neutrality of government public decisions.
Every international investor consults the key WEF list before they decide where to put their money.
In an interview on his experiences at the WEF, Munyeza said: “Firstly this was my first African Economic Forum so I do not have comparatives except that I can draw similarities with shows and forums I have attended in the tourism sector. The other issue is that I was a panellist on the topic, ‘Tourism as an engine for economic growth’. This obviously gave us (Zimbabwe) a platform to explain our challenges in the context of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.”
Munyeza said Zimbabwe made significant contributions to the Forum because it was currently at the centre of things and “undergoing various problems and successes”.
He said: “Zimbabwe is still the second largest economy in sub-Sahara Africa and its condition is of prime interest to African economies. Our contribution in this regard was explaining to our colleagues how we have managed to survive under such severe macroeconomic challenges including socio-political problems.
“The other contribution we made was that our problems are nearing salvation and that dialogue is the ultimate solution to our crises. This obviously instilled optimism in some of our colleagues and that now is the time to start looking for opportunities in the Zimbabwean arena.”
Asked what participants thought about Zimbabwe as a business destination and whether they were “interested” at all in the country, Munyeza said:
“Indeed we do always receive sympathy from our colleagues because slowly some of them are beginning to realise the complexity of our position. Once we explained to them our optimism they were very supportive.”
The WEF has rated Zimbabwe a “high risk investment destination” at a time when the country is in desperate need of investment.
Two weeks ago the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) suspended Zimbabwe’s voting and related rights in the Fund, after having determined that the country had not sufficiently strengthened its cooperation with the IMF in areas of policy implementation and payments.
The IMF said economic and social conditions in Zimbabwe had “deteriorated progressively over the past four years”.
It said real output had dropped by one third, inflation had reached 270% (currently 300,1%) in the year through April 2003, and welfare and poverty indicators had deteriorated.
Asked if there was “anything to gain from attending such forums”, Munyeza said: “My belief is that such forums are primarily meant for networking with the prime decision-makers on the continent and it is therefore imperative for anyone who wants to be part of the global picture to interact with these decision-makers. We achieved exactly that!”
He said the other objective was for “lobbying and public relations” both at business level as well as at country level.
“On this score we did our best,” he said.
Asked on the way forward, Munyeza said “everyone in sub- Saharan Africa is looking forward to a resolve of the Zimbabwean situation because the potential is immeasurable”.
“We will pursue with our colleagues in different countries to establish synergy points and move on accordingly,” Muyeza said. “Remember most of our big companies are involved in the region already.”