I SUBSCRIBE to two of the largest newspapers in Canada, one right- wing and the other left, and every morning I look forward to reading their editorial opinions, which are incisive and thought-pr
ovoking. I choose to forego the main headlines to firstly read the oped sections.
Monday’s edition (Globe & Mail, August 25) contained an article headlined “Time to invest in Zimbabwe”. Written by Art Wright, Canada’s high commissioner to Zimbabwe from 1993 to 1996, it was a fairly accurate report save for a few factual errors here and there, like saying there were parliamentary elections in 1996 and that the MDC contested them and that one United States dollar buys Z$35 000.
The report went on about the erosion of social and political institutions and processes in Zimbabwe. Wright described how opposition parties have been squeezed as well as the general economic meltdown.
He stated that agriculture, mining and tourism provide virtually no foreign exchange to Zimbabwe.
My wife and my sister’s families were recently in Zimbabwe and went to visit the Victoria Falls and Wankie National Park. She paid most of her bills in pounds sterling whilst on their escapade. Although tourism is currently sluggish, it has a great potential. Investment options in this area are still very wide and enticing.
Investment opportunities in communications are vast. The infrastructure needs upgrading and hence great opportunities lie there.
In line with global trends, the services industry needs to be strengthened to establish it as the future leading industry.
After disruptions, agriculture will provide several of our graduates with opportunities to practise their skill. New investment will be needed. The success of agriculture will boost most other sectors.
Apparently, peace seems to be filtering into Africa. Prospects are bright too that African governments are committed to making Nepad a success. All these are signs that Zimbabwe on its own and within the African and global context, is set to prosper.
Wright’s assertion that Zimbabwe is now ripe for investment was based on just one factor – that President Robert Mugabe is now 79 years old and about to retire. That is true.
However, in making his case, Wright could have outlined succinctly the point that President Mugabe was about to retire and therefore Zimbabwe’s political environment was most likely to transform, presenting an ideal place to come and invest.
Alas, he dedicated four fifths of his article to describing what Mugabe had done wrong over the years and not what is there in Zimbabwe that investors could take into account in coming up with their investment decisions.
The other fifth was dedicated to how Canadian institutions like the Canadian International Development Agency (Cida) could possibly help establish and strengthen vital institutions.
Any potential marketer of Zimbabwe should emphasise the picture of a progressive and relatively developed nation waiting to have its potential unlocked. Zimbabwe has the capacity to build and consolidate its institutions.
It is the current deceitful and unproductive political divide which is hindering the strengthening and development of these institutions and political processes.
What we need are partners for inspiration, investment and knowledge exchange. Zimbabwe has a high level of literacy and one of the best in Africa. Our highly skilled and educated workforce is scattered worldwide in key positions driving the global economy.
And sure they will come in handy and ready to uplift the economy working with other international partners.
Wright describes a country so ragged in almost all of its facets. He wanted to demonstrate a demolished nation, so to speak, from our culture right up to our economy and politics. That is partly true.
What is not true is that we are a completely demolished nation. Implicitly, it is another strategy for him to lure various Canadian government, institutions and individuals to come and invest in Zimbabwe. While it would be desirable, it would also be somewhat discourteous and untrue to perpetuate such a perception for the sake of attracting investment. There is a danger that investors might come to Zimbabwe with a wrong mindset.
Instead of dwelling disproportionately on President Mugabe’s misdeeds, I think anyone soliciting possible investment should be highlighting the various prospects that make Zimbabwe the ideal place to come and invest lest they miss a great opportunity.