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Investment: ‘Zim perception needs addressing’

ON Monday government launched the One-Stop Investment Shop (Osis), housed under the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (Zia), which brings together key regulatory authorities under one roof, namely Zia, the registrar of companies, the Deeds Office, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Mines ministry, the Environmental Management Agency, the Immigration Control Department, Local Government and Zesa, among others.

The institution is primed to cut the time taken to start a business to five days from nearly 100 and hoist Zimbabwe from the dregs of the world. This week Zimbabwe Independent chief business reporter Paul Nyakazeya (PN) spoke with Zia CEO Richard Mbaiwa (RM) about the Osis and investment in the country.
PN: What really is a One Stop Investment Shop and how is it going to have a positive impact on the economy?
RM: A One Stop Shop Investment Centre is a facility that brings together relevant government agencies that facilitate investment to one location, under one roof to provide for co-ordinated, streamlined, prompt efficient expeditious and transparent service to investors.
These services include granting of permits and licences necessary for business start up in Zimbabwe and include company registration, residence and work permits, taxation and customs clearance, among others.
PN: In Zimbabwe it seems people are still sceptical about government, especially their departments, which are usually associated with bureaucracy and red tape. By grouping together all these parties under one roof, is it not another way of grouping bureaucracy?
RM: No. Under Osis we are committing ourselves to a turnaround period of five days on any application. We view Osis as a serious attempt to overcome bureaucracy and red tape associated with government. IT is not going to be business as usual in the Osis. This requires a serious mind set change and to achieve this we are going to engage in serious training and capacity building for Zia staff and Osis staff. We are also developing a software-based investor tracking system which will enable us to track the status of any proposed investment at any time from the point of enquiry to implementation of the project.
PN: What are some of the challenges that are faced by Zimbabwe in trying to promote investment?
RM: The country faces a number of challenges in promoting Zimbabwe worldwide and these include the general negative perception of the country as a place to do business. We need to manage this perception issue very carefully and the establishment of the Osis is a step towards improving our doing business environment. Of course, the Osis must be complemented by other conducive policies and laws and a general acceptance of foreign direct investment in the country.
PN: Zia in October said it embarked on a research framework to establish the number of projects which are being implemented out of 120 investment projects approved last year. How far have you gone in this regard?
RM: Projecting, monitoring, follow up and after care is a continuous process.
PN: Which sectors are foreign investors investing in? And which sectors are locals targeting?
RM:: The sectors that have been targeted by foreign investors are mainly the priority ones for investment, these include, mining, manufacturing, tourism and construction. For instance, in 2009 to October 2010, 121 manufacturing projects were approved by Zia with the main products being bedding and clothing and food processing companies, in mining in the same period over 60 projects were approved. The companies are into mostly gold and chrome ore mining and a few doing exploratory work. The third most popular sector with foreign investors is tourism, with close to 20 projects approved by the authority during the same period under review.
In terms of local investment, the sectors that we have seen more participation by locals are transport, retailing, agriculture, tourism and mining. As the authority we have created a data base of local investors seeking partnership or financing for the projects and from that data base, these are the projects that are more prominent.
PN: How much has been invested in Zimbabwe since January this year?
RM: A total of 127 projects worth US$437 774 851,22 were approved in the period January to October this year.
PN: What do you think has been hindering investment into the country?
RM: Zimbabwe is a potentially rich country with a lot of natural resources and human capital and entrepreneurship which could be used to turn the fortunes of the country around given the right investment business environment. The major challenge that the country is facing relates to the country’s perception which needs to be addressed.
PN: Last month you said there were not enough funds channeled by the Ministry of Finance towards the smooth operation of the One Stop Investment Shop. How is this initiative going to be funded for it to operate at the required standard?
RM: The practice in other countries is that the investment promotion agency is wholly funded by government given the importance attached to investment promotion. Government therefore has to provide the necessary funding for the operation of the centre. Other means will however be pursued.
PN: Which are the other means?
RM: Assistance of developmental agencies.
PN: What other advantages other than facilitating the investment streamline from 90 days to five days does Osis have for investors?
RM: The other benefits of Osis to investors are that apart from reducing the time it takes to set up, this should also substantially reduce the cost of doing business and brings about transparency as procedures are simplified. It also helps in ensuring close and professional working relationship among government agencies.
It will also help in triggering reforms in investment laws as bottlenecks in the system are easily identified and will results in more accurate data collection in investment and investor tracking.
PN: How long can Zimbabwe wait before it sees the fruits of this initiative?
RM: Development is a continuous process and the Osis will go a long way in facilitating investment.
PN: Zimbabwe has major trading partners that are likely to have interested investors who want to invest here. What are you doing to market Osis to these countries so that investors will have knowledge about these developments?
RM: The Osis is a new phenomenon in Zimbabwe which we just launched on December 13 and will be effective on January 1 2011. The plan of the authority is to market the existence of the Osis centre both locally and internationally through our website and promotional material. Promotional tours will also be undertaken to major source markets to sell the improved Zimbabwean brand in investment promotion which will see an improvement in the ease of doing business in the country.

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