PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday appealed to Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner South Africa to increase investment in the cash-strapped country to reverse the worst economic implosion since dollarisation.
By Hazel Ndebele
Zimbabwe’s economy is contracting, with critics blaming policy inconsistency and toxic prescriptions such as the Economic Empowerment policy compelling foreign investors to cede at least 51% shareholding to locals. In a marked departure from his traditional rhetoric, Mugabe yesterday reassured South Africa’s businesspeople that Harare would create a conducive environment for their enterprises to grow.
This comes barely a week after Zimbabwe was adjudged one of the worst investment destinations, according to the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report.
Zimbabwe has slipped four places to 161 on the World Bank’s rakings despite the country undertaking a number of reforms
“Our thrust towards industrialisation through value addition and beneficiation of available natural resources offers vast opportunities for joint ventures and investment partnerships,” said Mugabe at the official opening of the inaugural session of the Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission (BNC) in Harare. “I want to assure South African businesspeople that their investments are safe here in Zimbabwe. We wish to see more South African investment here, as much as we wish to also see more Zimbabwean investment in South Africa.”
Mugabe and South African President Jacob Zuma met in Harare yesterday in fulfilment of the decision the two heads of state took last year of establishing the BNC to strengthen relations between the neighbouring countries.
The agreement requires the two nations to promote private sector engagements and co-operation with a view to promoting cross-border trade and investment that is mutually beneficial to the two countries.
Zuma, on the other hand, said his country was ready to invest in Zimbabwe as long as government ensured and encouraged a conducive business environment and policy certainty.
“We need to pay attention to economic co-operation, our business communities stand ready to play their part if as governments we create a conducive environment for ease of doing business including but not limiting to establishment of a one-stop border post for facilitation of free movement of people, goods and services, policy certainty among others,” said Zuma
Mugabe expressed concern over the absence of the business forum, saying captains of industry should become an integral feature of the BNC sessions.
“It is regrettable that the business forum involving business representatives from Zimbabwe and South Africa was, due to some logistical problems, not held as part of the programme of this inaugural session of the BNC,” he said.
The two countries yesterday then signed a Bilateral Air Service Agreement and also resolved that the Joint Trade and Investment committee should be implemented by the end of the first quarter of 2017.