ZIMBABWE’S future lies in its ability to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). Most important would be the quality of this FDI because short term FDI will not help the country achieve any of its long-term goals, which are to develop a functioning economy with the ability to manufacture and export high quality products.
These products must be able to compete on the global stage and generate foreign currency, which has been in short supply. In fact, export revenues have been a trickle at around US$4 billion a year because FDI has been subdued at about US$500 million per annum.
The rest of southern African economies receive between US$2 billion and US$5 billion yearly. Countries receiving FDI at this rate have been notching double digit gross domestic product growth rates and building up a huge middle-class that consumes at a bigger scale.This is how Angola has risen in the aftermath of the civil war to create Southern African Development Community’s second biggest economy.
With the African Continental Free Trade Area shaping up, the race to capture the region’s US$3 trillion market will intensify, and economies will relax restrictions so as to attract multinationals to produce from their countries and export into Africa and reap the rewards. Those that will struggle on this front will remain perpetual underachievers and perennial beggars.
This is why Zimbabwe, at this point, requires an effective agency to promote both FDI and local investment. The transition from the Zimbabwe Investment Authority to the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (Zida) must not be only on paper.
This is a vital institution whose executives must understand the depth of the task at hand. They must be ready to sacrifice in order to bring change to a country that has been torn apart by mismanagement and plunder. They must be skilled enough to pick up the pieces and rebuild industries that have been affected by capital flight so that thousands of graduates can be absorbed and earn a living.
Not all Zimbabweans will become entrepreneurs. Those who cannot venture into business will require somewhere to work. Local investors have failed to create enough jobs for everyone. That is why unemployment levels are as high as 80%. This places Zida at the heart of an important operation to rebuild Zimbabwe.
Its role is as important as that of the central bank, or a major hospital. Zida’s leaders must know that as they restructure, they must meet the demands of today’ s investor, who now brings billions of dollars, not thousands, which was the case a decade ago.
Zida must remember that there is no holiday time or time to sleep in workshops. It is no time to embark on extravagant shopping sprees when Zimbabwe sends them out to scout for investors. It is time to get down to real work that changes lives and saves a population that has been growing at breakneck speed when opportunities have been shrinking. Zida must be frank on policy proposals. It must be bold enough to tell the government how to move and where to get FDI. This is no time for bootlicking.