Abel Zhakata Senior Reporter
THE Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries has bemoaned the slow rate at which Manicaland is attracting foreign direct investment despite being endowed with vast natural resources that present lucrative business opportunities.
CZI national vice-president Mr Richard Chiwandire said the obtaining situation in the province was worrying compared to what is happening elsewhere. “Yes, the Willowton Group and recently Mega Market have invested in new business ventures in Mutare, but the overall rate is slow. The province has a 33 percent new investment uptake, which is lower compared to what is happening in other provinces.
“We have few players opening up new businesses as well as those who inject fresh capital to resuscitate collapsed operations. Our hope is to see more players coming on board to revive industries,” he said. Mr Chiwandire said with the abundant natural resources at hand, Manicaland was supposed to be topping the charts.
“What it means is that we should strongly lobby for the setting up of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in the province so that we reawaken investor interest and be able to lure foreign direct investment.” SEZs are areas in which business and trade laws are different from the rest of the country, which increases trade, investment, job creation and effective administration by offering incentives to investors.
At the beginning of the year, the Minister of Policy Co-ordination and Promotion of Socio-Economic Ventures in the President’s Office, Cde Simon Khaya Moyo, said no city would be left out of the SEZs initiative which is tailor-made to boost economic growth.
Mr Chiwandire said the setting up of the zones in the province would definitely excite investors and ignite exponential economic growth. Manicaland Provincial Administrator Mr Edgars Seenza has said Government departments must work hard to ensure the ease of doing business in order to attract investment.
He said investments made by the Willowton Group and Mega Market showed that investors were slowly gaining confidence in setting up factories in Mutare. Mega Market is constructing a $30 million maize meal and flour plant in the Nyakamete Industrial Area, which will employ more than 100 people.
Production is expected to start this month. Mr Seenza said the Mega Market plant would add value to locally produced farm products, thereby creating more revenue for the country.
Willowton Group, which is currently employing 130 workers and operating at 75 percent capacity utilisation, has also brought life to the Nyakamete Industrial Area which used to accommodate blue chip companies like Mutare Board and Paper Mills that closed shop owing to economic challenges.