Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Senior Business Reporter —
ZIMBABWE has come a long way since the beginning of 2000 until now. Not only has the economy been in both hyperinflation and deflation, it has seen the loss of its own currency, the flight of many investors, the adoption of a foreign currency that made it more expensive than its competitors, lost control of same currency, introduced a new currency only accepted in Zimbabwe (bond notes) and everything else in between.
A lot has happened, period! But the most notable thing to have happened during all this economic turmoil was the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe after 37 years in power. It seems his stepping down has unlocked whatever doors had been locked on this country’s economic fortunes.
Not only have we seen a change in Government’s stance on economic development, we are beginning to see a perceptible change in the attitudes of those investors who had turned their backs on Zimbabwe. Suddenly, the country seems to be less soiled and more appealing to those investors who had once declared it a basket case.
Apparently, the tweaks applied to the indigenisation laws of the country have whetted the appetite of investors. It has renewed their interest in Zimbabwe, a country with unlimited potential for the keen investor.
Zimbabwe Investment Authority chief executive Mr Richard Mbaiwa told our sister paper The Sunday Mail that there are indications that investors have changed their perception towards Zimbabwe as an investment destination following renewed expressions of interest at the Africa 2017 Forum held in Egypt recently.
“I would say there is quite a lot of interest and investors also expressing positivity, if I may put it that way. So what I may say is, now there is a perception change by investors,” he said.
While it might not follow that this renewed interest will automatically bring investment, it is a step in the right direction. We might actually begin to see a trickle of foreign direct investment which will gradually increase over time.
But there are many reforms Government will need to implement to achieve this. These include the ease of doing business reforms to ensure the country improves its rankings on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index from 159.
This might actually be the best time for Government to be serious about the implementation of a one-stop investment centre. Remember, there was much hype over the visit into the country by Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote, who announced his plans to invest millions in constructing a cement plant and outlined his company’s interest in investing in coal mining and power generation.
But nothing much came out of that visit except a few subsequent visits which did not yield much, from our viewpoint. The concept of a one-stop clearing house for investors was mooted more than a decade ago but until now, we haven’t seen much happening on that front.
The multiplicity of forms at too many Government agencies and the long wait for approval have not been amusing for investors. The upshot is that they, most times, end up frustrated and throw in the trowel. And to finally see Government acknowledging that they have been doing it all wrong and actually come up with a way of addressing this, is quite a relief.
Presenting his 2018 National Budget, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa acknowledged the importance of a one- stop investment centre.
“Other countries have successfully introduced one-stop shops, wherein all foreign direct investments are approved under one roof, with the objective of expediting the processing time. In pursuit of this and in view of intense competition for foreign direct investment, implementing of a functional one-stop shop is paramount,” said Minister Chinamasa.
“In line with technological developments, Zimbabwe’s One-Stop Shop Investment Centre is also being required to take advantage of online services, that way removing the requirement for seconding staff by various ministries and departments, which has been delaying the operationalisation of this initiative.”
Not only that, Minister Chinamasa took the initiative to address some violations made in the past with regards to investments done under the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements.
“The President has already made the commitment that all foreign investments will be safe in Zimbabwe,” Minister Chinamasa said.
Now this is what investors want to hear. They are not coming into Zimbabwe to provide free funds. But they want to know that their money will be safe and also that they would get a return on their investment. After all, they are in business.
Making sure that the OSSIC is online would make Zimbabwe more accessible to a wider range of investors. It would also get rid of those dreaded officers who drag their feet and send you to five different offices for a date stamp!
While agreeing that it will not be an overnight thing, Government can take solace in the fact that there are countries who have gone the same route and succeeded.
Like Zambia. That country’s investment agency developed a One-Stop Shop business registration facility to reduce the cost of doing business, which drastically reduced the period of business registration from seven days to 24 hours.
And when Mozambique emerged from two successive wars in 1992, it adopted a new investment law, putting in place the requisite regulatory framework to signal a welcoming attitude to FDI. Natural resource-based mega-projects have proved to be a particular boon for the Mozambican economy. They have spurred infrastructure development and helped diversify Mozambique’s exports away from agriculture.
This only goes to show that with bureaucratic bungling shoved to the side, clearing the way for investment, there is bound to be that desired influx of money to fund all those idle projects we so need to get the economic wheel turning in a clockwise direction again.