BRITISH ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing has said Zimbabwe’s investment climate has improved, courtesy of a climb-down by Acting President Emmerson Mnangagwa who has said that the Zanu PF government is willing to correct its past wrongs in the implementation of some of its economic policies.
BY VICTORIA MTOMBA
Speaking at a cocktail party on Thursday evening to welcome a visiting international business delegation in Harare, Laing said the country was ready to make difficult decisions to attract investments.
The business delegation had earlier met Mnangagwa, who made an undertaking that the Zanu PF government would correct its past wrongs in the implementation of economic policies, particularly the land and indigenisation programmes.
Laing said: “The delegation was pleased with what they heard today. It’s interesting we had a similar delegation that came a year ago and they left not feeling confident to invest in Zimbabwe. We are in a much better position than we were a year ago. The Acting President [Mnangagwa] I think was frank with them, and he was honest with them.”
The delegation comprised prospective investors from the United Kingdom, China, Germany and the United States.
It was a second visit to assess the investment climate in the country following a similar visit last year sponsored by Invest Africa.
Invest Africa founder Rob Hersov said the delegation also met the Minister of Agriculture Joseph Made, but was happy that Mnangagwa addressed the issues that were of concern to investors. He said he was confident Mnangagwa’s pledge would turn around Zimbabwe’s investment fortunes.
“It is certainly going to be a good year and not just a year for rebranding for the country,” Hersov said.
“We will go back with a real message. That perception is going to change. For many years I have been disappointed with Zimbabwe’s bad policy, bad leadership, and I was saying why invest in Zimbabwe?
“It seems to have changed. Mnangagwa was clear and intelligent. Mnangagwa said we got it wrong, but we want to get it right,” he said.
The meeting, however, came a week after Asian investors were chased away from Harare’s Mbare suburb by a group of Zanu PF youths.
Hersov said last year when he came to Zimbabwe the issue of indigenisation was not yet clear.
“Investors believe in empowerment of local communities, but the interests should be aligned. I have identified areas that I have interests in,” he said.
“We are not against it [indigenisation].We want an investment environment that has clarity. Now that there is new leadership, there is new direction,” he said.
There have also been inconsistencies on government’s stance on the indigenisation programme. Recently, Mnangagwa and Indigenisation minister Christopher Mushowe were singing from different hymn books.
But Hersov said Mnangagwa made an undertaking to correct past policy inconsistencies.
“An investor would not want to invest money in a place where there is no clarity. For the first time we understand the policy,” he said.
Also speaking at the function, Tourism minister Walter Mzembi said he was happy that the delegation was here and he applauded Mnangagwa’s stance.
“He [Mnanagawa] is decisive and understands business. It makes our job as ministers much easier,” Mzembi said.
Zimbabwe has been receiving foreign direct investment that is below that of its regional counterpart, less than $500 million over the past six years, due to policies that were not favourable to investors, such as the indigenisation policy.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the 51/49% ownership structure in the Indigenisation Empowerment Act applied across all sectors of the economy and could be achieved overnight.
Chinamasa said in his 2015 budget the period for compliance would be a matter of negotiation between the would-be investor and the respective relevant line ministry responsible for the particular sub-sector.
Lord St John of Blesto from the UK, who was among the delegation, said investors were keen to invest in Zimbabwe.