The American Business Association of Zimbabwe (Abaz) represented by a number of its members last week met influential American officials ahead of the October 5-7 US-Africa business summit held in Washington DC.
Group financial director of Paramount Group, an integrated clothing and manufacturing organisation, Jeremy Youmans, told American investors at a “Doing business in Zimbabwe” forum last week that Abaz had met with influential American officials explaining to them how sanctions were affecting their businesses.
He said: “We arrived on Sunday and spent the last two days meeting representatives of facilitation organisations, World Bank and the (US) State Department as well. We were raising concerns that sanctions were a problem to us because although they are specifically targeted they have a collateral damage effect.
“So what are we doing about it? We are raising those issues to the policy makers to make them aware that they are causing us problems.”
Youmans said there was also a general misconception by some American companies that they could not do business with Zimbabwe and this proved a challenge for his company.
“At my own level and even at our company, we have three cases now of American businesses that have told us — sorry we cannot supply you directly. With the help of the embassy, those are being sorted out and some, we have managed to sort them out ourselves,” he said.
Abaz membership list has organisations like Deloitte Chartered Accountants, Aon Zimbabwe, Coca Cola Central Africa, Meikles Hotel, OK Zimbabwe, Western Union, Imara and PricewaterhouseCoopers among others.
Businessman Fred Mtandah said it was high time that the private sector lobbied for the removal of the sanctions.
“The private sector was just watching on the sidelines when everything just collapsed during the economic meltdown, but because of dollarisation, the powers of government and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe to print money and finance itself has been reduced,” Mtandah said.
“Like any other country, now government has to rely on taxes and duties for revenue and it is with that in mind business then realised that it is time for them to use their influence to lobby. They have to find a legitimate source of income. Zimbabwe needs a vibrant business hence the getting together of a number of businesses in our country.”
Mtandah said sanctions, though they were targeted, ended up affecting ordinary Zimbabweans and businesses one way or the other.
“Without actually participating in the party sponsored anti-sanctions campaign, business realised that there was need to engage the international community on that. We are lobbying for their removal without involving ourselves in those aspects of politics,” he said.
“For example, two financial institutions ZB Bank and Agribank, if any person in the Diaspora transfers money to a company or an individual who banks with one of those institutions that money is automatically seized.
“That is the collateral damage of the sanctions on the ordinary person and the business argument is that the international community has been promoting rural agriculture in Zimbabwe and there is no other financial institution capable to finance agriculture than Agribank,” he said.