Comesa director for Investment Promotion and Private Sector Development, Thierry Mutombo Kalonji, urged Zimbabwe to improve the business environment taking into consideration such factors as the cost of setting up a business, licensing and regulatory issues, among others.
He said Zimbabwe should emulate countries like Rwanda and build on their achievements in the context of similar challenges faced by the private sector. “In the implementation of this programme, Comesa member states recognised the necessity of putting in place an enabling business environment through related policy and institutional reforms,” Kalonji said.
He was speaking at a workshop organised by Comesa, with the support of the European Union (EU) last week aimed at implementing the Comesa roadmap for the improvement of the business environment in the region.
Kalonji said that, given the importance of the roadmap, the Comesa Council of Ministers decided in 2010 that the secretariat would assist member states in the area of policy reforms to create a conducive business environment.
“Furthermore, the council urged each government from member states to commit and accord its support for the success in the implementation of this programme,” he said.
The roadmap is being implemented in a first series of four countries: Zimbabwe, Swaziland, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Djibouti.
Zimbabwe is currently ranked 171 out of 183 economies at a global scale while at sub-Saharan African level, the country is positioned at 36 in the 2012 World Bank Doing Business report. The bloc has prioritised investment attraction to the extent that it recently launched a programme called the Comesa Common Investment Area (CCIA), whose objective is to attract foreign investments and encourage domestic investments in the region, while allowing free movement of capital goods and investors.
The Comesa integration agenda is based on two pillars namely, trade facilitation programmes and investment promotion.
World Bank Group representative, Cemile Hacibeyoglu, reiterated the importance of business environment reforms as a method of enhancing regional integration adding that the financial institution was ready to provide technical assistance.
Zim still battling to overcome policy obstacles
Although Zimbabwe’s commitment to embark on the programme was reflected through government’s recent request to the Comesa secretariat for technical and financial support to start the programme, a plethora of political and policy problems continue to blight the country’s investment prospects.
The indigenisation law continues to cause consternation among the investment community while ambiguity on the electoral process is only but encouraging a wait-and-see approach.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Ariccia told delegates that the government of Zimbabwe had the key responsibility of providing clarity on policy issues.