It always happens, time and time again. A few months before elections business slows down almost coming to a standstill. Business decisions made are shelved for implementation after elections. Since 1980, there is hope for a new dawn,
By GLORia NDORO-MKOMBACHOTO
but nothing much has changed after elections. In a few elections in the past, the MDC won the vote but because they could not take power, Zanu PF prevailed and ruled.
Elections are not enough in Zimbabwe. The ability to take power peacefully, a feature unknown in Zimbabwe, is far more important.
So while local business sits and waits by the sidelines for the outcome of the elections, time is going by and the world leaving it behind. On the other hand, foreign business is equally reluctant because investors are worried about evidence and perceptions of deep-rooted corruption and the government’s failure to curb and reduce its public sector costs.
There is nothing to wait for. Continue as before. For the last 18 years or so, it has been blood, sweat and tears. Those local businesses that have managed to float above the mud level are still standing. Escalate your commitment, particularly during this pre-election period for there is really no compelling reason to slow down.
Below are a few tips on why, as local business, you should not stall your operations because of the upcoming elections.
l Execute what is within your sphere of influence and control
The more things look like they are changing, the more they remain the same. I doubt much is going to change after the elections. If Zimbabwe’s business fortunes are going to turn around, the liquidity crisis needs to be resolved. Political risk remains the biggest elephant in the room. Glowing promises are made before and after elections, the conniving political beasts reveal their true colours.
Since November 2017, after Operation Restore Legacy, Zanu PF has demonstrated its incapacity for change. It has merely removed one out-of-touch with reality geriatric and replaced him with another.
The new order has been travelling abroad with the message that “Zimbabwe is open for business”, when they have hardly created an enabling environment for local business.
It is far more important and sustainable to create enabling conditions for Zimbabweans at home and abroad to invest in their own countries than to focus on foreign direct investment (FDI). I have written about this before, FDI is ordinarily non-committal, mobile and has access to far more attractive investment destinations than Zimbabwe.
As local business, continue to do trade and invest in your business completely oblivious to the political noises around.
Post-November 2017, there is a veneer of democracy, freedom of speech, commitment to good governance, attempts at elimination of corruption and so on, but on the ground, there is little change. The liquidity situation has deteriorated further and foreign currency for both business and personal use has virtually dried up. It would appear that government does not seem to be prioritising the liquidity crisis at all. The mentality from the old order seems prevalent. It is their time to “eat” and “eat” they will, literally!
l Adopt a three-pronged strategy: Focus, focus and focus
The politicians are focused on getting into power and derive their livelihood off the fiscus. Likewise, in business, focus on what matters, opening up of new markets, cost reductions, renegotiation of contractual agreements with great employees, releasing unproductive ones, being lean and mean, aggressive in following up on creditors, discontinuing unprofitable lines etcetera.
For business, the politics of Zimbabwe is a major distraction. Although President Emmerson Mnangagwa is casting himself as a reformer, his hands are tied because it appears he is not on the same wavelength with the securocrats that enabled him to take power. Their agendas appear to be at cross-purposes. This could very well mean that the change that we have been yearning for might only happen five years from now or, worse still, never in our lifetime.
But in your business you can be the change you want to see — customer intimacy, renegotiation of prices for bigger and regular clients who pay on time, product and productivity improvements, diversifying into new markets, and committing to that work contract.
l There is no watershed elections, but business unusual
There is nothing defining nor unique about the upcoming elections. Zanu PF is seeking a political mandate for legitimacy and they are going to get it under a scenario where they might end up being reluctantly inclusive of the MDC Alliance.
This is the time for the remnants of local business that we refer to as “industry” to sharpen their readiness and preparedness for post-election operations. Keen foreign investors currently sitting by the sidelines will inject capital inflows after the elections.
Liquidity-starved local business would have to be creative and innovative in competing on their home territory with FDI awash with cash. Therefore this is certainly not the time to sit on the sidelines like FDI. This is the time to invest in your business armoury whatever it is.
l Gloria Ndoro-Mkombachoto is an entrepreneur and a regional enterprise development consultant. Her experience spans a period of over 25 years. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org