By Victoria Ruzvidzo
Zimbabwe is a country that needs to rise from its current economic doldrums but the earlier we all realise it is not business as usual the better for our country.
It is sad and quite disturbing that while President Mnangagwa and his team are going high and low on a re-engagement and investment drive and have declared that Zimbabwe is open for business, there are some people in key positions of authority within and without Government who do not have a clue what this is all about.
Their behaviour and way of business is incongruent with the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra. They are stifling efforts meant to improve the country’s ease of doing business – the only way to attract real business.
They are still behaving like foreign investment is a great inconvenience while efficient operating systems are taboo. They are so laid back and still employ very old ways of doing things and yet we are in a new dispensation that demands a whole culture change.
I was shocked recently to establish that there are Government officials, local authorities and other such who are deliberately delaying and denying investors opportunities until their hands are oiled. They demand bribes and employ delaying tactics until the investor gets it that they need to pay “facilitation” fees to make progress.
A single signature on a document takes weeks to append after all due processes have been done simply because the brown envelope has not been produced.
Government and all its machinery must of necessity descend heavily and root out such destructive behaviour.
On another note, there are some who are not as corrupt as to demand bribes but they do not apply themselves in the manner that they should. In the business world time is money, so officials who process things must not feel so important as to unnecessarily delay things.
It is about time that anything that gets into the in-tray is processed at the earliest possible time and transferred to the out- tray. The pace at which the President is moving should be replicated throughout the system to ensure the country moves to the next level.
A two-hour tea or lunch break should be a thing of the past while clock-watchers should actually be extinct by now. There is no harm in a departure from the 8am to 5pm mentality. No harm in working well into the evening even without overtime until the economy comes right.
The Chinese business culture is one that I emulate and admire. Those people work like horses and the results are there for the whole world to see.
If Zimbabwe is open for business while stifle the ambitions of those that are lured to do business here? Investors have the whole world to choose from in terms of where they can invest their millions. It is not mandatory that their investment portfolio should include operations in Zimbabwe, but it is through aggressive marketing and the changes on the political front that the country will become an attractive investment destination once again.
So we all need to desist from the mentality that the world owes us something and that investors should feel privileged to invest in this country.
Indeed, we have more than 39 minerals, great climate, highly skilled and hospitable people, many tourist attractions and the whole works but this does not mean we should treat investors like we are doing them a favour because it is actually the other way round.
President Mnangagwa and some members of his Cabinet have not rested since the day they got into office to bring investors to partner us in reviving the economy, but their energy and zeal will amount to nothing if there is no requisite support in terms of structures, systems and processes. Those appointed to man critical offices should do so with all their hearts for the betterment of our country.
Those that find the demands and pace too overwhelming can be allocated small pieces of land – voenda kunorima – so they can be replaced with the energetic, flexible, creative and innovative people that this economy needs.
Zimbabwe Investment Authority chief executive Richard Mbaiwa confessed at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair business conference in Bulawayo yesterday that even his organisation was from being the one-stop shop that it is supposed to be. He said they called it a one-more stop shop because instead of streamlining activities, it was adding to the cumbersome process. This was because officials from other arms of Government seconded to ZIA are just there to refer people to their respective head offices. Really? And this has been the case since the establishment of the one-stop shop that we have all been celebrating for years.
We believe that the Business and Investment Facilitation Bill will soon be passed into law and, among other things, help create an investment process that does not constrict investment but facilitate an easier and smoother process.
Statistics released yesterday show that ZIA had licensed $1 billion worth of investments in the first three months of the year, an almost 10-fold jump from the $150 million recorded over the same period last year. This is as it should be, but we would want to stress that better figures can be achieved once we all put our minds to it.
It is quite exciting to note that at least $11 billion worth of projects have already been lined up in the last five months alone and these will be implemented soon.
Nigerian business mogul Aliko Dangote is set to inject millions into the economy and we pray that whatever hurdles that discouraged him previously are addressed. The Chinese are here and more are coming while the United Kingdom and its peers in the West are softening their stance on Zimbabwe and this means a lot to the economy.
Only yesterday someone remarked that major hotels in Harare, Victoria Falls and other parts of the country are a hive of activity as investors flock to this country to explore opportunities.
It would be a sad day for our country if we were to lose out on all this because some of us did not play ball.
We all must come to the party. We have no excuse to underperform and we must ensure every investor is well taken of in terms of facilitating and safeguarding their interests. Obviously with the right parameters.
Over the past few years, Zimbabwe has been realising an average $400 million in investments annually while other countries such as South Africa and Mozambique realise between $4 billion and $12 billion investments. These figures could soon sound like small change once we put our house in order in terms of streamlining our terms of doing business.
Once we realise the need to even sacrifice our individual interests for the greater good of our country, more will come Zimbabwe’s way and the reference to Zimbabwe as Africa’s Switzerland will no longer be a far-fetched dream but reality.
The Chinese technical team that is currently in the country and the Rwanda Development Board executive Clare Akamanzi and her team have noted the casual approach and the grumpiness of some Government officials in their work. Their recommendations should be actively pursued to improve the investment climate so we create fertile ground for economic growth.
It is pleasing to note that even the ZITF investment conference attracted a whopping 800 local and foreign participants, up from 300 last year. This is indicative of the progress that Zimbabwe has made under the new dispensation and we must continue to give reason to the investors to sink in their millions and billions in this country.
This comes with goodies such as employment creation, skills and technology transfer, wealth creation and other such that Zimbabweans year for.
In God I Trust!