Zim reforms catch investors’ fancy

Lincoln Towindo and Kuda Bwititi —
Zimbabwe is among the top three African countries offering the best return on investment, thanks to its highly lucrative commercial opportunities and doing business reforms Government has implemented since 2014, a top United States research firm has established. Research Markets ranks Zimbabwe third after Nigeria and Kenya based on a comprehensive survey to determine African countries with the best economic outlook over the next three years.

The firm is one of the biggest global market research stores where over 400 Fortune 500 corporate subscribers obtain market intelligence.

Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine, ranking the 500 largest US corporations by total revenue.

The list has been published since 1955 and covers companies for which data is publicly available.These research findings are now available to American multinationals, offering them detailed intelligence on Zimbabwe’s investment environment.

The researchers considered Zimbabwe’s agriculture and agro-processing, mining, manufacturing, ICTs, institutional investments and private equity sectors.

They also lauded the country’s educated and competitive labour base, well-developed infrastructure, easy access to regional and world markets, and expansive mineral wealth.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda said, “The Ease of Business Programme has gone on very well. So, in general, we are not surprised by such reports. We have exceeded expectations in some instances, but we are also mindful of the need to address areas where we may not be doing well.”

A summary of the research findings reads: “Zimbabwe has been ranked as one of the top three African countries that offer the best return on investment between 2014 and 2016.

“This report on the outlook for lucrative investment areas reviews the potential future returns, technological advancements, regulations and market responses so as to provide a detailed, but clear perspective on the potential implications for the growth prospects of these sectors for the next five years using past historical data and analysis.

“Zimbabwe is ranked after Nigeria and Kenya in a survey which was conducted with the aim of establishing the African country that would offer the best economic outlook for the next three years.

“Zimbabwe is a signatory of several bi-lateral and international agreements (MIGA, OPIC, ICSID and UNCITRAL) which protect the investments of the companies in Zimbabwe.”

It continues: “The country has cheap, educated and competitive labour, well-developed infrastructure and easy access to regional and World markets through its membership in the African Union, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, Sadc, Copac and Cissa.

“Zimbabwe offers free movement of investment capital and attractive investment incentives. Almost all sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy are in need of immediate investment; sectors like agro-processing and agro-forestry, manufacturing (textiles, clothing and footwear, chemicals and technology), tourism, services (construction, infrastructure and transport), mining and ICT present a host of investment opportunities.”

The report says Zimbabwe’s agro-economy offers opportunities in value addition, meat processing, fruit juices, horticulture and floriculture, sugar milling and timber processing.

The mining sector offers business in prospecting and mining, with gold, coal, diamond, granite and platinum; diamond cutting and polishing; quarrying and exploration figuring among the prime targets.

“Zimbabwe has the largest platinum reserves in the world after South Africa … The manufacturing sector is in its nascent stage, with few exploited areas whereby unprocessed agricultural commodities have dominated major exports, and Zimbabwe wants to change this trend by encouraging investment in textiles, leather and food processing,” reads the report.

“The Government is planning to utilise new technologies in new media to play an important role in transforming the country from a resource-based to a skill-based and technology-based economy to revitalise the production structure.”

Deputy Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Ray Ndhlukula said Government would remain on the doing business reform trajectory.

He said, “One of the highlights of this progress is that we have been able to come up with new legislation to do away with laws that were seen to be inhibiting ease of doing business. For example, we had the Companies Act, which had provisions from the 1950s that were still in force.

“We have since revamped that Act in line with the reforms that we are making. The Deeds Office Registry has also been revamped, as it now takes a few minutes to access data from the Registry. In the past, it used to take weeks, but now it takes only a matter of minutes to get information from the Deeds office.

“There are other reforms such as shop licensing where you can set up retail shops within a matter of days. We also have eight Bills that are in place and are currently before Parliament to address all issues that were deemed to be stifling ease of doing business.”

Zimbabwe has been reforming its business environment to spur investment and broad economic development, with the OPC directly supervising the process.

The Deeds Registry Bill, which governs property registration, is at the second reading stage in the National Assembly. The proposed law provides for online deeds registry which will reduce the period required to register properties and enhance security of title.

The Shop Licensing Act is also being reviewed to streamline processes and regulations governing the setting up of shops.

Also under review is the Insolvency Act whose overhaul will reduce time taken to settle insolvency matters and increase investors’ recovery post liquidation.

In addition, the Movable Property Security Interest Bill has been crafted to enable Zimbabwe’s citizens to easily access credit using movable property as collateral.

The Estate Administrators and Insolvency Practitioners Act is also being fine-tuned, while Senate is now examining the Public Procurement and Disposable of Public Assets Bill, which will improve public sector accountability.

The Companies Act is being aligned to worldclass business practices.

In 2014, top German-American investment strategist Dr Mark Mobius – who manages portfolios worth more than US$47 billion – called on international investors to invest in frontier markets, including Zimbabwe, saying there were vast opportunities for business growth and promising huge financial returns.

In 2016, research by an acclaimed Harvard University scholar revealed that Zimbabwe has potential to become the fastest-growing economy in Africa, and the sixth fastest-growing in the world by 2020.

Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Governance head of the Practice of Economic Development, Professor Ricardo Hausmann, projected in his book, “The Atlas of Economic Complexity – Mapping Paths to Prosperity”, that Zimbabwe’s economic boom will be driven mainly by exploiting its vast minerals and precious stones, especially diamonds.

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