Zimbabwe could be the gateway to investment into Africa through establishment of an Offshore Investment Centre with strong links to the local one-stop investment shop for processing investments.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Professor Mthuli Ncube, said this dream was part of the country’s Vision 2030 and the recently launched Government blue-print, the Transitional Stabilisation Programme (TSP).
His sentiments were inspired by a visit last Friday to Surface Wilmar based in Chitungwiza, Harare.
The company is owned by one of the largest companies in the world in the production of edible oils, based in Singapore.
“Turning Zimbabwe into a gateway into Africa means establishing an Offshore Investment Centre with strong links to the Zimbabwe One-Stop-Investment Shop, which processes investments.
“This needs to be seriously explored for Zimbabwe to continue to attract global investors such as Surface Wilmar from Singapore,” said Prof Ncube in an update.
“This means all new foreign investment into Zimbabwe, going forward, could be registered in the Offshore Centre, giving foreign investors similar benefits as are enjoyed in centres such as Mauritius, Guernsey and Isle of Man.”
During the visit, the minister said he was impressed by the world class equipment at the giant factory.
“To see this modern plant operated by automated robotic systems, making it one of the most efficient companies in Africa in the edible oils sector, was uplifting, as the last time I have visited a robot-controlled factory was in Hyundai in South Korea a few years ago,” he said.
The futuristic robotic systems controlled factor floors at Surface Wilmar were testimony to the aspirations of Vision 2030, and TSP, added Prof Ncube.
He said Zimbabwe has a number of favourable factors if it seeks to be a successful gateway into Africa through the Offshore Centre.
Key to this is that Zimbabwe has a highly educated population with the requisite skills to service such an offshore centre.
Prof Ncube said the competent crop of legal firms, accounting firms and other service providers can successfully provide the services needed to support the offshore centre. The country also has a strong regulatory environment with key institutions such as Zimra and securities regulators.
These regulators are already operating at global standards and are globally compliant in their approaches.
Prof Ncube said the multi-currency regime in Zimbabwe was an ideal place for foreign investors to preserve their value in hard currency.
“Locally the Offshore Investment Centre could also help stem any unnecessary capital outflows out of Zimbabwe, as the country would be as good as any centre in the world for offshore investments,” he said.
“While there is need to make more investments in Zimbabwe’s infrastructure, the current infrastructure is very good by standards on the African continent, outside South Africa.”
Prof Ncube said among benefits to be offered by the Offshore Investment Centre is a special low tax environment for any company that invests through it.
As such, he said Zimra has the capacity to administer a dual tax environment of offshore investors and domestic investors.
Zimra is a member of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), which ensures that its systems, processes, capacity and capabilities are of world standards.
Prof Ncube also said Zimbabwe banks have the capacity to offer world class custodial services and administrators can equally offer administrative services, where they are required by foreign investors, in addition to the capacity offered by accounting firms and legal firms.
“Turning Zimbabwe into a gateway into Africa, means establishing such an Offshore Investment Centre.
This vision means that investors would now come into Zimbabwe to access the entire opportunity in the region and the rest of Africa, and not just Zimbabwe.
“It is doable, and sends the right signal that Zimbabwe is truly open for business, even beyond its borders,” he said.