Economic challenges stifle ZIA-projects implementation

Only 50 percent of the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) approved investment projects have been implemented due to economic challenges facing the country, the authority has said.
In an interview on the sidelines of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) seminar in Harare last week, ZIA chief executive officer Mr Richard Mbaiwa said the rate of investment in the country was still low compared to its regional counterparts such as Mozambique and Zambia.

“We need to do more to increase investment in Zimbabwe; the rate of implementation for the approved projects is still low although people are showing interest in investing,” he said.

In 2012, Zimbabwe had US$400 million worth of foreign direct investment while Zambia enjoyed US$5 billion.
Mr Mbaiwa added that the cost of doing business in Zimbabwe was still high, a scenario that was scaring away potential investors.

“Some investors inquire but do not return to implement their projects,” he said.

Deliberations from the special economic zones seminar were premised on the need to address the legislation that would help resuscitate ailing industry that has been severely affected by the economic meltdown Zimbabwe experienced since 2000.

United Refineries Ltd chief executive officer Mr Busisa Moyo said: “We need legislation that allows companies to emerge out of difficulties, the infrastructure is already there.”

But Mr Mbaiwa said the investment authority was working towards increasing efforts to improve both domestic and foreign investments in smaller towns through its Spartial Development Initiative.

Successful implementation of the programme will ease employment pressure on major urban centres such as Harare and Bulawayo as smaller towns will be able to create jobs and boost economic activities in such centres.

Of the US$930 million worth of FDI approvals by ZIA last year, 80 percent of these which constituted about US$744 million were urban-centred.

The reasons for this vary, experts say, including lack of information of the comparative advantages and investment opportunities.

Lack of visibility of the small towns on the investment radar and poor infrastructure in areas such as transport and availability of office and industrial space also contribute to this low investment.

Among programmes lined up under the spartial development initiative this year are plans to visit Gwanda, Plumtree and other smaller towns to assess investment opportunities available.

“We work with local authorities in those areas and create incentives to lure investors. We want to see businesses in Harare decentralising and moving to smaller towns. Banks and auction floors can open up there,” said Mr Mbaiwa.

ZIA is a statutory body established by an Act of Parliament in 2006 with an overriding mandate to promote and facilitate investment in Zimbabwe.

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