Italian investors eye Zimbabwe

Tinashe Makichi
About 200 investors, including multinational companies from Italy, have expressed interest in investing in Zimbabwe, mainly in the infrastructure, agro-processing, packaging, water and energy sectors. Observers say the decision by Italy, one of the members of the European Union whose relations with Zimbabwe have been sour for almost two decades – is likely to see relations between Zimbabwe and more countries from the block mellow.

EU members usually make decisions as a bloc.

A Zimbabwean business delegation was recently in Rome at the invitation of the Italian Government to present investment and commercial opportunities available in the Southern African country to their Italian counterparts.

Italy is one of largest manufacturing economies worldwide and boasts expertise and cutting edge technology in a variety of sectors such as agricultural machinery, food processing and packaging, which could help in reviving Zimbabwe’s economy through partnerships.

Italy is the sixth largest importer of agricultural products in the European Union, a potential area which Zimbabwe, whose economy is largely agro-based, could exploit to its advantage.

Already, Italy has left a giant footprint in Zimbabwe after one of its companies built one of the largest man made dams in the world, Kariba Dam, along the Zambezi River.

Italian Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Enrico De Agostini told The Sunday Mail Business that there is massive interest from Italian investors but there is need to effectively communicate brand Zimbabwe to Europe.

He said there is a general misconception among European investors that Africa is one large block with universal economic policies and models.

After meeting the Zimbabwean delegation, the Italian investors have intensified their interest in infrastructure and in the near future more business delegations from Italy are expected in the country.

“We went to Italy in February this year to show Italian potential investors a case for Zimbabwe. We went to three different cities in Italy and met different investors, including multinationals that are interested in injecting funding in different areas of investment in Zimbabwe. The interest is huge now, after they were given the light on investment opportunities available in the country.

“There is a general feeling among European investors that Africa is one large country yet it’s a continent with different countries with different models of doing business. It is quite encouraging that the investors from Italy are now aware of what Zimbabwe can offer,” said Ambassador Agostini.

“The knowledge that Zimbabwe is a country on its own is not yet there in Europe and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. The investors are mainly interested in the agro industry, infrastructure, energy, road, dams and energy,” he said.

Italians are masters in agriculture and agricultural mechanisation (including horticulture, packaging, food processing and irrigation), transport infrastructure, water and energy (both traditional and renewable energy) as well as the manufacturing of mining equipment, which presents the greatest potential for bilateral cooperation.

“The objective for Zimbabwe business to visit Italy was for them to become acquainted with potential Italian partners in investment and trade and to inform them of the opportunities and challenges that characterize the Zimbabwean economy at this moment in time,” said Ambassador Agostini.

Zimbabwe of late has attracted global firms such as General Electric (GE) and the Enel Group of Italy, in what is seen as a vote of confidence in the country’s investment opportunities and critically, the new administration.

Since his inauguration in November last year, President Mnangagwa declared that Zimbabwe is open for business, and investors from across the world have been making enquiries for opportunities in the country. This has seen foreign direct investment enquiries soaring to over $3 billion while more investments are expected by the end of the year.

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