The Sunday Mail
Kuda Bwititi and Lincoln Towindo
President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week makes his maiden direct pitch to the world of global business when he leads Zimbabwe’s first ever delegation to World Economic Forum in Switzerland, a perfect platform on which to showcase that the country is indeed open for business.
Less than two months after being sworn in as Head of State and Government, President Mnangagwa will this week hold key bilateral meetings with important business and political leaders in Davos.
Since his inauguration, President Mnangagwa’s gospel has been that Zimbabwe is open for business, highlighting that his administration’s win-win policies are geared towards boosting and safeguarding investments, and improving people’s livelihoods.
It is an economic gospel that is well-grounded: In 2017, a leading US research firm listed Zimbabwe among the top three African countries with the best potential return on investment.
The researchers pointed, in particular, to Zimbabwe’s agriculture and agro-processing, mining, manufacturing, ICT and private equity sectors as lucrative — all of them areas that President Mnangagwa has already been targeting for investment, growth and development.
Further, respected German-American investment strategist Dr Mark Mobius — who manages a portfolio worth more than US$47 billion — recently cited Zimbabwe as among frontier markets worth investing in.
Last week, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo said of the Davos meeting: “It’s a huge opportunity for business in the global community. We hope and expect the interactions we will have with business and various world leaders will definitely position and re-brand Zimbabwe to re-engage and deepen relations with the rest of the international community.
“His Excellency’s delegation leaves on Sunday January 21 2018, and the programme will start January 22. There will be a series of meetings, which include bilateral engagements (with other Heads of State) as well as with businesspeople, among other personalities. A list of those the President will meet is being compiled; we will advise you of the personalities.”
Special Advisor to the President Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa said WEF would open major investment opportunities for Zimbabwe.
“This is an important trip because for the first time, Zimbabwe’s focus is the world business investment community. Remember, most of the goods and services delivered in the world are in the hands of the private sector.
“Out of the US$90 trillion global GDP, probably 90 percent is accounted for — in terms of goods and services which are on the marketplace — by private companies. And there are a slew of private companies both from the East and West that all troop to Davos to exchange ideas on where the world should go. These are the people to whom the President will be giving attention.
“These are the global-class investors of the world; 2 000-3 000 top class companies. Their chief executives and chairpersons will be there — a community that drives global investment.
“For the first time, Zimbabwe will be saying we have this attractive investment destination called Zimbabwe, well-endowed with resources, a very capable and well-educated population – the best in Africa; but more than that, a very stable political environment.
“This is what the world will hear from the President and he is being given an opportunity to market Zimbabwe to the best businesspeople in the world. That should give more impetus for more FDI coming into Zimbabwe. The bane of Zimbabwe over the last 30-40 years has been shortage of capital.
“In fact, it extends beyond that. In the last 60 years since UDI, Zimbabwe has generally been starved of capital. Now, we have a chance to appeal to captains of industry, to the movers and shakers of the world investment market. They are the ones the President will be talking to.”
Former World Bank country head in Zimbabwe Dr Mungai Lenneiye equated the WEF to the United Nations General Assembly for business.
Dr Lenneiye chairs the Zimbabwe Business Club which facilitated President Mnangagwa’s WEF preparatory meeting with captains of industry in Harare last Thursday.
“I see the World Economic Forum at the same level as the United Nations in terms of global significance. The WEF is the UN Summit of global economics. It is the highest summit of economic branding.
“The UN is the highest level of political gathering and I know that Zimbabwe has taken its political branding to a high level before at the UN. Now is the time to achieve the same in the economic sphere.
“I believe that even if Zimbabwe gets its economic branding to half the level of its political branding, the country would have achieved milestones.”
He, however, cautioned that people should not expect instant results.
“These are very exciting times for Zimbabwe. It’s a time of hope and you should turn that hope into certainty. I would like to see the world saying we are going to do business with Zimbabwe.
“Many people know former President Robert Mugabe more because of his political branding, but President Mnangagwa has an opportunity to be known for his economic branding. There will be a lot of middleclass people who work through investment companies.
“This class may not be billionaires but millionaires willing to invest. They have quite a lot of money, which they cannot invest on their own, but do so through investment companies that venture into developing markets. Big international corporations and the world’s biggest banks will be represented. It is important to send the right message to them; that Zimbabwe is ready for business.”
The WEF is a Swiss non-profit foundation based in Geneva which brings together over 2 500 top politicians, business leaders and economists to discuss global commerce.
Themed “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World”, this year’s gathering will feature over 340 political leaders.