The Sunday Mail
Africa Moyo recently in BULAWAYO
THE re-engagement drive by President Mnangagwa’s administration together with efforts to reform the investment climate continue to pay off as many countries and some top global firms converged in Bulawayo last week to explore business opportunities.
Envoys representing many countries, say they are actively luring businesspeople in their nations to invest in Zimbabwe, setting the country on a pedestal for a major economic take-off.
The participation of 19 countries – from 12 last year – in the Zimbabwe International Trade (ZITF) 2018 edition, which ended on a high note at the weekend, has been described as a massive vote of confidence by Government officials and analysts. ZITF 2018 registered a 40 percent rise in exhibitor numbers. There were 495 direct exhibitors this year.
Tellingly, most embassies that participated at the ZITF brought business delegations to explore local markets and possibilities of forming joint ventures.
The European Union says it is happy with the “positive pronouncements” made by Government in the last five months.
EU’s Second Secretary (Agriculture, Private Sector and Trade) based in Zimbabwe, Mr Thomas Opperer, last week said there is scope for the EU and Zimbabwe to co-operate going forward.
Mr Opperer said in the last five years, exports from Zimbabwe to the EU have “been steady, with a trade surplus in favour of Zimbabwe”, adding that the underlying trends are “positive”.
He explained that the reform agenda, coupled with the EU’s openness to trade, “is a clear opportunity for mutual beneficial trade and not only to increase exports to the EU in general, but also through investment partnerships to increase the exports of manufactured products”.
Going forward, Mr Opperer said the EU is ready to support Zimbabwe in various spheres including the strengthening of economic and political institutions; improving governance and property rights; improving public finance management and macroeconomic policies; developing value chains and supporting the private sector; and strengthening public services for private sector development such as access to finance, advocacy, quality infrastructure and trade facilitation.
The EU’s softening stance on the country comes at a time when Government has embarked on deliberate efforts to engage all countries across the globe.
Indonesia also keen on economic ties
Zimbabwe has also attracted the attention of Indonesia. The Deputy Ambassador at the Indonesian embassy in Zimbabwe, Dr Partogi Samosir, told The Sunday Mail Business from his embassy’s ZITF Stand last week that they participated in the fair to expose businesspeople from Jakarta to the opportunities available in Zimbabwe.
Dr Samosir is determined to grow economic ties between the two countries and push up trade volumes.
Last year, trade volumes between Indonesia and Zimbabwe were a measly US$800 million. Dr Samosir believes this can be vastly improved given the determination of the new administration’s desire to attract more foreign direct investment.
“Indonesia loves Africa and of course, Indonesia loves Zimbabwe; that is why we want to have those economic relations between the two countries growing.
“Our participation in the trade fair is anchored on the need to unleash the potential that exists between these two countries. I can tell you that our participation in ZITF has been very good and also very profitable, because many people want to be distributors of our products,” said Dr Samosir.
He said there has been a lot of interest to distribute hospital equipment, food stuffs and textiles.
Already, one Indian firm, Sunshine Africa Brilliant (Pvt) Limited, has set up offices in Harare.
The firm is exploring investment opportunities, particularly gold mining and sugarcane farming. It is the first Indonesian company after about 15 years to come to Zimbabwe.
Dr Samosir said he frequently writes articles for Indonesian newspapers highlighting the importance of investing in Zimbabwe.
He also wants the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) to explore opportunities in Indonesia.
The Ambassador is “ready to assist” them enter the market.
Indonesia has become a key player in world economics. It is a member of the Group of 20 most developed countries commonly referred to as G-20.
It is also Southeast Asia’s largest country and economy, with a GDP of US$932,3 billion as at 2016.
Indonesia is also the world’s third largest stable, multi-ethnic democracy.
Japan also wants piece of pie
Japan Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Toshiyuki Iwado, says his country is pressing ahead with efforts to boost economic ties with Harare.
Currently, Japan is the biggest beneficiary in the relations between the two countries, whereby locals are importing vehicles worthy an average US$400 million per annum from the Asian nation.
But Ambassador Iwado said he wants to see more Japanese firms opening up businesses in Zimbabwe. The participation of the Japan government, together with 10 firms is a starting point.
“On our part we have two separate issues; one is to try to promote trade or economic ties with Zimbabwe and the other one is to exhibit some cultural things. Since independence of this country we have enjoyed very strong economic ties with Zimbabwe, but unfortunately, for some reasons, some Japanese companies had to leave because the economic conditions here were no longer conducive for their businesses to thrive,” said Ambassador Iwado.
The Japanese businesses that left Zimbabwe relocated to South Africa just after it gained independence in 1994.
At the moment, two Japanese firms – SBT and Beforward – which are involved in the selling of second-hand vehicles, have operations in Zimbabwe.
However, Ambassador Iwado wants to take advantage of the reforms introduced by the new dispensation and bring more Japanese businesspeople into the country.
Japan was previously the biggest buyer of local tobacco but trade volumes are currently low. Ambassador Iwado says “we have to start from the beginning”, and boost the trade relations.
Botswana ties fly higher
The relations between Botswana and Zimbabwe hit the lowest ebb in the last decade but since President Mnangagwa “hit the ground running”, he has visited the country three times – including on a State visit. The new Botswana President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, has also visited Zimbabwe to pay a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa after his swearing-in.
Trade ties between the two countries have resumed and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Zimtrade and the Botswana Investment and Trade Centre (BITC) has already been signed.
Zimtrade is Zimbabwe’s premier trade promotion body. The MoU is aimed at facilitating foreign direct investment between the two countries.
BITC, an investment and trade promotion agency of Botswana, also participated in the ZITF.
Ms Trunklinah Gabonthone, BITC executive director – export, told The Sunday Mail Business they are keen to explore opportunities of “expanding our markets into Zimbabwe”.
“Remember Botswana has probably the best beef in the world and we are looking at the Zimbabwe market for beef and many other products,” said Ms Gabonthone.
Thirteen companies from Botswana participated in ZITF 2018. Some of the companies include Senn Foods, Aroma Natural Foods, Botswana Meat Commission and Global Lubricants.
BITC was expected to sign another MoU with the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) last Friday night.