The Sunday Mail
ZIMBABWE is failing to attract meaningful investment from the West owing to negative perceptions and lack of branding, a New York-based businesswoman told senior management of various local companies in Harare last week.
Chief executive and founder of the Bisila Bokoko Africa Literacy Project (BBALP) Ms Bisila Bokoko said these problems affected most African countries.
Zimbabwe’s continued failure to market its culture globally is sustaining the warped view of the country as driven by the Western media, she said, pointing out that the United States remained unaware of what investment opportunities abounded here.
“I have been meeting with young people and exchanging ideas and I have learnt a lot about the country now . . . The economic performance might not be good but what matters is the mindset and attitude.
“What Zimbabwe needs is to tell its story out there; they (investors) do not know about the country and have no view of the continent at all,” Ms Bokoko said in an interview after the meeting hosted by the Institute of Directors Zimbabwe (IoDZ).
The meeting was meant to help locals come up with strategies to enter international markets.
Over the past year, Zimbabwe has managed a paltry US$400 million in FDI compared to several billions pouring into competing economies such as Mozambique and Zambia.
Ms Bokoko said she was impressed by the zeal young entrepreneurs had to turn around the economy.
“I hear unemployment is high, but it’s impressive youths are not just roaming streets but looking for ways of empowering themselves. With an increase in communication technologies, Zimbabwe could exploit such to improve its image and explain the available business opportunities to the global village.
“People all over know New York not because they have been there but it has been talked about on film and in the Press. It’s time for Africa to do the same and be known as a continent of opportunities, not hunger, war and disease.
“The West still thinks Africa is primitive, people live in jungles and there are no manufacturing industries. That has to change,” said Ms Bokoko.
Ms Bokoko is of Equatorial Guinea origin and is based in the USA.
She has interests in winery, fashion, education, business consultancy, and is the executive director of the Spain- United States Chamber of Commerce located in New York.
IoDZ chairperson Mrs Eve Gadzikwa said Ms Bokoko’s visit was an eye-opener, particularly for emerging businesses that need to appreciate the importance of innovation.
“We say think outside the box, but do not put yourself in the box at all. People can market own culture by using available resources just like the Maasai people of Kenya who used small pieces of leather to make sandals that appealed to the global market.
“They made a mark on the international scene and we could do the same as Zimbabweans. We have a lot of SMEs who are gifted but lack markets to sell their products,” said Mrs Gadzikwa.
“If only we could have more of these meetings where we share these teachings coming from outside the country showing us there is a global village out there where we can participate. We must not be limited by borders.”