Excellency, what are the strengths of Zimbabwe from an economic point of view?
Since the ushering in of the new dispensation in Zimbabwe in November 2017, the country’s mantra has been « Zimbabwe is Open for Business! ». The President, His Excellency Cde. Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, has a vision for a private sector-led economic recovery that would see the country attaining Middle Income Status by the year 2030. To achieve this, the government has prioritised political and economic reforms such as the Ease of Doing Business and amendment of the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act to limit the mandatory 51:49 share ownership to the platinum and diamond mining sectors only. Furthermore, Zimbabwe is strategically located in the heart of Southern Africa, with a good road and railway network that links potential investors to bigger markets of the SADC and COMESA regions; boasts of a highly educated and skilled human resource base; enjoys a very good climate which supports agricultural activity all year round; has a vast mineral resources base including gold, platinum, diamonds, coal, lithium, nickel, copper and chromium; has lots of arable land; and enjoys political stability. Zimbabwe is an active member of many international organisations and is party to the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement between the Eastern and Southern African countries and the European Union. The country is also creating Special Economic Zones which are geared to produce for the export market. In addition, the country has very generous financial and other incentives which make the country attractive to investors.
What are the key sectors that you would advise Belgian companies to look into when investing in Zimbabwe or doing business?
As a country coming out of isolation, all sectors of Zimbabwe’s economy are open to investment. Zimbabwe is an agriculture-based economy and has vast opportunities for investment in the following areas, among others: tobacco, horticulture, cotton, dairy, timber milling, aquaculture, potatoes, feedstock and farm mechanization. The energy sector presents immense investment opportunities in power development and renewable energy. In small hydropower generation, opportunities have been identified for projects with a potential productivity of 120 MW. There is high demand for solar energy systems, especially in remote rural areas where there is no power grid. There is room for foreign investors to invest in this area as Public Private Partnerships or as Joint Ventures with local partners. Zimbabwe has a vision to substitute the nation’s fuel requirements with bio-fuels through expanding sugar cane growing to produce ethanol and processing jatropha seed into bio-diesel.
The health sector presents opportunities for refurbishing and equipping of existing institutions or construction and equipping of new hospitals, both public and private. The animal health sector presents opportunities for cooperation in control of diseases, equipping of laboratories and abattoirs and improvement of the national cattle herd. The manufacturing industry requires retooling of its antiquated equipment and Belgian investors can assist in this regard. There are also vast opportunities for investment in water and sanitation; waste management; tourism; Information Telecommunication Technology (ICT); and road, rail and air transport infrastructure. Belgium’s renowned expertise in the diamond sector would be useful in developing Zimbabwe’s diamond industry.
Excellency, could you describe the bilateral relations between Belgium and Zimbabwe?
Zimbabwe and Belgium have enjoyed good relations since 1980 when Zimbabwe gained its independence. Our bilateral cooperation has largely been through the Belgian Development Agency focusing on the education sector, arts and culture and health. Belgium played a key role in the lifting of the ban on the trade of Zimbabwe’s rough diamonds. Belgium has been the second highest buyer of Zimbabwean tobacco and the highest buyer in the European Union. In addition to tobacco, trade between the two countries includes mineral products, base metals, machinery and equipment, transport equipment, chemicals, stone, plaster and cement, vegetable products, works of art, raw hides, skins and leather, textiles, precious metals and stones and wood. Under the new dispensation, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium received his Zimbabwean counterpart in April 2018 and had a very useful engagement on, among others, the need to further deepen bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
How would you look to the future economic mission that will be held later this year?
The key message from the government is that the time to invest is now. The very instructive meeting between Honourable Lt General (Rtd) Dr. Sibusiso Busi Moyo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and His Excellency Mr. Didier Reynders, Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belgium in April 2018 and the CBL-ACP Exploratory Mission to Zimbabwe during the same period were major strides in the deepening of co-operation between Zimbabwe and Belgium. There is no doubt that both governments are ready to move a step forward in strengthening economic relations. Thus we strongly welcome and encourage the Belgian private sector to take full advantage of the opportunities available in Zimbabwe for mutually beneficial partnerships. The Embassy is working to ensure that interested Belgian companies are partnered with the right Zimbabwean partners and has already started making arrangements in order to facilitate meaningful Business to Business (B2B) contacts by the CBL-ACP Mission in September. The main message to the Belgian private sector is that Zimbabwe is Open for Business with all interested partners and the time is now to fully engage Zimbabwe.
What are some of the Belgian businesses that are present in Zimbabwe and what are your needs with regards to Belgian companies coming to Zimbabwe?
Belgian companies have been involved in tobacco farming and trade, airport safety and security, arts and culture, education and chocolate manufacturing. There is further scope for deepening co-operation. Zimbabwe is not looking to a future of development cooperation based on aid, but one based on investment through mutually beneficial partnerships across the value chain. Zimbabwe is looking for investments in all sectors of the economy in order to create employment and boost economic growth.