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SOME European firms have started assessing investment prospects in the country following a series of meetings held between the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and various business organisations in the EU early this year, an official has said.In January, a Zimbabwean business delegation visited five countries in Europe, namely Belgium, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Switzerland and had extensive meetings with high-level business executives as well as officials in all those countries.

The primary objective of the visit was to place Zimbabwe on agenda as investment destination and to make the case for foreign direct investment into the country to complement Government efforts to re-engage with international community.

CZI president Mr Charles Msipa said since the visit to Europe, the local industrial lobby group has hosted three European firms that came to assess the investment climate.

“Our visit was well-appreciated, coming after 14 years of ‘isolation’ of Zimbabwe,” said Mr Msipa.

“The visit also provided us opportunity to get direct feedback from prospective investors on what is important for them as they consider investments, which we have relayed to policymakers.

Since the visit to Europe, we have hosted about three European companies who attended our meetings in January and have visited Zimbabwe to assess the operating environment first hand. Some of the business organisations that we met are also planning to organise investment assessment visits to Zimbabwe during the course of this year (and the) dates (are) to be finalised.”

Mr Msipa said on April 7, the Zimbabwean delegation visited South Africa and met with companies from Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden amp Norway) and from Spain currently operating in South Africa to promote Zimbabwe as an investment destination.

“Very fruitful discussions and (there was a) keen interest in Zimbabwe based on quality and attendance of executives who attended the meetings. There are additional meetings planned with companies from Italy and Austria operating in South Africa on May 8,” he said.

During the visit in January, the business delegation called for the lifting of the illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe and urged the 28 member block’s leadership to normalise relations with Harare. It also explained how the illegal embargo was affecting investments.

The delegation engaged policy making organs of the European Commission and the business sector represented by the European Business Council for Africa and the Mediterranean.

It also engaged senior foreign affairs officials of the countries they visited and various business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce of Belgium-Luxembourg-Africa-Caribbean-Pacific, the Southern Africa Netherlands Chamber of Commerce and the Netherlands Business Council who requested for clarification about the policy frameworks and the implementation of indigenisation.

Last week, President Mugabe said Zimbabwe was open to investment and the country’s empowerment policy was not meant to expropriate shares held by foreign-owned firms.

Officially opening the 55th edition of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, the President said indigenisation had been subject to “misrepresentation and misinterpretation”, with some people claiming it was meant to seize foreign-owned businesses.

He said the policy was meant to empower and integrate the majority of people into the mainstream economy. He added the policy was aimed at achieving inclusive growth, sustainable development and social equity and there was no expropriation or nationalisation of shares held by non-indigenous persons in companies.

“With this clarification, let me take this opportunity to invite potential investors to come and do business in Zimbabwe in which there is huge potential for joint venture partnerships between investors, manufacturers, industrialists and the public sector,” he said.

CZI has since expressed commitment to the success of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation, which has identified FDI as an important aspect to support the country’s medium-term policy’s economic growth objectives.

Mr Msipa said business leaders remained committed to continue the process of dialogue and engagement with prospective investors as well as to collaborate with Government on policy initiatives to improve investment climate for domestic and foreign investors.

Source : The Herald