Zimbabwe Ministers Urge Infrastructure Investment
ZIMBABWE says it is giving priority to upgrading its dilapidated roads, rail and air infrastructure in order to attract more investors.
President Robert Mugabe during his three-day state visit to South Africa said Harare was now focusing on upgrading its derelict infrastructure that has deteriorated in the past decade.
Zimbabwe’s economy and its infrastructure had seen an accelerated decline over the controversial empowerment policies, but on Thursday Mr Mugabe said his country was "now open for business".
Industry and Commerce Minister Mike Bimha said the Beitbridge-Harare road would receive urgent attention. The road is the gateway to almost all Southern African countries. It links Zimbabwe with South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi, and Democratic Republic of the Congo. "Presently, our government has embarked on roads upgrading nationwide, including the rail and air," he said.
Zimbabwe’s roads, including the Beitbridge–Harare road, are in poor state and are largely viewed as a hindrance to investments.
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who also was part of Mr Mugabe’s delegation at the South Africa-Zimbabwe Business Forum in Pretoria on Thursday, said the country’s poor roads and rail network were in a poor state and called for South African business to explore investment opportunities in infrastructure.
He appealed to the local business community saying: "We (Zimbabwe) have lots of economic challenges, but if one looks at them with a positive mind, they are equally economic opportunities to investors. We are here to say to our South African brothers, sisters, local and international companies, seize these opportunities for your business expansion or growth."
The Zimbabwean delegation on Thursday met with South Africa’s business community urging them to invest more in the troubled Southern African nation.
South Africa remains Zimbabwe’s largest trading partner in the region accounting for 60% of total imports. The imports for Harare increased from 2000 when most of Zimbabwe’s industries closed due to viability challenges.
Exxaro CEO Sipho Nkosi told Business Day during Thursday’s business forum that it was a positive development that South Africa and Zimbabwe were in talks to enhance their trade and economic relations.
"We (in South Africa and Zimbabwe) are a small market so if we can’t co-operate to export more value-added goods as a region, then we will never make it. We suffer as a result of early colonisation and the demarcation of southern African countries."
Umnombo Investment Holdings director Prince Sivile Mabandla said the presence of the forum indicated "a right opportune time" for local investors to move into Zimbabwe.
Wellington Ryan Rings, a Zimbabwean construction entrepreneur based in South Africa, said he was confident of Mr Mugabe’s message that the country was "once again open for business".
He said the two countries needed to find a way to decrease tariffs on exports to Zimbabwe from South Africa. He also said foreign investors and business people needed "aid and incentives" to make business easier in South Africa.
Open Tenders CEO Sivu Maqungo disagreed that the trade tariffs were skewed in favour of South Africa saying the Zimbabwean productive base was low and that had an effect on its imports.
Ministers announced on Wednesday that the Industrial Development Corporation and the Development Bank of Southern Africa would identify and support a series of infrastructure projects in both countries aimed at boosting economic co-operation.
Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said the Development Bank of Southern Africa would assist in raising funds for water infrastructure projects which the commission identifies.
Turning to the rule of law Zimbabwe Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi assured prospective investors of peaceful environment.
"We have tight security to ensure that peace and harmony prevail in the country. My message to the investors is, ‘do not worry yourselves in terms of stability, I believe the entire world knows we have relatively peace prevailing in the country, more than in any other region’," he said.