ZIMBABWE – Industry and commerce minister Mike Bimha says Zimbabwe is ‘ready for investment’ and it is only ‘prudent’ to welcome on board British businesses and Zimbabweans based in the UK as means to revive the country’s ailing economy.
Bimha was speaking at the Zimbabwe Trade and Investment Forum which was held in London this week.
The minister said Zimbabweans are “hospitable” and government was going to offer a “safe and secure environment to do business and pleasure”.
Organised by the CMG media group, the forum was aimed at addressing Zimbabwe’s “investment gap while also deepening economic cooperation with the United Kingdom for mutual benefit”.
Bimha admitted that Zimbabwe has been “failing to attract significant Foreign Direct Investment since 2009 while neighbours such as South Africa and Zambia enjoyed the lion’s share of inflows into the SADC region”.
He said last year, Zimbabwe recorded inflows of $349 million.
The minister added that Zimbabwe “has been ranked low on ease of doing business although there is a push in Government to address concerns raised by potential investors”.
“Foreign Direct Investment has, however, remained subdued because of perceived country risk,” he said.
Togetherness … Minister Mike Bimha (Black suit) with UK-based business people
As such, the minister said, the Government together with the private sector was working on a “number of measures aimed at making the investment environment more friendly”.
Bimha said the London forum had come at a time when government was in the process of implementing its ZIMASSSET which he said identified FDI as a “critical enabler for economic growth”.
“In 2015, FDI is projected to increase by 69% from US$349 million last year to US $591 million on the back of the ease of doing business reforms and the re-engagement process,” he added.
However, Bimha’s visit to London was not without drama as some Zimbabweans, mobilised by the Zimvigil, demonstrated protesting against his presence and denouncing President Robert Mugabe’s government.
The minister’s comments come at a time when Zimbabwe is involved in a desperate bid to attract investors and to get support from the IMF and the Chinese.
The IMF recently announced that it could resume funding Zimbabwe early 2016 while China sent down a down government official to assess the country’s bankability.
Zimbabwe has struggled along since the turn of the century due to poor relations with the west following the controversial land reform programme which saw the seizure of land from the white farmers.