Zimbabwe sets deadline for empowerment plans, Botswana in recession


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ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe gives foreign firms March deadline for empowerment plans

(Reuters) Zimbabwe’s finance minister on Thursday gave foreign-owned firms operating in the country, including mines and banks, a March 2016 deadline to submit plans on how to comply with a law requiring them to sell at least 51 percent shares to locals.

The Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act was passed in 2008 under President Robert Mugabe’s black empowerment drive, but implementation has been slow, with potential foreign investors warning the law would hinder much-needed investment in the southern African nation.

The previous deadline was January 2014.

Chinamasa said existing foreign-owned firms could continue operating for up to five years, including a possible extension, but would be forced to pay an “indigenisation compliance levy as a trade-off for non-compliance.”

The world’s two largest platinum producers Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum and banking groups Standard Chartered Plc and Barclays Plc are some of the foreign-owned firms with operations in Zimbabwe.

Amplats and Implats have previously submitted empowerment plans, which are still being considered by Mugabe’s government.

Chinamasa reiterated the government would not pay for majority shares in mines, saying the government’s contribution in the business was the underground resource owned by the state.

Foreign shareholders in a mine can, however, dilute the government’s stake by injecting new capital. But the state will have up to five years or more to buy new shares in the business to restore its 51 percent shareholding, Chinamasa said.

Foreign-owned companies in manufacturing, financial services and construction will have to directly sell between 20 and 30 percent shares to locals, while empowerment credits, such as funding youth and women programmes, make up for the balance.

Chinamasa said no new foreign investors would be allowed in reserved sectors such as fuel retail, cigarette manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade and crop production unless under special circumstances determined and approved by Cabinet.

Botswana’s economy in recession after Q3 contraction

Botswana’s economy shrank 3.7 percent in July-September compared with the previous three months as diamond and copper production plunged, its second quarterly contraction in a row and marking a technical recession.

Official data on Thursday revised second-quarter growth to -0.1 percent compared with the previous January-March period.

Gross domestic product was 3.5 percent lower in the third quarter compared with a year before, with annual growth revised to 1.7 percent in Q2, Statistics Botswana said.

“The decline in GDP growth rate was attributed to a decline in diamond production by 33.4 percent,” the Central Statistics Office said in a statement.

A sharp decrease in copper production, by 14.1 percent, also contributed to the economy contracting for the second consecutive quarter.

Botswana’s President Ian Khama announced a bold economic stimulus package in November as a sharp drop in demand for its diamonds hampered growth.

Earlier in December, Botswana’s Treasury said it needed an additional $123 million for the 2015/16 financial year to fund measures to ease water and power shortages.

On Wednesday, the International Monetary Fund warned that it expected Botswana’s growth to slow to 2.3 percent in 2015, compared with 4.4 percent growth in 2014, due to weak global demand for diamonds and falling customs revenues.

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