President Mugabe last Thursday held a historic interface with the private sector. The meeting which was attended by captains of industry, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Governor, Dr John Mangudya as well as several Government ministers, was meant to exchange views on ways to turn around the economy.
The business associations represented at the indaba include Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Bankers’ Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ), Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (COMZ), Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU), Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), Agricultural and Rural Development Authority (Arda) and Zimbabwe Council for Tourism.
In his remarks President Mugabe hailed the co-operation between the Government and the private sector which he said had brought success stories in the economy. He said such co-operation was largely responsible for the phenomenal success of the Command Agricultural Programme which in a single season, enabled Zimbabwe to regain its food security.
The President urged the private sector to support the expanded version of Command Agriculture programme and ensure timeous supply of critical inputs such as seed, fertilisers and chemicals at affordable prices.
Cde Mugabe who took the opportunity to update the business community representatives on the progress in implementing key development projects such as dualisation of the Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare-Chirundu Road, the Kariba South Power Project and the construction of the Hwange 7 and 8 projects, said the private sector should take advantage of the recently commissioned Tokwe-Mukosi Dam in Masvingo which he said had great potential for development of tourism and fisheries, irrigation and power generation.
He said the mining sector should invest in refineries and smelting plants in order to boost value addition and beneficiation as opposed to exporting raw minerals. The President said the Special Economic Zones should provide impetus for domestic and foreign direct investment. In his response, the private sector representative, Mr Charles Msipa said the sector enjoyed access to and dialogue with policymakers.
He, however, bemoaned the high cost of doing business in Zimbabwe. He also called for policy coherency and consistency from Government. He said there was a need for Government to prioritise investment, harmonise investment laws as well as create a one-stop shop. He said such high level engagements should be held at least twice a year.
We totally agree with Mr Msipa that such engagements should be held at least twice a year or even more when the need arises. It is disappointing that before the Thursday meeting, the last such high level engagement had been held in 2007. Government and the private sector are agreed that for the country to achieve an economic turnaround, they need to work together which means they should constantly engage to review progress.
It is only through such engagements that the parties get to know about the challenges or shortcomings so that they are urgently addressed. The Office of The President and Cabinet has covered a lot of ground in its programme to ensure ease of doing business but as pointed out by Mr Msipa, doing business here is very expensive.
This obviously chases away investors because investing in Zimbabwe under such circumstances means less profits. This is an area that needs to be addressed urgently learning from other countries in the region and beyond.
We have said in the past that locals should take the lead in investing in the economy and FDIs will then become a bonus. It is therefore important for captains of industry to constantly engage Government at different levels to highlight challenges or shortcomings that impede investment so that they are quickly addressed.
It is only Zimbabweans that can make the country a better place to live for present and future generations. The challenge to the present generation therefore is to bequeath to future generations a prosperous Zimbabwe.