Oliver Kazunga, Senior Business Reporter
SOUTH African investors should capitalise on proximity benefits to tap into vast investment opportunities in Matabeleland region, an official said yesterday.
Addressing the Zimbabwe-South Africa investment and trade indaba in Bulawayo, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Chiratidzo Mabuwa said South African businesses are better positioned to grab opportunities in the country given the cordial relations between the two states.
“It’s clear how the collapse of the railways took the oxygen of many Bulawayo companies. However, even though the region was hit hard by economic decline, it doesn’t mean there are no opportunities to exploit,” she said.
“The most important starting point for business in this region is the revival of National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ). This is the lifeline of industry as it’s the cheapest mode of transporting bulk non-perishable goods.
“NRZ still exists albeit operating at a very low capacity due to depleted infrastructure and locomotives that have outlived their economic lifespan. Investors are therefore invited to partner the NRZ through the establishment of joint ventures. Other investors may wish to finance these operations.”
Mabuwa said if NRZ is capacitated, industry competitiveness would be regained with Bulawayo coming back to life. She also pointed focus on other dormant yet lucrative ventures in the region such as power generation and coal-bed methane gas mining.
“Zimbabwe faces a power deficit and this presents opportunities for investors who may want to invest in rehabilitation of thermal power stations in Bulawayo and also in Hwange.
“The region has vast resources for coal-bed methane gas in Lupane and investors are further invited to explore the extent of this gas,” said the deputy minister.
She said investment in solar energy remained untapped in Matabeleland, an area which was also available to South African investors.
Earlier on South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry Mzwandile Masina said businesses from his country would continue to invest in Zimbabwe.
He said investors from South Africa would also set their focus on revitalising the manufacturing sector for Bulawayo.
Due to the economic challenges the country has gone through over the years, Bulawayo, once Zimbabwe’s industrial hub has suffered massive de-industrialisation.
“On the investment front, South has invested about 20 billion rand here in Zimbabwe in sectors such as mining, agriculture, banking and retail and we think that we could do more. This is why we want to encourage South African companies not to waste time but find your local partners, comply with the local laws, and ensure investment in Zimbabwe. As the two governments we’ll ensure that your investments are protected,” he said.
Responding to questions from South Africa investors, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Desire Sibanda assured investors that their property rights will be protected in Zimbabwe as guaranteed by the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) signed by the two countries signed in 2010.