INDUSTRY executives and technocrats will meet in Bulawayo tomorrow to deliberate on the implementation of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) model, which is expected to enhance domestic investment and revival of the manufacturing sector.
The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Matabeleland Chapter is coordinating the high-level public private dialogue with the view of coming up with a position paper that will be presented to Government for consideration and smooth rollout of the programme in the city.
Tomorrow’s deliberations would be guided by three focus presentations on: the state of the leather and textile industry in Matabeleland, the history of SEZ and an appreciation of what exactly it is as well as the state of preparedness of the Bulawayo City Council for the imminent SEZ introduction.
“The purpose of the dialogue is to obtain information from the Bulawayo business community on the soon coming SEZs. Bulawayo has been designated as the textile and leather zone, thus we seek your input on its viability,” ZNCC regional marketing and public relations manager, Mr Velile Dube, said.
“As a chamber we endeavour to adopt a position in line with our constituency admonitions. We will then gather input from the attendees in a bid to craft a positional paper regarding the dispensation of these zones and present it to Government.”
A SEZ is an area in which business and trade laws are different from rest of the country. SEZs are located within a country’s national borders, and their aims include: increased trade, increased investment, job creation and effective administration.
ZNCC called on the business community to attend the event in large numbers to present their input. At the core of the implementation of SEZ is promotion of equitable development and aggregate prosperity across Zimbabwe, simultaneously leveraging on homogeneous and indigenous resources comparative to a region or zone, hence the focus to permit incubation of that region to specialise in its production.
“There have been discrepancies on the designation of these zones, hence the chamber has seen it prudent to create a platform to better appreciate the concept of SEZ as well as obtain views from our business constituency on the designation and its appropriateness for our region,” said Mr Dube.
The Bulawayo City Council has already tabled a resolution to exempt investor companies under SEZs from paying taxes for a period of up to five years as a way of stimulating development and employment creation.
SEZs are expected to attract foreign investments worth $10 billion in the next two years, the newly appointed SEZ board chairman, Dr Gideon Gono, said recently.
The former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor said the SEZ Act provided “so much protection” to investors and this would help spur foreign investment.
Zimbabwe received $391 million worth of foreign investments last year, down from $421 million a year earlier.
“The Act gives so much protection to investors, which has never been given to anyone before,” said Dr Gono. “The challenge therefore before the SEZ is to persuade investors to bring FDI.”
Dr Gono emphasised that licensed SEZ investors would be exempt from having to comply with laws such as the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which requires foreign owned companies to hold not more than 49 percent stake in local businesses.
The Government has designated Sunway City in Ruwa, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls as SEZ locations to initially focus on.