Zimbabwe is set to become an investment magnet in the next few years buoyed by the sweeping political and economic reforms that Government has embarked upon, a top Mauritian investor has said.
AfricAsia Electronic Manufacturing Limited chief executive officer Mr Jonid Dowlut told The Herald Business that Zimbabwe has demonstrated greater scope to transform the way it does business under the new administration, as evidenced by the softening of stances by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Mr Dowlut, who was in Harare recently together with bosses of nine other Mauritian companies that were exploring potential investment opportunities, said investors should be patient with Zimbabwe as it fixes its investment climate.
“The first thing to recognise is that Government is investing and has invested a lot in better infrastructure for good access; that is a very good starting point,” said Mr Dowlut.
“I think as entities like the World Bank and IMF open up and change the mindset regards Zimbabwe as they are doing, people like myself will be more comfortable to invest in Zimbabwe.
“So for me, it’s (investment climate) very positive but we have to be a bit patient as all the issues are not going to happen tomorrow. My opinion is that it’s a window of two to three years that we will see some major transformation in Zimbabwe.”
Zimbabwe has been burdened by the sanctions imposed by the United States of America and the European Union at the turn of the millennium following the land reform programme, but has been wriggling out of the challenges through working with Eastern European countries and those in Asia.
Now, the World Bank and IMF are slowly appreciating the efforts being invested by Government in addressing some challenges such as the ease of doing business, cutting of Government expenditure and reforming parastatals. Mr Dowlut said Zimbabwe’s strength is its human capital base, riding on Government’s deliberate emphasis on educating citizens just like what Mauritius has done.
“We have 50 years of independence in Mauritius and we have enjoyed growth economically.
“From the start, we put a lot of value on education but you have to look at the realities; Mauritius is tiny so it is a lot easier to manage the transformation process than Zimbabwe; you are much, much bigger and I think a lot of things have been addressed (to attract investors),” said Mr Dowlut.
Economic Development Board — Mauritius’ senior investment executive — Logistics, Air and Sea, Mr Uttum Rughoobur, who was head of delegation, told The Herald Business that President Mnangagwa’s administration was “willing” to continuously improve the investment climate.
“What brings us here is the change in your business climate. I mean we can see that there is political willingness, there are changes in pro-business reforms that the Government has in terms of ownership that we can see and also (in) Zimbabwe there is huge potential,” said Mr Rughoobur.
The Economic Development Board’s key objective is to ensure greater coherence and effectiveness in implementing policies and draw the vision for the economic development path to be adopted to reach a high-income economy status through sustainable and inclusive growth while ensuring economic independence, operates under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office.
Mr Dowlut’s company, AfricAsia Electronics, has subsidiaries that include Suntech Electronics, which focuses on manufacturing solar-powered TVs.
The company has produced over 500 000 units that have been exported into Africa and other parts of the world including Australia.
Said Mr Dowlut: “When you sell solar TVs, it’s not all about entertainment; it is about social transformation because people who are off-grid in the country will have access to news from around the world.
“They no longer need to be connected to the grid because solar allows them to do so, and they are able to light their homes, charge phones and torches, while kids don’t need to sit in front of fire to carry out their studies.”
He said Suntech Electronics already employs two Zimbabweans and would want more so that by the time it considers to come and set up base here, it will employ the skills of those locals.
The company sells its products in Zimbabwe through a distributor, Unicorn Trading Limited but has been facing headwinds in recent months due to forex challenges.
“In terms of setting up a factory, I think that is round two, but for me round one is to get more people from Zimbabwe to work for us in Mauritius, acquire some skills and we can set up when we already have people to run the factory,” said Mr Dowlut.
Some of the Mauritian companies that visited Zimbabwe included AIIZ Uniforms (clothing and uniforms manufacturer); Chee Man Shing & Co which has interests in candle products; House of Lords (premium rum, whiskey, vodka and brandy); L.V.M Mauritius (snacks); Pere Laval (metal fabrication and security doors); Soge International (textiles recycling); Top Detergents and Voiz Technologies (enterprise software services.