HARARE – When it comes to winning back lost investor confidence and trust, it seems deposed president Robert Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has a long way to go.
Fed up of policy inconsistencies and lack of respect for property rights during the greater part of Mugabe’s 37-year rule, most investors withdrew from Zimbabwe, with many adopting a wait-and-see approach.
And many still maintain that stance.
Of course, Zimbabwe remains an attractive and competitive investment destination on the continent — in terms of opportunity and strategic positioning — but it seems it still comes with a lot of baggage.
Most of it from 93-year-old Mugabe’s era.
And latest developments on Zimbabwe’s Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (Bippas) — contractual agreements, which Mugabe’s administration committed to or entered into in order to protect investors, but violated at the demise of the country’s foreign direct investment inflows — speak to that. Loudly!
According to latest reportage by this paper, Zimbabwe has failed to ratify a Bippa it signed with Italy 19 years ago, a situation that has resulted in low trade between us and the European country.
Italian ambassador Enrico De Agostini said the country was not sincere on its quest to do business with the international community as it was failing to keep the promises it made to the European nation about two decades ago.
“Zimbabwe and Italy signed a memorandum of understanding in 1999, but it’s yet to be ratified,” the envoy said at the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries symposium in the capital last week.
“I raised the issue with the previous administration in September 2015 and the government promised to ratify the treaty by 2016, but up to now, nothing has been done.
When are you going to ratify the agreement?” Agostini asked central bank governor John Mangudya who was present at the meeting.
Like most European countries, Italy is no small investor.
The country’s brands are internationally-renowned for finesse and quality craftsmanship.
It is strong in engineering and superior technology, sectors into which Zimbabwe desperately needs to attract investors.
Agostini said the ratification of the 19-year-old bilateral relations agreement will open doors for more foreign direct investment to flow into Zimbabwe.
“It’s not a major thing, but it will send the right signals to the international community that Zimbabwe is now ready for foreign direct investment,” he said.
In response, Mnangagwa said government was committed to protecting property rights and ratify the Bippas, adding his administration would embrace new friends, including hostile countries, as well as maintaining good relations with friendly nations.
“Fortunately, we are receiving positive signals across the world in the western countries from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, India, China and Brazil, among others.
“We are receiving positive signals for co-operation. So, on the issue of international engagement, it’s a moment where we are receiving goodwill and we must ride on this goodwill as a country,” he said while officiating at a summit organised by the Zimbabwe Business Club.
Mnangagwa added that Zimbabwe was ready for business.
For sure Mr President, Zimbabwe — the long-suffering people and its new leadership — are ready for business.
Actually, fed-up but patient citizens have long been yearning for re-engagement with the international community.
And today, Bippas are a key determinant to that.
In his ignorance, arrogance and politicking, Mugabe violated those agreements, causing untold suffering to his people.
Mnangagwa needs to act urgently to Agostini humble call.
Doing so resonates and bolsters your message that Zimbabwe has turned a new leaf and is willing to reengage.
Like Agostini said, “it will send the right signal to the international community”.
Let’s respect and protect investors’ rights — both local and domestic.