Source: ZIDA to give FDI comfort, security | The Herald 16 DEC, 2019
Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
ZIMBABWE has edged closer to promulgating the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA) Bill, a proposed piece of legislation designed to harmonise all domestic laws with bearing on investments, which will promote, protect and facilitate investment into the Southern African country.
A conducive business environment promotes investment, as seen from the US$745 million foreign investment Zimbabwe attracted last year, up from US$349 million in 2017, after the new dispensation came into power in November 2017 and declared Zimbabwe open for business.
FDI was US$421 million in 2015, before going down to US$372 million in 2016 and US$349 million in 2017.
President Mnangagwa’s Government, soon after coming into power, started a raft of reforms to improve the environment, which resulted in the World Bank naming Zimbabwe among the top 20 improvers on ease of doing business in 2018.
To show how he values ZIDA’s role, the President, accompanied by Vice Presidents Constantino Chiwenga and Kembo Mohadi and other senior Government officials, including Deputy Chief Secretary (Presidential Communications) Mr George Charamba, toured ZIDA offices in Harare last week.
Among the most notable reforms the new dispensation has instituted in its quest to drive investment was the scrapping of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act, which for a long time was considered very unfriendly to foreign investors and therefore scaring away FDI.
Notably, provisions of ZIDA seek to give investors guarantees and to protect them from non-discriminatory treatment. They stipulate that all investments must conform to the laws of Zimbabwe, but importantly allow investors to invest in any sector of the Zimbabwean economy serve for the reserved sectors.
In what will give comfort to investors, Clause 15 and 16 of the ZIDA Bill seek to protect investors from unfair treatment, be it denial of justice in the courts of law, nationalisation, expropriation of investments, targeted discrimination on manifestly wrongful grounds, or abusive treatment of investors such as coercion and harassment.
Efforts to get a comment from ZIA chairperson Dr Washington Mbizvo on preparations for ZIDA and possible timelines were not successful on Friday last week while ZIA chief executive Richard Mbaiwa said he had no mandate to comment since ZIDA will be a completely new creature established by an Act of Parliament.
Broadly, the ZIDA Act will provide for the establishment of a new supreme investment promotion body, ZIDA, to replace the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) and the new entity will have a chief executive and board of directors.
The investment promotion agency’s board will comprise three persons chosen from the private sector and five chosen from the public sector at director level and above in line with the Public Entities and Corporate Governance Act. The chief executive officer (CEO) of ZIDA shall be appointed by the President after consultation with the minister.
ZIA was established from the merger of the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA) and Zimbabwe Investment Centre (ZIC) in 2006, with the aim of creating a one-stop investment shop for quicker and easier facilitation of investment.
The proposed one-stop investment centre (OSSIC) never saw the light of day even though it was launched in December 2010 because some key departments did not send representatives.
This resulted in continued delays in the processing of investor applications.
Further, even where certain key Government arms sent representatives to the ZIA offices to provide the requisite investment proposal evaluation and approvals, in most cases the representatives were junior staffers without authority to pass decisions, which resulted in proposals being sent back to main offices for evaluation.
As a result, instead of ZIA enhancing efficient, convenient and less costly and uncomplicated investment approvals, it became a “one more stop”, a scenario that defeated the whole purpose and objective of a leaner investment approval process.
As such, ZIDA Act will repeal ZIA Act, Joint Venture Act and Special Economic Zones Act resulting in a streamlined investment licensing, promotion and protection framework under one roof that speaks to the vision and targets of Government. It has already been passed by both houses of Parliament, but awaits Presidential assent.
ZIDA shall comprise of representatives of the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Immigration Department, Environmental Management Agency, Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, Companies Registration Office, National Social Security Authority, Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority, ministries of mines, labour and local government, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, as well as the State Enterprises Restructuring Agency.
Rwanda and Botswana are great examples of countries operating successful one-stop investment centres in Africa.
ZIDA is in line with the Transitional Stabilisation Programme, which is underpinned by the call to undertake structural reform measures to mitigate the challenges and risks, faced by the economy, in particular, the low investment in the country.
Its functions therefore entail, among others, the following; to promote, plan and implement investment promotion strategies for encouraging investment by domestic and foreign investors, promote the decentralisation of investment activities.
ZIDA will also establish and regulate special economic zones, implement and coordinate investment programmes and investment promotion activities, to appraise and recommend the approval of Public Private Partnerships as well as monitor the operations of registered investments.
The proposed Act is a very important piece of legislation in Zimbabwe as it seeks to create a conducive environment to promote investment and in turn accelerate and deepen the ease and cost of doing business reforms that improve competitiveness.
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