via Thumbs up to Nhema – DailyNews Live 3 JANUARY 2014
A controversial proposal by the Zimbabwe government to kick out foreign shop-owners, mainly Chinese and Nigerian nationals, in order to create opportunities to locals had sent shudders through diplomats, corporate executives, investors and small-time foreign businesspersons.
Most of the attention had focused on how xenophobic the move was and what the change might mean for Zimbabwe, whose nationals are working in several African capitals.
But sanity has prevailed, and Indigenisation minister Francis Nhema has acknowledged the “very important role” foreigners were playing in providing services to impoverished Zimbabweans.
“What we are saying is: new licensing in reserved sectors, from January, will be skewed in favour of indigenous people,” said the minister.
“Those foreigners operating in the reserved sectors of our economy should continue. One needs to understand that they have played a very important role in terms of providing services to our people during their time of need.
“We encourage those already in the industry to welcome new players and assist them wherever possible; working with them in the spirit of fair competition, which can only make Zimbabwe a great nation.”
Nhema must be applauded for steering clear of demagoguery, and clarifying that no grab of foreign-owned businesses in Zimbabwe would be tolerated.
The root causes of Zimbabwe’s financial problems are unaffordable and unsustainable populist policies and corruption.
At a time when Zimbabwe desperately needs foreign investment, to pass laws that seek to kick out foreign investors, no matter how small, is the height of folly.
No foreign institution can trust the government. China on the other hand, which government is fond of hawking as an investor of choice, is very investor friendly, having opened up its markets, for example FDI in retail.
The citizens of Zimbabwe deserve better. We welcome this change of heart by government, whose policy flip-flops are increasingly becoming a cause for concern.
“We are a business community, which should follow proper business procedures and maintain sanity in our country,” Nhema said, setting the tone for the rules of engagement.
“All business takeovers should be done and finalised through the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Board. It is important for Zimbabweans to understand that economic empowerment relates to the creation of wealth by locals as well as employment.
“As government, we have emphasised broad-based economic empowerment, giving access and opportunity to those who were looked at marginally in the economics of the past.”
There was escalating worry that the January 1 ultimatum for foreign shop-owners will harm Zimbabwe’s reputation with foreign investors at a time when policy makers are trying to court direct investment from abroad to help shore up the slowing economy.
The ultimatum, which attracted international media attention, was most retrograde. We are glad our policy makers have realised we do not live in isolation. We need FDI, foreign technology and capital.