A VISITING United States trade delegation which is in the country on a rare trade visit says it is impressed by the business opportunities in Zimbabwe and promised a follow-up visit next month for further talks.
The Source/Business Reporter
The trade delegation, which has been in the country since Wednesday on a three-day mission to explore investment opportunities, is representing businesses in the financial, agriculture, mining, engineering, energy, waste technology and hospitality sectors. Addressing journalists on Friday, head of delegation Phillip de Leon said they had met with government officials and representatives of local companies.
“My assessment, based on the two days we have spent here is that Zimbabwe is open to business. There are business opportunities everywhere, so now the real work starts. We need to do follow-ups.
My perception at this stage is very positive,” he said.
De Leon, who is representing the Corporate Council on Africa on its maiden visit to the country, as well as an agriculture company, AGCO, said there was vast potential in the sector which the country could exploit to reduce imports.
“You have an extraordinary potential in agriculture and we need to wake up the lion. My goal is to see how we can further develop agriculture,” he said.
“We agreed different things at different levels and one of my colleagues will come back in July.”
He urged the country to market itself, especially at the forthcoming Corporate Council on Africa summit to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from November 2 to 5 which will bring together traders from the United States and Africa.
“You have to market Zimbabwe. We live in a competitive world where everybody is trying to win attention,” he said.
De Leon said he was aware of the challenges the country is facing such as lack of access to capital and had been briefed about the indigenisation law which requires locals to control 51% stake in foreign-owned companies.
“My approach to come into a country is having a clear understanding of the legal environment and any investor makes sure it is predictable, foreseeable and stable over time,” he said.
“We have had interesting conversation, notably on the 51% rule, on indigenisation rules and so we got some clarifications which enable us to better understand the situation. I think a clear understanding of the legislative environment is very critical.”
Responding to whether the strained relations between the two countries would not affect trade, de Leon said: “We are staying away from politics. We are here to talk about trade. In my experience, politicians come and go, but businessmen stay.”
The visit was facilitated by the American Business Association of Zimbabwe (ABAZ), a voluntary business promotion organisation whose primary objective is to promote business between Zimbabwe and US.
ABAZ chairperson Tinashe Rwodzi said his association was encouraging the American trade mission “to come over and look at Zimbabwe, get a feel for it and be properly informed”.
“We believe that Zimbabwe critically needs foreign direct investments and we have been working behind the scenes since 2010 engaging with American business,” Rwodzi said.
According to the official statistics, Zimbabwe recorded a $16,9 million surplus with the United States last year with trade between the two countries reaching $100 million despite claims of existing sanctions.
According to the data, Zimbabwe exported to the US goods such as tobacco, iron and steel and coffee among others valued at $64,9 million during the period under review.
The country also imported from the US goods such as machinery and pharmaceuticals valued at $48,7 million.