Former Botswana president Ian Khama has warned President Emmerson Mnangagwa against entertaining fly by night foreign investors who do not add value to the country’s tottering economy, the Daily News on Sunday can report.
Speaking during a Confederation of Zimbabwe Industry Investment Forum in Bulawayo on Thursday, the truth-telling Khama who fell out with Mnangagwa’s predecessor – Robert Mugabe – because of his frankness, said the Harare administration should not be too desperate for investment to the extent of taking on board foreign investors who come in with small projects.
“When I talk about investors, I am not talking about fly-by-nights. I am not talking about one person coming in and employing one person and possibly moving into space that should be occupied by Zimbabwean entrepreneurs,” he said.
“I am talking about people, investors who will come in and genuinely add value to your economy and allow your economy to grow, who will contribute to your economy and will also contribute to employment creation. Every government is responsible for finding ways of creating employment for its people and not for creating employment for outsiders.”
Khama said only genuine investors with capacity to change Zimbabwe’s economic fortunes should be allowed.
“I am not, however, saying you should kick out the outsiders not at all, because when you talk about foreign direct investment, you will also be turning to them to come in and participate in your economy,” he said.
“I am talking about when they do come in, those who you choose, should be those who will add value to your economy. That is very important,” Khama added, urging government to also come up with investor-friendly policies.
“We as a government (Botswana) adopted and developed an easy way of doing business road map which we expect to place us overtime among some of the best performing countries in terms of doing business in the world,” he said.
Ever since Mnangagwa’s ascendance to power in November last year, there has been a flurry of investors trooping to Zimbabwe, sniffing for investment opportunities, especially in the lucrative mining and energy sectors.
Government-controlled media has gone hysterical with sunshine journalism of the mega-deals struck by the authorities in Harare, running into several billions of United States dollars.
Observers have, however, been cautiously optimistic, questioning the caliber of some of the foreign businessman hobnobbing with top government officials.
Mnangagwa himself is on record saying government has learnt its lessons through the endless delays in implementing the Gwanda solar project and will not repeat the same mistake of awarding deals to fly-by-night briefcase businesses.
This was after businessman Wicknell Chivayo’s Intratreck Zimbabwe was awarded the tender to develop the Gwanda solar project in 2015 under controversial circumstances.
The project is yet to be implemented, with the business currently out on a $2000 bail, facing charges of defrauding the Zimbabwe Power Company $5 million, money laundering and violating exchange control regulations.
Mnangagwa has been pitching the country at various international fora as a safe destination for investment through his Zimbabwe is open for business mantra.
In January, he told attendants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that his government would prioritise economics and trade cooperation at the expense of politics, in order to catch up with the region.
This was followed up in April by Mnangagwa’s visit to China in the hope that the gesture will unlock substantial investment and much-needed aid for the country — as his administration bids to solve the country’s economic crisis.
While he was on his week-long State visit to Beijing in April, Mnangagwa met with the leader of the East Asian superpower, Xi Jinping and explored the issue of possible financial aid package for Zimbabwe, and how to boost trade relations between the two countries.
Mnangagwa told Xi how he was trying frantically to turn a new leaf for the country from the Mugabe-era, which had seen both local and foreign investors losing their companies and land willy-nilly.
Posting on his official Facebook page after his meeting with the Chinese leader, Mnangagwa described the two men’s engagement as fruitful.
“During our meeting, we discussed fostering and developing the historic ties between our two great nations for the benefit of both our peoples.
“I was delighted to hear President Xi talk of his faith in our vision and economic agenda, and his commitment to working with our government as we build a new, stronger Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said.
“In this vein, this morning at a Zimbabwe-China business forum, I enjoined hundreds of businessmen and women from both countries to harness the tremendous potential of our great nation towards greater economic growth for all Zimbabweans.
“Forums such as these help us to bring in the investment we require to create more jobs and develop our new Zimbabwe,” he added.
Zimbabwe and China have since signed several Memoranda of Understanding that are expected to expedite the country’s socio-economic recovery.