Time for a One-Stop Shop In­vest­ment Cen­tre

The Manica Post - - Business - Rumbidzayi Zinyuke Se­nior Busi­ness Re­porter

ZIM­BABWE has come a long way since the begin­ning of 2000 un­til now.

Not only has the econ­omy been in both hy­per­in­fla­tion and de­fla­tion, it has seen the loss of its own cur­rency, the flight of many in­vestors, the adop­tion of a for­eign cur­rency that made it more ex­pen­sive than its com­peti­tors, lost con­trol of same cur­rency, in­tro­duced a new cur­rency only ac­cepted in Zim­babwe (bond notes) and ev­ery­thing else in be­tween.

A lot has hap­pened, pe­riod!

But the most no­table thing to have hap­pened dur­ing all this eco­nomic tur­moil was the res­ig­na­tion of for­mer pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe af­ter 37 years in power.

It seems his step­ping down has un­locked what­ever doors had been locked on this coun­try’s eco­nomic for­tunes.

Not only have we seen a change in Gov­ern­ment’s stance on eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, we are begin­ning to see a per­cep­ti­ble change in the at­ti­tudes of those in­vestors who had turned their backs on Zim­babwe. Sud­denly, the coun­try seems to be less soiled and more ap­peal­ing to those in­vestors who had once de­clared it a bas­ket case.

Ap­par­ently, the tweaks ap­plied to the in­di­geni­sa­tion laws of the coun­try have whet­ted the ap­petite of in­vestors. It has re­newed their in­ter­est in Zim­babwe, a coun­try with un­lim­ited po­ten­tial for the keen in­vestor.

Zim­babwe In­vest­ment Au­thor­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive Mr Richard Mbaiwa told our sis­ter pa­per The Sun­day Mail that there are in­di­ca­tions that in­vestors have changed their per­cep­tion to­wards Zim­babwe as an in­vest­ment des­ti­na­tion fol­low­ing re­newed ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est at the Africa 2017 Fo­rum held in Egypt re­cently.

“I would say there is quite a lot of in­ter­est and in­vestors also ex­press­ing pos­i­tiv­ity, if I may put it that way. So what I may say is, now there is a per­cep­tion change by in­vestors,” he said.

While it might not fol­low that this re­newed in­ter­est will au­to­mat­i­cally bring in­vest­ment, it is a step in the right di­rec­tion.

We might ac­tu­ally be­gin to see a trickle of for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment which will grad­u­ally in­crease over time.

But there are many re­forms Gov­ern­ment will need to im­ple­ment to achieve this. These in­clude the ease of do­ing busi­ness re­forms to en­sure the coun­try im­proves its rank­ings on the World Bank Ease of Do­ing Busi­ness In­dex from 159.

This might ac­tu­ally be the best time for Gov­ern­ment to be se­ri­ous about the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a one-stop in­vest­ment cen­tre.

Re­mem­ber, there was much hype over the visit into the coun­try by Nige­rian bil­lion­aire Aliko Dan­gote, who an­nounced his plans to in­vest mil­lions in con­struct­ing a ce­ment plant and out­lined his com­pany’s in­ter­est in in­vest­ing in coal min­ing and power gen­er­a­tion.

But noth­ing much came out of that visit ex­cept a few sub­se­quent vis­its which did not yield much, from our view­point.

The con­cept of a one-stop clear­ing house for in­vestors was mooted more than a decade ago but un­til now, we haven’t seen much hap­pen­ing on that front.

The mul­ti­plic­ity of forms at too many Gov­ern­ment agen­cies and the long wait for ap­proval have not been amus­ing for in­vestors.

The up­shot is that they, most times, end up frus­trated and throw in the trowel.

And to fi­nally see Gov­ern­ment ac­knowl­edg­ing that they have been do­ing it all wrong and ac­tu­ally come up with a way of ad­dress­ing this, is quite a re­lief.

Pre­sent­ing his 2018 Na­tional Bud­get, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pa­trick Chi­na­masa ac­knowl­edged the im­por­tance of a on­estop in­vest­ment cen­tre.

“Other coun­tries have suc­cess­fully in­tro­duced one-stop shops, wherein all for­eign di­rect in­vest­ments are ap­proved un­der one roof, with the ob­jec­tive of ex­pe­dit­ing the pro­cess­ing time. In pur­suit of this and in view of in­tense com­pe­ti­tion for for­eign di­rect in­vest­ment, im­ple­ment­ing of a func­tional one-stop shop is para­mount,” said Min­is­ter Chi­na­masa. “In line with tech­no­log­i­cal de­vel­op­ments, Zim­babwe’s One-Stop Shop In­vest­ment Cen­tre is also be­ing re­quired to take ad­van­tage of on­line ser­vices, that way re­mov­ing the re­quire­ment for sec­ond­ing staff by var­i­ous min­istries and de­part­ments, which has been de­lay­ing the op­er­a­tional­i­sa­tion of this ini­tia­tive.”

Not only that, Min­is­ter Chi­na­masa took the ini­tia­tive to ad­dress some vi­o­la­tions made in the past with re­gards to in­vest­ments done un­der the Bi­lat­eral In­vest­ment Pro­mo­tion and Pro­tec­tion Agree­ments.

“The Pres­i­dent has al­ready made the com­mit­ment that all for­eign in­vest­ments will be safe in Zim­babwe,” Min­is­ter Chi­na­masa said.

Now this is what in­vestors want to hear. They are not com­ing into Zim­babwe to pro­vide free funds. But they want to know that their money will be safe and also that they would get a re­turn on their in­vest­ment. Af­ter all, they are in busi­ness.

Mak­ing sure that the OSSIC is on­line would make Zim­babwe more ac­ces­si­ble to a wider range of in­vestors. It would also get rid of those dreaded of­fi­cers who drag their feet and send you to five dif­fer­ent of­fices for a date stamp!

While agree­ing that it will not be an overnight thing, Gov­ern­ment can take so­lace in the fact that there are coun­tries who have gone the same route and suc­ceeded.

Like Zam­bia.

That coun­try’s in­vest­ment agency de­vel­oped a One-Stop Shop busi­ness reg­is­tra­tion fa­cil­ity to re­duce the cost of do­ing busi­ness, which dras­ti­cally re­duced the pe­riod of busi­ness reg­is­tra­tion from seven days to 24 hours.

And when Mozam­bique emerged from two suc­ces­sive wars in 1992, it adopted a new in­vest­ment law, putting in place the req­ui­site reg­u­la­tory frame­work to sig­nal a wel­com­ing at­ti­tude to FDI. Nat­u­ral re­source-based mega-projects have proved to be a par­tic­u­lar boon for the Mozam­bi­can econ­omy. They have spurred in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment and helped di­ver­sify Mozam­bique’s ex­ports away from agri­cul­ture.

This only goes to show that with bu­reau­cratic bungling shoved to the side, clear­ing the way for in­vest­ment, there is bound to be that de­sired in­flux of money to fund all those idle projects we so need to get the eco­nomic wheel turn­ing in a clock­wise di­rec­tion again.

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