Go grab opportunities in Zim now: SA expert

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South African business, with its tendency to ‘wait and see’, could miss the boat in terms of opportunities in Zimbabwe, while international investors flock to the country to explore new business potential there.

This is according to Mr Duncan Bonnett, Director Strategy & Business Development at research and consulting specialists Africa House, who has led two fact-finding and business development delegations to Zimbabwe in recent months.

“The prevailing spirit in Zimbabwe has changed dramatically,” said Mr Bonnett. “Zimbabwe’s public and private sectors are more positive than they have been in possibly 15 years, but with a sense of realism. Significant infrastructure and industrial revitalisation projects are planned.”

Infrastructure stakeholders from around the world are showing keen interest in Zimbabwe as a new spirit of optimism takes root in the country. As managers of the pan-African VIP programme for POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa 2018, Mr Bonnet says Zimbabwe presents significant opportunities for South African power businesses. Power is a key factor underpinning Zimbabwe’s aims to restart its manufacturing sector and boost economic growth, Mr Bonnett noted.

“The country is focused on rehabilitation, upgrading and expansion.” Manufacturing was once a key sector of the economy and the basic manufacturing infrastructure still exists in many cases. However, it needs investment, modernisation and reliable power to get up and running again. Zimbabwe currently has a power shortfall of around 250MW or 14 percent, but as new mining and industrial projects roll out, this shortfall will become more pronounced. To address this, there are new mega hydro and coal-fired projects on the table; but also a number of smaller power projects.”

One of these, he noted, was a plan to link new smaller scale hydro power production with enhanced irrigation projects around the country. A number of renewable and solar projects are also planned, while even at a municipal level, authorities are looking to projects such as solar powered street lights.

“There are many infrastructure and power business opportunities in Zimbabwe, but it needs to be understood that if companies wait until after the elections to start investigating the opportunities, they may be too late,” said Mr Bonnett.

During his recent fact-finding visits, Mr Bonnett was told that delegations had been flying in to Zimbabwe from across the world to investigate opportunities.

“There are reports that delegations have visited from the US, Canada, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, Korea, China and India, with a view to either making their first inroads into the country or expanding their existing business there,” he said.

Zimbabwe, with its educated workforce and skilled diaspora, along with the new will to revitalise the economy, presents strong growth potential.

“The danger for South African business is their tendency to wait too long before moving on opportunity. Now is really the time to be investigating opportunities in Zimbabwe,” Mr Bonnett said.

Business partnership opportunities and new pan-African projects will come under the spotlight at Africa’s premier power sector conference and exhibition, POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa, in Johannesburg from 17–19 July this year. Up to 80 pan-African power-sector VIPs will fly to South Africa for POWER-GEN & DistribuTECH Africa, where they will participate in B2B matchmaking and business meeting programme throughout the three days of the event. Themed “Powering up a continent”, this annual event brings together up to 3,000 key industry stakeholders from across Africa and abroad for three days of high-level debate and analysis.