FDI: A breath of fresh air for the job market

The Herald

Victoria Ruzvidzo In Focus
Zimbabweans are looking for jobs so they can enjoy a better quality of life. Their hope has been rekindled by the new dispensation that is operating in overdrive to ensure the economy begins to function normally again.

Decades of under-performance have drowned employment opportunities as economic activity almost ground to a halt.

Therefore, jobs have been long in coming but such projects as the $30 million Pepsi plant launched on Wednesday are sweet music to the ears of the many that have been waiting for years, if not decades to be gainfully employed.

At least 600 people have already been employed at the Varun Beverages Plant while its chairman, Mr Ravi Jaipuria, yesterday said their potato project would generate an additional 600 direct jobs to farmer families. This means many more indirect jobs will be created through this project.

This is arguably the whole essence of investment. Creating jobs for the people, generating wealth and other sweeteners that will contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Thousands of people have been laid off over the past decade or so as firms succumbed to economic challenges and had to shut down or scale down operations significantly.

Thousands of graduates from universities and other tertiary colleges have also found the going tough in terms of securing employment or resources to start income-generating projects. Hence the demand for employment is quite high.

President Mnangagwa was quite apt on Wednesday when he said the entrance of more foreign companies is aimed an upgrading people’s standard of living and creating a middle income economy by 2030.

Certainly the majority have had to make do with very little, with many living below the Poverty Datum Line but increased investments by both foreign and local companies will bring a better quality life for the people.

So the more investments we have the more jobs are created. And this looks like it is no longer just wishful thinking. Increased activity has been noted in the economy over the last few months.

A Mauritian firm also intends to create about 4 000 jobs for skilled and non-skilled workers through a $5 billion investment in a coal-fired power plant and the construction of a liquid petroleum plant in Binga.

The joint venture, Emalahleni Energy Proteas Venture of Mauritius, will own 51 percent of the venture while locals will account for the balance.

This week alone we had the Chinese delegation from the rich Zhejiang Province and another high-powered delegation from the United Kingdom. The delegation, which has been scouting for investment opportunities here, expressed keenness to establish more businesses.

Zhejiang is one of China’s richest provinces with a nominal GDP of $711 billion. This represents more than six percent of China’s total GDP.

On the other hand, the UK delegation also expressed its eagerness to invest here. Its team comprised high-ranking executives who would make swift decisions on new investments.

The economy is replete with examples of investments at various stages of finalisation and implementation. Latest statistics show that about $15 billion worth of investment commitments have been registered since the beginning of the year.

Local businesses have also been retooling and expanding operations in some instances. Early this week President Mnangagwa commissioned an $8 million corn-snack and milling outfit -Davipel – which is also expected to create hundreds of jobs. Former Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Mr David Norupiri is the entrepreneur behind this project.

Furthermore, the imminent resuscitation of the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Ziscosteel) is also expected to create hundreds of opportunities for former employees and new recruits.

All this means that job opportunities will be available in their hundreds, effectively transforming the lives of thousands of people and their dependants.

Once these are concretised, the number of jobs likely to be created is quite significant and will significantly reduce the unemployment figures.

Many have been roaming the streets in search of jobs while others are engaged in informal activities just to eke a living. Zimbabweans are entrepreneurial in nature and always find their way round adverse situations. This has helped provide a soft landing for the jobless. Many graduates are doing jobs that they did not train for, a compromise necessitated by the scarcity of jobs.

But a bright light is now shining at the end of the tunnel and that tunnel is also getting shorter and shorter. Government is prioritising the economy and activity is picking up.

We are excited that Government has set up an investment committee to expedite the approval process. This should see the removal of the bureaucracy that has taken months, and years, in some cases for projects to be approved.

President Mnangagwa said the committee will facilitate investments while working on establishing the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Authority (Zida), which will be an amalgamation of departments involved in facilitating investment.

The interim committee came into being after the realisation that the establishment of ZIDA could take longer than anticipated and yet the processes need to move expeditiously to improve Zimbabwe’s ease of doing business status.

“We are fast tracking the implementation of the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Authority as a one-stop investment shop and trade facilitation centre. I am glad to advise that we have recently approved the setting up of an interim investment and trade facilitation committee that will offer speedy attention to investment issues,” said President Mnangagwa.

This proactive stance should yield positive results for this country. Zimbabwe has millions of its citizens dotted across the globe. These skills should also come in handy as the economy recovers.

Technology and skills transfer is critical so that the country adheres to  international best practices and benefits from its human resource.

Furthermore, the gazetting of the investor incentives and regulations that will guide the Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority is also set to lure more investors to this part of the world, creating more jobs in the process.

Already the interest in these zones are high, with the Zim-Seza board chairman revealing to journalists this week that investors from Japan, China, the United States, India, Canada, South Korea and many others had registered their desire to set up shop in the economic zones.

Such incentives as tax holidays and duty exemptions are attractive to investors. On Wednesday, the President also challenged Minister of Finance Patrick Chinamasa to consider more tax incentives for foreign investors. This will surely make Zimbabwe a more attractive destination. Of course, the minister would have to do the maths to ensure his tax base is not eroded completely.

Increased economic activity will obviously result in more dollars flowing into the fiscus.

So the picture looks bright for those on the job market. Lives are certainly set for massive transformation and the President’s desire for a middle income economy by 2030 is not far-fetched but quite realistic.

Zimbabwe could soon achieve more than it ever anticipated if the momentum is maintained.

As we always say, everyone needs to come to the party and give of their best. This country has immense potential. The phoenix is about to rise again.

In God I trust!

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Twitter handle : @VictoriaRuzvid2