SA companies ready to start pumping money in Zimbabwe

JOHANNESBURG – At least two big, South African, health-related firms are considering new investments or the increase of existing ones in Zimbabwe

Netcare is assessing possible partnerships in Zimbabwe, according to Jerry Vilakazi, the chief executive of Business Unity SA (Busa) and the non-executive chairman at Netcare.

Another firm that has confirmed its interest in investing more in Zimbabwe is Aspen Pharmacare. Stavros Nicolaou, a senior executive at the pharmaceutical group, said that while the company had not yet increased its export volumes, it was in discussions with potential distributors.

Nicolaou said the current distributors had not been consistent buyers, but a decision had not been taken on whether to continue with them as well as the new ones.

Vilakazi, together with Patrice Motsepe, led the business delegation to Zimbabwe two months ago to start looking for investment opportunities in that country.

Vilakazi said the other firms that were keen to move to Zimbabwe were in the financial sector, but he would not identify them.

He said details would be announced during the investment conference to be held soon in Johannesburg.

"I am aware of tangible projects that are going to take place there," said Vilakazi. "The issue of capital remains a critical one and there are discussions with institutions in the financial sector.

"We would not want South African companies to be seen as just moving into Zimbabwe; we are looking at partnering with the inclusive government."

Massmart, another company that had travelled to Zimbabwe, referred queries to Busa.

Vilakazi said Busa was also working with Nir, a Swedish private sector organisation, to build capacity with the private sector in Zimbabwe.

"The private sector is a vital voice in Zimbabwe to ensure that things that are important to attract investment are in place. There are individual companies who are flying in and out of Zimbabwe to assist," said Vilakazi.

After the April trip, it was agreed that an investment protection deal would be signed, but this had been delayed due to administrative reasons. Vilakazi stressed that the principle had not changed.

"Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies met (Zimbabwe Finance Minister) Tendai Biti, who confirmed that they were working towards finalising the investment protection agreement. This agreement is very vital in this process," said Vilakazi.

The agreement will be an undertaking from the Zimbabwe government that the rules that business will have to comply with will not change.

Meanwhile, Imara, the Pan-African financial services group, organised an international investment conference in Zimbabwe last week that attracted 40 international fund managers to Harare and presentations from 14 of the country’s largest listed companies.

According to a statement by Imara, the conference was opened by Biti, who gave in-depth assessments to visiting analysts.

"This level of detail, the openness and the obvious intention to create a more investor friendly environment were just what was needed to kick-start real engagement with new investors," said Sean Gammon, the managing director at Imara Capital Zimbabwe. Business Report (SA)