Enacy Mapakame Business Reporter
\nFRENCH companies are positioning themselves for potential investments in the country’s energy, water, irrigation and construction sectors, French Ambassador to Harare Laurent Delahousse has said. As the frosty relationship between Zimbabwe and the European Union bloc continues to thaw, more European companies have since renewed their interest in the country.
\nOf late, there has been several European delegations visiting the country to scout for investment opportunities.

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“There are opportunities and discussions taking place at the moment,” Ambassador Delahousse told The Sunday Mail Business in a recent interview.

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“There are French companies visiting this country regularly and I hope discussions with Government and potential partners bear fruits, and that we will be able to announce new partnerships or new investments in the coming months.”

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With a US$2,8 trillion GDP, France is Europe’s third largest economy after Germany and Britain, according to the International Monetary Fund.

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It is also the world’s second biggest agro-industrial exporter after the United States and a leader in energy technologies and generation.
\nA total of 31 French companies appear on the Fortune Global list of the world’s top 500 firms.

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Lafarge Cement, which has a unit in Zimbabwe, is among the top firms.
\nIn 2008, French companies invested more than US$210 billion outside France.

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“We have a tremendous number of skilled companies and they are looking at partnerships around the world.
\n“I regularly meet French companies in the agro-industrial sector who are interested in coming to Zimbabwe to sell their products,” explained Ambassador Delahousse.

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Zimbabwe has been on the hunt for foreign capital to help fund several economic and social projects.
\nExperts believe that Zimbabwe’s infrastructure gap presents unlimited opportunities for investors.

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In January this year, a business delegation from MEDEF International, a business council that represents over 800 000 French companies, visited Zimbabwe seeking investments in energy, agro-industry and infrastructure.

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Already, there is a strong presence of French companies in local industry.
\nLast year, SeedCo, the country’s biggest seed maker, sold its 30 percent stake to Vilmorin&Cie, the biggest plant breeding and seed producer in the European Union, in a US$40 million deal.

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The deal is expected to add US$3 million to SeedCo Ltd’s bottomline over the next three years in addition to availing new technologies and fresh capital to fund regional expansion.

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On September 10, 2015; France’s Lessafre Group finalised the takeover of Anchor Holdings Ltd.
\nAt least US$18 million has been earmarked for capital expenditure.

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Another French company, Pan-African Energy Resource (PER) is currently planning to develop a 2 000 megawatt coal-fired electric power plant in Binga at a cost of US$3 billion, according to the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority.
\nThe first phase of the project will supply 500 MW to the grid.

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Ambassador Delahousse said Zimbabwe’s vast natural resources, high literacy rate, high quality of education and its central location in the Southern African Development Community region makes it attractive to investors.

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“It is a positive fact that Zimbabwe opens to the rest of the world. Companies shying away from the rest of the world lose out.
\n“. . . borrowing money costs lots of money, so Zimbabwean companies have rightly decided to enter into partnerships with others in China, India, Europe and US — companies with more modern technologies,” said Ambassador Delahousse.

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While there has been a lot of expressions of interest from investors, market watchers are however concerned by the time taken by these projects to take off.

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Government is actively trying to improve the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe, with the reforms expected to attract more foreign direct investment.