30 November 2012

Zimbabwe: U.S. 'Policy Shift' an Opportunity for Zim

analysis

At the Zenith of the hyperinflation era in Zimbabwe, there were many "businesspeople" whose core activity was getting freebies from government and on-selling them.

Needless to say, we all know that his model failed. Economic hardships that ensued after this Utopian way of doing business have hopefully taught us all that only sheer hard work and ingenuity can lead to prosperity. Anything else is based on false premises, as the thousands of the overnight successes of that era can testify.

To borrow from a popular phrase of the time, these "entrepreneurs" went from zero to hero and back to zero. Some of those who were treading on such thin business ice are those whose empires are still crumbling up to now.

We trust the penny has dropped. If we have truly learnt from our mistakes, we should thus pick up the pieces and move on. The opportunities for genuine business abound, what more with the entire world viewing our Africa as the new destination for investment and economic growth.

Only two days ago, the world's largest economy, the United States, launched its "Doing Business in Africa" campaign. US Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank, launched the initiative in Johannesburg, South Africa, which she said was her country's traditional gateway to Africa in terms of investment and trade.

According to various websites Blank was visiting South Africa to advance elements of US President Barack Obama's "Strategy Toward sub-Saharan Africa", launched in June.

She was also expected to visit Kenya, while many in her entourage would cover other countries ranging from Zambia to Burundi. Zimbabwe did not seem to be included although the official word is the initiative will not exclude any country.

"Overall, the campaign is about finding new ways to form stronger partnerships for prosperity," Blank is quoted as having said. The campaign is expected to leverage the federal government's trade promotion, financing and strategic communications capabilities to help US businesses identify and seize opportunities in Africa, and to help them overcome any challenges they face in establishing business relationships with Africa.

Those good at reading the tea leaves would have at least anticipated this development following new US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Bruce Wharton's statement to journalists a couple of weeks ago. He was tongue-in-cheek about what signified a potential shift from Washington, following frosty relations with Harare that saw imposition of economic sanctions on the country as well as on particular individuals.

Wharton, who can be safely termed a friend of Zimbabwe, having served here in a junior capacity before being posted to South America, said during his tenure in the next three years, he would work to improve the bilateral relations between the two countries through marketing Zimbabwe as a ripe investment destination.

We should quickly prepare ourselves and take advantage of this new leaning, which one understands may be echoed by the EU.

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