17 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Minister Lobbies for ATI Funds

ZIMBABWE needs to mobilise US$25 million in order to participate at the African Trade Insurance annual general meeting to be held in May this year, Industry and Commerce Deputy Minister Mike Bimha has said.

The country was accepted into ATI at last year's AGM held in Kenya and was asked to pay the US$25 million to start benefiting from the scheme which provides security for foreign investments against political risks and enhance access to lines of credit

ATI is an institution under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa that provides export credit insurance, political risk insurance, investment insurance and other financial products to help reduce the business risks and costs of doing business in Africa.

Each year, the General Assembly of the ATI holds its annual meeting to discuss and agree upon resolutions on a range of administrative issues impacting the organisation and its membership.

Most notably, the meeting provides an opportunity to approve and welcome new members into ATI.

"We have had the opportunity to attend three meetings as spectators and last year we were approved as a new member. However, we can only attend the next meeting after we have paid something towards the joining fee.

"Last year I had a discussion with the Minister of Finance and some stakeholders in the private sector particularly in the insurance sector. Minister Biti was very keen on the idea and he said Treasury would look for ways to assist," Deputy Minister Bimha said.

He said the private sector also expressed their willingness to take part in this initiative and that they had asked for time to do consultations and try to map the way forward.

"I am going to have more meetings with the private sector next week and I am positive that we will be able to raise money for a deposit before May," he said.

He added that the country would gain more if it were a member of ATI as there would be loan facilities for major projects like energy, roads and water facilities.

In the past, foreign companies have not been willing to invest in Zimbabwe citing political and credit risk.

However, Deputy Minister Bimha said, being a member of ATI would guarantee Zimbabwe of risk insurance that would give confidence to foreign investors.

The institution has a membership of more than 10 African countries including Kenya, the current chair, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.

Other members include international and regional financial institutions such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank as well as major companies in the private sector.

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