THE ZIMBABWE National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Matabeleland chapter has lined up a conference next month in Bulawayo expected to draw about 600 local and international delegates from over 18 African countries in an effort to improve investment in the southern parts of the country.
The trade and investment conference, dubbed “Opportunities in Africa and the Rest of the World”, is scheduled for February 12-13.
ZNCC administrator Mduduzi Ncube said ambassadors from 18 African countries have confirmed attendance while representatives from international financial institutions, including the Africa Development Bank and Industrial Development Bank of South Africa are expected to attend.
“The conference’s main objective is to scan for investment and trade opportunities in Matabeleland region,” Ncube said.
“Conference delegates will have an opportunity to tour companies in Bulawayo to identify possible investment opportunities.”
The conference is a follow-up to the inaugural seminar which was held in October 2011 which marked the initiation of trade dissemination platforms and linkages between businesses in Matabeleland and the rest of the world.
According to ZNCC, the conference would also host an exhibition for local and regional companies from African chambers of commerce and industries across the globe.
The continental conference comes as Bulawayo faces serious deindustrialisation with over 100 companies shutting down while more continue to be liquidated and some placed under judicial management.
The city industries need an estimated $400 million investment in the short term and close to $1 billion in the long term to fully recapitalise.
But the government has failed to inspire confidence in the economy with economists predicting a gloomy outlook for industry this year exacerbated by the government’s failure to avail a financial rescue package for industries in the city.
The country has been struggling to attract foreign direct investment largely due to policy misalignment chiefly the indigenisation law which calls for foreign firms to cede 51% of their shareholding to locals and has been blamed for scaring away investment.
However, in a paper presented at an ambassadors’ meeting held in Harare last year, ZNCC said despite policy inconsistencies, the Matabeleland region had vast investment opportunities in the sectors of water, energy, manufacturing, tourism and agriculture.
The business lobby group said cattle ranching was one of the region’s biggest investment areas, with downstream beneficiaries including tanneries, meat processing industries, leather, footware, abattoirs and related infrastructure.
ZNCC said there was an opportunity to set up private power plants due to the close proximity of coal, while the National Railways of Zimbabwe headquartered in Bulawayo, was a potential investment option.