INDUSTRY and Commerce minister Mike Bimha claims his ministry has been inundated with inquiries for investment opportunities by investors from the United Kingdom, Germany and France since the European Union (EU) eased sanctions against senior government officials and companies related to them.
Zimbabwe’s relations with the West broke down in 2002 following allegations of gross human rights violations and electoral theft against President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party; charges which he denies, but ties have thawed in recent times.
The EU last year lifted sanctions, mostly travel bans and financial restrictions, on all senior Mugabe allies, but still maintain them against the longstanding ruler and his wife, along with a State-owned arms firm.
On Monday last week, the EU gave Zimbabwe $270 million in development assistance on the provision of direct financial support to the government.
The money will mostly go towards funding agriculture, health and institutional building.
EU member states Denmark and Switzerland indicated their intentions to restore normal ties with Zimbabwe in 2014, while the European Investment Bank said it would resume lending to the private sector, although arrears of about $300 million preclude direct lending to the government.
Bimha told journalists at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) in Bulawayo last week that the economy was on a recovery path because EU countries had shown interest to invest in the country.
“Yes, Zimbabwe has gone through a bad patch, but I would like to assure you that the worst is over,” he said.
“We are on the right direction. We have had a lot of inquiries from countries such as France, Germany and even UK asking about opportunities that are available in terms of agriculture, mining and so forth.
“Last week we had a 17-member delegation from the EU asking about investment opportunities in our country. No week passes without me having a meeting with people from other countries inquiring about our laws or opportunities.”
Bimha said they had started engaging some of the prospective investors.
Zimbabwe signed an interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU in March 2012 which gave it 100% duty-free quota, free access into the EU market and is in discussions for a comprehensive EPA to replace the old Cotonou Agreement trade preferences.