HARARE - Africa's richest man Aliko Dangote’s choice of investing in Zimbabwe is a huge statement which should be encouraging to all progressive forces in the country.
Dangote is valued at $17,2 billion by the influential Forbes Magazine and has many interests across Africa where his conglomerate is involved in big projects.
The Nigerian mogul was here on Monday — not to look for opportunities — but to reaffirm his commitment to his areas of investments which include mining, energy and construction.
His visit here should go a long way in encouraging other investors to look for opportunities in Zimbabwe.
But President Robert Mugabe’s government needs to create conditions which make investing in Zimbabwe easier.
A number of prospective foreign investors have complained of the time it takes to have their investments approved citing unnecessary bureaucracy.
Dangote said he was awaiting permits to kick-start his investments while urging the Zimbabwean government to scrap a stringent visa regime which keeps investors away.
Nigeria is classified as “Group C” country in Zimbabwe, meaning Nigerian nationals need to apply for visas before coming to the country which, according to Dangote, is hampering investment.
“My last call to the minister of Tourism, honourable Mzembi, is that he works at investing in an open air system so that investors can enter into the country freely.”
It is disconcerting that government is dragging its heels in facilitating the ease of doing business — a ranking of economies from 1 to 189 — with first place being the best.
A high-ranking (a low numerical rank) means that the regulatory environment is conducive to business operation. The index averages the country’s percentile rankings on 10 topics covered in the World Bank’s Doing Business.
Zimbabwe is ranked 171 and has a lot do in making it easier to start up business in the country.
For a country that desperately needs investment, it is important that government removes all impediments which are scuttling Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
A reform of investment laws, visa considerations, labour market regulation, respecting property rights, taxes and protecting minority investors, are some of the things that the Zimbabwean government needs to follow.
There are benchmarks which have been set and if there is political will, Zimbabwe stands to attract FDI and the much-needed capital to rejuvenate its near comatose economy.
Mugabe’s government must demonstrate that it is ready to do business by implementing policies that promote the ease of doing business.