ZIMBABWE’S Diaspora has potential to invest at least US$50 billion in the economy, but the country needs clear strategies on how to reach out to its expatriates and address policy inconsistencies, a minister has said.
Patrick Zhuwao, the Minister of Youth, Indigenisation and Economic Development, said Diaspora engagement was a more viable policy to find new money for the struggling economy than dependence on the charity of Western countries, who often attach unacceptable strings to their funds.
“There’s at least $50 billion worth of investment among our people in the Diaspora that we’re not utilising,” Zhuwao told his ministry’s staff during a familiarisation visit to Masvingo yesterday following his appointment on September 11.
He added: “If we approach our own nationals living outside the country, we can attract foreign direct investment (FDI). Let our people be the first when we’re talking of economic growth.
“There’s need for financial literacy among our people and we’ve all that it takes to coordinate resources from our own people rather than going to the USA and other Western countries for FDI. They’ll tell us that you’ve to change your government.”
The minister said there were at least half-a-million skilled Zimbabweans living outside the country with resources that can help the country attain its economic growth targets.
Minister Zhuwao has taken over a ministry which faces accusations of failing to manage an $11m Old Mutual Kurera/Ukondla Youth Fund after most recipients failed to repay loans.
But more critically, the ministry has battled claims from the opposition and foreign embassies that it has failed to craft a clear policy on the country’s indigenisation programme which seeks to find space for locals in major companies.
All companies must have at least 51 percent local shareholding, according to the policy, which has been altered slightly to give ministers some leeway on a case-by-case basis, although this compromise is not available in the exploitation of natural resources including mining.
Zhuwao said the indigenisation policy had largely been mischaracterised, and not because it was a bad policy.
The new minister said he had given himself a deadline of the end of October (next month) to frame the policy in a way that removes any inconsistencies or doubts.
“There has been wrong pronunciations made on the indigenisation policy and I hope by the end of October there won’t be any policy inconsistency. These inconsistencies are caused by those who are ignorant on what exactly the law on indigenisation says,” he added.
“All foreign investors will always demand great concessions that favour themselves at the expense of local people. No-one should advocate for a foreign investor. You mustn’t tell me what a foreign investor wants, we’re for the people of Zimbabwe.”
He said the Youth Fund would be resuscitated, insisting that the rate of failure to repay had been exaggerated.
He called on the Youth Council, which has structures in all provinces, to set up sound management structures for the administration of the Youth Fund that would be re-introduced.
He said the issue of Community Share Ownership Trusts (CSOTs) – a fund set up to extract benefit for locals from the exploitation of natural resources in the community – was on top of his agenda. Local chiefs in Masvingo say the mines have been reluctant to make contributions in line with the indigenisation laws.
Zhuwao raised concern on some wrong pronouncements made by some government officials on the indigenisation policy, which was a matter of the law.
As Indigenisation Minister, he said, it was his duty to correct those who display ignorance on the black empowerment law, signalling that he would not bend over backwards to make foreigners comfortable at the expense of indigenous Zimbabweans.