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Zimbabwe Investment Conference Gets Mixed Reviews


A two-day international investment conference ended in Harare Friday with some potential investors saying that now have a better understanding of the investment environment in Zimbabwe. But others say the country is still a risky investment destination because of the political environment.

Over the two days meeting conference attendees heard how Zimbabwe needs massive investment to get its economy working again. Investment and government officials were at pains to sell the idea that Zimbabwe is open for business. Not everyone was convinced it is a safe place to invest their money.

A representative of a large South African investment bank who spoke on condition of anonymity told VOA some investors will have problems investing in Zimbabwe as long as senior officials from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party remain in powerful government positions.

"I think one has to be absolutely blunt and accept the fact that while there are some key people from the previous government, from ZANU-PF, that are in critical positions in the unity government the investment is not going to come," the investor said.

He also noted that Zimbabwe has a poor credit rating and that makes investors wary.

A compatriot of his however sees things differently. Praveen Dwarika, a representative of agricultural services company AFGRI, said there seems to be unity of purpose at the highest level in the Zimbabwean government. That, he said, is encouraging.

"Seeing the president, prime minister and deputy prime minister at one forum almost speaking with one voice gives us a lot more comfort. We are positive about what we have heard so far," Dwarika said.

Dwakira added that the presentations at the conference helped clarify a lot of questions his company had about investing in Zimbabwe. However he said his company, while eager to invest in Zimbabwe, is not about to take the plunge. He said there are legal aspects that needed to be looked into before that happens.

Both investors agreed that Zimbabwe is very competitive and there is great potential here.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said that while everything is in place for investment in Zimbabwe the political situation remains unstable.

"There is a deficit of performance and execution in regard to those things that do not cost money that are well within our reach but that have got major fundamental traction," Biti said. "I am referring here to the slow pace of progress in the democratization of our country. For instance issues around media reform, issues around reform of our legislation, Public Order Security Act and so forth."

Observers believe that for Zimbabwe to attract the investment it badly needs to rebuild its broken economy, the government needs to show the change it purports to represent. Conference presentations alone, they say, if not followed by clear change, will not suffice.

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