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Zimbabwe's Leader Urges Expat Business Owners to Return Home

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa delivers a speech during a rally with Zimbabwean businessmen and foreign investors at the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, Dec. 21, 2017.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa is urging Zimbabweans in South Africa to come back home to help him rebuild the country’s ailing economy.

Zimbabweans in South Africa flocked to the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria to listen to the president speak to them for the first time since his inauguration last month. Mnangagwa pleaded with the crowd , which included business owners, civil society, traditional leaders and ordinary Zimbabweans to invest in their motherland.

"May I say, I am hopeful. My team is hopeful," Mnangagwa said. "There is no business as usual. Things have changed. It’s a new era. If it is left turn, it is left turn. If it is right turn, it is right turn."

Mnangagwa said his government is in the process of revising some laws that had scared off investors, such as the indigenization program, which required that all businesses be majority owned by Zimbabweans. He told the crowd that there are huge investment opportunities in areas such as mining, agriculture, rail infrastructure, road networks and service industries.

Zimbabwean business woman Dorriane Sithole, chief executive officer of House of Havilah, a fashion and design company, was upbeat after listening to Mnangagwa’s speech.

"So excited that Zimbabwe is finally open for business," Sithole said. "It was such a beautiful meeting here at the Zimbabwean embassy. I can’t wait for all of us here, Zimbabweans and everybody from the SADC region to go in there and do lots of business so, I’m so, so excited."

Marshall Sankara, executive chairman of the Zimbabwe Business Forum in South Africa, says his organization will double its investment drive to attract more than $100 million in investment a year for Zimbabwe.

"We really appreciate the president [and] his move to invite diasporans to invest back home," Sankara said. "We have come here to show solidarity with his initiative and we are saying Zimbabwe shall include all of us also in the foreign land in terms of the business."

The Zimbabwe embassy in South Africa organized the event during Mnangagwa's first official trip abroad as president. He'll also meet with South African President Jacob Zuma.