Zimbabwe's government has introduced a bill designed to ensure that black Zimbabweans have majority control of all the country's businesses.

The bill calls for indigenous black Zimbabweans to own at least 51 percent of every public-owned company and any other business.

The proposed law creates a so-called empowerment fund to finance the acquisition of shares. It would also deny companies the ability to invest, expand, or merge if majority control does not rest with local black nationals.

Indigenous Zimbabweans are defined in the bill as individuals who were discriminated against on the basis of race before the nation's 1980 independence, and their descendants.

Many multi-national firms operate in Zimbabwe and may be affected by the new legislation.

Zimbabwe is in the throes of economic crisis, with 80 percent unemployment and an annual inflation rate that analysts believe has topped 4,500 percent.

Critics blame the situation largely on the government's economic policies, especially the transfer of white-owned farmland to blacks with little farming experience. Zimbabwe's agricultural production has plunged since the move, contributing to food shortages and the inflation.

President Robert Mugabe blames the economic problems on sanctions against his government by Britain and the United States.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.