2018: Year of mixed fortunes

Former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) President Mr Sifelani Jabangwe

The year 2018 ends tomorrow amid high hopes that the economic turnaround strategies set in motion by Government particularly from October, will help transform their operations and the general economic situation in the New Year.

Industrialists say 2018 was overally a successful year punctuated by high production levels in the manufacturing sector, and commendable engagements with Government.

The year had started on a high note critically, President Mnangagwa attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, a key global institution for public-private cooperation.

President Mnangagwa’s visit to China in April also saw a new chapter being opened in Sino-Zimbabwe relations, with fresh investment deals being inked while those that had been on ice for as long as 10 years such as the $1,5 billion Hwange Thermal Power Station Expansion project, being accelerated.

A ground-breaking ceremony for commencement of works took place on June 27 in Hwange and works started on August 1.

On completion in between 36 and 42 months, the project will see an additional 600MW being fed into the national grid.

Further, the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport $153 million upgrade had a ground-breaking ceremony presided over by President Mnangagwa on July 23.

Works have since started and on completion in 42 months, RGM International Airport would have been dramatically transformed to meet and possibly surpass the standards and appeal of some top global airports.

Another plus in 2018 was Harare’s ability to hold harmonised elections on July 31, which were hailed as free, fair and credible by most election observer missions including those from the West.

The new dispensation declared that it had “nothing to hide”, and allowed international observer missions that included those from the Commonwealth, European Union, SADC, African Union, and from as far afield as the United States.

Although some observer missions noted areas for improvement going forward, their reports praised the violence-free and orderliness of the polls.

Industrialists were also excited by policy pronouncements that re-introduced foreign currency accounts (FCAs) for exporters and individuals that have access to foreign currency.

The move, although it caused ructions on the market in terms of prices, partly because of a misunderstanding, is seen as a game-changer as companies have access to their foreign currency, making them better able to plan its use, as opposed to always waiting for allocations for foreign payments from the Central Bank.

Confederation of Zimbabwe (CZI) president Sifelani Jabangwe, told The Herald Business last Friday that “there were several positives this year”.

“One of the many positives is that it was one of the best production years for the manufacturing sector particularly the period January to September, despite the foreign currency crunch. I think as we move forward, we need to ensure that we have more foreign currency as a country. Remember that we had almost the same challenges at the same time last year.

“So we need a lasting solution to the foreign currency issue,” said Mr Jabangwe.

Mr Jabangwe added that industrialists were excited that Government organised an interface with business to have an appreciation of the challenges they face, so as to find solutions that create a win-win scenario.

President Mnangagwa met business leaders to a no-holds-barred tête-à-tête at State House on October 29 following alarming price increases.

Government raised its concerns over the price increases while business also aired their grievances. Some solutions were immediately found with prices of maize seed and fertiliser going down the following day.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) chief executive officer Takunda Mugaga also said the interface between President Mnangagwa and business was “one of the major highlights of the year”.

“There is a number of highlights for 2018. They include the President’s invitation to the Davos summit, for the first time since 1980; the holding of elections which saw foreign observers being invited after a long
period; the President’s engagement with business leaders and the crusade against corruption, which saw high profile people being arrested and some being jailed,” said Mr Mugaga.

Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe President Innocent Manyera said the first 10 months of 2018 were “quite promising”, with hoteliers enjoying capacity utilisation of “just above 60 percent”.

“This was mainly driven by the open for business mantra, ease of doing business, Government’s 100-days plan; election preparedness as well as post-election activities,” said Mr Manyera.

“Most hotels were enjoying business from conferences and business meetings with Victoria Falls driven by both leisure and business clientele due to the recently expanded (Victoria Falls) International Airport.

“Marketing that has been done for the country brought with it positive news to operators. Some hotels achieved their yearly targets in the 10 months of the year with two months to go, with some even going to the extent of paying the 13th cheque before year-end.”

Going forward, Mr Mugaga said 2019 has mixed prospects, driven by “an active legislature that is engaging, not one that asks for vehicles but refuses to recognise the President”.

Mr Mugaga also said developments on Brexit could work in Zimbabwe’s as London might want to forge new alliances with Harare particularly for raw materials.

CZI sees growth opportunities if more consultations take place and if the foreign currency situation is also addressed in the New Year.

HAZ has promised to support efforts by Government to address the macroeconomic environment for the growth of the sector in 2019.

“We also want to see a shift towards funding of training institutions to enable our services to match international standards.

“Environmental issues should be addressed; we need clean cities for international visitors. We thank the HE (President) for launching the clean-up campaign and declaring the 1st Friday of every month as a National Clean-Up Day.” – Herald