HARARE: Logistics firm DHL International says it will expand its operations in Zimbabwe after receiving government assurance that key provisions of the controversial indigenisation policy had been scrapped.
The Minister of ICT, Postal and Courier Services Supa Mandiwanzira told journalists after a meeting with German Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Thorsten Hutter and DHL vice president Brett Hattaway that the firm has been hesitant to expand its operations in the country for fear that its operating licence may not be renewed if it does not meet indigenisation policy targets.
In a policy statement last April, President Robert Mugabe said conflicting interpretations of the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act — passed in 2008 to compel foreign companies, including mines and banks, to transfer at least 51 percent shares to black Zimbabweans — had caused confusion among current and existing investors.
The law — a centrepiece of Mugabe’s campaign in the last two elections — is still to be amended in line with the pronunciation.
Analysts and critics of the policy have called for the outright repeal of the law, which they blame for Zimbabwe’s inability to attract foreign capital.
“Because of the clarity that His Excellency the President (Robert Mugabe) has put forward regarding ownership, particularly in investing in service industries, that it is not as cast in stone as investment in natural resources sector like mining were 51 percent local ownership is mandatory and not negotiable,” said Mandiwanzira.
“In terms of the service sector it is very different. If a company like DHL commits to investing in the community and people of Zimbabwe aside of its main business, there are provisions that allow us as the ministry and regulator to give them more leeway to hold on to some shares but putting in more investment.”
Zimbabwe has lagged behind regional peers in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) due to poor rankings on the ease of doing business and structural issues in the economy largely blamed on the controversial policy.
FDI declined from $399.2 million in 2015, to $254.7 million in 2016, reflecting low foreign investor sentiment in the country owing to the poor operating environment, policy inconsistency and unfavorable investment policies.
DHL, a unit of German Post, has been operating in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.
Hattaway said DHL will soon write a formal proposal to the Minister expressing their investment intentions in the country.
“We are in an early stage of considering increasing our investment in Zimbabwe and how we can facilitate greater trade for Zimbabwe and the rest of the world …………how we can create jobs and build new infrastructure in Zimbabwe,” said Hattaway.