HARARE – Former Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor Gideon Gono’s appointment as Special Economic Zones (SEZ) board chairperson has been hailed by economic analysts, who said he has the requisite skills necessary to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country.
SEZ is mandated to come up with measures to drum up FDI that has been declining in the past few years.
Zimbabwe’s FDI declined to $319 million last year from an all-time high of $545 million in 2014, according to the World Investment Report.
Industrialist Callisto Jokonya said Gono was a qualified candidate for the job, given his experience in the financial services sector.
“He is a banker by profession and he will know the tactics to negotiate deals that might be required for the nation,” he said.
The former Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries president was, however, quick to point out that Gono “needs support” from various stakeholders in the country to make his job easier.
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti weighed in saying Gono “will definitely deliver to the degree that those at the ministry of Finance will be uncomfortable”.
The People’s Democratic Party leader, however, noted that Gono must believe that there are policy reforms needed before the country can enjoy more FDI inflows.
“The indigenisation policy must go and he needs to sweat the fiscal authorities to be sober and persuade political authorities to implement political and economic reforms necessary for the country to move forward,” he said.
The indigenisation policy — which compels foreign-owned firms to cede at least 51 percent of their shareholding to locals — has largely been blamed for the wide berth Zimbabwe has been getting from foreign investors.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu also said “from a purely professional perspective, there’s absolutely no denying the fact that Gideon Gono is a hard worker, who, if given the latitude, will be able to deliver the goods as the chairperson of the Special Economic Zones board”.
“Sometimes, we as politicians should learn to give credit where it deserves. We might not agree with his brand of politics as a Zanu PF activist, but it’s pretty clear that Gono is a turnaround specialist — minus the politics, of course,” he added.
The latest development also comes at a time the country is implementing various measures to attract investors and become a hub for industrialisation, commerce and international trade.
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week said Zimbabwe has received numerous inquiries from foreign investors after enacting the SEZ law.
“…ever since the signing into law of the Bill, we have had numerous enquiries from investors who are interested in investing into various sectors of the economy under the special economic zones facility.
SEZ are geographically defined areas that enjoy lower taxes or less exacting regulation than the rest of a country.
The intention is to promote investment in deprived areas with incentives that might be unaffordable, unpopular or unnecessary, if applied nationally.
First used in Ireland in 1959, they now number over 4 300 globally.
China’s incredible economic growth is also attributed to SEZ which were introduced in the early 1980s when the Asian giant opened itself to the rest of the world and cemented its place on the global stage as a major economic player.