Importance of Foreign Direct Investments

This week I have decided to take a moment to reflect on what Zimbabwe’s place is in the global economy in view of the ongoing DAVOS forum and the UK-Africa Investment Summit.

Zimbabwe’s Finance and Economic Development Ministry officials are attending DAVOS for the 3rd time in a row since 2017.

They are rubbing shoulders with representatives from 117 countries. DAVOS, which is run by the World Economic Forum (“WEF”) is an important event in the world economic calendar and shapes the way deals are brokered for the next 12 months. It is almost like a beauty parade where each country puts its best foot forward and tries to sell itself to investors.

It is, therefore, important for our country to be represented but it is even more important for the country to be prepared for such forums throughout the year.

The biggest problem we face as a nation is to treat such events as once-off events and not as a process. Every year we engage with the same people and they are checking to see whether we are serious about creating the right environment for them to trust us with their money.

Each time that we attend such events we are building our story and sadly for us that story seems to be worsening. We must make amend and rewrite this story.

For a nation that is struggling, many will question why we are attending this forum, yet we must, because if we don’t we will be forgotten. When all is said and done, it is my hope that our ministry officials will bring back some key lessons to be implemented back home.

Being the third time to attend such an event it will soon become clear that the country has a lot of work to do back home to be taken seriously on this important global platform.

It’s difficult to ignore the importance of these forums particularly given that they are attended by thousands of world and business leaders from across the globe.

Deals are cut, seeds are sown and germinate culminating in the increased trade and Foreign Direct Investments (“FDI”). Will Zimbabwe benefit? Only time will tell.

Latest available statistics show that Zimbabwe managed to attract only US$745 million in Foreign Direct Investments (“FDI”) in the year 2018.

During the same year Egypt attracted US$32 billion, while our southern neighbours South Africa attracted US$12 billion.

At DAVOS this year there are over 17 banking and investment companies all looking to connect with deal makers. The country must also create strong partnerships in Africa, particularly with countries that are receiving the most attention.

Why is this important? When attending such conferences, we must also be prepared to enter into deals and discuss the terms that favour us.

Zimbabwe is looking for investment in many key areas of its economy, just like many other African countries. It is no secret that there is a scramble to invest in the fast growing African economies.

Countries that have the right conditions and metrics are attracting investors. Zimbabwe needs to reposition herself because there is so much competition to attract FDI in the world.

Investors are often spoilt for choice and need the right conditions to choose you as their preferred investment destination.

What are some of these conditions that investors look at before they pick where to invest their money? Let’s face it most investments are long term and require planning and stability. No investor is going to put their money in an economy that does not have stability, or makes planning difficult.

This is why it is important for policymakers to focus on creating the right policies and processes to attract investors and keep them invested in the country.

It takes a lot of effort and patience to do this. After all, investors are in it to make money and as a country, we are in it to create value for our countrymen and women.

New investments bring new jobs, better production efficiencies and better futures for everyone. Without investments current and future generations will not benefit from the resources in our nation.

Economic stability is a key ingredient in any investment decision, is the economy growing or in decline. Most investors look for growth economies when it comes to investing their money, unless they are contrarian investors who invest against the grain.

An economy that is in decline tends to attract the speculative investors who try and pick cheap assets which they will dispose in good times. Zimbabwe has seen a fair share of such investors and its important to accept this and plan to attract the long term, “in it for the long haul” type of investor.

Stability makes planning easier and is the reason why there is very little hesitation by many investors to invest billions of dollars in countries with this sort of stability. Stable countries did not happen to wake up one day to find themselves stable.

They deliberately took measures to make this a reality and this is the same thing that Zimbabwe needs to do today.

As long as there is no economic stability, investors will continue to shy away from investing in the country.

There has never been a better time than now, for countries like Zimbabwe to attract investors. The ongoing UK-Africa Investment Summit in which the UK is engaging African countries, has seen some deals being inked already.

Investors want to know how they will make money and in the end it is all about showing them how they will do just that. Obviously, every investment has benefits to both parties and deliberate choices must be made by Zimbabwe to decide which areas will benefit its citizens the most through FDI investments.

At the moment the biggest problem in the country is the lack of sustainable jobs and disposable incomes. Post BREXIT the United Kingdom is looking to woo Africa, hence the importance of the UK-Africa Investment Summit.

While Zimbabwe is not part of the summit, it is important to take some lessons and craft ways of fitting into these deals. We have the resources to do so and so we should never sit back and relax and wait for our own day to come. We need to create jobs more than anyone else and therefore it is important that we refocus our energy after DAVOS and the UK-Africa Summit on creating the right conditions to attract FDI into the country.

Following these summits, policy makers must sit down and analyse what happened and why? Instead of brooding over why we this or that didn’t happen. Following such introspection, in 2021, the nation will be better prepared to share its story and begin to forge better relationships with investors and other nations. Without this, the economy will continue to lose out on investment deals.

Pacheso is an experienced economist with more than 18-years’ experience in the financial services sector. He enjoys mentoring start-ups in his spare time.

- by Elias Pacheso in Business weekly