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Botswana Finally Approves US$70m Credit Line for Zimbabwe Manufacturing

Finance Minister Tendai Biti led a government delegation to Gaborone last Friday where the deal was reportedly sealed

Botswana has finally approved a long-promised credit line of 500 million pula, the equivalent of US$70 million dollars, to boost Zimbabwe's struggling manufacturing sector.

Sources said Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti led industrialists and government officials to Gaborone on Friday at which time the agreement was made final.

They said 70 percent of the funds will go towards manufacturing while 30 percent will go to other sectors of the economy. Economic recovery has been faltering for lack of investment.

Neither Biti nor Industry Minister Welshman Ncube could immediately be reached for comment.

Economic commentator Masimba Kuchera of the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the credit line, though relatively small, will go a long way to jump-start the long-suffering Zimbabwean manufacturing sector.

Elsewhere, Zimbabwe Platinum Holdings Private Limited, better known as Zimplats, urged Harare to focus on attracting foreign investment instead of pursuing indigenization of large firms.

Zimplats said in its 2010 annual report that it favors expanded participation by Zimbabweans in the national economy – but fears indigenization will mainly serve to discourage foreign investors.

Zimplats Chairman David Brown was quoted in the report as saying his company believes Zimbabwe needs more foreign direct investment to create employment for its millions of jobless.

Brown said he hopes the government will unveil a revised indigenization plan soon that will bolster the country’s profile as an investment destination.

Economist John Robertson told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube that Zimbabwe needs investors to stoke up the economy – not programs that propose to transfer controlling stakes from investors to indigenous investors critics say are likely to be cronies of President Robert Mugabe.