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U.S. Executives to Explore Business Opportunities in Zimbabwe

A delegation of U.S. business executives from the influential Corporate Council on Africa - which promotes trade between Washington and Africa - is headed for Zimbabwe next week to explore business opportunities in various sectors of the economy.

The mission will visit Zambia from June 1, before proceeding to Harare on June 3, for meetings with Zimbabwean government ministers of finance, agriculture, tourism and trade.

They will also meet with Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) governor John Mangudya as well as officials from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), and Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC), among others.

“We are taking U.S. businesses to explore opportunities in agribusiness, energy, manufacturing and technology,” CCA's Agribusiness Director, Patricia Sheikh, told VOA Studio 7.

“We feel the time is ripe for U.S. businesses to further explore opportunities in these two countries. So we are very excited to take these businesses with us.”

Interview With Patricia Sheikh
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A statement by the organization added that “the delegation will learn from successful businesses on the ground and will have exclusive meetings with government officials and potential local business partners.”

The excitement surrounding the burgeoning economies in Zambia and Zimbabwe, the organization said, makes this mission perfect both for firms seeking early entry into developing industries, and those looking to deepen their ties in these two strategic markets in Southern Africa.

The exploration comes in the wake of a high-level visit two weeks ago by U.S. deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs, Dr. Shannon Smith, and Steven Feldstein, assistant secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

The two expressed willingness by the Obama administration to restore cordial relations with Harare, but said only if Harare improves its human rights record.

Bilateral relations between the U.S. and Zimbabwe have remained frosty for the past decade or so, following Washington’s imposition of sanctions on President Mugabe and his allies over rigged elections and human rights breaches.

The Bush administration enacted the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA), which limits business contact between U.S. companies and Zimbabwe.

So, we asked delegation leader Sheikh how they would deal with these limitations in the event their team identifies opportunities next week.

“I think each case is individual," she said. "So the businesses will be working with the various government officials to make sure that they are complying with all laws and regulations in both countries.”

Zimbabwe is struggling to attract any foreign direct investment mainly due to its poorly-fashioned indigenization law that compels foreign companies to cede a 51 percent stake to locals.

Economic analyst Masimba Kuchera said while the move by the Corporate Council on Africa was encouraging, Harare must work hard to prove its mettle as a deserving and conducive investment destination.

"Money knows neither friend nor enemy, if there is a room to do business people will do business," Kuchera opined.

"The real problem here is not that there is no room to do business but the toxic nature of the political situation.”

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