By Byron Mutingwende
In a move perceived by many as counter-productive, Zimbabwe is set to lose close to US$100 million worth of exports annually after Astro Mobile failed to get support to set up a manufacturing plant in the country but was instead welcomed in Zambia.
“The move by the government to put spanners in Astro Mobile’s quest to set up a first-of-its kind in Africa manufacturing plant in the country is contrary to the mantra of ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’ and the Buy Zimbabwe Campaign that seeks to empower locals.
“When I heard that Astro Mobile had been given the green-light to set up a plant here in Lusaka Zambia, I told myself that Zimbabwe had unwittingly allowed a golden opportunity to skip them. We have serious foreign currency challenges in our country and the expectation would be for the authorities to embrace locals with a vision of industrialising the country like Mr. Munyaradzi Gwatidzo, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Astro Mobile. Alas, to my surprise, I heard the entrepreneur was not given any meaningful support by the government for the last two-and-a-half years. This is despite the fact that the company had brought the equipment into the country,” said Joseph Zulu, a telecoms engineer from Zimbabwe based in Lusaka.
Investigations by Spiked Online Media unearthed that indeed the said equipment was in the country for the last two years and some of it was becoming obsolete.
In an interview with this publication recently, Engineer Sam Kundishora, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services confirmed that indeed Astro Mobile had approached his office with a similar request.
“Indeed Astro Mobile through its CEO Mr Munyaradzi Gwatidzo came to my office with a request to set up a state-of-the-art mobile manufacturing plant that would have been the first of its kind in Africa. I tried my best to assist him, but it’s still work in progress,” Said Eng. Kundishora.
Economist, Dr Prosper Chitambira said the move by the government shows that its approach is un-business and counter-productive.
“There is generally a hostile attitude of government towards business. How can they afford to lose such a lucrative business opportunity? It boggles the mind how it’s taking more than two years for the government to embrace such a noble initiative by its own citizen. The policy regulatory framework is not conducive for investment. This results in a high risk of policy instability. People also lament bureaucracy in the ease of doing business regulation. It takes about 60 days on average to get a licence according to the World Bank. If investors don’t come no new opportunities are created. As a country, we fail to generate foreign currency and create employment for our own people,” Dr Chitambara said.
If the company had set up in Zimbabwe, it had potential to generate 800 jobs directly and more than 10 000 other jobs indirectly. With the growth of the telecoms sector, the business would have the opportunity to generate up to US$1 billion from experts in the next five years since the company is looking at setting up distribution centres in 40 countries over the next five years.