Guvamatanga pleads with Diaspora professionals

HARARE - Barclays Zimbabwe managing director George Guvamatanga says Zimbabwean professionals living in the Diaspora should contribute to the embattled country’s economic turnaround.

Guvamatanga, also the Bankers Association of Zimbabwe president, said while Zimbabweans continued to nurse hyperinflation hangover, “…friends from the Far East are seeing opportunities that we locals are not seeing.”

“This has to change if our economy is to grow and this is where you come in as the Diaspora.
“Zimbabwe needs opportunity entrepreneurs because they have a huge positive impact on economic development.

“Our dream to promote a thrift economy requires a radical shift in mind-set driven by a catalyst. You are the right candidates to drive opportunity entrepreneurship,” Guvamatanga told the 2013 edition of the Zimbabwe Achievers Awards in London this weekend.

Zimbabwe’s economy is currently on the mend since President Robert Mugabe and long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to share power after the disputed 2008 elections, but is still suffering the aftereffects of a decade-long recession.

At the height of the economic meltdown, the country suffered massive brain drain with many professional and skilled Zimbabweans leaving for greener pastures in foreign countries such as the United States of America, Britain, Canada, Australia and neighbouring South Africa among others.

Guvamatanga however, said he was not asking the Diasporans to leave their comfortable life in exile for Zimbabwe, “but we just want your participation in the economy.”

“The moment you start actively participating in the economy, I believe that the spirit will automatically encourage us to start challenging the way we do things,” he said adding that this will greatly transform the economy towards entrepreneurship.

The Barclays boss urged the Diasporans to utilise the networks in foreign lands to get foreign direct investments (FDI) for Zimbabwe.

The southern African country has struggled to get adequate FDI and external credit lines since the turn of the millennium when Zimbabwe embarked on a controversial land reform programme which sought to redress colonial land imbalances.

“You have more access to finance than anyone else in Zimbabwe when you identify a profitable venture because you can build real networks,” said Guvamatanga adding that these connections create opportunities for investment, trade, outsourcing and the transfer of knowledge and technology from UK to Zimbabwe.

Despite the introduction of the multi-currency system in 2009, most sectors of the economy have failed to make a meaningful impact to the economy.

Intense competition from cheap Chinese imports and lack of long-term funding coupled with archaic machinery has restricted capacity utilisation in local industry.

Guvamatanga said these have all conspired to make Zimbabwe a traders’ economy where all businesses just buy and resell.

Instead of continually lamenting on how brain drain robbed Zimbabwe of its best talent, Guvamatanga suggested that the country should take it as a blessing in disguise “because we can now tap into the same talent again.”

Although there has been a steady increase from investment inflows from as low as $60 million in 2009, $166 million in 2010 and $387 million last year, other countries in the region like Zambia, Mozambique and Angola have been receiving significant inflows between three and nine billion dollars.

“We know that there are many organisations here in UK that can provide developmental aid to some of the communities in Zimbabwe.

“What is required in most cases would be your influence in the networks,” he said. - Business Writer

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