Zim changes empowerment laws, opens up economic participation

Harare - Zimbabwe has sought to open participation to the country’s economic sectors by legally making changes to the country’s controversial empowerment laws.

On Friday, the Zimbabwean government gazetted new amendments to the Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act that saw changes being made to the definition of a Zimbabwean to “citizen of Zimbabwe” from “indigenous Zimbabwean” as was the case previously.

As part of the new amendments any person is now free to invest in, form, operate and acquire the ownership or control of any business in the country.

The only exceptions are businesses in the diamond and platinum sectors that only allow 41% foreign ownership as well as those in the reserved sectors of the economy where foreigners are not allowed to operate unless they have special permission.

Sectors such as agriculture, milk processing and tobacco processing, which were previously reserved for indigenous Zimbabweans have now been opened up to any willing investor.

A total of 12 sectors are, however, still reserved for citizens of Zimbabwe, but foreign businesses which were operating in these reserved sectors under the Indigenisation Act before January 1 2018, will have to register with the country’s tax collectors, by no later than July 1 2018 if they still want to continue operating in those sectors.

The foreign businesses will also be required to open and maintain bank accounts in accordance with the country’s Bank Use Promotion Act.

According to the amendments, foreign investors will still be allowed to operate in the reserved sectors of the economy subject to getting a special dispensation from the responsible minister.

Businesses that will be allowed must be able to prove that their activities will provide significant and sustainable employment creation as well as establish sustainable value chains. 

The businesses should also show that they will be able to transfer skills and technology for the benefit of Zimbabweans.

Zimbabwe’s Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment laws have, for years, been blamed for subdued investor interest in the country. 

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