Zimbabwe is awash with untapped reserves of gold, platinum, diamonds and a host of other minerals. It’s game parks and wildlife offer undreamt of opportunities in tourism and all these are now available at bargain prices. A leading member of the opposition MDC said to the times newspaper.
David Coltart says: “This is the sale of the century. There are incredible bargains to be had.”
“My view is that the mining and resources sector has the potential to turn this round very quickly. There are amazing opportunities around,” Davis Coltart added.
International companies have been itching to clinch deals in Zimbabwe and many were held back by the political crisis in the country especially after the threat by President Mugabe to take 51 percent share in all foreign companies. Some have also been unable to do business with Zimbabwe because of sanctions by some Western governments.
Now the signing of the power-sharing deal between Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai has opened up business opportunities.
In fact it has been reported that we are about to see a new ‘Scramble for Africa’ according to a report in the times newspaper.
“The 51 per cent threat will go straight out of the window. This is an internationally endorsed deal. So long as the MDC has the key economic ministries, such as mining, the private sector will be here. We are about to see a new ‘Scramble for Africa’,” one local economist said. “Cecil Rhodes will be turning in his grave.”
Rhodesia, the forerunner to Zimbabwe, was named after Cecil Rhodes, the 19th-century British imperialist who exploited southern Africa to amass a personal fortune.
Despite years of misrule, Zimbabwe still has an infrastructure far superior to many of its neighbours – such as the war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo – and a highly educated workforce.
The pickings are huge. The Ngezi platinum mine owned by the South African company Impala Platinum, 110 miles (175km) southwest of Harare, could bring in an estimated $1 billion a year if it was operated at full capacity.
Before Mr Mugabe ruined agriculture with his forced seizure of white farms, tobacco – the main cash crop of the country – brought in $600 million (£340 million) a year.
Western companies have watched with alarm as China moved into Zimbabwe and took over some productive concessions. Beijing was careful not to take an ideological position and financed Zanu (PF) and the MDC.
Zimbabwe’s riches are one of the reasons why Mr Mugabe has been able to cling to power for so long. His army generals have feasted on the Marange diamond fields, one of the richest but largely unexploited diamond seams in the world, through their control of the Zimbabwe Mining and Development Company. The company may now be broken up or at least run correctly.
The rest of the nation – unable to profit from the untapped Zimbabwe wealth – until now had to adapt as best it could to living in the ruins of what was once one of the most prosperous African economies. The few remaining Zimbabwean golfers paid for their end-of-round drinks before they teed off to ensure that prices had not gone up before they returned to the club house amid rocketing inflation. In Mr Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, a whole extended family often had to scrape by on £10 a month sent back from a relative overseas.
Labour costs in Zimbabwe are a fraction of those elsewhere, giving potential entrepreneurs a competitive edge. Much, however, depends on whether skilled Zimbabweans can be enticed back. Many will adopt the “wait-and-see” approach of international donors.