Zimbabwe’s visa regime is among Africa’s most restrictive, after it was rated number 21 on the Visa Openness Index out of 54 countries on the continent.

Zimbabwe’s visa regime has three categories, namely A- in which citizens from selected countries are exempt from visa requirements, B – where citizens of the targeted countries apply for visas on arrival and C, where those falling in the group are required to apply for a visa while still in their home country.

The report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) measures how open African countries are when it comes to visas by looking at what they ask of citizens from other African countries when they travel. The report was also done in collaboration with the African Union Commission and the World Economic Forum measures.

According to the report, Zimbabwe at number 21 is tied with Zambia with a score of 0.433 points and in terms of visa openness by category Zimbabwe is ranked number 17 on No Visa, number 8 on Visa on arrival and 29 on Visa’s required.

South Africa is one of over 54% of African countries whose borders are not open to fellow Africans travelling from another country and therefore require a visa before they can enter. The more liberal or relaxed a country’s visa policy for travelers is, the more visa open they are. Data on visa openness was collected between September 2016 and January 2017. 

The data found that Seychelles is the only country that is visa free for all Africans, and therefore ranked highest on the Africa Visa Openness Index. South Africa ranked 34th on the index, up one spot from 35th in 2016, as we provide visa-free entry to 14 countries and require a visa before entry from 40. While Africa has 55 countries, the report only features 54 countries recognised by the African Union. 

Western Sahara is the least visa-open country as it requires a visa from travelers from all 54 countries on the continent. East Africa is the most visa-open region, while North-Africa is the least open.
Visa-openness is important building a bigger, more integrated market to promote greater stability and attract investment, according to the report.

“African countries are on average becoming more open to each other, with indications that travel within the continent is becoming easier. Africans currently don’t need a visa to travel to more countries than previously and they need visas to travel to fewer countries, ” it states.

Four countries moved into the top 20 most visa-open states on the index and over a third of countries put in place efforts to offer more liberal visa policies. At the same time, more countries announced specific measures to improve their visa regimes going forward.

Twenty-one of 55 African countries have moved upwards in rank on the index since 2015. Forty-seven countries have improved or maintained their visa openness scores. “When we started this work, only five African countries offered liberal access [visa-free or visa upon arrival entry] to all Africans. We are making progress, but need to accelerate the pace. For countries who have either visa-free or visa-on-arrival policies you can see the positive impact on the number of visitors to those countries. Over time, you’ll also see it in the trade figures,” said Acha Leke, Director, McKinsey and Company and member of the WEF Global Agenda Council on Africa.

See the full report on African Development Bank (AfDB) Group website.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe last week officially launched the start of work on the dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge highway for $984 million.

The highway is Zimbabwe’s busiest and most economically significant, it is part of the North-South Corridor that directly links landlocked Zimbabwe and Zambia with access to the Indian Ocean ports of Durban and Richards Bay in South Africa.

Mugabe called the rehabilitation ‘a game changer’ with a multiplier effect for the economy. “This ground breaking ceremony is a major breakthrough as Zimbabwe forges ahead with the implementation of ZimAsset, our economic blueprint since 2013,” said Mugabe in Chirumanzu, central Zimbabwe.

Austrian contractor Geiger International was last year awarded the tender for the 580 kilometres road, which will be built under a Build-Operate-Transfer model.

Transport minister Joram Gumbo, however, said government signed a memorandum of understanding for the contract with Geiger International (GI) in 2012 but the absence of a legal framework until 2016 delayed the deal. This is despite the deal being officially announced in June last year, when government named GI and China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) as the tender winners for the Harare-Beitbridge and Harare-Chirundu roads.

GI vice-president Eric Geiger said the negotiations for the deal had taken six years, ‘punctuated by tenders and legal issues. “Geiger International has mobilised resources for the design and construction of the road and will be responsible for collecting maintaining the toll gates during the concession period,through a company in which government will have shares,” said Geiger.

“Proceeds from toll operations will be used to meet operating costs, loan repayments, interest, dividend payments to investors, and shareholders including the government. At the end of the concession period, Geiger will hand over the road to government, which would have to be responsible for its maintenance. Actual work on the road will start after three months if the designs are approved, he said.

Local companies will participate in the construction project to the tune of 40 percent of contract value. The project is expected to take up to 3 years under the terms of the contract. Geiger said the government had guaranteed the safety of its investment. The road was the beginning of more business deals with government, with more to follow, he added. Gumbo said more toll gates will be added on the route as Geiger seeks to recoup their investment.

Negotiations for the loan to fund the Harare-Chirundu road are not yet complete, Gumbo added.

 

- The Source

The Zimbabwean government says it will lift a ban on some imported products from South Africa, a year after it was first imposed.

The ban triggered angry demonstrations, some of them violent, by cross-border traders. Industry Minister Mike Bimha says the ban, imposed last June, had achieved its purpose. State media is reporting that the minister told a meeting of government officials and industry leaders the ban had cut the import bill and boosted local industry.

But he also said Zimbabwean producers were now facing threats of retaliation from some trading partners, including South Africa and Zambia. The ban on things like body lotion, potato crisps and building materials was opposed by many who survive on importing goods for resale.

In a statement, the Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation welcomed the lifting of the ban, saying vendors had suffered heavily under it.

 

Credit: EWN

Africa’s economy is this year expected to grow by 2.6 but that will not be enough to keep up with the continent’s growing population, the International Monetary Fund said in a report released Tuesday.

The region’s growth slowed sharply in 2016, averaging 1.4 percent, the lowest in two decades as about two-thirds of the countries in the region which account for 83 percent of the region’s GDP, slowed down. Sub-Saharan population growth averaged 2.7 percent, according to a 2015 World Bank estimate.

In its latest Regional Economic Outlook report the IMF said growth in the region will barely deliver any per capita gains and urged African governments to implement strong and urgent policy reforms to boost growth.

Countries like Senegal and Kenya are expected to continue to experience growth rates higher than 6 percent while Zimbabwe is forecast to grow at 2 percent. In a previous outlook published last October the IMF had forecast a contraction of 2,5 percent in Zimbabwe’s economy.

The IMF warned that “economic and social vulnerabilities are expected to increase further in Zimbabwe, despite some rebound in agricultural production.” “Recent improvements in commodity prices, while providing welcome breathing space, will not be sufficient to address the existing imbalances in resource-intensive countries…….Some other commodity exporters, such as Ghana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, are also grappling with larger fiscal deficits in a context of already high debt levels and concerns about growth,” reads the report.

“The delay in implementing critical adjustment policies is leading to higher public debt, creating uncertainty, holding back investment, and risks generating even deeper difficulties in the future.”

The report also noted the growing importance of the informal sector as a safety net providing employment and income. “The informal economy is an important component of most economies in the region, contributing between 25 and 65 percent of GDP and between 30 and 90 percent of total nonagricultural employment”.

“International experience suggests that the informal economy in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to remain large for many years to come, presenting both opportunities and challenges for policymakers”.

 

- The Source

It doesn't matter how much sense it makes to ordinary Zimbabweans: Zimbabwe will not formally adopt the rand, the central bank governor says.

John Mangudya has told the state-controlled Sunday Mail that he's ruling out "rand adoption". 

Here are his reasons:

Zimbabwe uses the rand already

In theory this is true: you just don't see the rand very much these days.

Mangudya says the rand has been part of the multi-currency basket since 2009 (other currencies supposed to be accepted in major supermarkets include British pounds, Botswana pula and Chinese yuan). "We continued to use it [the rand] until such a time when some unscrupulous dealers started rejecting it," he told the paper.

The reason why the rand stopped being welcome in Zimbabwe - certainly in the capital, perhaps less in Bulawayo - was two-fold: the rand lost value so there were quarrels over the exchange rate of the day and Zimbabwe brought in bond coins, which meant there was much less need for rand coins as change.

The rand will get "externalised" too

The authorities have been laying a fair amount of blame for Zimbabwe's ongoing cash crunch on people, both local and foreign, "externalising" hard cash. The definition of that includes retailers buying goods from outside Zimbabwe for sale inside the country, apparently. Mangudya says there's no guarantee that won't happen to the rand. "What guarantee do we have that if we adopt it as our major currency it won't suffer the same fate of externalisation and hoarding? Worse still, it only takes a few hours to reach South Africa," he said.

What's really important for Zimbabwe is local production

Finally! However much the authorities bluster on about hoarders and externalisers of hard currency, the main reason for Zimbabwe's cash squeeze is that local production is low.

"We have always said that the fundamental problem of this economy is not about currency but localised production, stimulating exports and discouraging imports of finished products at all cost," the central bank chief told the Sunday Mail.

Mangudya did not discuss the reasons why local production is so low. Some of those are to do with high labour costs, very little foreign investment from outsiders worried about indigenisation and how they'll get their money out of the country. But the lack of local production is a huge issue and not one that on its own the rand will be able to sort out.

 

Source: News24

Zimbabwe’s mining companies say local banks are delaying processing of foreign payments by three months as the country battles a shortage of dollars, which could threaten production.

Mining accounts for more than half of the southern African nation’s export earnings, which amounted to $1,3 billion in the first nine months of 2016. Zimbabwe, which is battling a banknote shortage, last year imposed a priority list for foreign payments and banned non-critical imports to manage the little available foreign currency.

On the list, payments for critical inputs for the productive sector are given high priority but a Chamber of Mines economist Pardon Chitsuro told a Parliamentary Committee on Finance that miners were facing delays of up to three months to have their payments processed.

“We have been facing a crippling foreign payments gridlock with delays of up to 12 weeks impacting negatively on production….we continue to appeal to the reserve bank to prioritize the mining sector in light of its centrality in terms of generating foreign exchange,” he said.

Bankers Association of Zimbabwe (BAZ) president Charity Jinya told the committee that an increase in the volume of transactions had put a strain on the banks’ systems. “Delays differ from bank to bank but depending on the priority, it can be well beyond a month behind before the request is processed.”

 

- The Source

Zimbabwe has been guaranteed of continued power supply from South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, despite a power trading deal coming to an end, Energy Minister Samuel Undenge has said.

Zimbabwe has been importing 300 megawatts from its neighbour since December 2015 to help reduce rolling power cuts that decimated its industry and mines, but that deal is ending ‘soon.’ The two parties are negotiating to extend the arrangement, Undenge told journalists after a meeting with Eskom officials in Harare on Monday, adding that South Africa had “assured continued support.”

“The utilities are working out the details. It is a commercial arrangement, we are going to pay for what we import. There are various modalities of payment that are being discussed and as Zimbabwe we are going to honor our obligations….we will pay up what we owe,” he said.

Last year state media reported that Zimbabwe’s power utility Zesa, had run up a $12 million debt forcing government to step in with a guarantee to pay after Eskom had threatened to cut supply.

South Africa’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Mphakama Mbete who was also present at the meeting on Monday told journalists that the negotiations were progressing well. ‘We are hoping out of this there will be stronger consolidated bilateral energy collaborations which will strengthen our economies on a long term basis.”

As of March 2, Zimbabwe’s power output including imports was at 1,350MW against demand of 1,400MW.

Tobacco output for 2016/17 season is expected to remain flat at 2,2 million kilogrammes, similar to the previous season despite an increase in growers of over 12,000 to 82,000 farmers, but prices are likely to be depressed, officials said.

The tobacco buying season opens on Wednesday next week with sales four auction floors, Premier Tobacco, Boka Tobacco, Tobacco Sales Floor and Premium Tobacco Zimbabwe.There are also several companies that have contracted farmers.

Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB) chairperson Monica Chinamasa told journalists after touring auction floors that the above normal rainfall which continues to hit parts of the country has minimal effect on the overall output.

TIMB also introduced an e-marketing auction system to promote fast sales and to reduce corruption which it said was caused by the interaction between the farmers and the buyers. “E-marketing which they (tobacco floors) have been practicing with farmers, is going very well. Farmers can monitor sales from their screens (phones) as sales will happen in real time…Buyers will be able to bid for the tobacco, which will enable the price to go up,” said Chinamasa.

TIMB spokesperson Isheunesu Moyo told The Source that prices are influenced by the quality of tobacco. “Average price was $2,95 for the last two seasons, highest on contract floors was going as high as $6,35 and $4,99 on auction and it is likely to be the same this season,” said Moyo. Moyo added that the country was still exporting tobacco from the previous season. As of December, the country exported 164,5 million kgs of tobacco valued at $933,6 million.

Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s second largest foreign currency earning commodity after gold. Moyo said about 99 percent of 2016/17crop will be exported to China, South Africa and Germany.

 

- The Source

President Robert Mugabe’s government announced a late Monday afternoon deal to hand its employees $180 million in 2016 bonuses, only just managing to head off a planned strike.

With an election due next year, the Mugabe government is keen to keep a lid on passions, at whatever cost.

As news of the bonus deal broke, statutory pension fund National Social Security Authority (NSSA) announced the government had given it treasury bills worth $181 million, primarily to clear arrears for the three years when the state could not remit its contributions to the fund as an employer. It is no secret that government has been struggling to meet payroll and, equally, not surprising that it has defaulted on its employees’ pension contributions and medical insurance.

Last year, it took government six months to eventually pay off all 2015 government bonuses. Even so, this came at a price as government defaulted on the June payroll, triggering a civil servants’ strike that was seized upon by some anti-government activists to create the biggest protest against Mugabe in recent years.

The situation is similar this year, with payments staggered over five months to August. There are compelling arguments against the payment of automatic bonuses to a bloated workforce of a government President Robert Mugabewhose fiscal position is, at best, fragile. But that’s not an argument a wasteful government which splurges on luxury cars and avoidable foreign travel can make.

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, who has fought a losing battle to at least suspend the bonuses over the past two years, put on a brave face on Monday as he told reporters “government will certainly mobilise the resources.”

Recent history points to one obvious source of funding: paper. Government paper.

Money on trees. Literally.

As it has done with reckless abandon since 2012, government will issue treasury bills, mop up cash from the domestic financial market and crowd out the productive sector, as Chinamasa himself admitted during his 2016 mid-term budget statement. At the time, the Treasury chief had also warned about a runaway budget deficit as government was a third into $1.2 billion budget deficit for the year.

For a government which had virtually no domestic debt between 2009 and 2011, the explosion of local borrowings from around $300 million in 2012 to $3.7 billion by October 2016 is alarming.

The bulk of the debt is in the form of government paper which, according to central bank governor John Mangudya, currently stands at $2.1 billion. Analysts have criticised the government for going into overdrive with its treasury bill issues, worsening a liquidity crisis that has hobbled the economy.

Not that government will listen to any advice to curb its appetite to spend, or institute the necessary reforms that will see it moving away from the current ridiculous situation where 97 cents out of every dollar the state raises go towards employment costs. Last year, Mugabe’s Cabinet publicly rebuked Chinamasa for proposing 25,000 job cuts and suspending bonuses among other cost-reduction measures which he said would save $355 million over two years.

As Zimbabwe heads to next year’s election, government’s instinct will be to spend more, not less. And, over the years, Mugabe has shown that he is not averse to making bold, costly promises to segments of the electorate he views integral to his electoral ambitions. But there are limits to kicking the can down the road each time you’re faced with difficult decisions.

This is why Zimbabwe’s current path to financial ruin is worryingly familiar.

The economic meltdown which reached its peak in 2008 was the outcome of a series of poor decisions — price controls, unrestrained money printing — by a government which insists on turning economic orthodoxy on its head.

 

- The Source

Tourists have added their voice to growing concerns over the heavy presence of Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) details on Zimbabwe’s, roads, with over half of respondents in a Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (Zimstat) survey saying they felt harassed.

The harassment also includes confrontations with officials from the Department of Immigration and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA)’s customs office, according to the visitor exit survey (VES) released on Tuesday.

The VES polled 38,680 foreign tourists over a 12 months period between 2015 and November 2016.

Harassment by the police constituted the highest percentage of the reasons not to recommend the country to potential tourists, at 43.2 percent, followed by harassment by ZIMRA officers at 14.7 percent.

Harassment by Immigration stood at 8.7 percent, according to VES, which recommended immediate action against ruthless treatment of tourists by public officers. It noted that even though the number appeared small, it had affected revenue inflows into the country.

“In order to retain reputation of Zimbabwe being a hospitable nation there is need to ensure continuous training of frontline personnel who interact with visitors creating the first and last impressions on the destination such as Immigration, customs and police,” Zimstat said in the report. Zimstat did not ask tourists the type of harassment they received at Zimbabwe’s 10 ports of entry, including airports.

But there has been outrage by tourism industry players in the past nine years following the heavy deployment of police officers on the roads. They are reportedly harassing motorists including tourists and using sharp metal objects to destroy wheels of motor vehicles to force drivers to stop on roadblocks. The smashing of windscreens is a common occurrence.

The police force is reportedly generating millions of dollars per year through vehicle enforcement, which has been condemned by senior judges in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Council for Tourism (ZCT), which represents the country’s major tourism players, condemned the groundswell of harassment and warned that the industry had lost substantial revenue due to the actions of the police.

Industry estimates say the industry, which generates about $800 million per annum, could easily breach the $1 billion mark if a range of hurdles, including the frequent security checks, were addressed and enough financial resources were deployed to finance marketing. The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry was allocated $2 million for the 2017 fiscal year.

“We don’t have to beat about the bush in terms of the damage that is done by (police) roadblocks to the product,” said ZCT chief executive officer Paul Matamisa. “If you are going to Bulawayo and there are 20 roadblocks you spend time stopping on 20 roadblocks. In other countries you do not see so many roadblocks on roads to tourist resorts. That has to be dealt with effectively. They are doing tremendous damage to the tourism industry,” he added.

A police spokesman at the meeting said the police had received numerous complaints of public harassment on highways and had started taking measures address the problem. He said, however, that the ZRP has not specifically received complaints pertaining to foreign tourists.

“We take seriously the complaints. We investigate each and every complaint that comes to us. We have set up a customer care service spearheaded by our public relations department to teach our officer how to handle the public,” said the spokesman.

 

- The Source

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