By Saviour Kasukuwere
HARARE - A New Year dawns upon Zimbabwe presenting our nation with an opportunity to consolidate the indigenisation of our economy and facilitate real broad based economic empowerment. This opportunity is being presented at a time when we are learning from western economies in turmoil that no national economy is sustainable when it fails to guarantee its majority people an equitable share in national wealth.
Such lessons must strengthen our resolve as we forge ahead with confidence on this path that seeks to ensure that our nation’s wealth is restored to the majority indigenous Zimbabweans who continue to be socio-economically deprived by the economic discrimination inherited from colonialism.
The year 2011 witnessed our Government’s genuine commitment to broad based economic empowerment of all indigenous Zimbabweans without discrimination what so ever. The Mhondoro-Ngezi, Chegutu, Zvimba Community Trust and Tongogara Community Trust are precedents of such empowerment, guaranteeing local communities 10% shareholding in two mining companies exploiting the world’s second largest platinum reserves.
Zimbabwe’s workers who have been the back bone of our economy, though long denied any real fruit from their labour, are now being empowered through Employee Share Ownership Schemes, the first of which have been established by Meikles and Schweppes to the benefit of not less than 10 000 employees.
Indigenisation has also been about prioritizing the opening up of new frontiers and opportunities for young and emerging entrepreneurs whom we must ensure form the foundation of our indigenized economy. In this regard a Youth Development Fund has to date made no less than US$40 million available to young entrepreneurs, which funds have been placed under transparent co-management between the Ministry of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment and reputable financial institutions such as Stanbic Bank, CBZ and CABS.
The Government of Zimbabwe has also set aside funds for youth empowerment and job creation in its recent 2012 budget. Indeed we are on track with regard to ensuring the economic empowerment of our youths and injection of new entrepreneurs into the foundation of our economy. 2012 shall see us prioritize the capacity building of our youths, ensuring that they are endowed with the necessary entrepreneurial and business management skills to guarantee their successful economic empowerment.
Civil servants, who have long expressed discontent over inadequate salaries, must begin to identify and pursue opportunities arising from their government’s economic empowerment initiatives. Indeed their various associations can become vehicles for investing in the economy, cushioning themselves from the current socio-economic challenges still being addressed by the government.
Women too must take centre stage, as their resourcefulness has long proved them capability to positively define our economy, more-so when targeted as beneficiaries of economic empowerment. Where women come together and are motivated toward a common goal we have seen enough precedent of women entrepreneurship. Why should we not see women in mining, tourism, banking or manufacturing industries?
Our role as Government shall be to ensure that all our people, from whatever background are provided with the conducive environment to successfully empower themselves economically. We shall therefore be looking to the banking sector, especially non-indigenous banks, to open up attainable capital to indigenous entrepreneurs, while endeavoring to guarantee our indigenous banks the rehabilitative support to ensure their stability and capacity to remain pillars for economic growth spurred by indigenous Zimbabweans.
We shall also expect to see the National Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Fund (NIEEF), our model of a sovereign wealth fund, play a more defined role in ensuring economic empowerment across the whole country.
2012 must see us pursue our people’s economic empowerment always with the understanding that it is only when the majority indigenous Zimbabweans own and participate in their national economy that such economy will grow in a sustainable manner. Such growth, pursued within the socio-economic harmony achieved when the majority is guaranteed an equitable share in their national economy, will become more appealing to foreign investors whose investments are best secured by indigenous Zimbabweans with whom they will partner.
May our 2012 resolution then be that Zimbabweans find a unity of purpose, an unwavering commitment to safeguard and see through the successful implementation of indigenisation and economic empowerment to guarantee our economic prosperity and with it socio-economic development and rights for generations of Zimbabweans to come.
Saviour Kasukuwere is the Minister of Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment in Zimbabwe