Zimbabwe suffered serious economic contractions in 2019 and 2020 due to the extended effects of climate shocks that crippled agriculture and electricity generation as well as a fiscal adjustment, a volatile currency, and the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic which led to lockdowns, reduced investment inflows, and broken supply chains. Although the authorities acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic still presents risks, they project that a favorable balance of payments position, fiscal consolidation, and a good 2020/21 agricultural season will result in a 7.4 percent economic recovery in 2021. International financial institutions also project positive, if more modest, growth. In 2020, inflation peaked at 837 percent in July then remained high but steadily declined to end the year at 384 percent. Authorities attributed the decline to the introduction of a weekly foreign exchange auction system in June 2020. Although the weekly weighted average exchange rate between the Zimbabwe dollar and the U.S. dollar depreciated by 70 percent between June 2020 and February 2021, it remains overvalued relative to the black market. The government aims to reduce inflation to 135 percent in 2021.
To improve the ease of doing business, the government formed the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) in 2020, intended as a one-stop-shop to promote and facilitate both domestic and foreign investment in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s incentives to attract FDI include tax breaks for new investment by foreign and domestic companies, and making capital expenditures on new factories, machinery, and improvements fully tax deductible. The government waives import taxes and surtaxes on capital equipment. It has made gradual progress in improving the business environment by reducing regulatory costs, but policy inconsistency and weak institutions have continued to frustrate businesses. Corruption remains rife and there is little protection of property rights, particularly with respect to agricultural land. Historically, the government has committed to protect property rights but has, at times, resorted to expropriating land without compensation.
The Finance Act (No 2) at the end of 2020 amended the Indigenization Act by removing language designating diamonds and platinum as the only minerals subject to indigenization (requiring majority ownership by indigenous Zimbabweans), thus finally ending all indigenization requirements in all sectors. However, the new legislation also granted broad discretion to the government to designate minerals as subject to indigenization in the future. The government subsequently issued statements to reassure investors that no minerals will be subject to indigenization, including diamonds and platinum.
The government ended its 2019 ban on using foreign currencies for domestic transactions in March 2020. However, the authorities decreed that businesses selling in foreign exchange must surrender 20 percent of the receipts to the central bank in exchange for local currency. Exporters must surrender 40 percent of foreign currency earnings.
Zimbabwe’s arrears in payments to international financial institutions and its high external debt (public and private) of over USD 10.7 billion limit the country’s ability to access official development assistance at concessional rates. Additionally, domestic banks do not offer financing for periods longer than two years, with most financing limited to 180 days or less. The sectors that attract the most investor interest include agriculture (tobacco, in particular), mining, energy, and tourism. Zimbabwe has a well-earned reputation for the high education levels of its workers.
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2020||157 of 175||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2020||140 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2020||120 of 131||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, historical stock positions)||2019||-USD 72||https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2019||USD 1,390||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
To attract FDI and improve the country’s competitiveness, the government has encouraged public-private partnerships and emphasized the need to improve the investment climate by lowering the cost of doing business as well as restoring the rule of law and sanctity of contracts. Implementation, however, has been limited.
The government amended the Indigenization Act by removing diamonds and platinum from minerals subject to indigenization (requiring majority ownership by indigenous Zimbabweans), although the new legislation appeared to grant broad discretion to the GOZ to designate minerals as subject to indigenization in the future. Subsequently, the GOZ reassured investors that no minerals will be subject to indigenization, including diamonds and platinum. However, there are smaller sectors “reserved” for Zimbabweans (see below).
To improve the ease of doing business, the government enacted legislation that led to the formation of the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) in 2020. ZIDA replaced the Zimbabwe Investment Authority and describes itself as a one-stop-shop center in promoting and facilitating both domestic and foreign investment in Zimbabwe.
While the government has committed to prioritizing investment retention, there are still no mechanisms or formal structures to maintain ongoing dialogue with investors.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Foreign and domestic private entities have a right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in all forms of remunerative activity, but foreign ownership of businesses in certain reserved sectors is limited, as outlined below.
Foreign investors are free to invest in most sectors without any restrictions as the government aims to bring in new technologies, generate employment, and value-added manufacturing. According to the ZIDA Act, “foreign investors may invest in, and reinvest profits of such investments into, any and all sectors of the economy of Zimbabwe, and in the same form and under the same conditions as defined for Zimbabweans under the applicable laws and regulations of Zimbabwe.” However, the government reserves certain sectors for Zimbabweans such as passenger buses, taxis and car hire services, employment agencies, grain milling, bakeries, advertising, dairy processing, and estate agencies.
The country screens FDI through the ZIDA in liaison with relevant line ministries to confirm compliance with the country’s laws.
According to the country’s laws, U.S. investors are not especially disadvantaged or singled out by any of the ownership or control mechanisms relative to other foreign investors. In its investment guidelines, the government states its commitment to non-discrimination between foreign and domestic investors and among foreign investors.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
In the past three years, the government has not conducted an investment policy review through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO) or the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
Policy inconsistency, administrative delays and costs, and corruption hinder business facilitation. Zimbabwe does not have a fully online business registration process, though one can begin the process and conduct a name search online via the ZimConnect web portal. The government created the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA, https://www.zidainvest.com/ ) which replaced the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA), the Special Economic Zones Authority, and the Joint Venture Unit to oversee the licensing and implementation of investment projects in the country. The Agency has established a one-stop investment services center (OSISC) which houses several agencies that play a role in the licensing, establishment, and implementation of investment projects including the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA), Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), National Social Security Authority (NSSA), Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, the State Enterprises Restructuring Agency, and specialized investment units within relevant line ministries. The business registration process currently takes 27 days.
Zimbabwe does not promote or incentivize outward investment due to the country’s tight foreign exchange reserves. Although the government does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad, any outward investment requires approval by exchange control authorities. Firms interested in outward investment would face difficulty accessing the limited foreign currency at the more favorable official exchange rate.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
The government officially encourages competition within the private sector and seeks to improve the ease of doing business, but the bureaucracy within regulatory agencies still lacks transparency, and corruption is prevalent. Investors have complained of policy inconsistency and unpredictability. Moreover, Zimbabwe does not have a centralized online location where key regulatory actions are published and investors have to contact ZIDA.
The government at times uses statutory instruments and temporary presidential powers to alter legislation impacting economic policy. These powers have limited duration – the government must pass legislation within six months for the presidential powers to become permanent. These measures, which can appear without warning, often surprise businesses and lack implementation details, leading firms to delay major business decisions until gaining clarity. For example, the government unexpectedly prohibited the use of foreign currencies for domestic transactions in June 2019 but lifted the ban in March 2020, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and growing economic pressure. The government has made changes to share of foreign currency earnings that exporters must surrender to the central bank without warning or stakeholder consultations. The standard legislative process, on the other hand, does provide ample opportunity for public review and comment before the final passage of new laws. The development of regulations follows a standard process and includes a period for public review and comment.
According to the Department of State’s 2020 Fiscal Transparency Report, public budget documents do not provide a full picture of government expenditures, and there is a notable lack of transparency regarding state-owned enterprises and the extraction of natural resources. The information on public finances is generally unreliable, as actual revenue and expenditure have deviated significantly from the enacted budgets. Information on some debt obligations is publicly available, but not information on contingent debt.
International Regulatory Considerations
Zimbabwe is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and it is a signatory to the SADC and COMESA trade protocols establishing free trade areas (FTA) with the aim of growing into a customs union. Zimbabwe is also a member of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which came into force on January 1, 2021, with the aim of creating a single continental market and paving the way for the establishment of a customs union. Although the country is also a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), it normally notifies only SADC and COMESA of measures it intends to implement.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
According to the country’s law and constitution, Zimbabwe has an independent judicial system whose decisions are binding on the other branches of government. The country has written commercial law and, in 2019, established four commercial courts at the magistrate level. The government also trained 55 magistrates in the same year. Administration of justice in commercial cases that do not touch on political interests is still generally impartial, but for politicized cases government interference in the court system has hindered the delivery of impartial justice. Regulations or enforcement actions are appealable and are adjudicated in the national court system.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
As noted above, in 2020, foreign investors are free to invest in most sectors including mining without any restrictions following the amendment to the Indigenization and Economic Empowerment Act which required majority ownership by indigenous Zimbabweans, as the government aims to bring in new technologies, generate employment, and value-added manufacturing. In certain sectors, such as primary agriculture, transport services, and retail and wholesale trade including distribution, foreign investors may not own more than 35 percent equity.
The ZIDA (found at https://www.zidainvest.com/ ), which now acts a one-stop shop for investors, promotes and facilitates both local and foreign direct investment.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
The government officially encourages competition within the private sector according to the Zimbabwe Competition Act. The Act provided for the formation of the Tariff and Competition Commission charged with investigating restrictive practices, mergers, and monopolies in the country. The Competition and Tariff Commission (CTC) is an autonomous statutory body established in 2001 with the dual mandate of implementing and enforcing Zimbabwe’s competition policy and law and executing the country’s trade tariffs policy. The Act provides for transparent norms and procedures. Although the decision of the Commission is final, any aggrieved party can appeal to the Administrative Court against that decision.
Expropriation and Compensation
In 2000, the government began to seize privately-owned agricultural land and transfer ownership to government officials and other regime supporters. In April of that year, the government amended the constitution to grant the state’s right to assert eminent domain, with compensation limited to the improvements made on the land. In September 2005, the government amended the constitution again to transfer ownership of all expropriated land to the government. Since the passage of this amendment, top government officials, supporters of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party, and members of the security forces have continued to disrupt production on commercial farms, including those owned by foreign investors and those covered by bilateral investment agreements. Similarly, government officials have sought to impose politically connected individuals as indigenous partners on privately and foreign-owned wildlife conservancies.
In 2006, the government began to issue 99-year leases for land seized from commercial farmers, retaining the right to withdraw the lease at any time for any reason. These leases, however, are not readily transferable, and banks do not accept them as collateral for borrowing and investment purposes. The government continues to seize commercial farms without compensating titleholders, who have no recourse to the courts. The seizures continue to raise serious questions about respect for property rights and the rule of law in Zimbabwe.
In 2017, the government announced its intention to compensate farmers who lost their land and made small partial payments to the most vulnerable claimants. In July 2020, the government and white commercial farmers who lost land to the land reform program signed a US$3.5 billion global compensation agreement (GCA) for improvements made by commercial farmers on the farms. The government promised to pay a 50 percent deposit within 12 months of signing the GCA and 25% of the remainder in each subsequent year so that it makes full payment over five years. Given fiscal constraints, it remains unclear how the government will finance this sum.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Zimbabwe acceded to the 1965 Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States and to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards in 1994. However, the government does not always accept binding international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and the state.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The government is signatory to several bilateral investment agreements with several countries (see above) in which international arbitration of investment disputes is recognized. As noted above, Zimbabwe does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty or Free Trade Agreement with an investment chapter with the United States.
Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government, but there is a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors. For example, senior politicians declined to support enforcement of a 2008 SADC Tribunal decision ordering Zimbabwe to return expropriated commercial farms to the original owners. Once an investor has exhausted the administrative and judicial remedies available locally, the government of Zimbabwe agrees, in theory, to submit matters for settlement by arbitration according to the rules and procedures promulgated by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). However, this has not occurred in practice.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Domestic legislation on arbitration is modeled after the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) model law, with minor modifications. This law covers both domestic and international arbitration. As noted above, local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government, but there is a history of extrajudicial action against foreign investors. For example, senior politicians declined to support enforcement of a 2008 SADC Tribunal decision ordering Zimbabwe to return expropriated commercial farms to the original owners. Once an investor has exhausted the administrative and judicial remedies available locally, the government of Zimbabwe agrees, in theory, to submit matters for settlement by arbitration according to the rules and procedures promulgated by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. However, this has not occurred in practice.
In the event of insolvency or bankruptcy, Zimbabwe applies the Insolvency Act. All creditors have equal rights against an insolvent estate. In terms of resolving insolvency, Zimbabwe ranks 142 out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report. Zimbabwe does not criminalize bankruptcy unless it is the result of fraud, but the government blacklists a person declared bankrupt from undertaking any new business.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The government enforces property rights in residential and commercial properties in cities although this is not the case with agricultural land, as discussed above. Mortgages and liens do exist for urban properties although liquidity constraints have led to a fall in the number of mortgage loans. According to the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Report, Zimbabwe is ranked 109 out of 190 countries in terms of registering property. The recording of mortgages is generally reliable. With regard to agricultural land, the government generally provides and protects the usage rights of indigenous people, i.e., black Zimbabweans. The government retains ownership of all agricultural land with 99-year leases guaranteeing use. These leases remain too weak to serve as collateral for bank loans.
Intellectual Property Rights
Zimbabwe follows international patent and trademark conventions, and it is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Generally, the government seeks to honor intellectual property ownership and rights, although a lack of expertise and manpower as well as corruption limit its ability to enforce these obligations. Pirating of videos, music, and computer software is common.
The government has not enacted new IP related laws or regulations over the past year. The country does not publish information on the seizures of counterfeit goods.
Zimbabwe is not included in the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.
For additional information about national laws and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at http://www.wipo.int/directory/en/
Endemic corruption presents a serious challenge to businesses operating in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe’s scores on governance, transparency, and corruption perception indices are well below the regional average. U.S. firms have identified corruption as an obstacle to FDI, with many corruption allegations stemming from opaque procurement processes.
In theory, the government has specified laws that require managers and directors to declare their financial interests in the public sector, although these may not be followed in practice. As noted below, Zimbabwe does not have laws that guard against conflict of interest with respect to the conduct of private companies, but existing rules on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange compel listed companies to disclose, through annual reports, minimum disclosure requirements.
While anti-corruption laws exist and extend to family members of officials and political parties, the government tends to engage in selective enforcement against the opposition while engaging in “catch and release” of government officials and their business partners. As a result, Transparency International ranked Zimbabwe 157 out of 175 countries and territories surveyed in 2020 with respect to perceptions of corruption. In 2005, the government enacted an Anti-Corruption Act that established a government-appointed Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC), the structure of which has evolved over time. Following the end of Robert Mugabe’s rule in November 2017, the government pledged to address governance and corruption challenges by appointing a new ZACC chaired by a former High Court Judge and granting it new powers. President Mnangagwa also established a special unit within his office to deal with corruption cases. Despite these developments, the government has a track record of prosecuting individuals selectively, focusing on those who have fallen out of favor with the ruling party and ignoring transgressions by members of the favored elite. Accusations of corruption seldom result in formal charges and convictions. Zimbabwe does not provide any special protections to NGOs investigating corruption in the public sector. Journalists reporting on high level corruption have suffered from arbitrary arrests and lengthy detentions.
While Zimbabwe does not have laws that guard against conflict of interest with respect to the conduct of private companies, existing rules on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange compel listed companies to disclose, through annual reports, minimum disclosure requirements. Regarding SOEs, the government has specified laws that require managers and directors to declare their financial interests. In 2016, the World Bank report on the extent of conflict of interest regulation index (0-10), put Zimbabwe at 5.
While Zimbabwe signed the United Nations Convention against Corruption in 2004 and ratified the treaty in 2007, it is not party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
Resources to Report Corruption
Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission
172 Herbert Chitepo Avenue, Harare
Transparency International Zimbabwe
96 Central Avenue
P O Box CY 434, Causeway
Harare +263 4 793 246/7
+263 4 793 246/7
firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
10. Political and Security Environment
Political parties, labor organizations, and civil society groups sometimes encounter state-sponsored intimidation and repression from government security forces and Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) – slinked activists. Disagreements between and within political parties occasionally results in violence targeting political party members. Political tensions and civil unrest persist since the end of Robert Mugabe’s rule in November 2017. On August 1, 2018, the army fired upon people demonstrating against the delay in announcing official presidential election results, killing six civilians. In response to January 2019 demonstrations against rising fuel prices, security forces killed 17, raped 16, injured hundreds, and arrested more than 800 people over the course of several weeks. The crackdown targeted members of the opposition political party, civil society groups, and labor leaders. In 2020 and 2021, the government arrested and detained journalists, several leaders of opposition parties, and trade union activists for organizing demonstrations against corruption and allegedly violating bail conditions. Police also arrested three women members of the opposition party, MDC Alliance, including a member of parliament for violating lockdown measures when they demonstrated against corruption and food shortages during the first of several lockdowns imposed on the country to fight COVID-19. They were subsequently abducted from police custody and tortured by alleged security agents. Since then, the government routinely arrests and detains the three leaders whenever they speak out against the government. Political uncertainty remains high. Violent crime, such as assault, smash and grabs, and home invasion, is common. Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Incidents of violence have typically not targeted investment projects.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Decades of political and economic crises have led to the emigration of many of Zimbabwe’s skilled and well-educated citizens. Formal sector employment has fallen significantly. Anecdotal evidence shows widespread youth unemployment as the country continues to produce graduates without a matching growth in employment opportunities. According to the Labor Force Survey, Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate stood at 16.4 percent in 2019, the latest available data. As a result, most end up joining the informal sector estimated at over 75.6 percent of the workforce. The government strongly encourages foreign investors to make maximum use of Zimbabwean management and technical personnel.
The country’s labor laws make it very difficult for employers to adjust employment in response to an economic downturn except in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) where labor laws do not apply. Outside the SEZs, the employer must engage the employees and their representatives and agree to adopt measures to avoid retrenchment. If the measures fail, the employer can retrench and pay an all-inclusive package of one-month salary for each two years of service or the pro rata share thereof. Labor laws differentiate between layoffs and severance with the former falling under retrenchment where the retrenchment law must apply. The law does not accept unfair dismissal or layoffs of employees. The 2015 amendments to the act only permit terminations of contracts to be in terms of a registered code of conduct, expiry of a contract of fixed term duration, or mutual agreement. There is no unemployment insurance or other safety net programs for workers laid off for economic reasons.
Employers in all sectors rely heavily on temporary or contract workers to avoid having to pay severance costs and follow other onerous termination procedures. The Labor Amendment Act of 2015, however, now requires employment councils to put a limit on the number of times employers can renew short-term contracts. The government does not waive labor laws in order to attract or retain investment, except in the case of SEZs.
The law provides for the right of private-sector workers to form and join unions, conduct legal strikes, and bargain collectively. Public-sector workers may not form or join trade unions but may form associations that bargain collectively and strike. The law prohibits antiunion discrimination, provides that the labor court handle discrimination complaints, and may direct reinstatement of workers fired due to such discrimination. However, the government did not respect workers’ rights to form or join unions, strike, and bargain collectively.
Parliament enacted a bill establishing the Tripartite Negotiating Forum (TNF) in 2019 to formalize dialogue efforts among government, labor leaders, and employers to discuss social and economic policy and address demands. However, the forum met only once in 2020. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) stated the TNF did little to address workers’ demands for wage increases and labor law reform, and the government showed little progress in supporting workers’ protections, fairness, and peaceful resolution of labor disputes.
The country has a labor dispute resolution process that starts at the company level through disciplinary or grievance committees. If the issue is not resolved at this level, the aggrieved party can appeal to either the employment council or the Labor Court depending on the industrial agreement. Other redress is through the Ministry of Public Service Labor and Social Welfare in which labor officers settle disputes for industries without employment councils. From the Labor Court, an aggrieved party can appeal to the Supreme Court. Labor inspections are minimal due to a lack of inspectors.
The government continues to harass labor unions and their leaders. Police and state intelligence services regularly attended and monitored trade union activities and sometimes prevented unions from holding meetings with their members and carrying out organizational activities. Although unions are not required by law to notify police of public gatherings, police require such notification in practice. Those unions engaging in strikes deemed illegal risk fines and imprisonment.
The government used violence and excessive force when some unions triedto demonstrate during the period under review. Police arrested three members of the Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) following a June 2020 protest in Masvingo to demand increased salaries paid in U.S. dollars. Police also arrested 13 nurses at Harare Central Hospital in July and charged them with contravening COVID-19 lockdown regulations, with photos and video of police holding clubs and chasing nurses circulating widely on social media. In July 2020, the Zimbabwe Republic Police published a list of 14 prominent government critics wanted for questioning, including the presidents of ZCTU and ARTUZ, regarding planned anti-corruption demonstrations on July 31, 2020. In the lead-up to the planned July 31 protests, the ZCTU president suspected state security agents slashed his car tires and unsuccessfully tried to seize his relatives, and the ARTUZ president alleged that armed suspected state security agents detained his wife and besieged the home of a relative demanding to know his whereabouts.
The government is a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO) and has ratified conventions protecting worker rights. The country has been subject to ILO supervisory mechanisms for practices that limit workers’ rights to freely associate, organize, and hold labor union meetings. At the 108th session of the ILO’s International Labor Conference in June 2019, the Committee on the Application of Standards noted concern regarding the government’s failure to implement specific recommendations of the 2010 Commission of Inquiry, which found the government responsible for serious violations of fundamental rights by its security forces, including a clear pattern of intimidation that included arrests, detentions, violence, and torture against union and opposition members. The Committee also noted persisting allegations of violations of the rights of the freedom of assembly of workers’ organizations. The Committee urged the government to accept a direct contacts mission of the ILO to assess progress before the next conference. The government ultimately agreed to accept a direct contacts mission, originally scheduled for May 2020 but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2020 the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative self-initiated a review of Zimbabwe’s eligibility for trade preferences under the Generalized System of Preferences due to concerns of worker rights related to a lack of freedom of association, including the rights of independent trade unions to organize and bargain collectively, and government crackdown on labor activists. The review has not yet concluded.