EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

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.

Table 1: Key Metrics and Rankings
Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
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

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).

Business Facilitation

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.

Outward Investment

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.

Zimbabwe has negotiated investment treaties with 35 countries, but it has ratified only 11 including those with the Netherlands, Kuwait, Denmark, China, Germany, Russia, South Africa, and Switzerland. In spite of these agreements, the government has failed to protect investments undertaken by nationals from these countries, particularly with regard to land. In 2009, for example, an army officer seized a farm belonging to a German national, but the government did not intervene, despite its assurance that Zimbabwe would honor all obligations and commitments to international investors. Some claimants protected by investment treaties have pursued arbitration through the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. For example, in 2015, a different Swiss-German family won a landmark USD 196 million judgment at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes in compensation for expropriated land but has received only partial payment.

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.

The United States does not have a bilateral taxation and/or investment treaty with Zimbabwe. The United States has a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), of which Zimbabwe is a member. This TIFA provides a mechanism to discuss disputes, although the protection offered by the TIFA is much more limited than protection typically provided by a bilateral investment treaty.

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.

Dispute Settlement

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.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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.

Investment Incentives

Government incentives to foreign investors depend on the form of investment, the sectors, and whether or not the GOZ awards it national project status. For investment in industrial parks and tourism development zones, investors are exempt from paying tax for the first five years, after which they will pay tax at the rate of 25 percent (the normal tax rate is 35 percent). For build, own, operate, and transfer (BOOT) and build, operate, and transfer (BOT) joint ventures, investors are exempt from paying taxes for the first five years after which they will pay tax at the rate of 15 percent. Investors in the mining sector who export 50 percent of output benefit from a reduced corporation tax of 20 percent and are exempt from import duties on capital goods while losses are carried forward indefinitely for mining operations. Moreover, the government generally allows for duty exemptions in the importation of raw materials used in the manufacture of goods for export. In addition to these incentives, investments with national project status such as those in the renewable energy sector are allowed to borrow on local capital markets where lenders enjoy incentives including tax exemption on interest.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Zimbabwe now has approximately 183 companies operating in Export Processing Zones (EPZs). Benefits include a five-year tax holiday, duty-free importation of raw materials and capital equipment for use in the EPZ, and no tax liability from capital gains arising from the sale of property forming part of the investment in EPZs. The government generally requires that foreign capital comprise a majority of the investment in an EPZ-designated company and requires the company to export at least 80 percent of output. The latter requirement has constrained foreign investment in the zones. As noted above, the ZIDA took over the regulation of EPZs and the Special Economic Zones. However, to date, activity in special economic zones has been limited in spite of the incentives.

Although there are no discriminatory import or export policies affecting foreign firms, the government’s approval criteria heavily favor export-oriented projects. Import duties and related taxes range as high as 110 percent.

Performance and Data Localization Requirements

The government mandates local employment except for specialized skills that are in short supply locally. The government encourages foreign investors to make maximum use of Zimbabwean management and technical personnel, and any investment proposal that involves the employment of foreigners must present a strong case to obtain work and residence permits. Normally, the maximum contract period for a foreigner is three years but with possible extension to five years for individuals with highly specialized skills.

Foreigners intending to engage in meetings or discussions for business purposes are advised to secure a business visa for entry into Zimbabwe. Individuals found to be engaging in business-related activities on a tourist visa have been known to be arrested, expelled from the country, and/or occasionally fined. A passport, visa, return ticket, and adequate funds are required to enter Zimbabwe.

There are no general performance requirements for businesses located outside Export Processing and Special Economic Zones. Government policy, however, encourages investment in enterprises that contribute to rural development, job creation, exports, the addition of domestic value to primary products, use of local materials, and the transfer of appropriate technologies.

Government participation is required for new investments in strategic industries such as energy, public water provision, and railways. The terms of government participation are determined on a case-by-case basis during license approval. The few foreign investors (for example, from China, Russia, and Iran) in reserved strategic industries have either purchased existing companies or have supplied equipment and spares on credit.

While foreign investors are not currently forced to use domestic content in production, the government is in the process of developing a local content policy designed to encourage the use of local inputs in production.

The government does not require foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance. Only banks are required to maintain all their data in the country through the escrow agreement.

The new government investment guidelines do not permit mandatory and/or arbitrary performance requirements that distort or limit the expansion of trade and investment.

Real Property

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/ 

Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment

Zimbabwe has two stock exchanges in Harare and Victoria Falls. The Zimbabwe Stock Exchange (ZSE) in Harare currently has 56 publicly listed companies with a total market capitalization of USD 5.2 billion on March 19, 2021. Stock and money markets are open to foreign portfolio investment. Foreign investors can take up to a maximum of 49 percent of any locally listed company with any single investor limited to a maximum of 15 percent of the outstanding shares. With regard to the money market, foreign investors may buy up to 100 percent of the primary issues of bonds and stocks and there is no limit on the level of individual participation.

There is a 1.48 percent withholding tax on the sale of marketable securities, while the tax on purchasing stands at 1.73 percent. Totaling 3.21 percent, the rates are comparable with the average of 3.5 percent for the region. As a way of raising funds for the state, the government mandated that insurance companies and pension funds invest between 25 and 35 percent of their portfolios in prescribed government bonds. Zimbabwe’s high inflation has greatly eroded the value of domestic debt instruments and resulted in negative real interest rates on government bonds.

Zimbabwe launched the Victoria Falls Stock Exchange (VFEX) in September 2020 after the government suddenly suspended trading on the ZSE for five weeks between June and August following a rapid depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar. The government blamed instability of the Zimbabwe dollar and rising inflation on the behavior of stock trading counters dual-listed on foreign exchanges, and suspended trading on the ZSE from late June to early August. When trading resumed, the authorities suspended trading of dual-listed counters on the ZSE, advising them to list on the VFEX where they trade in foreign currency and benefit from generous incentives meant to attract foreign investment. To date, only one company is listed on the VFEX.

The country respects IMF’s Article VIII and refrains from restrictions on payments and transfers for current international transactions provided there is sufficient foreign exchange to finance the transactions. Depending on foreign currency availability, foreign companies with investments in Zimbabwe can borrow locally on market terms.

Money and Banking System

Three major international commercial banks and several regional and domestic banks operate in Zimbabwe, but they have reduced their branch network substantially in line with declining business opportunities. The central bank (Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) maintains that the banking sector is generally stable despite a harsh operating environment characterized by high credit risk, high inflation, and foreign exchange constraints. Most Zimbabwean correspondent banking relationships are in jeopardy or have already been severed due to international bank efforts to reduce risk (de-risking) connected to the high penalties for non-compliance with prudential anti-money laundering/counter-terrorism finance guidelines in developed countries. As of December 31, 2020, the sector had 19 operating institutions, comprising 13 commercial banks, five building societies, and one savings bank. According to the RBZ, as of December 2020, all operating banking institutions complied with the prescribed minimum core capital requirements. The level of non-performing loans fell from 1.75 percent in December 2019 to 0.31 percent by December 2020 largely reflecting the banks’ low appetite to lend to high-risk clients. The RBZ reports that the total loans to deposits ratio rose from 36.6 percent in December 2019 to 39.5 percent as of December 31, 2020.

According to the central bank, the total deposits (including interbank deposits), rose from ZWL$34.5 billion in December 2019 to ZWL$208.9 billion by December 2020, an increase of 19 percent in US dollar terms.

Foreign Exchange and Remittances

Foreign Exchange

A large share of the economy operates using U.S. dollars for day-to-day transactions. The RBZ takes 40 percent of foreign currency earned from exports at the official exchange rate while exporters retain the other 60 percent in foreign exchange. The authorities change these levels periodically without notice depending on the severity of the foreign exchange constraint. Additionally, businesses selling domestically in foreign currency must surrender 20 percent of the receipts to the central bank in exchange for local currency.

Weak investment inflows and poor export growth have resulted in a perennial shortage of foreign exchange. Consequently, investors cannot freely convert funds associated with any form of investment into foreign currency. Although the situation improved after authorities adopted an auction system to allocate foreign exchange, businesses still rely on a black market for foreign exchange to make external payments.

Remittance Policies

Foreigners can remit capital appreciation, dividend income, and after-tax profits provided the foreign exchange is available. Firms may find difficulty in accessing foreign exchange at the auction rate.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The government set aside USD 1 million toward administrative costs related to the setting up of a SWF in its 2016 Budget. Although the government proposed to capitalize the SWF through a charge of up to 25 percent on royalty collections on mineral sales, as well as through a special dividend on the sale of diamond, gas, granite and other minerals, it has not done so. In 2021, state media listed the SWF as a shareholder of a new major mining company in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has 107 state-owned enterprises (SOEs), defined as companies wholly owned by the state. A list of the SOEs appears here . Many SOEs support vital infrastructure including energy, mining, and agribusiness. Competition within the sectors where SOEs operate tends to be limited. However, the government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) invites private investors to participate in infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships (PPPs). Most SOEs have public function mandates, although in more recent years, they perform hybrid activities of satisfying their public functions while seeking profits. SOEs should have independent boards, but in some instances such as the recent case of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), the government allows the entities to function without boards.

Zimbabwe does not appear to subscribe to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) guidelines on corporate governance of SOEs. SOEs are subject to the same taxes and same value added tax rebate policies as private sector companies. SOEs face several challenges that include persistent power outages, mismanagement, lack of maintenance, inadequate investment, a lack of liquidity and access to credit, and debt overhangs. As a result, SOEs have performed poorly. Few SOEs produce publicly available financial data and even fewer provide audited financial data. This has imposed significant costs on the rest of the economy.

Privatization Program

Although the government committed itself to privatize most SOEs in the 1990s, it only successfully privatized two parastatals. In 2018, the government announced it would privatize 48 SOEs. So far, it has only targeted five in the telecommunications sector, postal services, and financial sector for immediate reform, but the privatizations have not yet concluded. The government encourages foreign investors to take advantage of the privatization program to invest in the country, but inter-SOE debts of nearly USD 1 billion pose challenges for privatization plans. According to the government’s investment guidelines, it is still working out the process under which it will dispose its shareholding to the private sector.

Since 2009, awareness of standards for responsible business conduct (RBC) has increased, driven by the private sector through the Standards Association of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean government has not taken any measures to encourage RBC and it does not take RBC policies or practices into its procurement decisions.

The private sector developed the National Corporate Governance Code of Zimbabwe (ZimCode), which is a framework designed to guide Zimbabwean companies on RBC. An industrial advocacy group, the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, has a standing committee on business ethics and standards that drives ethical conduct within the Zimbabwean private sector. The organization has developed its own charter according to OECD guidelines, highlighting good corporate governance and ethical behavior. Firms that demonstrate corporate social responsibility do not automatically garner favorable treatment from consumers, employees, or the government.

The U.S Department of Labor’s (DOL) report https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/reports/child-labor/list-of-goods  published in September 2020 reports that children work in Zimbabwe’s sugarcane and tobacco industries. The DOL’s report https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ilab/resources/reports/child-labor/zimbabwe  found children in Zimbabwe engage in the worst forms of child labor, including in mining, agriculture, and tobacco production. Law enforcement agencies lack resources to enforce child labor laws. The COVID-19 crisis severely limited the government’s ability to combat the worst forms of child labor. The country’s continuing economic decline and school closures due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions likely increased the number of children working in informal labor sectors, including those that harbor the worst forms of child labor, to support family incomes.

The government regularly thwart union efforts to demonstrate with violence and excessive force and harasses labor leaders. Police and state intelligence services regularly attend and monitor trade union activities, sometimes preventing 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 ordered the eviction of 13,000 members of the Chilonga community in the southeastern part of the country in March 2021, but eventually backed down after a court ruled the move unconstitutional amid a public outcry.

Although the Zimbabwean government has expressed its intention to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) principles to strengthen accountability, good governance, and transparency in the mining sector, it has yet to launch an EITI program. A domestic initiative called the Zimbabwe Mining Revenue Transparency Initiative (ZMRTI) has produced limited results.

Zimbabwe is not signatory to the Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol issued a withhold release order on Zimbabwean rough diamonds from Marange in 2019 after having conducted an investigation and concluding that forced labor contributed to the mining activity. Widespread artisanal and small-scale gold mining presents a threat to the environment, and informal miners have little to no safety and labor protections.

Additional Resources

Department of State

Department of Labor

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
tiz@tizim.org ; info@tizim.org 

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.

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.

The U.S. government and Zimbabwe concluded an Investment Incentive Agreement in April 1999, which permits DFC to conduct transactions in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe acceded to the World Bank’s Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency in September 1989. Support from the Export-Import Bank of the United States is limited in Zimbabwe. Finance and export promotion programs, as well as investment insurance offered through international financial institutions, remain limited due largely to Zimbabwe’s mounting multilateral and bilateral debt arrears.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy

Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or International Source of Data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount  
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD) 2018 $24,312 2019 $21,440 www.worldbank.org/en/country
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country Statistical source* USG or international statistical source USG or international Source of data:  BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 -$72 BEA data available at https://apps.bea.gov/international/factsheet/
Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions) 2019 N/A 2019 N/A BEA data available at https://www.bea.gov/international/direct-investment-and-multinational-enterprises-comprehensive-data
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2018 9.3 2019 7.0 UNCTAD data available at

https://stats.unctad.org/handbook/EconomicTrends/Fdi.html   

* Zimbabwe Statistical Agency (Zimstat).

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Data not available.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
Data not available.

Joseph Muzulu
Economic Specialist
U.S. Embassy Harare, 2 Lorraine Drive, Bluffhill, Harare +263 8677011514
+263 8677011514
Email: muzuluj@state.gov

2021 Investment Climate Statements: Zimbabwe
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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future