By Isdore Guvamombe
President Mnangagwa yesterday witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding that will unlock $1,2 billion worth of investments into the tourism and hospitality industry from a Chinese company, which had been denied the deal for three years under the previous dispensation.
Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Priscah Mupfumira yesterday signed the MoU with Touchroad International Holdings Group in Hanzhou Province, China at a ceremony witnessed by President Mnangagwa, several Government ministers and captains of industry.
Touchroad had initially approached former president Mugabe’s Government three years ago, but was inexplicably shut out. It took just a few days for President Mnangagwa to ratify the MoU.
In an interview soon after the signing ceremony, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief executive Dr Karikoga Kaseke said the deal showed that indeed Zimbabwe was now open for business.
“We are very excited as an industry that Zimbabwe is now open for real business, thanks to the new political dispensation led by President Mnangagwa.
“Tourism was the most closed sector. We now realised that a lot of things were being blocked, for example this proposal from Touchroad International Holdings was given to the previous administration, but they sat on it. What questions or due diligence were they undertaking which needed three years as the new leadership took less than a day to assess the same proposal?
“I don’t understand why this proposal was hidden from us ZTA as the implementing agency. I can’t be blamed for smelling a rat, a very big rat for that matter,” he said.
Touchroad International Holdings is a privately-owned company headquartered in Shanghai, China, with business interests in several sectors. Its international arm has operations in more than 25 African countries that include Namibia and Djibouti.
The MoU will enable Chinese investors to invest in local special economic zones. These include the Victoria Falls, which is one of the three special economic zones.
In terms of the agreement, parties shall exchange Tourism and Hospitality Industry investment policies, rules, regulations, procedures, incentives and opportunities and general updates on business data with a view to making them accessible to potential investors.
The implementation of the MoU shall commence next month with a scouting visit by the leadership of Touchroad International Holdings.
This will be followed by a high level delegation of close to 20 billionaires from the province.
Serious engagements have already started as ZTA chief executive Mr Kaseke has been tasked to operationalise the implementation of the project.
The parties to the MoU shall exchange publications, magazines, periodicals and directories on a regular basis.
The parties shall also encourage joint research activities whenever possible and are required to facilitate investment and joint projects.
Each party shall endeavour to promote the services of the other party in Zimbabwe, China and at regional and international levels.
The State visit by President Mnangagwa has already triggered an avalanche of interest by Chinese investors who are keen to come to Zimbabwe to invest in the tourism, infrastructure development, among others.
The Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality Industry has also engaged various investors including the Anhui Foreign Economic Corporation Group (AFECC) on the development of an integrated tourism resort in Victoria Falls.
It is anticipated that another MoU with AFECC, which was supposed to be signed in Anhui Province will be signed next week in Zimbabwe.
AFECC is already in Zimbabwe with landmark investments like the National Defence University, Longcheng Plaza both in Harare and Golden Peacock Hotel in Mutare.