By John Kachembere
MORE than 50 people applied for the job to head the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA), which was on the market for a chief executive officer.
SEZA’s chairman, Gideon Gono , said his organisation had been overwhelmed with the applications from across the world.
“A total of 54 applicants responded and we carried out interviews over a two-day period on 27 and 28 September and came up with a unanimous decision regarding who to recommend to the appointing authorities as the inaugural SEZA chief executive officer in terms of Section 22 of our Act,” he said.
“On 5 October, we wrote to the Minister (of Macro-Economic Planning and Investment Promotion) with our recommendations. We hope to receive feedback by mid to end of October so that the candidate can assume full time occupation of the authority and take over the day-to-day running of the show from the chairman and also lighten the burden of my board members,” Gono said.
Zimbabwe promulgated the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act into law in October last year to attract foreign direct investment (FDI), generate employment and promote exports.
SEZs were first introduced successfully in the People’s Republic of China under Deng Xiaoping in the early 1990s as part and parcel of its “open the door, change the system” policy.
A number of countries were inspired by the Chinese and followed suit, including many African countries such as Ethiopia, Madagascar, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and Mauritius.
In many of these African countries, however, SEZs have resulted in the creation of “enclaves” with weak linkages to the rest of the national, regional and global economies, thereby limiting their macro-economic and developmental impacts.
Economist Prosper Chitambara said the failure of SEZs in other countries should not deter the country, but rather provide useful lessons for the southern African nation.
“For SEZs to be a success in Zimbabwe, there are a number of key success factors that will need to be addressed. First and foremost, the success of SEZs is a function of how competitive and strong the domestic economy is,” he said.
International evidence has shown that SEZs are hindered by the same problems affecting the rest of the economy, such as inadequate infrastructure and institutional weaknesses, among others, he said.
“In other words, the success of SEZs does not just depend on the incentives offered in the zone, but more importantly on the economy-wide conditions prevailing in the country. In particular, the policy and institutional environment are very important,” Chitambara added.
He noted that the more business-friendly and competitive the environment, the greater the potential SEZs have to stimulate economic activity both within and outside the zones.
“Currently, the investment climate in the country remains highly problematic with both foreign and domestic investment remaining largely subdued. This represents a big threat to the success of SEZs,” he said. The Financial Gazette