General Electric, one of the biggest companies in the United States and in the world, says it will be sending a team to Zimbabwe this month to look for investment opportunities.
GE executive director (government affairs and policy for Southern Africa) Lerato Molebatsi told the Sunday Mail that a team from the company will meet officials from the ministries of Health and Energy.
“Discussions are ongoing with various government ministries, including the Ministries of Health and the Ministry of Energy. We are not yet at a stage where we can talk about specific projects as discussions are still taking place, but we are hopeful that the projects we are looking at can be announced soon,” she said.
GE is also reportedly interested in Zimbabwe’s vast untapped methane gas resources.
Last month, President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced on the sidelines of the US-Africa business summit in Maputo that GE and its Chinese partner Power China had been awarded the tender to build the $4.2 billion Batoka Gorge hydroelectric power scheme.
Mnangagwa’s critics had just warned US companies and individuals not to engage with the Zimbabwean President because he is on the United States sanctions list, but Mnangagwa held talks with GE officials led by Farid Fezoua who is GE Africa chief executive.
As if to spite Mnangagwa’s critics, Fezoua was appointed co-chair of the United States President’s Advisory Council on doing business in Africa for 2019-2021 the following day.
GE’s proposed ventures into Zimbabwe have been a long time coming.
When the United States imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in 2003, its ambassador to Zimbabwe, Joseph Sullivan, in a diplomatic cable to Washington entitled: AFTER MUGABE: POST RECOMMENDATIONS FOR A U.S. RESPONSE, dated 4 June 2003, said the US government should guarantee projects for three companies- General Electric, Caterpillar and Boeing, to capitalise on any reform, clearly showing that sanctions against Harare were not humanitarian but economic.
The cable, dispatched when the opposition Movement for Democratic Change was pushing for Mugabe to go under what it called the “final push”, proposed the setting up of a transitional authority to turn around the country.
MDC leaders, Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti, are today also calling for a transitional authority to steer the country out of its economic quagmire.
“In a reform environment, we also recommend OPIC and ExIm Bank consider loan guarantees for projects that promote US exports and shore up Zimbabwe’s dilapidated infrastructure,” Sullivan wrote.
“This could involve badly-needed rejuvenation of General Electric locomotives at the National Railway of Zimbabwe, Caterpillar machines at coal-miner Wankie Colliery and Boeing jets at Air Zimbabwe.
“Furthermore, the country’s participation in African Growth and Opportunity (AGOA) sessions as an observer (with full admission following free and fair elections) would allow Zimbabwean firms to plan a reentry into the U.S. market.
“We should also explore possibilities for including Zimbabwe in free trade negotiations with the Southern Africa Customs Union.”
Biti, who has been a proponent of dollarisation, recently changed his mind saying the US dollar is not sustainable so Zimbabwe should adopt the South African rand instead.