Davos WEF
Davos WEF

Zimbabwe is 'open for business,' new president Emmerson Mnangagwa tells Davos

Key Points
  • The newly-inaugurated president, tasked with repairing Zimbabwe's economy, tells investors it is "open for business"
  • Years of isolation and economic sanctions have left Zimbabwe's once-rich sectors in complete disrepair
  • Mnangagwa took power after a military-led coup peacefully removed longtime former president Robert Mugabe in November 2017
JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | Stringer | Getty Images

Zimbabwe is open for business, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa told attendants at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Wednesday.

"On my day of inauguration, I mentioned economics and trade cooperation would be my priority in Zimbabwe, rather than politics, in order to catch up with the region," the newly-inaugurated Mnangagwa told a panel audience at the Swiss mountain resort.

"Zimbabwe has lagged behind in many areas as a result of isolation for past 16, 18 years. Now we are saying to the world: Zimbabwe is now open for business."

"To do so, we need to look at all the legislation that has been constraining business coming into Zimbabwe to improve the ease of doing business," he said, citing the country's land reform and indigenization laws, which have forced international investors out of the mineral-rich country for many years.

The new president, inaugurated in late November of 2017 after a dramatic deposition of former longtime president Robert Mugabe, is tasked with repairing Zimbabwe's battered economy and bringing the country back into the international community after years of isolation and economic sanctions. The IMF (International Monetary Fund) has called Zimbabwe's economy one of the "most fragile in the world."

Zimbabwe captured the world's attention in November of 2017 when a military coup, largely supported by the local population, peacefully removed Mugabe from power after 37 years.

Mnangagwa was close to Mugabe for nearly all that time, formerly serving as his vice president, as well as speaker of parliament before that and head of the country's intelligence agency during a period of violent civil conflict in the 1980s.

Mugabe and his wife Grace were widely reviled across the country despite having a traditional base of support. The former president was well-known for his violent and repressive tactics, and for driving the country's once vibrant economy and agricultural sector into ruin.

Widespread food shortages and hyperinflation marked the last decade of Zimbabwe's history. Investors are now talking about a range of opportunities within the country's agricultural and extractive sectors, to name a few, but risks abound, including a dense and inefficient bureaucracy, corruption, and severely lacking infrastructure.