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Italy wants ties to go beyond pizza

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Sifelani Jabangwe will this week lead a delegation of business organisations and 30 companies to Italy to scout for investment opportunities.

BY FIDELITY MHLANGA

Italian ambassador to Zimbabwe Enrico De Agostini who organised the trip scheduled for Wednesday said the coming in of the new dispensation had inspired him to create a platform for local businesses to interact with Italian companies.

“I have been here [in Zimbabwe] for four years and frankly, I have been waiting for this moment for all this time. Italian companies have been talking about the economic situation in Zimbabwe but they don’t know much about it. And, by the way, how much do Zimbabweans know about Italy? In order to do business together, our reciprocal knowledge must go beyond pizza and sadza” he said.

“It is important that we get to know each other better, that the Italian companies understand Zimbabwe’s peculiarities and opportunities”

De Agostini said 90% of the Italian economy was made up of small and medium enterprises, a great developmental model because it is “flexible and it empowers the people”.

The visit is scheduled for February 21 and 22. The Zimbabwean delegation will include Infrastructure Development Bank of Zimbabwe CEO Thomas Sakala, officials from ZimTrade and Zimbabwe Investment Authority and a large number of private companies seeking to interact with Italian businesses for possible partnerships.

He said there were no huge Italian investments in Zimbabwe as the conditions were tough and not attractive to investors. He, however, said he was confident the business climate would improve.

CZI will sign a memorandum of understanding with its Italian counterpart, Confindustria, with the objective to encourage and facilitate mutual trade and investment.

Confindustria brings together 150 447 member companies of all sizes, with a combined to 5.4 million employees. The organisation consists of 73 local associations established in 14 regional locations, 88 sectorial associations, 8 national sector federations, and 9 associated members.

Apart from visiting Rome, the delegation will also have interactions with businesses in Reggio Emilia and Milan.

In Milan, an executive forum has been organised by ALTIS, the business school of Università Cattolica. ALTIS is the home of E4impact, an initiative aimed at fostering sustainable development through impacting entrepreneurship.

De Agostini said foreign direct investment from Italy had been hampered in the past by, among other things, government’s failure to ratify its Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (Bippa) with the European country, signed in 1999 and ratified by Italy in 2001.

“As we are going to meet investors we will have to insist on the positive stories, like, for example, the recent completion of Tokwe Mukorsi Dam by Salini Impregilo and the current construction of a peak power station in Mutare, which uses Ansaldo Energia turbines,” he said.

“Obviously, some Italian businessmen might ask why Zimbabwe hasn’t ratified an agreement, which was signed 19 years ago. It would be nice if we could tell them this has just happened or at least give them a date for when it is going to happen. This, and the 18 other Bippas awaiting ratification, is a low hanging fruit for government to do in its first 100 days.”

Italy is the seventh largest economy in the world, the fourth in Europe and is known for its prowess in industrial equipment manufacturing.

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