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Doing Business in Zimbabwe

(Video) Former Ambassador Charles Ray discusses a brief history of American businesses in Zimbabwe and why a foreign company might want to invest in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Tourism: Partnering for the Future with the United States”?

Based on Remarks by Ambassador Charles Ray at the ATA Summit, May 19 2012.

Good afternoon, and please allow me to join the chorus of voices welcoming you to Zimbabwe.  For those of you visiting Zimbabwe for the first time, I think you are in for a pleasant surprise.

I can tell you that when I arrived in Zimbabwe towards the end of 2009, I was pleasantly surprised.  Going by what I had read in the newspapers up to then, I expected to encounter the four horsemen of the Apocalypse on my way into town from the airport.  Instead, I met many people who were delighted to welcome an American visitor to their country—and immediately dispense advice on all the things I needed to do and see during my stay.  I have followed that advice and made a point of visiting every part of the country I could reach.  There are the rivers and mountains in the Eastern Highlands, the dramatic landscape of the Chimanimani hills, the broad horizons of the Lowveld, the rolling hills of Matebeleland and the Matopos, the history-laden Great Zimbabwe, amazing national parks, Lake Kariba, the Victoria Falls, and much more.

And Zimbabwe has much more than places to go and things to do.  The country is also full of Zimbabweans, and I urge you to meet as many of them as you can.

An American who has been resident in Zimbabwe for most of the last two decades said it best.  He told me, “I came to Zimbabwe because of the landscape and the wildlife.  I stayed because of the people.”

You may have already noticed that the people of Zimbabwe are busy.  They have their hands full rebuilding an economy that is rebounding from a decade of stagnation.  Over the past three years, Zimbabwe’s economy has grown at an average annual rate of about 7 percent.  The mining industry is expanding rapidly, agriculture is diversifying as it grows, and entrepreneurs across the country have driven a remarkable recovery of the retail sector.

The tourism industry in Zimbabwe is also moving forward.  As you will see over the next few days, Victoria Falls is once again the destination of a growing flow of visitors.  Hotel occupancy in Victoria Falls is high and rising, I am told.  And growing numbers of visitors from Europe, the Americas, and Asia are rediscovering other destinations in Zimbabwe.

The bottom line is this: Zimbabwe is open for business.

At the same time, I must  also note that this country, so richly blessed with talented people and natural endowments, faces serious challenges.  There are deep political divisions that sometimes make it difficult for leaders to respond to the most important day-to-day concerns of the Zimbabwean people.  Zimbabweans from every segment of the political spectrum are engaged in a national dialog that should reduce political polarization and propel the country forward.  But reconciliation takes time and patience.

It is also true that the governments of the United States and Zimbabwe do not always see eye to eye on important issues.  But one view that I believe is consistently shared by leaders in Zimbabwe and the United States is that renewal of this country’s economy is good for the Zimbabwean people, and collaboration between Americans and Zimbabweans can be good for both of our countries.  This is particularly true for the tourism sector.  Americans can be wowed by one of the natural wonders of the world, see some of the best wildlife on the planet, and see the ruins of an amazing empire that flourished centuries ago—all over the course of a week or two.  In return, tourism revenues will help promote conservation efforts, will support Zimbabwe’s preservation of its natural and cultural heritage, and will foster better understanding between our peoples.

I certainly hope this will be the case, because the tourism sector in Zimbabwe will bring something that everyone recognizes as vitally important for this country and the entire region: Jobs.   The tourism industry and other service sectors of the economy hold great promise for creating new opportunities for millions of Zimbabweans who are ready and able to work, add value, and innovate.

During your stay in Zimbabwe, I urge you to listen, see, and learn.  Go tee off over the wildebeests at Elephant Hills, see some elephants, bungee jump (if you’re brave), have a drink at the Safari Lodge overlooking the watering hole at sunset, enjoy the traditional African buffet at the Boma, and stand in the mist beside the falls.  Zimbabwe offers a World of Wonders for you to explore.  You may be surprised by what you find.

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