OPINION | After two decades of sanctions, is there a reset button for US-Zimbabwe businesses?

For over two decades, the US sanctions programme presented challenges for Zimbabwe’s economic development, writes businessman JW Oliver, who represents American enterprises in Zimbabwe. Now that the US government has shifted part of its sanctions policy, Oliver writes on how businesses from the two countries can take advantage of new opportunities.

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As Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Zimbabwe, I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this pivotal moment in U.S.-Zimbabwe relations. President Biden’s recent Executive Order signalling the end of long-standing sanctions marks the beginning of a highly promising chapter for both nations. While there remain 14 designations on the Global Magnitsky Programme, the Board and I are encouraged by this first step, and we firmly believe it will open up a plethora of new opportunities for economic growth and collaboration.

For over two decades, the sanctions program undoubtedly presented challenges for Zimbabwe’s economic development. However, the termination of these restrictions now clears the path for increased investment and relations between the two countries. A lot of American companies, who have long been interested in the vibrant potential of Zimbabwe’s market, can now explore new avenues for partnership and investment. Consequently, the careful nurturing of these relationships could lead to much-needed capital injections into Zimbabwe’s economy, thereby creating jobs, fostering innovation, and propelling the nation towards a more prosperous future.

The benefits extend beyond just financial gain. It opens up the doors to sharing the vast wealth of experience, expertise, and innovative ideas available from both sides of the pond. This exchange of ideas will undoubtedly have a profound impact on Zimbabwean enterprises. Through partnerships and joint ventures, local businesses can gain valuable access to international markets, modern technologies, and efficient management practices. This collaborative spirit will lead to the creation of synergies, where both U.S. and Zimbabwean businesses can thrive together.

The termination of sanctions also signifies a renewed desire to foster trust and cooperation between our two countries. The improved diplomatic climate fosters a more stable and predictable environment for doing business. This newfound stability will attract not only American companies but also investors from the rest of the world, further accelerating Zimbabwe’s goal of becoming a middle-income economy.

However, it is important to acknowledge that building a thriving economy will need more than just the lifting of these sanctions. We must seize this opportunity to address key areas that will solidify Zimbabwe’s position as an attractive investment destination. Streamlining regulations, fighting corruption, and investing in infrastructure development are all crucial steps towards creating a business-friendly environment. The Zimbabwean government, in collaboration with the private sector, needs to prioritise these reforms to maximise the impact of this policy shift.

The American Chamber of Commerce stands ready to play a pivotal role in this new era of U.S.-Zimbabwe cooperation. We will actively facilitate connections between American and Zimbabwean businesses, fostering partnerships that drive economic growth for both nations. Additionally, we will work closely with the Zimbabwean government and all other stakeholders to advocate for policies that promote transparency, accountability, and a level playing field for all businesses.

The termination of the U.S. sanctions on Zimbabwe presents a golden opportunity. It is a chance to rewrite the narrative, to move beyond past challenges, and to forge forward to a future built on mutual respect, economic prosperity, and shared success. With focused efforts on crucial reforms and a commitment to collaboration, this policy shift can unlock the immense potential that exists in this beautiful country. We are confident that a brighter future awaits U.S.-Zimbabwe relations, and we are eager to be a driving force in its realisation.

J.W. Oliver Jr. is the Managing Partner of SupportDDS and ZimWorX.com 

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