Project Case Study
Improving advocacy and dialogue on business environment issues in Zimbabwe
Improving the environment for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Zimbabwe
The Government of Zimbabwe is placing renewed focus on private sector-led growth, under the guidance of the country’s Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-ASSET). Zimbabwe remains however a difficult country in which to do business, ranking 170th out of 189 countries on World Bank’s 2013 Ease of Doing Business Index. Investors’ perception of Zimbabwe is consequently not one of the most favourable.
An attractive and enabling business environment is one of the most important factors in improving economic growth, and to create opportunities for the marginalised to escape poverty. In a country where, in 2011, 72.3% of the population lived below the poverty line, new investments and growth are crucial.
In January 2014, we were asked by the Department for International Development to implement its three-year programme to improve the quality of public-private dialogue in Zimbabwe. To reflect importance of what the project will deliver for local people, we chose to name it Zimbisa. In Shona, ‘simbisa’ means ‘to empower’; Zimbisa thus means “empower Zimbabwe”.
Zimbisa works to support key stakeholders such as government, business membership organisations and the media alongside research institutions and think-tanks to engage in evidence-based non-confrontational dialogue, to identify reforms that can improve the business environment for the benefits of all, including the poor and marginalised women. By working with partners from the government’s ministries and agencies and the business community, Zimbisa aims to catalyse systemic change in the business environment reform system, which result in an improved environment for entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Drawing on the principles of the Making Markets Work for the Poor approach, Zimbisa acts as a facilitator in the system, building the capacity of local actors without carrying a preconceived agenda for reform and without directly performing functions that should be performed by local actors themselves, such as conducting research or directly advocating for reform.
By the end of the programme, we hope that we can promote regular and sustainable dialogue between government ministries, departments and agencies and business membership organisations across Zimbabwe. This will result in an improved relationship between the government and the private sector, increased levels of investor trust in the policy environment and in an improved legal, policy and regulatory environment for business. The goal is to bring about sustainable change so that Zimbisa’s partners continue to engage in effective dialogue and advocacy long after the programme has finished, helping the Zimbabwean economy to catalyse new investments and grow, in order to lift many Zimbabweans out of poverty.