Richard Branson urges investment in Zimbabwe

by Michelle Nichols
((Reuters) New York)

Billionaire Richard Branson urged people on Monday to invest in Zimbabwe, saying the world was wrong to wait instead of helping the politically volatile, impoverished southern African nation revive itself.

Virgin Unite, the philanthropic arm of Branson's Virgin Group, has helped create Enterprise Zimbabwe, a nonprofit group connecting philanthropists and commercial investors with business and social development opportunities.

Zimbabwe has struggled to attract foreign aid and investment because of President Robert Mugabe's policies, which include a plan for local blacks to acquire 51 percent shares in foreign-owned firms, including mines and banks.

Talks to improve Zimbabwe's ties with the European Union have stalled over slow political reforms in Harare while President Barack Obama said last month he was "heartbroken" by Zimbabwe's decline.

"Zimbabwe is a magnificent country that has had a really rough few years and either the world can continue to wait and see and not invest ... or the world can help (Prime Minister) Morgan Tsvangirai and the coalition government get Zimbabwe back on its feet," Branson told Reuters in an interview.

"The idea of Enterprise Zimbabwe is to have a sort of safe haven for people to invest through," said Branson, whom Forbes magazine estimates is worth $4 billion.

Zimbabwe's once-vibrant economy has been shattered by Mugabe's policies, particularly the seizure of white-owned farms for the resettlement of landless blacks. Mugagbe has been in power since the country's independence from Britain in 1980.

A unity government by Mugabe and his political rival Tsvangirai appears to have halted the economy's decade-long free-fall, but the country is struggling to restore productivity, feed its people and repair its ruined infrastructure. Unemployment is estimated at over 90 percent.

"In life, people have got to take risks. If everybody waits on the sidelines it will be the people who suffer," said Branson. "The present state of politics in Zimbabwe is by no means perfect, but it's a great deal better."

"Zimbabwe, of all the African countries, it's got the best chance of getting back ... it just needs a bit of help being kick-started," he said.

About 85 percent of Zimbabwe's 12.5 million people live on less than a $1 a day and annual per capita income is less than $400.

Enterprise Zimbabwe, established by Virgin Unite, Humanity United -- run by Pam Omidyar, wife of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar -- and The Nduna Foundation, will be officially launched this week at former U.S. President Bill Clinton's philanthropic summit.

Branson said the three day Clinton Global Initiative in New York was a great place for fundraising.

"We're hoping to bring in other partners into Enterprise Zimbabwe this week and I'm sure that we will," he said. "You can get a lot done ... it's a good time to twist arms and get other people sold on your ideas."

Comments for Richard Branson urges investment in Zimbabwe

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Investment opportunities in Zimbabwe
by: Teurayi Rugonye

Thank you Mr Branson for encouraging investment in Zimbabwe. There are many opportunities in Zimbabwe now that there are promises from the current Administration. The people in Zimbabwe are hard workers. It has been a struggle for people get jobs and work for themselves.
Thank you for remembering Zimbabwe a beautiful country full of beautiful scenery.

Teurayi Rugonye

by: Dave Knapp

Hi we have recently invested in Zimbabwe with a local native family. We really believe that this country is going to explode in regards to there economy. They are well educated and a high percent speak English. This helps with our communication. The country has incredible resources and agriculture potential to be the breadbasket of Arica. There is also incredible wildlife, some of the most sort after for viewing. We are very hopeful that the new leadership will open the doors wider for investors. The confidence for new investors in Zimbabwe may take some time because of its history, but I really believe it's the place to invest especial when you get to meet a lot of it's people like we did. Winnipeg, Canada

Investment In Zimbabwe.
by: Day Tapoya +27620197353

Thank you Sir Richard Branson for your insightful encouragement and indeed Zimbabwe has a huge potential to make its economic mark on a global scale. She has a very good literacy level across the board coupled with the hard-working citizens and the abundant natural resources which are yet to be exploited. We have quiet a number of projects which we are currently waiting to be exploited and any foreign entrepreneurs willing to partner with us can reach out and we give you the platform, the roadmap and how to be part of and carry out your investments in Zimbabwe.

Day Tapoya
Regional Director For Investments

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