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US visit gives insight into Zimbabwe

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US Ambassador Charles Ray says the recent visit to the US by a business delegation from Zimbabwe provided insights about the challenges and opportunities for doing business in Zimbabwe.

The delegation encouraged American companies and officials to continue efforts to promote positive trade relations between the two countries.

“I had some follow-up meetings in Philadelphia and in Washington after (the Corporate Council on Africa) conference, and I can tell you people were talking about the quality and depth of the presentations made by business representatives who travelled to Washington,” said the US Ambassador at a reception hosted by the Embassy and the American Business Association of Zimbabwe (ABAZ) to honour winners of the second annual “Investing in Zimbabwe’s Future” Corporate Social Responsibility Awards.

In October, ABAZ led a delegation of 15 Zimbabwean business persons to the US for the US-African Business Summit organised by the Corporate Council on Africa. The Summit included the “Doing Business in Zimbabwe” forum held on October 5.

“I can assure you, watching the expressions on the capacity crowd that filled that room where we did the presentation, Zim business representatives gave them something that they did not come expecting to receive — a better appreciation for not just the challenges, but the opportunities for doing business here. And the fact that business can still be done,” said Ray.

Trade figures show Zimbabwe’s trade with the US continues to grow. In 2009 and 2010, annual US goods exported to Zimbabwe rose 30% over the 2000-08 average. Zimbabwe had a trade surplus with the US each year from 1996 through 2006.

In 2008, trade with the US accounted for 6,5% of Zimbabwe’s external trade, more than twice the 2003 share. Bilateral trade declined sharply in 2009 with the global economic downturn, but grew by 18% in 2010. Through August of this year, the US and Zimbabwe traded goods worth $94 million, a 46% increase over the first eight months of 2010.

“We are keen to promote Zimbabwe’s economic recovery and growth,” said the US Ambassador, noting “progress and change” in Zimbabwe “despite some key areas of concern on the path to democracy, rule of law and a truly open society.

“The tough times are by no means over, but hopefully the darkest days are behind us. The US will continue to press for the protection of human rights and for accountability for those who abuse them, while at the same time acknowledging progress where it is made.

And we fully recognise the opportunities presented by Zimbabwe’s current economic recovery,” said Ambassador Ray.

At the ceremony, Zimplats Holdings Limited and Nyaradzo Funeral Services received awards for outstanding corporate social responsibility.

The Chinhoyi University Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team was recognised for coming second at the SIFE World Cup competition held in Malaysia in early October.

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