Indigenisation policy re-think important


HARARE – A fresh thrust on indigenisation by government needs an equally focussed push that ensures the policy accruals trickle down to the majority of the people.

The indigenisation policy enacted three years ago compels foreign-owned firms to surrender majority stakes to local people.

But in pursuing indigenisation, officials have tended to allow their broader vision and public conviction about moral rectitude of resource nationalism to cloud an essential need to consider other aspects of it.

Aspects such as practicability and possibility of unexpected outcomes deserve serious attention for the successful implementation of this policy.

Resource nationalism is a noble cause as was the agrarian reform whose pursuit promised even-handed distribution of the benefits deriving from local resources.

And valuable lessons learnt from the agrarian reform programme ought to be employed to guarantee an egalitarian and honest spread of the benefits.

Recent complaints by chiefs as guardians of intended beneficiaries that all they have seen were dummy cheques from companies at the launch of community share schemes speak volumes about the unexpected outcomes which were not interrogated when the programme came on stream.

Such exasperation and pervasive gloom expressed by chiefs encapsulates a microcosmic characteristic of something largely askew with the programme. There was obviously no follow-through to ensure companies honoured their pledges to community share schemes created in pursuit of resource nationalism.

As it stands, greater focus needs to be directed at how best the indigenisation thrust can be seen to reverse age-old anomalies that manifest in the skewed implementation of the policy.

Policy pronouncement by government ministers and bureaucrats count for nothing if benefits do not ultimately flow to communities as expected.

A more foolproof policy thrust will guarantee better resource husbandry given the disappointment attendant to current community share schemes.

While it is true that the extractive model has been a blight for local economic development when foreigners have been creaming off profits and squirrelling them back to their countries of origin for centuries — the resurgence of resource nationalism in our midst should spur more innovative research and approaches for it to convey benefits that uplift the lives of local people.

As African Capacity Building Foundation executive secretary Emmanuel Nnadozie succinctly put it, resource nationalism policies have to be looked at and have to be informed and prove beneficial to everyone.

It is crucial that the much-vaunted empowerment policy must be structured in such a way too.

In the past we have needlessly pampered prospective investors with outlandish incentives much to our disadvantage when these are abused.

This time we need to put our foot down, unless we concede to be short-changed again.

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