THE European Union (EU) is set to launch a ₤7 million programme by 2016 that will focus on the private sector, a top official has revealed.
Speaking in an interview with private media recently, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Phillippe Van Damme said the programme would be formulated in consultation with players in the private sector, Industry and Commerce ministry and Treasury.
“We will launch a ₤7 million programme in consultation with the private sector to help the government upgrade its trade and investment policy and documentation on trade facilitation and regional integration. The ₤7 million is at the identification phase and will be launched by the end of 2015 or early 2016,”Van Damme said.
He said the EU would consult government and the private sector on the priorities and come to a common understanding on issues that would be addressed through the programme.
“We will come up with the terms of reference, scope of the study that will be for a couple of weeks and we will agree on the action supported by the EU,” he said.
“This will help us on how we will implement the programme.”
This will be the first time that the EU has offered direct assistance to the private sector following the recent re-engagement efforts after several years of frosty relations with Harare. The move will help the private sector to re-engage with the EU and improve its working relations.
Van Damme said the EU would help the private sector to reorganise itself and speak with one voice to the government. He said the private sector had many associations which needed to complement each other.
The EU said it could not assist the government due to the latter’s debt overhang now estimated at close to $10 billion to multilateral financial institutions, the EU and the Paris Club.
Last year, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa pleaded with the International Monetary Fund representative Domenico Fanizza to assist the country’s private sector as the government could not receive assistance as it had arrears.
The manufacturing sector in the country is facing challenges that include unavailability of working capital, low capacity utilisation levels, antiquated equipment as well as competition from imports.