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The state of Public-Private Partnerships in Zimbabwe

By Ronald Mutasa

The concept of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs – also known as “Joint Ventures” in the Zimbabwean context) is hardly new in Zimbabwe.

The Government of Zimbabwe introduced PPPs in 1998 with the aim to attract investors into infrastructure projects and State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) which were widely seen as a drag to the fiscal. Under the proposed framework, the private sector was to inject technology, capital and human capital into SOEs while the government would concentrate on infrastructure provision. There was, however, a low uptake and progress of PPPs has slowed in general in light, partly, of the negative investment climate and economic challenges faced by Zimbabwe in the last 20 or so years, and partly because there were no legal and clearly defined institutional frameworks.

The fundamental challenge for Zimbabwe is, thus, to urgently restore its infrastructural base. Following a period of economic stability under the inclusive government, attention has continued to shift to having more investment in growth-enhancing infrastructure in sectors such as power, transport and water.

On 27th May 2016, the Government of Zimbabwe, thus, introduced a Joint Ventures Act [Chapter 22:22] whose aim is to provide for the implementation of joint venture agreements (or PPP arrangements) between contracting authorities and the private sector and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the same. A Joint Ventures Unit (JVU) and Committee (JVC) were subsequently set up to advise the Government on joint venture projects generally and to develop best practice guidelines in relation to all aspects of Joint Ventures.  In 2017 the Government of Zimbabwe, through the JVU, engaged Deloitte Advisory and Manokore Attorneys, a member of DLA Piper Africa, to spearhead the drafting of the Joint Venture Regulations and Manuals to operationalize the Act, and which task has been completed.

We continue to assist various private parties and contracting authorities in various capacities, with our latest mandate being our engagement by Zimborders Consortium to assist in the conclusion of a Concession Agreement with the Government of Zimbabwe and obtaining of National Projects Status (NPS), for the expansion and Upgrading of the Beitbridge Border Post, at a cost of USD$240 million.