With the Zimbabwe dollar now relegated to history, the country’s resilient, albeit battered, economy is once again lubricated by a stable currency. Emerging from hyperinflation and other monetary ills, Zimbabwe now offers opportunities that whet the appetites of investors worldwide. “While challenges remain, the situation is now much better than it was in the past,” says Salim Eceolaza, co-founder and executive director of Inter-Horizon Group, a capital markets brokerage (IH Securities) and advisory (IH Advisory) firm based in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Investors, both domestic and foreign, seeking to get in on the ground floor of Zimbabwe’s development more often than not will end up at the Harare offices of IH Group. “While opportunities are indeed plentiful, so are the pitfalls. What we offer is financial expertise delivered to international standards and peerless local knowledge. IH Group is also at home on global markets: we know how the world works, and know how Zimbabwe works. Our firm bridges the divide between expectations. Our people understand both sides of the equation. That allows for unique insights and for safely navigating the local market.”
At IH Group, Mr Eceolaza bears responsibility for the advisory side of the business as well as for operational oversight and strategic direction at group level. A chartered accountant with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and Financial Accounting from the University of Cape Town, Mr Eceolaza started his professional career at the Harare office of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) from where he was soon sent to the firm’s New York City office. There he provided assurance and advisory services to hedge fund and private equity managers while working at the Alternative Investments Department.
From New York, Mr Eceolaza moved to London to lend his expertise to KPMG – one of the world’s Big Four auditors and professional services companies. In London, he worked for three years as a manager at the KPMG Investment Management and Funds Advisory team providing guidance to a number of hedge funds and other clients.
Returning to Zimbabwe, Mr Eceolaza co-founded IH Group in 2010 to leverage his experience in developing local capital markets. The firm has since established a well-earned reputation for its in-depth and objective analysis of Zimbabwean equities and market conditions. Contrary to most, IH Securities makes all its research findings publically available: “I often get asked why we publish all our reports for free. The short answer to that question is that we feel a moral obligation to do so.”
Mr Eceolaza elaborates: “As it happens, there is a dearth of information on Zimbabwean corporations and their performance. This hampers growth and thus slows down economic and social development. In this day and age, quality data is key to any economic undertaking. At IH Securities we consider that making our research available to all interested parties is a winning formula for all stakeholders.”
With the introduction of the multi-currency regime and the stability it provides, optimism prevails. “We have seen a marked increase in interest from investors assessing opportunities in Zimbabwe. Opportunities are especially plentiful in mining, agriculture, and tourism. In fact, anything that involves the use of human capital gives Zimbabwe an edge. We have a well-educated, young, and dynamic population boasting the highest literacy rate in all of Africa.”
Mr Eceolaza emphasises that Zimbabwe boasts mineral reserves that, once tapped and monetised, may propel the country to significant prosperity. “The country sits atop the world’s largest reserves of platinum. Agriculture is also primed for accelerated development. Basically, anything grows here and does so abundantly.”
As business conditions continue to improve, IH Group stands ready to help investors with a full suite of services that allows them to reap maximum rewards while ensuring the country obtains excellent returns as well. “Already at this early stage, we see much interest in Zimbabwe amongst foreign investors. Armed with our research data and local knowledge, this interest is easily solidified into concrete transactions. That is our business and, if I may be allowed to say so: we are pretty good at it.”