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Britain ready to work with Zimbabwe

02 Apr 2018 at 17:37hrs | Views
In terms of value, the combined total value of UK projects approved by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority between 2014 and 2017 was more than US$336 million. These projects are all at various stages of completion.

I made a regional working visit to London at the end of February.

The main purpose of this visit was to attend the annual conference that is held jointly between the Foreign Commonwealth Office and Department for International Trade to look at trade and investment issues.

I felt that it was important — particularly this year — that I attended because we'll be moving into a post-Brexit world shortly and we need to start preparing for new trade partnerships eventually with Zimbabwe.

It's also because the prospects for investment in Zimbabwe are now looking more promising.

That was the main purpose of my visit, but I took advantage of being in London to also brief the business community.

The Business Council for Africa/Invest Africa organised an event where they invited either investors who are in Zimbabwe or who are considering investing in Zimbabwe to come and hear a presentation from me around the prospects.

I gave a similar presentation to the Whitehall industry group and then, obviously, did the round of meetings across Whitehall and went to see the academics at Chatham House who work on Zimbabwe.

The other key event that (my trip) coincided with was the visit of (Finance Minister) Patrick Chinamasa who has been appointed as special envoy to the UK.

We managed to arrange a meeting with the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in which he handed over a letter from President Mnangagwa to Prime Minister May.

They discussed the challenges ahead, the importance of free and fair elections and the prospects thereafter if indeed Zimbabwe is able to deliver free and fair elections, as the President has committed to.

Investment

Well, of course, we don't have the exact number of investors.

There was a lot of interest in my talk and a similar one I gave in Johannesburg, South Africa in January. So, there is interest and, of course, we already have a number of British companies still here.

The general message I'm getting from British business is that they welcome — and indeed are feeling quite positive about — the commitments that the new President has made around economic reform, around being open for business. They welcome, in particular, the changes to the Indigenisation Act, which have been passed now.

That is very encouraging.

But this is still the start of a long and challenging journey. The economy in Zimbabwe remains in deep crisis. What is important at the moment is that the Government is putting the building blocks in place to prepare for economic renewal and transformation.

I want to go back again here to the elections because a lot of investors have said to me that that will be a key test for them.

If the elections go well and are endorsed by the international monitors, that will send a very positive signal to UK investors that the Government is fulfilling its obligations and is committed to the rule of law, human rights and good governance.

So, what I am expecting following the elections is that companies that are in exploratory mode at the moment will move into more accelerated mode to actually start looking at prospects for real investment.

We have some data from the Zimbabwe Investment Authority.

UK investment projects approved (in Zimbabwe) between 2014 and 2017 included projects in the mining, tourism, manufacturing and construction sectors.

These are the sectors you'd expect and they're areas where Britain is strong (particularly in mining) and where Zimbabwe has opportunities for investors.

In terms of value, the combined total value of UK projects approved by the Zimbabwe Investment Authority between 2014 and 2017 was more than US$336 million.

These projects are all at various stages of completion.

Relations

The UK and Zimbabwe have always had relationships.

There have been times when those relationships have been more difficult, but we've always been here and we've always agreed that we need to talk through some of the challenges.

The events in November have created an opportunity to put the relationship onto a better footing, and I think we saw the start of that very early following the Presidential inauguration.

Minister Rory Stewart, our then Minister for Africa, was the first foreign visitor in to see the new President and that was significant on both sides.

The President himself commented that he wanted to signal an intent to improve the relationship with Britain.

So, I think we're in a better place.

We've had a second ministerial visit since then and we've had the inward visit of Minister Chinamasa to London to meet our Foreign Minister Boris Johnson.

Of course, what is important is that these relationships enable us to have a frank and constructive dialogue around how we get to the point where we return to full normal international relations.

And that's a pathway.

The elections will be an important milestone.

Around that, we want to see genuine commitment to fulfilling all the obligations in the Constitution, which the President himself has committed to doing. We want to see the next stage on the economic reform plan and we hope to see that soon, as Zimbabwe prepares for the annual IMF-World Bank Spring meetings.

This is an opportunity for Zimbabwe to set out in more detail its economic plan up to the elections and beyond.

And if we continue to see progress, then I hope that we'll be able to move to the next stage and get to a point where Zimbabwe and Britain have full normal investment and trading relations.

Then we can work together in fora like the United Nations and ensure that Zimbabwe plays its role as a good global citizen, supporting all of us in our efforts to ensure the global rules-based system works for everyone.

 Ambassador Catriona Laing is Britain's Chief Diplomat in Zimbabwe. She shared these views with The Sunday Mail's Sharon Munjenjema last week

Source - Sundayu Mail
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