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Mnangagwa ups re-engagement drive with UK, Diaspora

27 Jul 2019 at 15:18hrs | Views
Since the coming in of the new political dispensation, Zimbabwe has set its eyes on re-engagement. One of the critical countries that Zimbabwe has set its eyes on is the United Kingdom, the former colonial master, whose bilateral dispute with Harare ended with isolation of the country internationally.

Zimbabwe is now set to rejoin the Commonwealth, which it quit about two decades ago.

Isdore Guvamombe (IG) caught up with Zimbabwe's Ambassador to the UK, Retired Colonel Christian Katsande (CK) at the Zimbabwe House in London this week and spoke at length regards his mission, particularly insofar as pushing economic diplomacy is concerned.

For more, read the excerpts . . .  

IG: Zimbabwe is said to be doing a lot to attract investors from this source market and also to rejoin the Commonwealth. What really have we done?
CK: Well, you may recall that right at the inauguration of His Excellency the President E.D. Mnangagwa, the Minister of State for Africa Lori Stewart was in Harare. Since her reassignment, Minister Harriett Baldwin visited Zimbabwe and had a meeting with President Mnangagwa, and in the meeting, he clearly indicated how satisfied the UK was with the President's message; the message that the President was enunciating, the message of progress the Government of Zimbabwe had made in economic reform. They were happy that President Mnangagwa was enunciating progress in broadening and deepening the diplomatic space politically and also the focus on economic reforms. They were very happy with us.

IG: Have there been follow-ups since then?
CK: Since that time, there has been several meetings between Minister Baldwin, with visiting Zimbabwean Cabinet ministers including Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Honourable Sibusiso B. Moyo and Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Honourable Prisca Mupfumira. She again met President (Mnangagwa) on the sidelines of the UN in New York last year. We continue working on matters that are of mutual benefit. We continue to cherish the support that we have been having from the UK government.

IG: On the ground, what have you done to attract investors and Zimbabweans here to invest back home?
CK: Well, let me try and give a bit of context to that question. What we are doing is to pursue the establishment of Honorary Consuls in the various regions within the UK because the source market is big. We believe the presence of Honorary Consuls in Scotland, Ireland (Dublin), and also in England like in places Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds or so, will give lot of access to many people, not only for our Diaspora community to access consular services but even potential investors, so that they give us effective communication through these consuls. We want them to fill us up on specific investment needs. We then can start having information on the specific ideas coming out of those places. We have started with Scotland and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office have now formally advised us that we may indeed proceed setting up our Consul. And we do have that interest to set up in Ireland and others, and we hope to have set them up or made much progress by end of the year.

IG: The Zimbabwe Tourism Authority has been having roadshows in this country, how effective have they been?
CK: Let me begin by saying that this roadshow which is the first ever that we have had in the United Kingdom, really comes on the heels of the visit by the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (SB Moyo), who was able to indicate the progress — immense progress — that we have achieved in terms of engagement and re-engagement, not only with the host Government here, but on a global scale. And I have to say that a lot has happened in terms of strengthening bilateral relations at government-to- government level we have an increasing exchange of visits at ministerial, at officials, level and business to business contacts. We have increased a number of conferences that have attracted interest to fund managers of various sectors, particularly mining, agriculture and tourism. In this particular case, tourism. We were delighted having had Zimbabwe being bestowed an accolade of the "must visit destination" globally within the top three after Sri Lanka and Germany, by Lonely Planet. We also had International Travel Bourse in Berlin which bestowed us the accolade of "most sustainable destination" and that was a very good basis to bring the visibility of Zimbabwe in the tourism domain in this source market. And so, we had the roadshow begin here in the UK and coincidentally for us, the roadshow coincided with the Gems playing in Liverpool. They did us proud and we were delighted to see Environment, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Minister Honourable Prisca Mupfumira come with her team to Liverpool to support the Gems. Anything to do with Zimbabwe's colours was there to paint Liverpool. It was unbelievable. We left an indelible mark. We set Liverpool alight.

That was a major footprint. That footprint went beyond Liverpool to Leeds and from Leeds, we had to go to St Ives and Huntingdon, where twinning is being pursued from Chinhoyi and St Ives, and Huntingdon. Again, this is part of the re-engagement project to resuscitate those twinning arrangements that we have. I believe there is twinning (arrangements) between Bulawayo and Glasgow, which we need to look at and I believe Aberdeen and other towns. We are pursuing everything in our powers and the prospects are high. We are expecting many Zimbabweans to go and invest home. We will facilitate their movement and their deals.

IG: Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have many problems as evidenced by what they say on social media. What is your take?
CK: We are here to serve them. Our doors are open. This is precisely the reason we are opening consuls throughout the UK. We reckon the need to serve them from points as close to where they stay as possible. We regard our Diaspora community as very important and critical to our economic turnaround programme. In that regard we will do everything possible to attend to their needs.

IG: Finally, what is your last word to Zimbabweans living here in the Diaspora?
CK: We are here to serve them. We are here to listen to their issues. We have a listening President in the form of His Excellency President Mnangagwa. We are here to get ideas from Zimbabweans in the Diaspora and everyone interested in Zimbabwe. We take enquiries, suggestions and ideas. The honorary consuls we are setting up in every important place are there for that purpose, for the purpose of reducing distances travelled for our services.  We want our services provided as nearest to those who require them as possible. We are inviting all Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to freely go back home and enjoy their country, invest in their country. We want them to go with their friends and see how beautiful and peaceful our country is. We want them to take up existing opportunities and invest. We love them all. Our hands are open. Our minds are open. Our ears are open and indeed Zimbabwe is open for business. Our country is open for business for all.

IG: Thank you for your time, Sir.
CK: You are welcome.

Source - the herald
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