THE INTERVIEW VICTORIA RUZVIDZO
Zimbabwe’s re-engagement drive scaled greater heights at the just-ended World Economic Forum on Africa, with significant interest having been registered on what the country has to offer. The country was represented at the highest level by President Mnangagwa who led a delegation of ministers and other Government officials. The interest culminated in a dinner being held specifically for Zimbabwe on Wednesday. The Sunday Mail Editor Victoria Ruzvidzo (VR) spoke to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Dr Sibusiso Moyo (SBM) on this growing interest and Zimbabwe’s participation at the WEF Africa 2019 as a re-engagement strategy. Below are excerpts of the interview:
VR: Zimbabwe is represented here at the highest level, signifying the importance the country attaches to this Forum. What’s the objective this time around?
SBM: The World Economic Forum is a convergence point of world leaders, business leaders and civil society. Therefore, it is a platform which presents itself for us. A nation like Zimbabwe needs to propagate its side of the story. This is where all media gather, international and regional, therefore, there will be a lot of projections through different media organisations to tell the Zimbabwean story. We need to propagate confidence.
VR: So how successful have you been in articulating the Zimbabwean story here?
SBM: We have been very successful. On Wednesday the President met the WEF founder and executive chairman Professor Klaus Schwab and was invited to come for the Davos meeting next year to update investors on progress made. Remember the Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra was first articulated at Davos (last year). And at the dinner last night, the President articulated the Zimbabwean story very well. It was a dinner specifically for Zimbabwe. Many corporates attended and expressed keen interest on our country.
Zimbabwe is an elephant that is awakening again and it’s time for corporates to come and invest as the cost of doing so is still low while the return on investment is very high. It is actually the highest in the region.
Zimbabwe was a hidden asset for the past 20 years. It has just been revealed now so it presents a classic example of an emerging market. So investment should flow our way.
VR: What have your efforts yielded in this regard over the last few days.
SBM: There is serious interest which has so far been demonstrated. Our Diaspora and huge corporates are coming up with key projects that will boost our economy in a big way. The Diaspora interest is amazing.
VR: Minister, how do you situate these efforts and the challenges in the economy back home. People are finding the going quite tough, although of course Government is hopeful that measures put in place will transform the economy.
SBM: We are coming from a negative economic growth for the past 20 years. . . the country has been in a ditch so to get out of that ditch, it’s not proving to be easy. It’s got to be painful and needs a lot of resilience. It is because of that, that as Government, we have put in place safety nets for the people. The Government’s thinking is that it’s temporary. It’s a way of getting out of the current economic quagmire, packaged with the re-engagement efforts so that there is real freedom of trade. We should also be looking at embracing the digital economy.
Our engagements on the Continental Free Trade Area are not necessarily about trade in goods but Zimbabwe should trade in services, education. We can now formally trade in services and register major success stories while we are bringing up our industrial production levels.
VR: What are the examples of the services that we can leverage on?
SBM: We can offer business services, financial services, tourism etc. We can major in specific areas and take advantage of our high literacy levels and the skills of our people all over the world.
VR: You paint a glossy picture about re-engagement and what Zimbabwe can achieve. However, there are some who feel the re-engagement strategy has not yielded much and is actually receding if anything. How do you respond to that?
SBM: I have always said that re-engagement is a process not an event and our presence here at the World Economic Forum is a testimony of our continued presence. Our being invited to WEF in Davos by Professor Schwab is testimony that we are making progress. This shows that we are on good ground.
Of course some other capitals remain skeptical but we are moving on.
Our legislative processes are captured in the Constitution and we will not short-circuit the process to impress some capitals but we are working to increase our competitiveness.
Zimbabweans are moving forward. It’s not an easy process. But the good thing is that before, America had given their back to us but now we are facing each other and we are talking. We differ but we are talking and we are seeing American corporates making investment inquiries.
We see Australian companies coming. Big corporates have interest in our economy but some capitals will follow.
The President has given a key direction that as Zimbabwe we must move forward using our own resources with or without support. This is development based on resource utilization to enhance our competitiveness.
VR: So in a nutshell, has it been mission accomplished for Zimbabwe at WEF?
SBM: Yes, indeed. Zimbabwe has been the main centre of attraction and we believe that we have achieved our intended objective of positive engagement when we came here. The attendance of big corporates at our dinner, the presence of Professor Schwab and big blue chip companies shows that Zimbabwe is indeed headed in the right direction. We have achieved great success here.