Zimbabwe’s engagement and re-engagement drive continues to bear fruit after the United Kingdom invited local businesses to participate in next week’s Africa Investment Conference along with companies from 35 other African countries.
The key investment conference is organised by the UK’s Department for International Trade and will be held virtually on January 20 because of Covid-19.
The British embassy in Harare yesterday confirmed the invitation of Zimbabwe.
“Attending will be business across Zimbabwe industry including large and small firms in finance, agriculture, renewable energy and other key sectors,’’ said the embassy.
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Professor Amon Murwira hailed the gesture, saying relations between Zimbabwe and the UK were improving.
“As you know, Zimbabwe is a friendly country. We believe our relationship with the United Kingdom is very good and it is improving every day.”
He encouraged the local business community to take part in the international investment conference to unlock opportunities for growth.
“We believe that it is important in the spirit of His Excellency’s foreign policy of Zimbabwe is Open for Business, that we participate in international business conferences so that we get opportunities for Zimbabwe as well as improve our trade ties with our partners in the world,” said Minister Murwira.
UK Department for International Trade’s representative for Africa Ms Emma Wade-Smith said the investment conference was meant to bring together UK-African businesses to discuss emerging and relevant themes around doing business in Africa and to connect UK companies to opportunities of today and tomorrow across the continent.
She said despite the current global economic context, the UK’s ambition to be Africa’s investment partner of choice had never been stronger, and strengthening investment relationships would be central in recovering from the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ms Wade-Smith was announced as Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner (HMTC) for Africa in June 2018. She has lived and worked in South Africa since 2016, following her appointment as the UK’s Trade Director for Southern Africa.
She has also worked on international trade at the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Prior to working on trade and investment, she had a distinguished career as a British diplomat, spanning more than two decades.
The Africa Investment conference will explore how inclusive, sustainable and resilient investment can help Africa transition to a cleaner, greener growth trajectory, in particular as it seeks to build back better from Covid-19.
The conference will make the case for a strengthened, closer collaboration and partnership between the UK and Africa, highlighting the UK Department for International Trade’s support that is available to business and driven by the insights of the recently established Africa investors Group.
The conference will have a focus around four key sectors of activity and will showcase UK capability and the emerging opportunities across Africa in Sustainable Infrastructure, Renewable Energy, Financial and Professionals Services, Agriculture and Agri-Tech.
Last year Zimbabwe ratified an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the UK.
“Following the end of the transition period, the EPA now allows Zimbabwean exporters to continue to enjoy tariff and quota-free access to the UK market, laying the foundation for a strong trade partnership in the future,” said UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe Ms Melanie Robinson after ratification of the agreement.
Also speaking after the ratification of the EPA, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister, Dr Sibusiso Moyo said the ratification of the deal was a big step in the country’s re-engagement efforts.
“This is a huge step for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement efforts. The signing of this partnership will undoubtedly bring increased trade and investment to Zimbabwe,” said Dr Moyo.
The EPA with Britain, ratified last October, allows Zimbabwean exporters access to UK markets free of tariffs and quotas and is expected to boost trade and investment between the two countries as Government’s re-engagement drive continues to bear fruit.
The ratification of the EPA follows the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union, meaning it can no longer trade under the Eastern and Southern Africa-EU EPA.
Last year, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Eswatini, Lesotho and Mozambique signed the same EPA trade deal with the UK.
The development comes as the two countries’ diplomatic ties intensify, which dovetails into President Mnangagwa engagement and re-engagement drive.
The total trade in goods and services — both exports and imports — between Britain and Zimbabwe in the four quarters to end of the second quarter of 2020 was US$412m.
Britain voted to leave the EU following a referendum held in June 2016 and has since been negotiating separate trade deals.
Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) president Mr Henry Ruzvidzo said the UK has been always a major trading partner with Zimbabwe.
“We are encouraged with the relationship currently taking place. It’s really encouraging. Britain has always been a major partner with Zimbabwe,” said Mr Ruzvidzo.
The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) chief executive officer Mr Takunda Mugaga welcomed the development but bemoaned the sanctions against Zimbabwe which he said were a major drawback to Zimbabwe’s investment opportunities.
“Of course it’s a great platform. Unfortunately, the divide and rule tactics by the London administration are not helping matters as they can only weaken the newly established African Continental Free Trade Area (ACfTA).
“Our wish is to see Africa using the ACFTA engaging UK as a bloc not as individual states.
“The culture of bilateral agreements is further dampening prospects of regional integration while at the same time, further delaying the works on designing of Rules of Origin agreements amongst African states,” said Mr Mugaga.