Fruits of economic diplomacy are now showing

24 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
Fruits of economic diplomacy are now showing

The Sunday Mail

THE decision by the Second Republic to pivot Zimbabwe’s foreign policy on economic diplomacy, which is undergirded by transactional mutually beneficial relations, was a masterstroke.

There are two developments in the past week that are hugely significant in both their symbolic value and material worth to our aspirations.

On March 20, Russia officially handed over a consignment of 25 000 tonnes of wheat and 23 000 tonnes of fertiliser to President Mnangagwa at a time when plans are underway to embark on a major winter cropping programme to augment the expected meagre El Niño-affected 2023/2024 summer cropping harvests.

So, in addition to providing succour to Harare, the donation will also come in handy for the planned programme.

Then on Friday, March 22, President Mnangagwa toured the Dinson Iron and Steel Company (Disco) in Manhize, which will soon kickstart production at its US$1,5 billion plant.

This is a watershed moment for the country.

Steel is the backbone of both industrialisation and modernisation.

The envisaged cost savings for industry, through import substitution, would be immense.

Some estimates suggest that Zimbabwe will be able to save more than US$400 million annually through local procurement of iron and steel.

For example, ZENT, which is Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority’s manufacturing unit, projects that it will be able to cut its steel import bill by 50 percent through an agreement with Disco. There is more.

The company, which broke ground on the ambitious project a couple of years ago, now employs more than 1 500 people.

It is envisaged that once complete, close to 10 000 people will benefit both directly and indirectly from the steel plant.

Harare always had cordial relations with both Moscow and Beijing, but clearly, the ties have evolved and taken a decidedly transactional turn.

And it should always be remembered that Russia and China were the ones that vetoed the United Nations Security Council resolution seeking sanctions against Zimbabwe in July 2008. Had this move succeeded, it would have been catastrophic.

It should also be remembered that even before our independence, these two countries offered not only moral support but also material support to the liberation movements that were fighting the racist white colonial settlers.

They even offered training to soldiers who fought the war.

All this was provided free of charge.

Post-2017, our relations with the two global powers is deepening.

In April 2018, President Mnangagwa visited his counterpart, President Xi Jinping, in China, where the two leaders agreed to establish a comprehensive strategic partnership of cooperation, which is the highest level of diplomatic engagement.

We are now seeing the fruits of this effort.

Hwange Units 7 and 8, which were financed through resources unlocked as a result of the engagement, now anchor our local power generation, particularly at a time when low water levels are affecting output at the Kariba Power Station.

The Kunzvi Dam construction, the new pharmaceutical warehouse and the new Parliament building are some of the projects that have come to fruition.

Happily, there is still a lot more to gain from these two countries.

As revealed after Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga’s visit to Russia, there is scope to cooperate in critical fields such as irrigation development, which is at the centre of the country’s food security drive, especially in the wake of climate change.

Further, as the first country to send a human being into space, it can assist in our ambitious space programme.

The possibilities are limitless.

It means we must forage the world for mutually beneficial relations, including with our erstwhile foes, as we endeavour to create a prosperous and highly industrialised and developed state.

Instructively, after receiving Russian fertiliser and wheat, the President said there was scope to further deepen cooperation.

“We stand ready to leverage our collective expertise and resources to implement best practices to achieve the sustainable growth of agriculture productivity and agriculture value chains,” he said.

“As such, the strong bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and Russia must continue to result in multi-faceted benefits, extending beyond food security to knowledge exchange, technology transfer and capacity building.

“Collaborative research, innovation and development, as well as the use of smart agriculture technologies, must drive efforts towards the introduction of new and improved agricultural practices.”

 

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