The Sunday Mail
Mabasa Sasa in Astana, Kazakhstan
President Emmerson Mnangagwa is in Astana ahead of key economic co-operation talks with Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The Head of State and Government came here after visiting another rising oil and gas powerhouse, Azerbaijan, where he had bilateral talks and a working lunch with that country’s leader, President Ilham Aliyev.
Zimbabwe’s Commander-in-Chief was received at Nursultan Nazarbayev International Airport by Kazakhstan’s Minister of Industry and Infrastructure Development Zhenis Kassymbek and
Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Galymzhan Koyshibayev.
Secretary for Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador James Manzou, described Kazakhstan as a “new frontier”, pointing out that President Mnangagwa was here to lay the foundation for economic ties between the two countries.
In an interview with Zimbabwean media in Astana, Ambassador Manzou said, “Kazakhstan, as you know, is a country of 18 million people; very rich in gas, very rich in petroleum resources. They are the seventh largest producer of wheat in the world. So it is a very rich country.
“We are looking at the possibility of attracting investment from Kazakhstan into the various sectors of our economy. They are very strong in mining, they are very strong in agriculture.
“We are already co-operating with Kazakhstan in the area of education and are looking at exploring the possibility of Zimbabwe getting more scholarships, particularly in those areas where the skills are in short supply in Zimbabwe.”
The two leaders, insiders say, are likely to focus on a raft of areas as the countries begin the process of building strong economic and political mutually beneficial relations.
Among the issues that could come up for discussion are mining, food processing, fertiliser production and supply, petrochemicals, and education and training.
There are indications that Zimbabwe and Kazakhstan will explore the possibility of the former benefiting from potential exports of citrus fruits, coffee, tea and tobacco to the Eurasian power.
Harare is also looking at leveraging on its new friend’s expertise in agriculture and mining.
Kazakhstan is the size of Western Europe, and over the past decade its economy has grown at a rate of at least eight percent per annum.
The world’s ninth largest country and largest land-locked nation has the 11th largest proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas, and Astana has been looking at ways of growing its partnerships with African states.
President Nazarbayev has rapidly transformed Kazakhstan into a solid market economy, something that could jibe well with President Mnangagwa’s focus on transforming Zimbabwe into a middle-income economy by 2030.
Harare and Astana established diplomatic relations in 2008, and at present there is no existing framework for bilateral economic co-operation between the two capitals — something that Presidents Mnangagwa and Nazarbayev want to rectify.