The Sunday Mail
President E.D. Mnangagwa
Transform Africa Summit
Greek poet Archilochus once said: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”
The past three weeks have been quite eventful for our nation. First, we had the Transform Africa Summit held in the world-renowned Victoria Falls City. I hosted four African Heads of State and Government, about 44 ministers and over 4 000 foreign delegates from 91 countries drawn from across the globe. A facility towards digital integration and several MOUs were inked at that Summit, which put our nation firmly on the world map.
State Visit, ZITF
Hard on the heels of that Summit was our hosting His Majesty King Mswati III of the Kingdom of Eswatini, who came on a State Visit. He proceeded to grace our premier fair, the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), in Bulawayo, as our distinguished Guest of Honour at this year’s edition. The visit coincided with the launch of direct air links and flights connecting Harare and Mbabane, a development sure to redound to our tourism sector, which continues to grow in leaps and bounds.
Several airlines now fly directly into our country, including to Victoria Falls, our prime tourism site.
Zimbabwe is now better connected globally.
The latest edition of the ZITF, which His Majesty King Mswati III officially opened, saw several foreign exhibitors participating. I make particular mention of exhibitors from Europe, in view of the fact that many of them had pulled out at the height of our standoff with that sub-continent, a standoff related to the resolution of the long-outstanding colonial land question. Their return to ZITF this year thus signifies a thawing of relations, and resumption of positive interaction between us.
Our all-weather friends
I also make specific mention of exhibitors from Belarus, who made their maiden appearance this year, thus underlining the deepening bilateral relations between our two nations. Earlier this year, I hosted President Alexander Lukashenko, with the First Lady, Amai Mnangagwa, later visiting that sisterly country at the invitation of the Belarusian First Lady. Belarus continues to underpin our agricultural and mining mechanisation and modernisation programmes.
Of course, the People’s Republic of China made yet another strong showing at the fair, once more confirming her status as Zimbabwe’s all-weather friend and ally, especially after granting us Comprehensive Strategic Partnership status. China remains Zimbabwe’s foremost investor and donor.
SADC stands by us
I am grateful to exhibitors from our SADC region, who have always stood by us, including in our lean years. Their participation is never taken for granted, and confirms our belief in each other as Africans, and our shared commitment to the vision for an African Continental Free Trade Area, which we launched in Kigali, Rwanda, a few years ago.
Upscaling to tertiary level
All told, the exhibitions revealed that the world now knows that Zimbabwe’s economy is upscaling to tertiary level, where beneficiation and value chains play a pivotal role. Zimbabwe now has a growing appetite for capital goods. Most exhibitors flaunted their advanced technologies, light-to-heavy machinery and other accessories, consistent with the envisaged transformation in our economy. We are very pleased with this development.
King’s invitee to coronation
Barely a week later after ZITF, in early May, I flew to the United Kingdom to witness the coronation of that country’s Monarch, King Charles III. This historic visit marked the resumption of high-level contacts between Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom, after a hiatus of more than two decades, during which our relations hit their nadir. During that short visit, I met with members of the Royal Family, Ministers of His Majesty the King’s Government, prospective investors and Leaders of the British Chamber. Across the board, I was able to get a strong sense that our bilateral relations are on a reset, and may be destined for stronger cooperation ahead.
Turning over a new leaf
So many things have changed since that fallout, changed both here in our country, in the United Kingdom itself, in Europe and across the globe. These changes bid us to turn over a new leaf, and to reopen and further explore possibilities closed by past divisions, animosities and personality differences.
Reforming for our own good
I impressed on my interlocutors in the United Kingdom that Zimbabwe continues to reform itself, not for any other reason but that it needs those reforms to improve its self-won democracy, and to better meet the ever-changing needs and expectations of its citizenry. The source of those reforms are our people; it is not exogenous, or set for us by outsiders, something that would be anathema to our sense of self-worth and sovereignty. I am happy that this message is hitting home, more so as we inch closer to our harmonised elections, which must be held in total peace, so we fulfil our people’s wishes and expectations to live under a Government of the people, which is created by the people, and for the people.
Rejoining the Commonwealth
Equally, I made contacts with the Commonwealth secretary-general, Baroness (Patricia) Scotland. We took time to catch up and to review progress which Zimbabwe has and continues to make towards re-joining the Commonwealth, prospects of which now look brighter than ever before. Indeed, my meeting with the current chairperson of CHOGM, His Excellency President Paul Kagame, on the sidelines of the coronation ceremony, confirmed that many Commonwealth countries, led by the 21-strong African bloc, are ready to support Zimbabwe’s return. There is a clear realisation that Zimbabwe plays an important role in the Commonwealth, a view which we also hold in respect of the Commonwealth itself. Today’s membership of the Commonwealth is predominantly African, and exceeds colonial history and its old boundaries drawn at the Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885.
Engagement and re-engagement policy
All of the above developments acquire a clear perspective from a deliberate policy decision, which the Second Republic adopted at its inauguration, namely, that of Engagement and Re-engagement. We undertook to broaden our global reach by engaging new nations with which we had had no diplomatic relations before. A few weeks ago, I shared with the nation plans which are underway to open additional diplomatic stations, consulates and offices in several strategic nations of the world, thus widening our diplomatic and trade footprint worldwide.
We also undertook to re-engage those nations whose affection we had lost in the past, for whatever reason. This is in keeping with our philosophy of being “a friend to all and an enemy to none”. Needless to say, repairing broken ties was the most trying part of this broad foreign policy thrust. Still, we persevered in the full hope and conviction that there was more to be gained from cooperation than from indifference or, worse, from confrontation.
We are succeeding
Today, I am happy to announce that we are beginning to reap the rewards of that twin thrust in our Foreign Policy, which has been enhanced and enriched by the recalibration of our diplomacy towards a transactional emphasis, which puts business ahead of all else in our global engagements and interactions. Indeed, where diplomacy hesitates, falters or even dithers, business and economic interests tend to make up for that hesitancy, even generating greater momentum which carries and compels diplomacy forward, all for sound bilateral relations.
Arrears clearance and debt resolution
As I write, I am set to leave shortly for the United Arab Republic of Egypt at the invitation of my counterpart, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. My visit to Egypt coincides with a Summit of the African Development Bank, AfDB, which will be held in that country’s coastal resort of Sharma el Sheikh. The bank has set aside a special day for Zimbabwe, during which our affairs, principally the resolution of our national debt, will come under the spotlight.
Zimbabwe’s debt champions
Zimbabweans will recall that I invited the President of the African Development Bank, AfDB, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, and former President of Mozambique, His Excellency Joachim Chissano, to become champions for Zimbabwe Arrears Clearance and National Debt Resolution. A couple of preparatory meetings have since been held, creating three sub-committees covering key areas of donor concern, including broad reforms, and the compensation of white farmers displaced by our needful Land Reform Programme, in terms of our law. I am expecting the two champions to fly into our country, so together, we lay the groundwork for that important forthcoming event.
Generating positive signals
Our total national debt stands at US$17,5 billion, US$14,04 billion of which is owed to international creditors. The remainder, some US$3,4 billion, is owed to domestic creditors. This debt overhang has tended to hold us back in our bid to speedily realise our national ambitions towards Vision 2030. For that reason, it is vitally important that I engage representatives of creditor nations and institutions in Sharma el Sheikh during the forthcoming visit. Such engagement will send positive signals to all our economic players here at home, and to most of our development partners.
Situating temporary challenges
Against such a background, what is “the big thing” we must know, focus on and pursue as a nation? The big thing cannot be the wave of currency and price volatility we face currently, important though the resolution of both is. Or the power shortages we have had in the past, which are beginning to ease. All these are temporary challenges which any economy in transition is likely to face, more so given the ensuing turbulences in the global economy. We have already announced measures to stabilise our currency and, with it, prices of basic goods and services. This effort is made easier by the self-evident fact that all the fundamentals in our economy are firm and on sound footing.
The efforts we continue to deploy towards resolving the power deficit will soon see a greater improvement in national power supply. Besides, it should never be forgotten that the current power shortage largely owes to a fast recovering and expanding economy, principally led by our energy-intensive mining sector. This is growing demand we must meet with robust energy supply.
Big thing: belief in ourselves!
The real “big thing” then are not those ephemeral challenges, which we will soon overcome. The real “big thing” is a firm and tenacious belief in ourselves as a people, and an awareness and confidence that our God-given means and resources are the sole motive force for our growth and development. Belief in ourselves as vene venyika yokwedu; as true bearers of the burden of rebuilding and growing our country: for ourselves and for posterity.
Only two days ago, I impressed on our community in Mudzi that “budiriro ye- nyika yokwedu inorongwa nevene vayo”, and that “nhaka yevatema inochengetedzwa nevatema”. Both precepts restore agency to us as owners and key players of this Land, indeed as sole carriers and shapers of its destiny. With that strong belief and resolve, we should be able to face the world bravely; and to overcome any challenges we either meet or are put in our way.
Big thing: using our resources
Zimbabwe, which is conscious of its net worth and resources, interacts with other nations from a position of strength and confidence. Far from being an underdog nation, we are a richly endowed people, whose diverse resource give us leverage in our interaction with the rest of the world. That is a key aspect of the “one big thing” we must always know and invoke, in total and unremitting pursuit of our own national interests. Those who know and wield “one big thing”, must think big, act big, in order to equally secure big outcomes.
Eye on the ball
We must, thus, keep the national eye on the ball, so temporary challenges or even setbacks never make us despair. Or lose sight of the bigger Vision. Brick by brick, step by step and in unity, we will get there.