The Sunday Mail
Kuda Bwititi recently in Qatar
Last week, President Emmerson Mnangagwa was in Qatar for his third official State visit, after Botswana and China.
An official State visit is a highly respected honour in diplomatic circles where the host nation extends a special invitation that is characterised by grandeur and high-level engagement.
The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, invited President Mnangagwa for the two-day State Visit.
It was instructive that the visit was in fulfilment of the new dispensation’s clear foreign policy framework – enhance relationships with traditional friends, reach out to past foes, embrace everybody and make no enemies.
President Mnangagwa noted during his inaugural speech, “Zimbabwe is ready to embrace each and all, on principles of mutual respect and common humanity.”
Relatively a new baby in the nexus of the re-engagement drive, the Gulf nation presented a unique opportunity for Zimbabwe to unlock fresh opportunities in line with the country’s Zimbabwe is open for business campaign.
On the balance of scale, Zimbabwe stands to benefit more from interacting with the Gulf State, one of the wealthiest countries in the world due to its oil riches.
The geopolitics of Qatar currently offers a colossal opportunity for countries such as Zimbabwe to do business with Doha.
Mid-2017, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates broke off relations with Qatar, accusing it of links with Iran and ‘extremist’ organisations in the region.
This development isolated Qatar from its neighbours, while plunging the Gulf region into a diplomatic crisis.
But whenever there is a crisis, opportunity avails itself and Zimbabwe has found itself in the mix of prospects where Qatar is seeking new partners in the global community.
Zimbabwe is also guided by the neutral position taken by the African Union, which resolved not to take sides with Egypt on the Gulf situation.
The visit by President Mnangagwa presents a myriad of probable partnerships for economic and social development of the two nations.
When the two leaders met at the Royal Highness’ Palace, they held a private tête-à-tête for several minutes, making a new milestone in the engagement between the two countries.
After this significant interface, the two leaders were joined by their Cabinet Ministers for another meeting.
Cabinet Ministers Patrick Chinamasa (Finance and Economic Planning), Winston Chitando (Mines and Mining Development), Perrance Shiri (Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement), Reserve Bank Governor Dr John Mangudya, as well as Permanent Secretaries George Charamba, (Information, Media and Broadcasting Services) and Mrs Abigail Shonhiwa (Industry Commerce and Enterprise Development) attended the meeting.
Prior to the visit, Zimbabwe and Qatar did not have a binding trade pact. However, the signing of an agreement on economic, trade and technical cooperation is set to mark the dawn of a new era.
This agreement is set to be followed by a Bilateral Investment Promotion Protection Agreement to further enhance ties.
Enhancement of trade between the two countries was long overdue, as the Secretary for Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development Mrs Shonhiwa noted that trade figures between the two countries were dismal prior to the visit.
Statistics availed to The Sunday Mail by Mrs Shonhiwa show that in 2016, Zimbabwe exported goods less than US$500 000 to Qatar.
In the same year, the Gulf Nation imported goods worth $90,4 billion on a global scale.
With lots of money to splurge, Qatar’s affluent citizens spend heavily on top of the range products such as the world’s most expensive car brands, planes, helicopters, spacecraft, gas turbines and jewellery.
Given the sound relations formulated between the two countries, Zimbabwe’s finest diamonds could find a market in Qatar, in light of the Gulf nation’s capacity to acquire luxury products.
In addition, there is a huge potential market for citrus fruits, avocadoes, leeks and other alliaceous vegetables, lettuce and fresh peaches, among other agricultural products.
Other potential areas of cooperation include tourism, energy and infrastructure, which could signal exciting times for Zimbabwe.
Qatar also availed developmental funding to Zimbabwe’s education, health and micro-finance sectors.
The Qatari Government then offered scholarship opportunities for Zimbabwean students, particularly in engineering, science and technology.
During the visit, a business delegation made a firm commitment to visit Zimbabwe in the next few weeks.
Driving around the streets of Qatar was an excursion to the eye. The city is undergoing massive construction, which has been boosted in preparation for the 2022 World Cup.
Some of the technology in Qatar is jaw-dropping and Mr Nasser al-Khater, one of the experts behind Qatar’s preparations for the global football showpiece, told President Mnangagwa that they are going to build the world’s first ever demountable football stadiums, which they hope to relocate to developing countries after the tournament.
Indeed, the Gulf state has managed to leverage on its resources.
Qatar is the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
The country adds value to its rich natural resource before exporting it. Zimbabwe could draw lessons from this nation.
Despite being isolated by its colleagues in the Arabian Penninsula, Qatar’s economy has remained resilient due to its cutting edge technologies in extraction and beneficiation.
Qatar offers a unique partnership for Zimbabwe to enhance mutually beneficial partnerships that will create opportunities for development.