We neither look East nor West, but forward!

09 Jun, 2024 - 00:06 0 Views
We neither look East nor West, but forward!

The Sunday Mail

OVER the past week, President Mnangagwa has been on a diplomatic odyssey that took him to Seoul for the inaugural South Korea-Africa Summit and Russia for the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF).

In themselves, these two engagements are an expression of the pragmatism of Zimbabwe’s foreign policy drive over the past five years.

South Korea is largely an ally of the United States, which considers Zimbabwe to be its adversary.

On the other hand, Russia is at loggerheads with Washington over the war in Ukraine.

But this does not in any way prove that Zimbabwe is pursuing a strategically ambiguous foreign policy.

Far from it, Harare is pushing a non-aligned stance, where it is a friend to all and an enemy to none.

Such a policy eschews the seeming balkanisation of the world into different political tribes.

India has a similarly modelled policy, which it calls “vishwabandhu”, meaning a friend of all countries.

It is born out of the need to purse mutually beneficial partnerships.

For example, for Zimbabwe, this has witnessed the growing rapprochement between Harare and London, and the concomitant increase in trade volumes between the two countries, whose dispute over the land reform programme escalated and resulted in the current sanctions from the United Kingdom and its allies, particularly the US.

According to the UK’s Department for Business and Trade, trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the two countries rose by 67 percent, or £254 million, to £633 million in 2023 from a year earlier.

This shows the efficacy of the re-engagement drive, which essentially is designed to re-establish relationships and, with them, trade with our erstwhile partners.

But even relations with our all-weather friends are being deepened in order to translate them from predominantly political ties to economic links as well.

This is the essence of the engagement thrust.

And we have been winning on that front as well.

For example, our trade with China, which has been a reliable ally even before our independence, rose by an impressive 30 percent to US$3,12 billion last year, with Harare shipping goods worth US$1,7 billion to Beijing.

This is what precisely informed the President’s latest engagements.

It goes without saying that Zimbabwe can immensely benefit from investments from South Korea, whose gross domestic product stands at more than US$1,7 trillion.

It is also home to reputable multinational companies such as Samsung Electronics, Hyundai, KIA, LG Electronics and HD Hyundai.

Samsung, which is probably the Asian country’s most pervasive brand, generated close to US$200 billion in revenues last year.

But Zimbabwe, which has been under sanctions for the past two decades, finds itself in different circumstances than its peers.

So, convincing institutions such as Korea Eximbank and K-SURE (Korea Trade Insurance Corporation) to underwrite Korean businesses to invest in the country will go a long way in boosting trade between Harare and Seoul.

Just like our relations with China, our ties with Russia can be traced to the liberation struggle, when Moscow provided material, diplomatic and morale support to the liberation movements.

It was Russia, together with China, which vetoed the proposed UN sanctions on Zimbabwe in July 2008, averting what could have been catastrophic measures on the country.

And today, we find ourselves cooperating in various fields of economic endeavour, not least in our space ambitions.

Critically, on September 20, 2021, the country officially signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) “on cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of atomic energy”, as part of ongoing efforts to seek alternative sources of power and ensure future energy security.

All this is a microcosm of Zimbabwe’s economic diplomacy offensive.

However, there is still scope for additional investments in critical sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, the mainstay of the local economy, for which the Government will soon be hosting a conference to lure investments in irrigation.

Further investments are still needed to guarantee the energy sector, particularly in the wake of increased local economic activity.

The milestones we have recorded are huge, but so, too, is the work that is outstanding to achieve a modern, prosperous and highly industrialised country within the next six years.

The lessons we have learnt in our years of isolation inform us to neither look East nor West, but to look forward.

If we consider the progress we have made in the past six years, we get the assurance that we are really on the right track.

Share This: