The Sunday Mail
Zimbabwe and Mozambique are very strongly linked by geography and history. In fact, the Mozambique border is Zimbabwe’s longest international border with a shared commercial history going back at least 1 000 years. The resulting need and opportunities for close friendship and co-operation are vast.
This is why the strengthening relations between the two countries exhibited by the State visit of President Filipe Nyusi to Zimbabwe last week and the State visit of President Mnangagwa to Mozambique last year is very important. The visits provide a focus for accelerating co-operation with a new business orientation built on the strong political ties going back to the colonial era and the two liberation wars.
While the stress in the modern era is on business, investment and trade, and rightly so in the 21st century, we are building on the strong foundations and close ties forged in war and peace between peoples, liberation movements and elected democratic governments. So, what is happening now is the extension of those existing economic and commercial ties, not trying to create something brand-new.
President Nyusi brought a significant business delegation with him, large enough to launch the first Mozambique-Zimbabwe Business Forum under the benign oversight of the two Presidents, but largely providing an opportunity for the private sectors of both countries to start talking and deal-making.
Among the agreements signed last week were the ties being established and extended between the relevant Government agencies: APIEX of Mozambique, which handles investment and trade in that country, and ZimTrade and the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency, which do the same on our side.
While businesspeople will do the actual deals and the work, they like to have a framework that makes this a lot easier and more comfortable, hence the formal agreements that can grease the wheels and make sure doors are opened and remain open.
Already, Mozambique is Zimbabwe’s fourth largest export market and the fifth largest source of imports of goods and services, and since both economies are now growing fairly fast and both are in the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), even keeping those relative positions means a lot more trade will be needed.
But there are greater opportunities for even more trade. The Mozambican delegation was very keen on the spectacular advances on the agriculture front under the Second Republic. Although Zimbabwe and Mozambique occupy the same bands of latitude, there are considerable differences in what specialist crops they can grow because of the altitude of the farms.
So, it is easy to see, for example, that exports from Zimbabwe of specialist Highveld crops, and we are now moving into wheat surpluses, to name just one, can be balanced by exports from Mozambique of pure tropical produce, which would include some vegetable oils and products such as rice as Mozambican farmers produce more.
At the same time, our mineral reserves differ. Mozambique has very large reserves of natural gas, for example, and even if, as we all hope, the Muzarabani gas strike is commercially viable, it will still be dwarfed by Mozambican resources. This is one reason why we can import electricity from Mozambique, which has built up both its hydro and gas generation.
On the other hand, Zimbabwe, sitting on one of the original bits of the continent that slammed together to form Africa, is very rich in many metals and a growing Mozambican industrial sector will need good sources of these, preferably refined and in a form a downstream manufacturer can use, a short drive away. Once again, we have a lot of complementary bits, which is what AfCFTA is supposed to encourage, so trade grows rapidly.
Tourism seems an obvious area of economic co-operation. In the colonial days, Beira was the principal seaside resort for the settler population of Zimbabwe, being less than a day’s drive away, so was even used over long holiday weekends. That business could easily be rebuilt, and, at the same time, being able to offer Mozambicans mountain scenery and climate would give them a major change.
For the international tourism trade, the two countries can, in a fairly small area, the space between Victoria Falls and Beira, offer the full range of destination, plus some highly specialised and lucrative alternatives, such as the full Middle and Lower Zambezi. Again, this requires co-operation between businesses on both sides of the border. Peace came but, unfortunately, was followed by a stagnant Zimbabwe economy through hyperinflation and dollarisation.
But now, things are all different, with both countries at peace, and even that terrorism threat in the extreme north of Mozambique is now being dealt with, both seeing a lot of economic growth, both with practical pro-growth and pro-investment governments and policies.