BULAWAYO – Some of Zimbabwe’s embassies around the world are so broke they cannot afford flags to display outside, diplomats said on Thursday.
Responding to information minister Monica Mutsvangwa’s comments that ambassadors should “market brand Zimbabwe,” the diplomats – one after the other – listed a litany of challenges, all caused by lack of funding.
The ambassadors are meeting in Bulawayo for a retreat convened by the foreign affairs ministry.
Tadeous Chifamba, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the United States, said many of Zimbabwe’s embassy buildings were in a state of disrepair.
“Government support towards the refurbishment of our embassies is needed,” Chifamba said at the retreat being held at Rainbow Hotel.
“The image of our residences is important as they are the first port of call when we meet our clients as well as host officials. It’s important to project a good image.”
The country’s ambassador to Sweden, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, said the best laid plans would not work without financial backing.
“Where we are we are finding that other countries are moving faster than we are in selling themselves and its largely because they put money into those processes,” she said.
Pointing to the FIFA World Cup which gets underway this month, she wondered if Zimbabwe was doing anything to market itself at the global showcase.
“Are we going to invest money in some of these things so that this brand thing goes out with the message? Otherwise there will be all this good work that you have spoken about, but without putting money into it you will find that that’s where we are lacking.”
Mutsvangwa had urged the diplomats to market “brand Zimbabwe” to pull more foreign investment and lure tourists.
The diplomats, she said, “have the responsibility of defending and promoting all the aspects of our country – politics, defence, security, culture, investments and trade relations.”
She added: “Our friends, political partners, foes, and all those that are interested in the country come to you first before they land in our country. You’re the first image of the country that they encounter and as such we will often be judged or commended through you.
“Needless to say, you bear a special responsibility in promoting and maintaining a strong brand for our country. You often deal with Zimbabweans in the diaspora and these are people who play very special roles in brand Zimbabwe excelling.
“The ministry of information hopes to establish a strong partnership with you to package attractive investment information for the development and prosperity of the people of Zimbabwe. This should be fairly easy to do, considering the policies and strides which the second republic has done.”
James Maridadi, Zimbabwe’s top diplomat to Senegal, voiced concern over what he termed “lack of information” about Zimbabwe in the west African country.
Some ambassadors requested flags to put outside their embassies – illustrating the operational challenges faced by many diplomats.