The upgraded relations between Zimbabwe and Rwanda are a game-changer that should be nurtured, guarded jealously and broadened further.
That at least 60 Rwandese businesses and dozens of government officials were here last week on a reciprocal visit to attend the second leg of the Zimbabwe-Rwanda Trade and Investment Conference is indicative of how the two countries now regard each other. About 150 zimbabwean companies participated at last week’s conference.
Rwandas Head of delegation was Hon Beata Habyalimana, Minister of Trade and Industry.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Rwanda Her Excellency Professor Charity Manyeruke and her Rwandese counterpart Ambassador James Musoni have been actively pursuing strategies to elevate economic ties between the two countries.
Last year about 100 Zimbabwean business executives were in Rwanda for a similar conference where at least five Memoranda of Understanding and numerous business deals were signed between the two governments and their private sectors respectively.
This is yet another milestone in the engagement and re-engagement drive launched by the Second Republic as Zimbabwe moves to occupy its rightful and legitimate position in the global scheme of things.
Trade and investment have emerged as critical drivers for development, particularly in developing countries. The need to create jobs and wealth and to eradicate such ills as poverty and diseases can derive impetus from increased intra and inter regional relationships.
Zimbabwe and Rwanda’s economic relationship has ben growing phenomenally, all resulting from the stance taken by the Second Republic to engage and re-engage and the desire by Rwanda to spread its trade and investment tentacles.
Zimbabwe desires to become an Upper Middle Income Economy by 2030 while Rwanda hopes for the same by 2035. This illustrates the similarities in ambition hence the two are on a congruent path and will certainly benefit from walking that path together.
The two countries need each other to give impetus to their socio-economic development. Rwanda is one of Africa’s fastest growing economy, achieving double-digit growth almost annually. The country is also a darling of the world given its successful transformation from civil strife to being one of the most peaceful and progressive economies of the world. This tidy country has endeared itself to the world resulting in investors flocking to it in search of opportunities.
Despite the effects of Covid-19, the East African country managed an 11,1 percent economic growth in the first nine months of last year, which was a strong recovery from 2020. A report by the World Bank showed that industry expanded by 16,5 percent while agriculture grew by 6,8 percent.
Rwanda’s traditional exports-coffee, tea, casseterite, wolfram and coltran rose by 35 percent. These statistics reflect an economy on a firm growth trajectory.
On this end, Zimbabwe has also been recording positive growth in the economy, with all sectors firing. The economy grew by at least 7,8 percent in 2021 while agriculture achieved a 36, 1 percent rise.
Exports grew by 37,3 percent to $6 billion in 2021, up from $4,4 billion previously. The country mainly exports tobacco, nickel, platinum, gold, diamonds and ferrochrome.
“The jump in exports, which exceeds the 10 percent growth as required by the National Export Strategy, follows a spirited re-engagement drive undertaken by President Mnangagwa’s Second Republic, complemented by export development and promotion events implemented by Zimtrade,” reads a report produced by the national trade promotion body.
So it is that there is great scope for this country and Rwanda to do business together. It is quite understandable that both countries, at the highest level, are excited about what is unfolding.
It is easy to discern that such economic relations can only spur growth in the two respective economies. This will also have a ripple effect on Sadc, East Africa and the continent at large.
Africa has largely been accused of failing to trade amongst themselves, preferring to do more business with other regions, a trend that has failed to eradicate poverty, diseases and the civil strife that the continent is known for.
A UNCTAD report says: “However, trade and investments pacts among its members can change this narrative. Intra-Africa trade has increased slightly to 15,4 percent in recent years but the continent’s main trade partners are Europe and Asia, largely in primary goods. Low performance in trade facilitation indicators is also hampering the development of trade and the economy in the region. For example, many African countries score low in e-commerce, linear shipping connectivity and doing business indicators.
“Part of the difficulty in Africa is due to small, fractured and partly isolated markets. Many African countries resorted to development strategies after gaining independence that included the establishment of Regional Economic Communities (RECs). However, several RECs have overlapping memberships and seem to complicate instead of facilitating trade relationships among the African countries. African countries have been taking steps to integrate the continent through creating a continent-wide free trade area.
“The Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA) framework agreement signed in 2018 by 44 African countries has ambitious long-term goals in deepening integration among African Union member States and building a prosperous and united Africa. Among the main objectives of the CFTA are the facilitation, harmonisation and better coordination of trade regimes as well as the elimination of challenges associated with multiple and overlapping trade agreements across the continent. Through this agreement, African economies hope to strengthen the competitiveness of the local industries, realise economies of scale for domestic producers, better allocate resources and attract foreign direct investments”.
For Zimbabwe and Rwanda, the mantra that Zimbabwe is Open for Business has come at the most opportune time as the two countries take their economic ties to the next level.
Officially opening the trade and investment conference, President Mnangagwa was upbeat about the growing relations..
“On behalf of the people and Government of Zimbabwe I want to welcome the business delegation from Rwanda. This timely visit demonstrates the focus, determination and commitment to the prime objectives we set for ourselves with regards our broadening the trade and investment partnerships between our two countries,” he said.
When the Zimbabwean delegation visited Rwanda last September, Rwanda President Paul Kagame was confident the two countries were set for greater heights.
“The history of both our countries has been marked by moments of adversity and tragedy, but also success and resilience. In that, we are part of the wider African experience. Progress does not come easily or without sacrifice. It requires hard work, dedication, and self-reliance. But self-reliance does not mean being alone. No country on our continent can prosper without cooperating within our region,” said President Kagame.
It is our hope that the MOUs and other deals already sealed and those in the oven will come to fruition and set both countries on a firm path to economic prosperity. Zimbabwe needs this, so does Rwanda.
In God I Trust!
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