THE UK's Department for International Trade (DIT) is setting up an office in Harare, in a development that will be seen as boost for the Zimbabwe government's re-engagement efforts.
The Harare office will be headed up by Tom Hill, the UK's new country head of trade and investment.
Hill, who moved to Harare in November, had previously led the creation of the UK government's new and much-anticipated export strategy.
His career thus far also includes positions held at SIX Financial Information and JP Morgan.
Global Trade Review (GTR) spoke to Hill about the London government's decision to launch its new office.
GTR: Why is DIT setting up an office in Zimbabwe now?
Hill: Africa is an increasingly important continent to the UK's prosperity and security interests. We are expanding our footprint across the continent to respond to the demand we see for UK goods and services as well as to deliver the prime minister's ambition for the UK to be the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022.
We are seeing a significant uptick in interest in Zimbabwe, including at the recent GTR Southern Africa Trade & Infrastructure Conference in November, and we wish to ensure we are doing all we can to support this interest, whilst also supporting the UK government's wider commitment to Zimbabwe's sustainable economic growth.
GTR: What will be the remit of the new office?
Hill: We will work to protect and facilitate UK investment into Zimbabwe, advocate for changes to the business environment to unlock further trade and investment, and also work to develop local export capability to create more markets for UK goods and services in the long-term, positioning the UK as the partner of choice for Zimbabwe.
On this point we are working closely with the likes of ZimTrade to create more export opportunities for Zimbabwean business in sectors such as agri-business, and are working to build the brand of Zimbabwean produce in the UK.
We are also working with partners in government, such as the Department for International Development and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, to ensure that efforts to support the macro-economic recovery in Zimbabwe are aligned with support for UK business overseas.
GTR: Is trade finance support from the UK government available for Zimbabwe?
Hill: UK Export Finance does not currently provide cover for Zimbabwe. Country cover will continue to be assessed.