12 January 2019

Zimbabwe: Mnangangwa, Putin Poised to Meet

President Mnangagwa will meet the President of the Russian Federation Mr Vladmir Putin during his four-nation trip to Europe next week, The Herald can reveal. The Zimbabwean leader is scheduled to visit Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.He will also attend the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit in Davos, Switzerland, for the second year running.

President Mnangagwa's high-profile meeting with Mr Putin will be a high point as Zimbabwe seeks to consolidate and solidify the engagement processes he has outlined as the focus of his foreign policy under the Second Republic.

Further, the tour will provide an opportunity to transform the excellent political ties into mutually beneficial economic ties between Zimbabwe and the respective countries.

Information availed to this paper by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade underscores that the visits will promote Zimbabwe's economic interests, image and influence.

"The President is working hard to give our nation a positive image to the outside world that underlines our quest to be part of the international community," reads a summary brief of the tour. The President will sell a rebranded Zimbabwe and drum up external support for its "open for business" paradigm.

"The President is championing the rapprochement and reengagement with the Western world and International Financial Institutions in order to normalise relations.

"The other main priority of the President and Government is to attract FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), promote trade and sourcing of markets for our products, including promoting the country as a tourist destination under the new mantra of Zimbabwe is open business," Foreign Affairs said.

Individual countries on President Mnangagwa's tour provide different opportunities for Zimbabwe.

Russia and Zimbabwe are already cooperating in the Darwendale Platinum Project. The marquee project has undergone Phase 1, which is the feasibility study, concluded ahead of schedule last year.

The next phase will see construction and commissioning of the project.

And Presidents Mnangagwa and Putin will discuss progress and speeding up the implementation of the project.

President Mnangagwa will address the local Chamber of Commerce and highlight the investment opportunities back home.

Zimbabwe and Russia are cooperating in mining, trade education and tourism and the former is seeking to increase its trade and exports to Russia in commodities such as tobacco, handicrafts, citrus, flowers and vegetables.

Zimbabwe imports fertiliser chemicals, machinery, paper and plastics, vehicle and aircraft parts, electrical and electronic equipment, rubber, iron and steel.

Tourism from Russia is set to increase after Zimbabwe upgraded the visa regime for Russia from Category C to Category B.

Russia is contributing to Zimbabwe's manpower development through the provision of scholarships and this year increased scholarship offers to Zimbabwean learners to 70.

The cordial relations between Zimbabwe and Belarus are set for a lift when President Mnangagwa returns to the country he toured as Vice President in 2015.

Last year, Head of the Belarus Presidential Affairs Mr Viktor Sheiman delivered a special message to President Mnangagwa congratulating him on the victory in the just ended elections and inviting him to Belarus.

Zimbabwe and Belarus are experiencing growing relations with the latter providing mining equipment at Hwange Colliery and Zimbabwe Mining Development Company which saw an increase in productions in both concerns.

The wto countries are cooperating in the area of gold mining while in the energy sector - for which the two signed a memorandum of Agreement last year - focus will be on hydro-energy, methane gas, solar energy generation and developing the nascent oil industry.

Belarus is also set to supply tractors and spare parts.

Zimbabwe has opportunities to export tobacco, cotton and minerals while the European country will sell more machinery and equipment as well as potash.

Azerbaijan, a country which Zimbabwe started diplomatic relations only in October 2008, has proposed two areas of cooperation, which President Mnangagwa will tie during the visit.

Azerbaijan is interested in cooperation in the areas of tax administration activities and will seek to tie an Agreement on the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments.

Currently, trade between the two countries has been restricted to Zimbabwe's tobacco exports but Azerbaijan has set sights on investment opportunities in Zimbabwe's mining, energy and tourism sectors, on the back of its increased readiness to invest in Africa.

Azerbaijan, according to indiciations, has significantly increased its capital investments abroad involving both state run and private companies.

Zimbabwe will seek to unlock opportunities in Kazakhstan, a country noted for its wealth of mineral resources that it has managed to exploit to the benefit of its economy.

Zimbabwe would like to export citrus fruit, coffee, tea and tobacco to Kazakhstan while it could in turn import agricultural machinery, petroleum products, construction materials and textiles.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade says during the visit to Astana, the two countries will discuss Kazakhstan, cooperation in the following fields: Industry - fertilizer and petrol chemicals; Education and Training.

As a sweetener, Kazakhstan intends to offer scholarships in the fields of medicine, engineering, and agriculture for Zimbabwean students.

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