More than 90 Zimbabwean businesses, together with Government ministries and related agencies will court their counterparts in Kigali, Rwanda during the inaugural Rwanda-Zimbabwe Trade and Investment Conference that begins today.
The event, which has been organised by the country's trade development and promotion agency, ZimTrade, and its partners is expected to strengthen bilateral trade relations between Zimbabwe and Rwanda as President Mnangagwa's Second Republic gears up its economic diplomacy agenda.
The Zimbabwean Government and business delegation is led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Honourable Fredrick Shava, who is accompanied by the Minister of Industry and Commerce Dr Sekai Nzenza and Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality, Mangaliso Ndlovu.
The Conference, which will include business-to-business meetings between Zimbabwean and Rwandese private sector comes at a time when the country is diversifying its export markets and products as stipulated in the National Export Strategy, launched by President Mnangagwa in 2019.
ZimTrade Chief Executive Officer, Allan Majuru, said the trade and investment conference was organised to explore best approaches to unlock trade and investment opportunities in the continent and will create direct networks between the businesses in the two countries.
"The conference will unlock strategic partnerships between businesses in Zimbabwe and those in Rwanda, which will go a long way in growing the nation's foreign currency earnings as well as improve investment.
"So, what we are doing through this programme is to provide a platform where businesses can engage meaningfully and take advantage of all available opportunities," said Majuru.
The Conference follows the resolution to intensify cooperation between Rwanda and Zimbabwe that saw several Memoranda of Understanding signed in March this year to cement bilateral relations at the inaugural virtual session of the Joint Permanent Commission on Cooperation (JPCC).
The signed agreements include the Rwanda Development Board and ZimTrade cooperation whose objective is to promote mutually beneficial trade between the two countries.
Other agreements signed in March cover the General Cooperation Agreement on the Establishment of a JPCC, Diplomatic consultations, cooperation in the Field of Media, Information and Publicity, collaboration in legal and criminal matters.
To unlock opportunities presented by some of these agreements, the trade and investment conference that starts today will unpack sector specific opportunities, compliance needs as well as route to market that will help Zimbabwean companies land products and services with ease in Rwanda, as well as attract foreign direct investment from the country.
There are export opportunities for Zimbabwean businesses in Rwanda in areas such as agriculture, health, education and manufacturing, pharmaceutical, information communication technology (ICT), packaging, clothing and textile, construction and engineering, and tourism.
For example, agriculture is the main economic activity in Rwanda and accounts for about 33 percent of Gross Domestic Product and there is potential for growth through increased productivity and value addition.
This presents opportunities for Zimbabwean companies to supply agricultural inputs, mechanisation equipment, and implements.
As Rwanda is on a major infrastructure development drive, Zimbabwean companies can supply building and construction supplies, as well as related services to the sector.
Further to this, Zimbabwean companies in the services sector can ride on the nation's stellar academic reputation and high literacy rate to export services, there are opportunities in the education sector, with easy wins in export of study programmes and distance learning.
This can benchmark and model around existing frameworks used by leading online institutions such as University of South Africa which services over 130 countries globally.
Already, Zimbabwe has a decent pool of qualified professionals that can satisfy these demands.
For example, Zimbabwe has an opportunity to export teaching services, particularly in subjects such as English, Mathematics and Science.
Further to unlocking opportunities in Rwanda, there is also room for local companies to use the country as a gateway to East Africa.
Currently, Rwanda is a hub for a rapidly integrating Africa and with its central location in the region, is part of the East African Community Common Market and Customers Union which has a market potential of over 132 million people.
Increasing trade with Rwanda will open further markets to the EAC, and in turn increase Zimbabwe's exports to the region.