Greetings to you readers from the “back of beyond”.
Last week as I told my friends and family that I was going to a place called Vanuatu, all of them immediately followed the announcement with the question, “Van what”?
Even the more exposed ones in the Diaspora who are supposed to be in the know pleaded ignorance of the place. I was equally blank. It’s a place I had never heard about, but thank God for the Internet that helped with some facts.
But we all know how it is with machines. You always want to hear it from someone who has first-hand experience rather than relying on facts appearing on the screen of some computer.
But being a journalist, curiosity is my second nature, so I set out to find out for myself what was on this side of the globe that God had granted me the grace to visit.
After three days and three connecting flights I finally got to the “mysterious” place which is playing host to the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group Council of Ministers and the ACP-European Union Council of Ministers meetings, which began here on Monday.
Vanuatu has turned out to be a very beautiful island with friendly people who are always smiling. I noticed that their smiles are not about tourism etiquette but genuine.
They also smile at each other be it in minibuses or as they criss-cross the paths of the island that holds a population of about 250 000 people.
The island is certainly one classic example of God’s ingenuity as he set about creating the world. It is always teeming with tourists, particularly from nearby Australia which is a four-hour flight away.
This place may not be in the news everyday, particularly in our part of the world while possibly 10 out of 14 million Zimbabweans may be aware of its existence but it certainly is worth a visit.
This is particularly so for our curious investors in the mould of AfriSun who could harvest the benefits accruing from the high volumes of tourists to this part of the world.
We are told the volumes have slightly gone down due to the global economic crisis that has significantly eroded the pockets of the international traveller in recent years.
But the hospitality demonstrated by these people, including schoolchildren who continued to smile and in some cases chat us up as they lined the route to the venue of the august meeting, makes it a mandatory destination for tourists.
Never mind the fact that at least 99 percent of pupils who lined up to welcome the delegates wore school uniform with bath slippers for shoes. For a moment I thought they were from poor families until we asked some of them who confessed that wearing the slopes was largely out of choice and not a reflection of their standard of living.
Maybe because of the heat and the rains that can go for a week non-stop, it is easier to wear the slippers. Besides such kind of dressing seemed to go well with the generally relaxed atmosphere on this island, even in the workplace. The teachers who were controlling the crowds were themselves mostly in slippers as well.
The Vanuatus are not in a hurry and they are not under any pressure whatsoever. Certainly, it would take a lot of convincing for people as far as Zimbabwe to endure the hours and hours on the plane to come here but some things are just worth the effort.
As I wondered about the place I also got thinking that although many on our side of the globe may not be aware of the existence of this island, unless they are doing Geography at PhD level, conversely, Zimbabwe was not necessarily a new name here especially among the tourists.
Some have been asking me where I come from and when I mention the name Zimbabwe, the smile broadens. They know the country exists. In Australia, where I did an overnight stopover, the driver of a taxi I hired said he had never been to Africa but he was aware of Zimbabwe. “How is the country these days?” he asked.
We should never underestimate the impact Zimbabwe has made on the globe.
They say no publicity is bad publicity and this holds true for Zimbabwe. In many places where I have visited, people are always curious to hear the latest about Zimbabwe.
They know we are a sovereign state and that our President had made his views clear on the global stage regarding our sovereignty — a trait admired even by his worst of enemies.
Of course, the world has largely been fed with untruths about our country but we need to harvest this awareness and turn it into dollars somehow.
In terms of tourism, we need to be more aggressive and build on the information that is already out there about our country while the likes of the Zimbabwe Investment Authority should be running periodic campaigns to attract investment.
At least they will not have to start from ground zero because someone in almost all the continents already know something about Zimbabwe and its President. If someone who has never been to Africa can relate to Zimbabwe, what more those with an appetite to invest. The world is full of rich individuals and institutions suffering from
migraine headaches over where they can place some of their wealth.
They have too much money they do not know what to do with it, so we need to help them decide by increasing our visibility in the market place.
Let’s bombard them with information on the incentives for the investor or tourist. The current global economic crunch may threaten to drown our voices but they will certainly get into the ears of some influential people.
Everything is worth a try. We have said this repeatedly, as a country we have generally remained passive to the extent that at some point in the tourism circles we were branded Africa’s best kept secret.
That has since changed but we are still not doing enough to bring the dollars. I was not too amused when I saw that the list of the best performing economies did not include Zimbabwe and yet it has managed an above 8 percent average growth in the last three years. Countries such as Mozambique and Zambia with GDP growths of about 6 percent are considered to be performing better than Zimbabwe, which grew by 9 percent last year and is expected to achieve a 9,4 percent growth barring current challenges. So why are we not on the list, that is a question that should be posed to the International Monetary Fund, which released the statistics on the world’s 10 best performing economies. For a moment I thought Zimbabwe was left out because it was coming from a very low base given the challenges of the decade to 2009, but no!
That belongs to history. Sustainable growth rates of our magnitude should make news regardless of the politics. I know the IMF has always been conservative when it comes to Zimbabwe’s economic performance or could it be they know something that we don’t?
All the same, the onus is on Zimbabwe itself to make noise about its achievements until such pessimists as the IMF take notice. We are not even on the list of the
African lions such as Ethiopia that is expected to grow by 8 percent this year. On the inflation front, we have the lowest annual inflation figure in the region.
Is the world aware of this? Some of these achievements may be too good to be true to a world that had become accustomed to our hyperinflation figures which had reached a billion percent (how do you pronounce this) in late 2008 but things have changed and the world must know.
By the way, the world does not owe us anything and the onus is on us to get the message out there.
We may be the last country on the list in the alphabetic order but we are way up when it comes to economic growth figures we have been posting lately.
We would be somewhere as a country today if we made real efforts to occupy our rightful place on the global stage. It’s not jut about tourism and hospitality but it’s also about claiming our fair share of the global cake. We need to be resolute as we seek to achieve yet another positive economic growth figure.
Of course, news of Interfin being placed under curatorship and Genesis surrendering its licence does not bode well for the financial sector. It seems once every few months Zimbabwe has to expect bank failures, but I would want to believe this is not the beginning but the end of such, given the measures that the central bank has put in place and is presently adopting to consolidates the sector.
Disaster was written on the two banks over the past few months as they struggled to meet the minimum capital levels. The fact that one of them failed to attract at least one investor out of a possible 20 says something about its books. Curatorships are never great news for our economy but we know such steps are meant to contain systemic risk and the contagion effect that bank failures globally often have on the rest of the sector in any given economy. We hope Interfin is still retrievable.
We noted successful curatorship with Renaissance, so we can only hope that Interfin will reopen its doors to the public soon.
I have always said that depositors are still smarting from the 2004 banking crisis and are very sensitive to any such news. We have noted some maturity though or we would be witnessing a serious run on deposits particularly on indigenous banks.
The banking sector is one sensitive bit of the economy yet it is so critical in terms of it being the custodian of our wealth while also extending funds to oil the economy.
The good governor says everything is under control and there is no harm in taking his word for it. Let’s direct our energy towards developing our economy.
The last time I checked, Kenias Mafukidze and team were still confident we were on track towards achieving a US$100 billion economy by 2040. Let’s keep at it and let’s not lose focus.
The greatest glory certainly consists not in never falling but in rising each time we fall. Interfin! Stand guided.
In God I Trust!
- My emails: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com