Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
Zimbabwe has tasked its foreign diplomatic representatives to promote international trade, investment and tourism as part of efforts to attain Vision 2030 of an upper middle-income economy. Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade held a three-day commercial diplomacy workshop in Harare. It was emphasised that foreign service officers should have a mindset shift from political to commercial diplomacy. To find out what some of the diplomats are doing in the countries where they are representing Zimbabwe, The Herald’s Deputy News Editor Africa Moyo (AM) spoke with Ambassador Alfred Mutiwazuka (AAM), who represents the country in Turkey.
AM: Can you start by telling us how your job has been since arriving in Turkey in October last year?
AAM: Zimbabwe opened an Embassy in Turkey in October 2019 and although most of my activities were focusing on setting up infrastructure at the Mission, I hit the ground running by engaging various stakeholders from government to the private sector. The opening of the Embassy was well received by our diaspora community, government and the people of Turkey.
My meetings and interactions with Turkish government officials and business people have so far been pointed and fruitful. The government of Turkey never disengaged from Zimbabwe and has called for the lifting of illegal sanctions imposed on our country.
The opening of the Embassy has aroused a lot of interest from Zimbabwean and Turkish people and I am satisfied with the responses we are receiving as a Mission. Our bilateral relations with Turkey have been given a new impetus and are set to flourish as a result of our physical presence in Turkey.
AM: Government has repeatedly said it wants ambassadors to help attract investors. How far have you gone in this regard?
AAM: It is indeed my duty to enhance commercial ties between Zimbabwe and Turkey and, as such, I have been actively pursuing H.E. President E.D. Mnangagwa’s thrust of repositioning Zimbabwe’s foreign policy premised on economic diplomacy and opening up to international business. The engagement and re-engagement are a process as we move towards attainment of Vision 2030.
We are giving effect to our engagement and co-operation with both Turkish companies and government departments by setting up a strong legal framework. This is to say we need to sign a number of Memoranda of Understanding with the government of Turkey. We are thus working flat out to give realisation of our bilateral co-operation premised on strong legal instruments which will be an assurance to both government and business on security of their businesses and investments.
AM: How far have you gone in engaging businesspeople in Turkey so that they take up investment opportunities in Zimbabwe?
AAM: We have utilised every opportunity with both the Turkish government and businesspeople to publicise trade and investment opportunities available in Zimbabwe and that Government had addressed some of the concerns ranging from protection of investments and implementation of economic policies which are conducive to doing business in Zimbabwe.
I have already engaged the following chambers of commerce among others, Ankara Chamber of Commerce, Turkey/Africa Business Council, Izmir Chamber Of Commerce, Istanbul Chamber Of Commerce, International Entrepreneur Businessmen and Industrialists Association (UGISAD), more than 10 private and family owned companies which are in the top 20 of Turkey companies and have heavily invested in some of our neighbouring countries and other African countries.
I have engaged our diaspora, who play a vital role in our re-engagement process. We share with them opportunities available at home for them to do business and encourage them to travel home and physically meet the relevant authorities who will assist them to plough back their savings into viable businesses in Zimbabwe. We have set up a diaspora platform at the Embassy which includes the more than 2 000 Zimbabwean students studying in Turkey and neighbouring universities.
AM: From your interactions, how keen are the groups of people that you have engaged to invest in Zimbabwe?
AAM: The Turkish businesspeople have expressed keen interest to visit Zimbabwe to scout for business opportunities. Already, I have engaged a number of companies who we are lining up to visit Zimbabwe as early as next month. I continue to receive numerous enquiries on business opportunities between the two countries and have ably shared the relevant information.
I have engaged the Turkish Airlines regarding its commencement of flights to Harare and the prospects are positive. This would certainly ease the movement of people and cargo and boost tourism and business between the two countries.
AM: Do we have any potential investors who have given firm indications? What areas do they wish to invest in?
AAM: I have held discussions with a number of successful Turkish businesses who have shown a keen interest to invest in Zimbabwe. These range from the financial sector, construction of shopping malls, mining, housing, dams, office complex and highways. I have engaged companies that have interests in solar projects and construction of oil storage facilities.
Five Turkish companies have committed to undertake exploratory business trips to Zimbabwe in the first quarter of 2020. I have held discussions with the immediate past chairman of Turkish-Africa Business Council, Mr Taskin, who previously led a delegation of five Turkish companies to Zimbabwe. The consortium boasts of over US$3 billion worth of balance sheets and plans to bring together in 2020 Turkish and Zimbabwean companies in chemicals, clothing, agriculture, energy, livestock, IT, steel and automotive, packaging and food, construction and finance.
There are two Turkish companies in the energy sector that have undertaken to visit Zimbabwe during the first quarter. I have met the recently elected chairperson of the Turkey-Zimbabwe Business Council, Mr Hifsi Soydemir, to discuss more areas of business co-operation between Zimbabwe and Turkey, particularly the modernisation of our agricultural sector through sharing of modern farming equipment and technologies.
AM: Which sectors of the economy have attracted reasonable enquiries?
AAM: We have identified the following sectors as our low hanging fruits in our immediate co-operation with Turkey — energy, health, mining, education, agriculture, construction, clothing and textiles and finance. We have engaged Turkish Airlines on flying the Istanbul/Harare route with positive results. Our Government signed a Bilateral Air Services Agreement in 2013 with Turkish Airlines which came into force in 2017, but the airline had not commenced operations into Zimbabwe.
AM: Tell us of any other activities you have lined up, and the timelines, to attract investors.
AAM: The Mission will, on a monthly basis address all members of chambers of commerce in various cities. Turkey boasts of about 80 cities/towns each with its own Chamber of Commerce. Each city has its own strengths in terms of industries. For example, cities like Kocael and Istanbul have strong automotive industries, Antalya has strong tourism and Izmir textiles and cement factories.
We expect the chambers to undertake exploratory visits to Zimbabwe and the Embassy will participate in those visits to Zimbabwe.
AM: What other information can you give us about your efforts in attracting investment for Zimbabwe to attain an upper middle income status?
AAM: There is huge potential for Zimbabwe and Turkey to increase economic co-operation. The wisdom and foresight of H.E President ED Mnangagwa to open an Embassy here in Turkey is a game changer in our international relations.
Zimbabwe stands to benefit from the experiences of Turkey which adopted in the early 2000s an economic concept that culminated in phenomenal economic growth averaging 5 percent per year. The Turkish model of economic partnerships is based on genuine technology and skills transfer and Zimbabwe business should utilise such an opportunity.
There is need for all stakeholders to speak with one voice on issues related to Government economic policy (trade and investment) positions so as to send an unambiguous message to would-be investors. In that regard they should seek clarity from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade which has the mandate to speak authoritatively on foreign trade issues.
In the same vein, our embassies are there to assist our business people to source for information on trade and investment issues as well as creating enabling environments to do business. As embassies, we have the requisite contacts and information on who to do what type of business with.