‘Raw material export detrimental to growth’ President Mnangagwa witnesses Rwanda’s Trade and Industry Minister Ms Beata Habyarimana (left) exchanging files with her counterpart, Sekai Nzenza

Fungi Kwaramba Political Editor

PRESIDENT Mnangagwa has challenged industrialists to enhance value addition and diversify exports to help end Africa’s unsustainable reliance on primarily exporting raw materials much to the detriment of the continent’s growth prospects.

Officially opening the Zimbabwe-Rwanda Trade and Investment Conference at a Harare hotel yesterday, the President said the four-day indaba between the two countries should result in the crafting of models that grow businesses.

More than 60 delegates from Rwanda, who include potential investors, are attending the conference that is aptly themed “Explore, Invest, Export”.

After officially opening the conference, the President oversaw the signing of three Memorandums of Understanding namely, Trade and Investment; Implementation Agreement on Energy; and an MoU between Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation and the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce.

“The outcomes and recommendations of the conference deliberations must continue to inculcate a culture of progressive collaboration, production, and productivity.

“In this regard, I call upon our industrialists to enhance value addition and diversify our export mix through competitive and efficient value chains. In doing so, Africa will put to an end the perennial and unfortunate challenge of exporting primarily raw commodities from its sectors of the economy.

“Furthermore, the deliberations at this conference should result in the crafting and refining of models to nurture entrepreneurial skills and grow businesses in sync with changing realities and trends the world over.

“This must take into account the aspects of the ongoing Fourth Industrial Revolution, which include research and development, innovation, entrepreneurship, as well as building resilience and adaptive capabilities,” he said.

ZimTrade and the Rwanda Development Board are behind the conference, where avenues of co-operation in trade will be explored for the betterment of the people of the two countries.

When he came to power in 2017, President Mnangagwa declared “Zimbabwe is Open for Business” and the reciprocal conference taking place in Harare is yet another indication of the success of the policy that also comes with a set of incentives to lure investors into the country.

Among the incentives, President Mnangagwa said, are tax holidays, import duty exemption on importation of equipment and machinery, and suspension of import duty on raw materials, among others.

“To date, the collaboration on the economic reform front has resulted in several reform measures being undertaken by my Government to improve the business operating environment and the benchmarking of our economy.

“These have seen us recording remarkable milestones, as the economy remains on an upward growth trajectory.

“The Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency is facilitating the processing of investment proposals, including the issuance of investment certificates, associated permits, and licences, among other aspects. This has provided the much-needed convenience to investors.

“Furthermore, my administration has addressed issues that were of concern to investors in the past. These include guaranteeing security to investment and allowing repatriation of profits, as well as dividends and royalties.”

In light of an array of reforms that have seen the country register economic growth underpinned by private sector-led economic revival as is enunciated in the export-focused National Development Strategy 1, the President used the conference to invite investors from Rwanda and beyond to put their money in Zimbabwe.

“At the continental level, intra-African trade and investment which saw trade volumes growing in 2020, to US$120 billion, is a clear reflection of the vast trade and investment opportunities within our continent.

“In this context, companies from both Rwanda and Zimbabwe must exploit the business prospects presented under the Common Market for East and Southern Africa and the African Continental Free Trade Area.

“These platforms provide a gateway for entering global value chains, a shared pathway towards an integrated Africa, as well as the realisation of the Africa we all want.

“My Government is moving with speed in domesticating aspects of the African Continental Free Trade Area. This includes reviewing investment-related legislation, upgrading of our borders into one-stop border posts, and upgrading of our airport facilities as well as road and rail network to facilitate the smooth flow of goods.

“This demonstrates our desire as a country to make Zimbabwe an attractive investment destination on the continent and across the world.”

He added that there is need for officials from both Zimbabwe and Rwanda to actualise various agreements that have been reached.

“The cordial, fraternal, and excellent relations between Rwanda and Zimbabwe should continue to spur growth of business across various sectors of the economy.

“We have the collective responsibility to shift the historical trend, which was characterised by low trade volumes between our two friendly countries, despite the existence of huge potential.

“In this regard, I applaud ZimTrade and the Rwanda Development Board for the excellent work in facilitating joint efforts and the networking of the private sector from both countries.

“It is my expectation and that of my dear brother and colleague, the President of the Republic of Rwanda, His Excellency Paul Kagame that ZimTrade and the Rwanda Development Board’s partnership must result in increased trade flows and volumes, while leapfrogging the quality of ‘Made in Zimbabwe’ and ‘Made in Rwanda’ products and goods respectively to penetrate global markets.”

The President also challenged the two bodies to work toward driving the sustainable socio-economic development of our countries.

“Now is the time for you to actualise the various agreements between our two countries, while improving the efficacy in our trade and economic competitiveness.

“A sustained positive shift within our countries’ respective industry and commerce ecosystems must be pursued with greater focus and vigour. Yours must be a commitment to partner, act and leave an indelible mark on the economic fabric of our two countries.”

The conference, which is being attended by the private sector, aims to foster trade and investment partnerships between the two countries, giving impetus to the two nations’ quest to strengthen commercial ties and accelerate trade.

Several areas of cooperation will be explored in the mining, agriculture, service industry, and Information and Technology sectors.

Later on Rwanda Trade and Industry Minister Beata Habyarimana paid a courtesy call on President Mnangagwa at State House where they discussed the deepening of bilateral relations between the two countries.

Briefing journalists after their meeting, Minister Habryarimana said their engagement centred on the ongoing conference which she said was the second after the first one in Kigali in September last year.

“We have a private sector and business sector meeting, negotiating to have strong business relationship and how we can improve our trade flows between the two countries as well as investment.

We also expect from this conference to see more Rwandan business operators coming to Zimbabwe. We have many things to share, we have agribusiness, mining tourism, education, financial services sector. In all of them we have dynamic interest from both sides,” she said.

She was accompanied by Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza and Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava.

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