Zimbabwe regains place in the sun

Fungi Kwaramba in VICTORIA FALLS

FIVE presidents, 80 countries, 120 exhibitors and more than 2 000 people were in Victoria Falls yesterday as Zimbabwe reaps huge dividends from President Mnangagwa’s engagement and re-engagement drive.

Sidelined for years because of the negative publicity from the Western media and negative perception wrought by illegal Western imposed sanctions, Zimbabwe is now slowly reclaiming its place in the sun with the Transform Africa Summit, the biggest Information, Communication Technology event on the African calendar, taking place in the country.

President Mnangagwa hosted his counterparts from Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Eswatini for the summit that is running under the theme “Innovate-Connect and Transform”, in the city where the mighty Zambezi River plunges for about 250 metres to give the world the natural wonder known as Mosi oa Tunya locally and internationally as the Victoria Falls.

In 2020, President Mnangagwa launched the National Tourism Recovery and Growth Strategy (NTRGS) which enunciates Government strategies to lead and fund marketing efforts designed to re-establish contact with local, regional and international tourism markets, and that was all too apparent as the country’s First Citizen invited delegates to explore the city of Victoria Falls.

“I once again invite you to take time off your busy schedule to visit the Victoria Falls, which is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World as well as undertake other activities on the mighty Zambezi River,” said President Mnangagwa.

Through the summit, which brings together the continent’s best brains in ICT, Zimbabwe also had an opportunity to showcase its investment opportunities, promote its economic potential and attract new investments into the country not only for the ICT sector but the broader economic spectrum.

As a result of the summit, the country’s premier resort, boasting some of the best hotels in the region, was fully booked with business unexpectedly brisk for the season.

At the summit, the visiting Presidents were full of praise for President Mnangagwa.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who is also the chairman of Smart Africa Alliance, hailed President Mnangagwa for bringing the world to Zimbabwe.

“I am enjoying Zimbabwe’s legendary hospitality as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of Smart Africa. Thank you President Mnangagwa for making this possible for us. Africa has to make the digital identities of individuals and the businesses portable across borders while using technology to reduce barriers to trade. All of these items are within our power to achieve,” he said.

Transform Africa Summit is a leading African forum that brings together global and regional leaders from government, business and international organisations to collaborate on new ways of shaping, accelerating and sustaining Africa’s on-going digital revolution. Over the years it has grown in leaps and bounds with Zimbabwe outbidding more than 20 other nations to be host this year.

Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera, whose country is the latest member of the 36 member club, said he was also excited to represent his country at such an important summit that could help Africa leapfrog its development.

“As to the question of how we take such a leap frogging shortcut, the only way is for us to work hard on lifting the obstacles to digitisation and to work together on connecting the whole continent digitally so that Africa becomes a single digital market. That is why I am excited to be here to represent Malawi as the newest member of the Smart Africa Alliance. And I am grateful to His Excellency, President Kagame of Rwanda, for his leadership in this pursuit, and I look forward to engaging in these matters with all my fellow Heads of State who are gathered here.

“I also want to thank His Excellency President Mnangagwa for hosting this important summit that is key to enabling us to leapfrog decades of development stages and catch up with the rest of the world.

“As far as I am concerned, there should be more Heads of State here, because if we are going to rise as a continent and leapfrog into the 4th Industrial Revolution powered by digitisation, then we must rise through technology, we must rise together and we must rise now,” said President Chakwera.

Travelling from Zambia, which is divided with Zimbabwe by the Zambezi River was President Hakainde Hichilema who said he would not miss such a vital platform to discuss and map Africa’s future.

“Not long ago Presidential Chakwera and I were opening a border post  between Malawi and Zambia and we were proud to listen to speeches talking about one-stop-border post and in my speech I want to repeat what I said; we should not be proud of having a one-stop-border post, we should be actually ambitious enough to say, we should have a non-stop border post. Is it possible? Very possible, if we have a platform like this,” said President Hichilema.

Meanwhile, King Mswati lll of the Kingdom of Eswatini, who is due to officially open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo tomorrow, said in his country, ICT has been embraced as the future.

“A United Africa can create a more stable and secure environment that encourages investment, job creation and economic growth. It can also lead to increased political power and influence at the global stage.

“In recent years technology has enabled people to communicate and collaborate more easily across borders. With the widespread use of the Internet and mobile devices, people can access information, connect with others and conduct business regardless of their physical location.

“One example of technology unifying Africa is through mobile money services. This innovation has allowed people to transfer money quickly and easily across borders making it easy for families to support each other and for businesses to conduct transactions,” said King Mswati lll.

From seven member states in 2013, Smart Africa is now an alliance of 36 member states representing a population of more than 1.1 billion.

It has 50 staff members from three in 2013 and has a capital of US$23 million from an initial US$600 000.

The partners of the alliance have grown over the years from all continents. It has worked and aligned interventions with more than 100 partners including development agencies and funding organisations such as BMZ/GIZ, the European Union, the World Bank, NORAD, African Development Bank and BADEA.

The first day of the Transform Africa Summit was indeed an interactive platform where several exhibitors from the continent got a chance to chat with the Presidents who visited their stands and also explored investment opportunities.

Indeed, the objective of transforming Africa through innovation was on full display, a policy that is championed by President Mnangagwa who brought the world to Victoria Falls to make it a reality.

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