MN: Can you share some more details with our readers on how this cooperation with the UAE is shaping up?
ZS: Looking at the big picture, there is a myriad of activity right now that should raise eyebrows. Firstly, the UAE are clearly looking for ways they can apply technology and social development to be of immediate use to the Zimbabwean people. They take health care very seriously, and that’s why they recently contributed $2 million in equipment and medicines to Zimbabwe’s National Pharmaceutical Company, NatPharm, with an eye on working together even more directly to open a production facility in-country.
Second and perhaps, as I mentioned, one of the reasons that we find the UAE investing in such a major way in the future potential of this country is due to Zimbabwe’s drive to privatize a huge number of assets. Zimbabwe is making great strides to reduce its budget deficit from 12% to 5% of its GDP, cut bureaucratic red tape and concurrently encourage foreign direct investment (FDI). To accomplish these initiatives, they have recently been privatizing once-nationalized institutions, such as the country’s two main telephone and internet operators, TelOne and NetOne.
Zimbabwe is creating a more conducive climate for open investment and the UAE, quite frankly, have the versatility and political stability to quickly and effectively take them up on the opportunity.
MN: Sounds like a win-win for both countries.
ZS: The UAE are really demonstrating to the government of Zimbabwe and its people what their capacities are and also where their values lie. When the two work in concert, they can achieve great things. The UAE are a major player in global commerce and in step with their 2017-2021 African Investment Agenda, they clearly see tremendous opportunity in working together with Zimbabwean companies. That means building a healthy relationship that works both ways. In 2017, Zimbabwe registered a $307.6 million trade surplus with the UAE. The business interests of companies from the UAE run the gamut, from information technology, to minerals, renewable energy, and – importantly – agriculture, tourism and health. Let me emphasize the fact that the UAE really envisions an opportunity for Zimbabwe to once again become the “breadbasket of Africa” with the right investment and the right technology.
MN: It sounds like you’re envisioning the concept of their economies growing together – quite literally?
ZS: You’re right. The places where the two countries complement each other are the places where they both can succeed. This is a principle that has helped drive Dubai and the wider UAE to become the place it is today.
MN: How has the UAE’s relationship with the relatively new Government of President Emerson Mnagagwa been so far, in your view?
ZS: I’m told (and can endorse) that the UAE have noticed a tangible difference in the kind of synergetic relations they’ve built with President Emerson Mnagagwa and everyone in his Administration to date. There’s a new energy in Harare, and a real commitment to more deeply integrate Zimbabwe with key players in the global economy. This comes from the new Government’s visible desire to accelerate the pace of economic improvement in Zimbabwe, and to us, that’s a very good sign. The signing of Double Taxation and Bilateral Investment Protection Agreements has also been instrumental in lifting the bilateral relationship with the UAE.
MN: Is there anything on the horizon you can forecast?
ZS: Expect more cross-sector investment. I don’t want to sound overly optimistic as there are still real challenges in the country, but there is good reason to believe that we will see a doubling, if not tripling of the kind of investment launched by UAE in the very near future. The world should receive the message loud and clear that Zimbabwe is open for business again.