Zimbabwe and Rwanda have taken a major step towards transforming their economic ties following the signing yesterday of five Memoranda of Understanding in key sectors of the economy.
These are in Information and Communication Technology and e-Government; Agriculture and Livestock Development; Tourism and Business Events; Environment and Climate Change and another between the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries and the Rwanda Private Sector Federation.
As relations move a gear up, Rwandan President Paul Kagame will tomorrow host a question and answer session with delegates at the on-going Rwanda-Zimbabwe Trade and Investment Conference that began here yesterday.
The session is widely viewed as a demonstration of the commitment right from the top to see the two countries relations grow. This is expected to address issues that have previously constrained economic activity between the two economies.
Zimbabwe and Rwanda, which are both on a critical growth trajectory, have emerged as some of Africa’s most progressive economies and are set to benefit from the new agreements and the exploration of opportunities.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister and head of Zimbabwe delegation Dr Frederick Shava signed two MOUs on ICT and Agriculture with his Rwandan counterpart MrVincent Biruta, while Tourism Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu and the Rwanda Development Board deputy chief executive Zephanie Niyonkuru signed the Tourism MOU.
The Environment and Climate Change agreement was signed by Minister Ndlovu and Rwandan Minister of Environment Dr Jean d’Arc Mujawamariya.
CZI vice president Mr Mucha Mkanganwi and Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation chairperson signed a Memorandum to cement relations between the two.
In his keynote address Dr Shava said the MOUs would expedite business transactions between the two countries. He had earlier lamented the low trade and investment levels between Zimbabwe and Rwanda.
“The signing of these MOUs is not the end but a major milestone which marks the beginning of a long journey to work together for both our countries.
“We have a responsibility and duty to improve the figures (trade and investment) between the two countries so that we come up with meaningful trade,” said Minister Shava.
The new agreements add to the four signed in March this year to cement bilateral relations between the two countries. These were the General Cooperation on the establishment of a Joint Permanent Commission, the Zim Trade and Rwanda Development Board agreement, Cooperation in the Field of Media, Information and Publicity and an agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Prisons/Correctional services.
At least 100 Government and business executives from Zimbabwe are attending the conference whose theme is: Explore, Invest, Export.
Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Rwanda Prof Charity Manyeruke and her Rwandan counterpart Ambassador James Musoni are also in attendance. Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality permanent secretary Mr Munesushe Munodawafa and other senior Government officials are here.
From the business community, Zim Trade chief executive Mr Allan Majuru, Standards Association of Zimbabwe director-general Eve Gadzikwa, Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency chief finance officer Ms Dudu Shinya, Exodus and Company chief executive Mr Exodus Makumbe and Cimas chief executive Mr Vulindlela Ndlovu are among the delegates.
Rwanda is represented by key Government officials and private sector representatives.
The conference is in sync with the Second Republic’s Zimbabwe is Open for Business mantra and Government’s thrust to consolidate economic diplomacy with other countries and institutions as key result area under the National Development Strategy.
Deliberations yesterday revealed that immense business opportunities exist between the two countries, particularly in agriculture and agro-processing, construction, energy, finance and accounting, infrastructure development, mining, knowledge and education, clothing and other sectors of the economy.
A delegate from Rwanda lamented poor treatment at the Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport and the requirement for a potential investor or tourist to have an invitation from Zimbabwe first for them to be allowed entry.
“Why must I be invited first for me to scout for opportunities in your country,” he queried.
Minister Ndlovu said this was not a Government position and would look into it.
Rwanda is one of the fastest growing economies on the continent with an average growth rate of 7 percent between 2010 and 2018. It grew by more than 10 percent in 2019.
Zimbabwe is this year expected to achieve a 7,8 percent economic growth rate, up from a negative 4,7 percent last year.
Rwanda is ranked number two on the continent in terms of ease of doing business and is in the top 50 globally. Zimbabwean businesses also view Rwanda as a launchpad into East Africa.
It is against this background that Government and the private sector see scope in actively engaging Rwanda in business. Rwanda also sees immense opportunities in Zimbabwe.