Discovering Each Other
Establishing the Belarusian-Zimbabwean political and economic cooperation was a timely and far-sighted decision
Belarus has accredited its first ever ambassador to Zimbabwe. This happened in early 2015 and gave a start to the rapid development of the political and economic dialogue between the two countries. Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe assured Belarusian Ambassador Andrei Molchan during the credentials ceremony in Harare that his country is ready to explore and use efficiently the versatile potential of cooperation with the new partner in the heart of Europe. All joint projects will be given targeted support at the highest level.
The ensuing exchange of visits confirmed that the political and economic elites of Zimbabwe are committed to the development of the bilateral cooperation. Already in June the Hwange colliery started using 17 heavy-duty trucks produced by OAO BelAZ. New contracts worth $100-150 million are in the pipeline. Zimbabwe plans to spend this money on Belarusian tractors, dump trucks and other equipment for the mining industry.
Belarusian road, construction and agricultural machinery, various equipment received high praise from the Zimbabwean officials who visited Minsk. According to the visiting dignitaries, in Belarus they saw a powerful industrial and mining engineering complex which can meet the growing needs of Zimbabwe on many fronts. Zimbabwean partners would like to give preference to the products from Belarus over Western goods for many objective reasons.
“We have already seen Belarusian equipment in action. We are satisfied, including with the price and quality ratio. I think that Zimbabwe is a very promising market for Belarusian producers,” said Permanent Secretary of the District Development Fund of Zimbabwe James Jonga.
Zimbabwe is entering a new era of development, gradually recovering from a decade of a severe social and economic crisis. Tough foreign sanctions were the main reason behind the difficult economic situation in this country in the south of Africa. Rich in diamonds, gold and other in-demand resources, Zimbabwe was deprived of the right and possibility to sell them on foreign markets.
However, the situation is starting to change for the better. The Western sanctions against this 15-million-strong country have been relaxed in the past two or three years. As a result, the Zimbabwean economy has been demonstrating a noticeable recovery. This year the European Union, for the first time in the last 15 years, has approved a € 270 million technical aid for Zimbabwe. According to experts, it is the first step signaling that the relations between Zimbabwe and Europe and the West in general
will continue normalizing in the future.
Apart from that, the Western sanctions against Zimbabwe restricted the country’s access to funds and loans of international financial institutions. Any country would find it difficult to develop under such circumstances. The situation here has also started rectifying. The government of Zimbabwe is currently in talks with a number of Western states to lift the restrictions.
With the favorable developments on the immediate horizon, Zimbabwe may get sufficient monetary resources to import necessary goods and services. Considerable assistance has already
Zimbabwe is entering a new era of development gradually recovering from a decade of a severe social and economic crisis
been provided to Zimbabwe by the African Union, its financial and credit institutions and funds.
In the context of this positive news from the south of Africa the establishment of the Belarusian-Zimbabwean political and economic cooperation was not only a timely but also a far-sighted decision. According to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Belarus to South Africa and Zimbabwe (residing in South African Pretoria) Andrei Molchan, Harare is keen to expand the range of partners who will offer high-quality goods and services, modern technologies to develop key sectors of the economy without any political pressure.
“The Zimbabwe government has outlined a number of short-term development priorities. Speaking about concrete industries, these, first of all, include the mining industry which requires powerful advanced technologies, equipment. They also need knowledge and our qualified specialists who can not only explore natural deposits but also show how to extract natural resources efficiently. The Zimbabweans understand that it is important not only to extract raw materials but also to process them in the country to raise their value in foreign markets. The second area of focus is agriculture. Zimbabwe has very good soil and climatic conditions for the cultivation of tobacco, which is considered one of the best in Africa, and also cotton and tropical fruits. However, Zimbabwean farms are now not very efficient due to the lack of modern equipment. The third priority is education. Zimbabwe boasts one of the highest literacy rates in the world. According to international organizations, 92% of Zimbabweans are literate. By the way, the literacy rate in Zimbabwe is even higher than that in South Africa which is one of the most developed economies on the African continent. The Zimbabweans know they will not be able to use all cutting-edge technologies and machines without knowledge and high qualifications. Therefore, they are interested in Belarus’ best practices in the fieldspecific education, including in agribusiness and technology,” the Belarusian diplomat said.
Minsk is ready to start working on expanding Belarus’ economic presence in Zimbabwe without delay. There are no obstacles for all-round cooperation. During his meeting with Zimbabwe’s Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko noted that both sides should start working on a roadmap for the development of bilateral cooperation and discuss setting up a large maintenance center for Belarusian producers. This center will provide services to several countries of the region, and Zimbabwe is one of the possible locations for it. Besides, Alexander Lukashenko suggested that Belarus provide training to Zimbabwean specialists who will work with the Belarus-made equipment.
The implementation of the big plans to develop the BelarusZimbabwe cooperation will be financed by the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus and the PTA Bank, a pan-African financial institution providing substantial resources for machinery purchases and infrastructure projects. The banks and businessmen concerned have already established the necessary contacts.
“The African experience shows that to successfully enter new promising markets, we need to align the interests of Belarusian and foreign business partners, exporting enterprises, and financial institutions. And the main thing is to provide political support to large-scale projects. If any of these components is missing, Belarusian exporters will find it difficult to settle in new markets,” the Ambassador stressed. “We are trying to develop a multifaceted approach to our trade and economic cooperation with South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Angola, and other African states,” he noted.
The Hwange colliery uses 17 heavy-duty trucks produced by OAO BelAZ
However, at the current stage, Belarusian manufacturers should not get complacent and naively believe that diplomats and bankers will continue doing all the work.
Today it is crucial for the marketing services of our flagship companies to eliminate an array of chronic deficiencies, including the language barrier, to thoroughly analyze the rules of the game used by our main competitors from China, India and Brazil in the south of Africa, and to work smart and show some flexibility. The Chinese, Indians and Brazilians promoting their goods in Southern Africa offer very attractive installment plans and spare no expense on aggressive promotional and marketing campaigns. It is difficult to refuse their offers. Nevertheless, now the Belarusians have a unique chance to make great strides in Southern Africa on the whole and in Zimbabwe in particular, as Zimbabwe is ready to choose Belarusian goods over others in many cases. To miss this opportunity today means to lose
Minsk is ready to start working on expanding Belarus’ economic presence in Zimbabwe without delay
Africa, one of the most dynamically developing regions in the world, Andrei Molchan, the head of the Belarusian diplomatic mission, believes.
According to him, this part of the world still knows little about Belarus.
“I will give a vivid example: during their visit to Belarus specialists from Zimbabwe were very impressed with the fact that our country managed to ensure almost absolute food security, although it is located in a very tough climate zone. This greatly enhanced the general image of Belarus. Zimbabwe partners are ready to learn more about our competitive advantages. They are open for Belarus and clearly interested in actively implementing joint projects. All in all, now is the time for all Belarusian stakeholders to set to work with zeal. Zimbabwe is very promising for Belarus,” the Ambassador said.
By the way, according to Andrei Molchan, Belarus and Zimbabwe residents should take a closer look at tourism opportunities of the two countries that have so strikingly different but no less attractive landscapes and gifts of the nature.