French kiss for ED re­forms

The Sunday Mail (Zimbabwe) - - FRONT PAGE - Kuda Bwititi Chief Re­porter

THE chief ex­ec­u­tive of the French gov­ern­ment’s de­vel­op­ment agency, Mr Rémy Rioux, says Paris is en­hanc­ing ties with Harare, and Pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa is wel­come to send a del­e­ga­tion to his coun­try to fur­ther deepen re­la­tions.

Mr Rioux said this yes­ter­day af­ter meet­ing Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa at the Zim­bab­wean Head of State and Gov­ern­ment’s Mun­hu­mu­tapa Of­fices in Harare.

The AFD is a pub­lic bank that im­ple­ments French gov­ern­ment pol­icy on as­sis­tance to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

On Fri­day, the head of Agence Française de Développe­ment (AFD) signed a $570 000 grant for te­chini­cal co-op­er­a­tion with Zim­babwe, paving the way for un­lock­ing of more fund­ing.

AFD opened shop in Harare in 1993 but bailed out in 2002; and now Mr Rioux has re­vived the lo­cal pres­ence and lent his weight to Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s eco­nomic, po­lit­i­cal and so­cial re­form agenda.

With Fi­nance and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Pro­fes­sor Mthuli Ncube leav­ing for Bali, In­done­sia this week­end to en­gage in­ter­na­tional cred­i­tors at the an­nual World Bank and IMF meet­ings (Oc­to­ber 12- Oc­to­ber 14), Mr Rioux’s visit was timely as France is a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional lender and a key mem­ber of the Paris Club body that co-or­di­nates so­lu­tions to dif­fi­cul­ties faced by debtor coun­tries.

Mr Rioux him­self is past-pres­i­dent of the Paris Club, and on Fri­day he held talks with Prof Ncube on strate­gies to ad­dress Zim­babwe’s debt and ar­rears.

Ad­dress­ing jour­nal­ists af­ter meet­ing Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa yes­ter­day, Mr Rioux said: “I am the first head of an in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment agency to visit Harare un­der the New Dis­pen­sa­tion and af­ter the elec­tions, and I had the hon­our and the priv­i­lege to have a meet­ing with His Ex­cel­lency, Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa. “We dis­cussed the re­la­tion­ship be­tween

France and Zim­babwe. France never stopped be­ing ac­tive in Zim­babwe in pro­vid­ing in­vest­ments in the coun­try and I told the Pres­i­dent that we cer­tainly have the in­ten­tion to in­crease.

“Yes­ter­day (Fri­day) we signed with Min­is­ter Ncube a grant for ca­pac­ity-build­ing and project prepa­ra­tion for half-a-mil­lion euro ($570 000).”

Mr Rioux said a del­e­ga­tion from Medef, an or­gan­i­sa­tion of lead­ing French busi­ness­peo­ple, would be in Harare early next month to ex­plore in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Fur­ther, he said France had ex­tended an in­vi­ta­tion for a Zim­bab­wean Gov­ern­ment del­e­ga­tion to visit Paris in the first-half of 2019 to strengthen bi­lat­eral ties.

“The French busi­ness­peo­ple will come early Novem­ber in the coun­try to start again and we will have a high-level po­lit­i­cal di­a­logue soon in the be­gin­ning of next year be­tween our two coun­tries,” he said.

Mr Rioux said AFD was en­cour­aged by Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s eco­nomic re­forms and his en­gage­ment and re-en­gage­ment of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

“We also dis­cussed the sit­u­a­tion of the coun­try, the very strong on­go­ing re­form and the way to cre­ate as much trust as pos­si­ble with all part­ners to speed up the re­cov­ery and for the coun­try to be fully back in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. It’s my feel­ing that Zim­babwe is head­ing in the right di­rec­tion,” he said. Asked of the pos­si­bil­ity of Zim­babwe ac­cess­ing more fund­ing from AFD, Mr Rioux said “... the idea is to pre­pare new com­mit­ments for higher vol­umes as soon as, of course, the debt sit­u­a­tion is eased”.

“We will start with grants and then hope­fully sup­port the pri­vate sec­tor, the fi­nan­cial sec­tor, SMEs, guar­an­tees and do more in the com­ing months and years,” he added.

On Fri­day, Mr Rioux told The Sun­day Mail that his visit was “an ex­pres­sion of French will­ing­ness to build a very, very strong co-op­er­a­tion”.

He said AFD im­ple­mented Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron’s vi­sion.

“AFD is a large in­sti­tu­tion. We are ac­tive in more than 100 coun­tries, we im­ple­ment the vi­sion of Pres­i­dent Macron for in­ter­na­tional co-op­er­a­tion ... I re­ally see my visit here as a po­lit­i­cal sig­nal from France.

“We will never let Zim­babwe down in terms of in­vest­ment. We cer­tainly have the in­ten­tion to be a part­ner and in­crease our in­ter­ven­tion in the coun­try and sup­port the pol­icy set by Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa and Min­is­ter Ncube.”

Prof Ncube said added: “This is won­der­ful ges­ture to the peo­ple of Zim­babwe. This is a grant of $570 000 that we have signed off and it is re­ally aimed at ca­pac­ity-build­ing in Zim­babwe.

“This falls right in the path of the re-en­gage­ment agenda. France is a very im­por­tant part­ner in our re-en­gage­ment ef­forts. It is the cen­tre of many things in Europe, so this is re­ally a part of the re-en­ga­ment process.

“France is also a cred­i­tor na­tion to us, it is also part of the Paris Club with other part­ners, it is a share­holder in the African De­vel­op­ment Bank and it is a share­holder in the World Bank.”

He said good use of the grant would un­lock fur­ther fund­ing.

“This is very pos­i­tive and it is a smart way to use grants to lever­age in­vest­ment. It is not a debt. There is no risk in the first place. This grant will lever­age in­vest­ment for the fu­ture.

“That is ex­actly how you want to use aid so that you can use it to lever­age for in­vest­ment in the fu­ture. We are in a po­si­tion where we can­not con­tract more debt be­cause we are in debt al­ready, but this is a way of plan­ning for the fu­ture.”

He said sec­tors that could ben­e­fit from the grant in­cluded paras­tatals, lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and cli­mate change in­ter­ven­tion.

France is a lead­ing mem­ber of the Euro­pean Union, an in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion that Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa has set about mend­ing ties with fol­low­ing nearly two decades of ac­ri­mony un­der Mr Robert Mu­gabe’s regime.

To that end, his charm of­fen­sive has al­ready seen Ger­many re­open­ing lines of credit, while Bel­gium’s Prime Min­is­ter Charles Michel has ex­pressed readi­ness to work with Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa’s ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Re-en­gage­ment with Bri­tain has ad­vanced and Lon­don is likely to sup­port Zim­babwe’s debt and ar­rears plan at the Bali meet­ings; while Gov­ern­ment is also in talks with the United States to nor­malise re­la­tions.

On the part of an­other eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal power, China, Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa has re­stored trust af­ter his pre­de­ces­sor’s regime ig­nored huge debts to the that coun­try.

Pic­ture: Ku­dak­washe Hunda

Pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa chats with the chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Agence Française de Développe­ment Mr Rémy Rioux (sec­ond from left) and French Am­bas­sador to Zim­babwe Richard Boidin (left) af­ter they paid him a cour­tesy call at his Mun­hu­mu­tapa Of­fices in Harare yes­ter­day. Also present was Fi­nance and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Pro­fes­sor Mthuli Ncube (right) —

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