Prosper Ndlovu Business Editor
THE Zimbabwean embassy in South Africa has intensified its engagement with the Diaspora as part of a drive to increase foreign-based citizens’ involvement in economic development at home, an official has said.
Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe’s envoy to South Africa, told Business Chronicle in Bulawayo last Friday that Diaspora participation in the economy, backed by cordial diplomatic relations between the two countries, was critical for development.
Moyo was part of week-long trade and investment talks between businesses and policy makers from the two neighbouring countries.
During the meeting, South Africa pledged to invest up to $600 million in Zimbabwe.
“The embassy now maintains very excellent relations with the Diaspora. This varies between those without special skills to the highly skilled. In our discussions we’ve been talking about their (Diaspora) aspirations to get them involved in business opportunities back home,” Moyo said.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans are resident in South Africa. These include qualified professionals in different disciplines, businesses executives and ordinary semi-skilled and unskilled people.
Last year the embassy afforded Zimbabwe’s ministers on a visit to South Africa an opportunity to engage with the Diaspora through organising forums for citizens to talk to the ministers.
Minister Mike Bimha (industry), Walter Mzembi (tourism) and Walter Chidhakwa (mines) have had an opportunity to engage Zimbabweans in South Africa.
“So, there’s an ongoing interaction between the embassy, government representatives and the Diaspora. So many of them are coming back and trying to pursue business opportunities in a disorganised fashion.
“From time to time they come back to the embassy to report. If they’ve issues that need us to open some doors, we do. They’ve seen the embassy’s willingness to help them pursue their business endeavours,” Moyo added.
He said last week’s deliberations were an offshoot of mature diplomacy between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“What I take is that Zimbabwe and South African diplomacy is working well. It’s that diplomacy which has created this enabling environment. Our two leaders met last year in Pretoria and signed the bi-national commission agreement which raised the level of our relations to a strategic level and we also saw the signing of several other agreements,” said Moyo.
“The two heads of states even at that point had the occasion to reflect on some of the trade challenges and what we’re seeing today is an attitude, a more positive attitude born out of that meeting, keen to address the challenges in our economies.”
He said while a lot challenges still exist, particularly with regards to the trade imbalance in favour of South Africa, the issues were being addressed at government level.
“The spirit between us is such that we’ll be able to deal with the few things that we regard as challenges and equity in trade relations is one such. We think these engagements clear the undergrowth, so to speak, and so, yes, it’s really South African and Zimbabwean diplomacy providing the framework and the environment to advance our trade relations and to ensure our trade relations are just as good as our historical political relations and people relations. This is what our diplomacy seeks to deliver,” said Moyo.
And so when these missions come, people mustn’t just take them for granted, they don’t just come from nowhere but are informed by background agreements we strike as governments, informed by the state of our political relations.”
Frank Stephens, a top official from the South African delegation, expressed satisfaction and optimism with the economic level of engagement between the two countries.
“To be honest with you, from our point of view, this was a more intense engagement. Our job is to work closely with the Zimbabwean industries and the embassy,” he said.
“That’s the beginning and hard work has to follow up. As we speak some of our company representatives have gone back to Gweru to seek investment in some gold mine. From here I’m overwhelmed and I need to make impact during my tenure.”