Zimbabwe a profitable investment  destination: President Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga (centre) is shown a prototype city bus by AVM managing director Mr Jacob Kupa (right) during the official launch at the Zimbabwe-Belarus Business Forum in Harare yesterday (Picture: Innocent Makawa)

Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau

ZIMBABWE’s abundant natural resources, youthful population and strategic location as a logistical route make it an ideal and profitable investment destination, President Mnangagwa said yesterday.

In a speech read on his behalf by Vice President Constantino Chiwenga during the official opening of the third Zimbabwe-Belarus Business Forum that was held in Harare, President Mnangagwa said the Forum represented a significant moment in the two countries’ ongoing efforts to strengthen economic ties and foster mutually beneficial partnerships in line with Zimbabwe’s ongoing engagement and re-engagement agenda.

The Forum was held under the theme: “Building Stronger Partnerships: Harnessing a Shared Vision for a Sustainable Future”, with two Memoranda of Understanding signed for the joint manufacture of buses and supply of fire-fighting equipment to the City of Mutare. 

The Belarus delegation, which includes players drawn from the country’s light and heavy industries, is led by its Deputy Minister of Industry, Dmitry Harintochik.

In his remarks, President Mnangagwa said the country’s abundant and diverse natural resource base, including its youthful and productive population, as well as strategic location in the Southern African region, essentially presents Zimbabwe as a profitable investment destination.

“I call upon Belarusian businesses to tap into these existing opportunities whilst we seek to benefit from your expertise in the area of technology and innovation for the mutual benefit of our two countries and peoples,” he said.

The President said guided by the country’s Vision 2030 to become an empowered and prosperous upper middle-income society, Government was accelerating the implementation of bold and robust economic reforms, deepening an environment conducive to investment and business growth.

“Zimbabwe is, therefore, ready to welcome and facilitate more investors from Belarus in various sectors, including agriculture, mining, manufacturing and infrastructure development. Strong and sustainable partnerships in these areas will go a long way in improving the quality of life for our people while helping to modernise and industrialise our two economies,” President Mnangagwa said.

He said high level visits will continue to be exchanged between the two nations to deepen bilateral relations.

Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko conducted a State visit to Zimbabwe in January last year in a reciprocal visit after President Mnangagwa visited the Eurasian nation in 2019.

During President Lukashenko’s visit, various Treaties and Memoranda of Understanding were signed such as the Bilateral Investment Treaty between Zimbabwe and Belarus, among others.

President Mnangagwa exhorted Belarus and Zimbabwe to take advantage of existing agreements which proffer preferential market access and trade opportunities to both countries.

“I expect that discussions at this Zimbabwe-Belarus Forum will broaden our efforts and horizons beyond fostering business engagements and co-operation, but to increase trading, innovation, technology development and knowledge transfer,” he said.

The President commended the signing of the MoU for the manufacture of buses between AVM Africa and Minsk Automotive and implored other business entities to emulate such developments and be facilitated to develop greater synergies and collaborations. 

“With regards to developments taking place at the continental level, our Belarusian counterparts are invited to note that there is no other time to invest in Zimbabwe than now. We are a competitive jurisdiction and part of the enlarged single African market of over one billion people through the African Continental Free Trade Area.

“In the same vein, I urge Zimbabwean companies to take advantage of relations with Belarus to penetrate the Eurasia region and emerging markets,” he said.

The President said the Forum was a building block and a significant step towards strengthening their unshakeable bilateral relations. 

In his remarks and speaking through an interpreter, Deputy Minister Harintochik commended the country’s economic growth prospects.

“We know that Zimbabwe is one of the brightest African countries nowadays which is showing significant growth of its economy.

“You would want to know that the Republic of Zimbabwe, during the recent years, has most of our joint projects successfully implemented,” he said. 

Deputy Minister Harintochik said regular visits of officials from the two countries, including at the highest level, contributes to the improvement of confidence between the two nations.

Belarus has supplied tractors, combine harvesters and other farming implements to Zimbabwe and Deputy Minister Harintochik expressed satisfaction with the manner they had been received by local farmers.

“It’s our pleasure to know how our tractors and agriculture machinery are being highly rated by the customers and I am confident the agriculture machinery will continue to be in demand in Zimbabwe,” he said. Deputy Minister Harintochik reiterated his country’s commitment to fulfil the various agreements they have with Zimbabwe.

“There is a plan that we will construct new grain storage facilities and refurbish existing ones. Honourable Vice President, let me assure you that we are ready to fulfil all our agreements,” he said.

Industry and Commerce Minister Sithembiso Nyoni said the historic visits to each other’s countries by President Mnangagwa and President Lukashenko served as a basis for the cordial bilateral relations between the two countries.

“The results of these historic visits have given impetus to the development of a whole range of friendly bilateral relations between the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Republic of Belarus and have laid the foundation for this collaboration we are having today (yesterday),” she said.

The minister said during her recent visit to Belarus, the two ministries responsible for industry had agreed to work together for mutual benefit.

“Our agreed minutes paved a way to discuss joint ventures and skills development for institutions, for our light industries and citizens of both countries as well as employment creation.

“These agreed minutes are going to lead us to make a concrete MoU that will guide our working together. We are going to jointly develop industrial and technical cooperation including science and research, development of light industries and skills development in the areas of industrial inspections and certification of our products,” she said.

Meanwhile, VP Chiwenga yesterday commissioned a bus, with a carrying capacity of 120 passengers, developed jointly by AVM Africa and Minsk Automobile. 

The two entities later signed an MoU for the manufacture of buses in Zimbabwe using Belarus technology that will see the production of about 50 buses monthly and will also benefit around 92 local companies in the value chain.

The MoU was signed by AVM Chief Executive Officer Mr Jacob Kupa and Minsk Automobile Deputy Director Mr Sergei Shulyak.

City of Mutare Acting Town Clerk Mr Blessing Chafesuka and AFTRADE Director Ms Olga Shevko signed the MoU for the supply of fire-fighting equipment.

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