Hebert Zharare in Sharm El-Sheikh – EGYPT
President Mnangagwa held high-level bilateral talks with his Egyptian counterpart, President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi here yesterday on the sidelines of the 58th African Development Bank (AfDB) annual meeting, where the two veteran leaders discussed various areas of cooperation for the mutual benefit of the two sisterly countries’ economies.
The President is part of thousands of delegates attending the 58th annual meeting of the AfDB that coincides with the African Development Fund’s 49th meeting of the board of governors. The areas of cooperation the two leaders discussed have the potential to transform Zimbabwe in the areas of health, clean energy, agriculture and urban renewal programmes.
President Mnangagwa’s entourage that attended the bilateral meetings, comprised of Finance and Economic Development Minister, Professor Mthuli Ncube; Acting Foreign Affairs Minister, Joran Gumbo; Justice Minister, Ziyambi Ziyambi; Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Egypt, Air Marshal (Retired) Shebba Shumbayawonda and senior officials.
Speaking to our Harare Bureau yesterday, Presidential spokesperson, Mr George Charamba revealed President Mnangagwa was grateful to President El-Sisi for extending an invitation to him to attend the AfDB meetings as it has an occasion to discuss how Zimbabwe’s arrear and debt clearance can be resolved.
The AfDB champion of arrears clearance and debt resolution, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, who is also the continental bank’s President, has set aside time today to facilitate dialogue between Zimbabwe and representatives of creditor nations on the sidelines of the annual meeting.
“President Mnangagwa and President El-Sisi explored the relations between the two countries and we have four areas that came under discussion.
The first issue was ongoing corporation between Zimbabwe and Egypt to revamp our pharmaceutical industry. As you are aware, there was a delegation that come from Egypt before we came here that inked some deals to support the health sector,” he said.
Mr Charamba said the two leaders also looked at the energy sector with a view to explore developments in the provision of clean and sustainable energy in line with the theme of the AfDB summit.
The AfDB annual meeting which started on Monday and ends on Friday is running under the theme; “Mobilising Private Sector Financing for Climate and Green Growth in Africa,” coming on the back of the devastating effects of climate change and limited resources that are being drip-fed into the continent by the West.
As such, all the leaders who spoke during the conference, emphasised the need for sustainable climate change and adaptation financing and to effectively use resources diligently for the benefit of the continent that is suffering heavy carnage of climate change.
The Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the AfDB Group penned a memorandum of understanding for the hosting of the 2023 annual meetings in September last year. Egypt is one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa with the World Bank putting its Gross Domestic Product at US$404,14 billion in 2021, while the latest reports put it at US$1,3 trillion.
However, according to the country’s trade lobby organisation, ZimTrade, trade statistics between the two countries in 2022 were US$44 million imports and US$10 million in exports to Egypt.
“Egypt has one of the largest solar projects in the continent in an area close to Assani Dam which generates close to 2 000 Megawatts and this is in line with the huge solar energy revolution which is also in line with the theme of this conference. There are several lessons from Egypt that Zimbabwe can learn and replicate,” Mr Charamba said.
President Mnangagwa and his counterpart also looked at co-operation among many African countries and one of the major issues discussed was the ongoing construction of the African Liberation Museum in Warren Park where the Arab Republic of Egypt is a co-funder.
“There is a historical note also to that. Our President trained with the Egyptian Army in early 1960 when the Arab state was under President Abdul Nasah. The President is attached to this country and these meetings open a new era and chapter in cooperation in the area of security between the two countries,” he said.
Zimbabwe is in the process of developing a new city in the Mt Hamden area, where a state-of-the-art new Parliament building has been constructed, while other new projects including a shopping complex, houses, and other supporting infrastructure are under consideration.
Mr Charamba said a lot of architectural designs were borrowed from Egypt.
“The two Presidents also looked at the area of the construction of new cities. When we were planning the construction of the new city in Mt Hampden, the President sent the Minister of Local Government Cde July Moyo to Egypt to understand how they undertook the new cities they are building — looking at the architecture, building of roads, and other supporting infrastructure.
The minister presented a report that was accepted and implemented by the Government — we are doing the new city on the blueprint by the Egyptians. So, the construction of smart cities is a critical area that came under the spotlight,” he said.
In his quest not to leave anyone and any place behind when it comes to economic empowerment, President Mnangagwa and his counterpart spent some time discussing the fisheries business and the value chains associated with the sector.
The Egyptians do a lot of fisheries business along the Nile River and as such, in line with Zimbabwe’s community development mantra, Mr Charamba said: “Government is working on a programme for every village to have a fish farm and even proceed to have canning factories.”
He said the two leaders also shared notes on the situation in Sudan, where Zimbabwe in collaboration with other countries successfully “evacuated our people from there”.