HARARE – Zimbabwe is planning to take advantage of Britain’s decision to exit Europe and establish strong relations with its former coloniser.
Britain is expected to leave the European Union (EU) in the next few months and has signalled intention to strengthen bilateral and trade ties with its former colonies.
Allan Majuru, ZimTrade’s chief executive officer, said Zimbabwe has been making overtures to access the United Kingdom (UK) market following re-engagement efforts being spear-headed by treasury.
“Discussions are on-going and have been for some time. The efforts are to make sure that we don’t lose out on the UK market after Brexit,” he said.
This was after the British government in May this year, and for the first time in over 20 years, extended a direct commercial loan deal to Zimbabwe.
In partnership with Standard Chartered Bank, the UK government provided $100 million to be loaned to the private sector in Zimbabwe.
The southern African country last accessed British funding 20 years ago after relations turned sour, following the country’s chaotic land reform programme which displaced farmers, most of whom were of British origin.
The aftermath saw the UK government and its allies imposing sanctions on the Zimbabwean government, then led by former president Robert Mugabe.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, appointed following the forced resignation of Mugabe, has however been on a re-engagement drive to mend relations with the international community, including the British government.
Zimbabwe has for years struggled to obtain medium- to long-term international funding and the latest credit facility, according to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe governor John Mangudya, goes a long way towards improving the competitiveness of companies
Majuru said Zimbabwe — which used to enjoy good trade relations with the UK before its rushed land repossession programme of the early 2000s — was looking at penetrating the UK through horticultural exports.
“At the moment we export to the Netherlands and they then export to the UK so our target to export directly to the UK as early as next year,” he said.
The ZimTrade boss highlighted that a ZimTrade delegation was due for a trip to the UK to cement the deal.
“We have been there and are looking at another trip there to establish routes and sources. This revolution will not pass us by,” Majuru said.
At the close of 2017, trade between the UK and Zimbabwe was negligible at below $200 million, with other Zimbabwean manufacturers expressing desire to export to the UK.
Earlier this year, the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT) announced it was swamped with an overwhelming number of British businesspeople keen on exploiting business opportunities in Zimbabwe.
The UK’s Trade Director for Southern Africa in the DIT, Elena Williams, said her government was inundated with British businesspeople who are rushing for Zimbabwe.
British prime minister Theresa May also visited Africa for the first time this year since becoming prime minister in 2016. She flew to South Africa before travelling to Nigeria and Kenya as part of a trade mission aimed at boosting post-Brexit fortunes.
She said the UK wanted to “deepen and strengthen its global partnerships” as it prepared to leave the EU in 2019, pledging £4 billion in support for African economies, to create jobs for young people. The UK’s overseas aid budget totalled £13,9 billion in 2017, an increase of £555 million in 2016.