A ZIMBABWEAN ministerial delegation is expected to visit France to discuss bilateral relations, indicating the country’s improving relations with the West although the French remain concerned with “regrettable but limited incidents” of human rights violations.
The visit is a follow up to a similar one by French Deputy Secretary of Foreign Affairs Rémy Rioux to Harare last month, which culminated in the first joint session of Bilateral Political Consultations after 10-15 years.
Rioux’s visit ignited formal political dialogue between the two countries after more than a decade of strained diplomatic relations.
French Ambassador Laurent Delahousse on Tuesday said Rioux had fruitful engagements with secretary for foreign affairs Ambassador Joey Bimha, but the dialogue would now be escalated to ministerial level.
“All matters of common interest were discussed with Ambassador Bimha, in a friendly and constructive atmosphere. A common appeal was launched to raise the dialogue to the level of ministers. I express the wish that, in the coming months, members of the Government of Zimbabwe would be invited to France to continue this dialogue,” he said.
In January, a business delegation from France led by the French business organisation Movement of the Enterprises of France (MEDEF) spent four days in Harare. The visit saw 10 major French companies with a total turnover of US$1 billion meeting President Robert Mugabe, government officials and captains of industry.
Delahousse said the visit was already bearing tangible fruits.
“The first deliverables from that visit are already visible, with a renewed interest from French companies and investors for Zimbabwe. Bureau Veritas signed a contract with the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to carry out, on behalf of Zimbabwean authorities, quality inspections on imports into the country,” he said.
“Limagrain has acquired a minority stake in SeedCo, injecting US$60 million dollars into the southern African leader in seeds. Motul has launched its range of high quality motor lubricants on the local market. Other such ventures are in the pipeline, as demonstrated by the participation of two major French infrastructure companies, Vinci and SogeaSatom, in the Water Summit in Harare two weeks ago.
“Besides these highly visible contacts, I am pleased to share that an increasing number of small and medium-scale agreements are being signed, business to business, by French and Zimbabwean companies, as was recently the case between Baztech and Bodet Software for the distribution of time-management applications.”
French companies that have footprints in Zimbabwe include Lafarge, Total, Vinci, SamrecImerys, Bureau Veritas, SeedCo and Limagrain.Motech and Motul, AGS Frasers, Gyproc and Saint Gobain, Anchor Yeast and Lesaffre, Meteo France International and Sanofi.
“I want to point out that French investors are inspired by a long-term vision. They are not interested in deals — be they legitimate, shady or mega-deals,” Delahouse added.'