GERMANY has taken the initiative to renew bilateral ties with Zimbabwe after it dispatched a high-powered delegation to Harare in the past week to open discussions aimed at opening a new chapter on trade and investment, it has emerged.
Relations between the two countries soured at the turn of the millennium after government’s chaotic and violent land reform programme which violated bilateral investment promotion and protection agreements and sparked an international outcry over human rights violations.
Zimbabwe also owes the European economic powerhouse, which is the world’s third-largest economy, US$550 million. The debt has prevented the country from accessing fresh lines of credit as well as bilateral lending.
Germany is a member of the European Union (EU) which imposed sanctions on Harare but the bloc has softened the trade embargo incrementally in recent years.
The improved bilateral ties will also enable both countries to renew exchange programmes in the fields of development and trade as well as enhance private sector investment.
The German delegation, led by the head of division for Southern Africa in the German Federal Ministry of Economic Co-operation and Development, Alois Schneider, left the country on Monday after holding talks with senior government officials as well as members of civil society.
The delegation also included senior officials from the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the German government-owned development bank, KfW Entwicklungs.
GIZ is a German development agency headquartered in Bonn and Eschborn that provides services in the field of international cooperation, while KfW Entwicklungs Bank addresses a variety of development goals set by the German government, including water supply and sanitation, renewable energy and energy efficiency, as well as the development of the financial sector. KfW Development Bank also works, among other sectors, in health, education, agriculture, forestry, and solid waste management.
Germany’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Thorsten Hutter, confirmed the development in an interview with the Zimbabwe Independent this week, saying the delegation would present its report to the German parliament for recommendations on the way forward.
“The delegation was in Zimbabwe from 29 November until December 3 2018. On the government side, there were meetings with Ambassador Stuart Comberbach, the special envoy of the minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade for re-engagement as well as the permanent secretary in the ministry of Finance, George Guvamatanga. In addition they met with representatives from the UN, IMF, World Bank as well as development partners and NGO representatives. The purpose of the visit was to explore areas of potential future bilateral development cooperation between our two governments,” Hutter said.
“The delegation was briefed by representatives of the Government of Zimbabwe on the budget as well as on political and economic reform measures the government wants to implement. In a joint meeting with several line ministries on 03 December potential areas of bilateral cooperation were presented by Zimbabwean government officials. The two sides agreed to continue this discussion in the coming weeks and months.
“The visit of the German delegation to Zimbabwe underlines the willingness of the government of the Federal Republic of Germany to re-engage with the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Both sides are aware of the fact that the debt owed to Germany as well as the need to implement political and economic reforms are important issues that need to be resolved before formal government consultations on the resumption of development cooperation may take place.
“As such, the German delegation will brief the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the German Ministry of Finance on the results of this visit.
Once the potential areas of cooperation have been informally agreed, it will also be necessary to inform the German Federal Parliament which needs to approve the potential resumption of official development co-operation.”
Hutter said the talks could possibly lead to considerations for future bilateral lending to Harare.
“Bilateral lending may be part of the agreement between our two governments; however, KfW by law is not allowed to offer new loans as long as arrears are not cleared. Therefore, it is imperative that the IMF and its shareholders, as well as the members of the Paris Club, have a positive assessment of the reform efforts by the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe. The implementation of reforms, therefore, is important to create confidence,” he said.