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‘We need to build confidence’

TRADE between Zimbabwe and Turkey has been slowly growing since 2019 when Harare set up its first embassy in Ankara. Zimbabwe Independent editor Faith Zaba (FZ) last week spoke to Zimbabwe Ambassador to Turkey Alfred Mutiwazuka (AM, pictured) on the side-lines of the Turkey-Africa Media Summit in Istanbul on several issues, including trade, investment and bilateral relations between Harare and Ankara. Below are excerpts of the interview:

Fact file: Alfred Mutiwazuka
  • He is a graduate of the University of Zimbabwe and post graduate student at St John’s University in the USA
  • He is a career diplomat.
  • He joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and İnternational Trade 34 years ago.
  • He has diplomatic experience and exposure having served his country at both multilateral and bilateral stations.
  •  Mutiwazuka served at the Permanent Mission of Zimbabwe at the United Nations in New York.
  •  He also represented Zimbabwe at the Board of the United Nations Development Programme and participated at other related UN institutions responsible for funds and programmes.
  • Prior to his current appointment by President Emmerson Mnangagwa as the first resident Ambassador of Zimbabwe to Turkey, he was Zimbabwe’s Consul General to Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China.
  •  As a career diplomat he has placed his country’s national interests first, ensuring that Zimbabwe is always at the top table.
  • Mutiwazuka believes that his many years of diplomatic work and experience will enable the further strengthening of bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and Turkey through increased trade and investment as well as people to people relationships.

FZ: Investment between Zimbabwe and Turkey is very low. What could be the factors behind low investment from Turkey?

AM: When His Excellency, President E.D (Emmerson Dambudzo) Mnangagwa assigned me to this mission in 2019, the volume of trade stood at US$19 million and marginally grew to US$29 million in 2020 and was US$22 million during the third quarter of 2021. The reasons for the slow increase in investments lie within the Covid-19 period and its attendant challenges. However, I foresee an improved level of bilateral trade as the Covid-19 era seems to be easing out and the lining up of several agreements between Zimbabwe and Turkey, which will spur confidence to Turkish investors and beyond.

FZ: How does the low bilateral trade impact Turkish investment into Zimbabwe?

AM: The low levels of Turkey-Zimbabwe bilateral trade is a discouragement to investment by that country’s businesspeople. They prefer to invest in countries where their goods already enjoy a good appeal. Yes, Turkish goods have an appeal in Zimbabwe because of quality and low price but I am of the view that when trade between the two countries, which increased when the embassy was opened in October 2019, will play an important role to facilitate Turkish investments in our country. Logistics has been raised as a major challenge in luring Turkish investors to Zimbabwe. İf we improve on the movement of goods, we will definitively attract Turkish businesspeople to venture into various projects in our country. A simple analysis of Turkish African ventures will show you that they have been made in coastal countries because transportation of goods is easier.

I am also engaging the Turkish Airlines to fly directly to Harare or Victoria Falls. This will facilitate easier movement of cargo, particularly fresh produce. If this happens, according to my interaction with Turkish businesspeople, they will then be able to invest in sectors, such as, agriculture in Zimbabwe.

FZ: Apart from low Turkish foreign direct investment (FDI), there has not been much trade between the two countries compared to other advanced economies. Why is it so?

AM: The landlockedness of Zimbabwe is a major challenge. However, since the opening of the embassy, trade between the two countries has been improving. There exists huge potential for Zimbabwean cotton, tobacco, hides and sculptures, which the embassy is also pursuing. Zimtrade should play a leading role in this area.

Our investment climate is actually a turn-on to Turkish investors. The coming in of the ‘New Dispensation’ has created a favourable and clear route to investment. The various legal instruments, for example, on corruption and the set-up of the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (Zida) have been welcomed by Turkish investors and I am confident that in the shortest possible time this thrust will bear fruits.

In 2016, the Foreign Economic Relation Board (DEIK) signed an agreement with our Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) to form the Turkey-Zimbabwe Business Council. That formation is playing a vital role in economic relations between the two countries.

FZ: About three years ago, a delegation from Turkish industries attended a CZI congress. We expected this to mark a turning point. Still we are waiting. Do you not think our investment climate may be pushing them away?

AM: The Covid-19 pandemic has affected plans by many companies in the world to make expansions. I am very positive that since this has subsided, Turkish companies that had shelved their plans to venture into Zimbabwe will review their decisions soon. The Turkish chapter of the Turkey-Zimbabwe Business Council is very active; however, our side seem to be dormant. Our businesspeople should be very active in their interaction with Turkish investors if we are to make progress.

FZ: What have you done to improve tourist traffic between the two countries?

AM: The Mission has worked tireless to market Zimbabwe’s tourist destinations. I have held numerous presentations on Zimbabwe regarding tourism areas in our country. My persistent contact with the Turkish Airlines is also part of that endeavour.

FZ: Talking of tourism, there was talk two or three years ago that Turkish Airlines would introduce frequencies between the two countries. You mentioned that you are engaging them, but is causing the delays?

AM: As I said I am engaging Turkish Airlines to fly directly to Harare. There are some technical issues, which the airline has raised that need to be addressed by our airport authorities.

FZ: Please elaborate on the technical issues they raised.

AM: Turkish Airlines General Manager in charge of sales in Africa was confident that more destinations would be opened by his organisation. He said that Turkish Airlines had suspended its flights to some African cities, like Maputo and Cape Town, due to Covid-19 but would soon reopen the routes. With respect to new destinations, which include Zimbabwe, he informed us that Turkish Airlines was purchasing new long haul aircraft like the A350, which will allow the airline to service additional new routes. The delay in flying to Zimbabwe lies in the few aircrafts currently available to service current routes but the solution would be the acquisition of new aircrafts in the near future.

FZ: What lessons have you learnt from your stay here, which Zimbabwe can implement to grow the economy.

AM: Most Turkish businesses are family owned and trust among the families is of paramount importance. Additionally, sharing business information, which the Turkish people have embraced, is good for a developing society. I would encourage our people to do the same.

Consistency in policy pronouncements and implementation are key to building confidence and trust between Turkish investors and Zimbabwe businesspeople. Also, the Turkish economy was built from local resources including its people, which resonates very well with our President’s mantra ‘nyika inovakwa neve vayo’. Our own resources, patriotism and resilience will drive and realise Vision 2030. It is also important to increase the frequency of high level governmental visits to and from Zimbabwe in order to build confidence with our Turkish partners.

FZ:  There is a drive back home to develop home grown firms through small to medium enterprises (SMEs). Is it the same here?

AM: SMEs are the current drivers of economic growth. Turkey has embraced development of SMEs and there are various incentives for their development. Zimbabwe can learn from Turkish experiences in that regard. SMEs can make tailor-made products, which can have a ready market.

FZ: What are the advantages of this strategy, based on your experience here?

AM: SMEs are simple to form and maintain and the fact that there exist incentives for their development means any possible entrepreneur regardless of education can form them.

FZ: As you engage Turkish investors, what is the general sentiment on Zimbabwe?

AM: Turkish people are willing to come and scout for investment opportunities in Zimbabwe. However, the lack of legal frameworks such as agreements or MoUs on certain areas of cooperation is a discouragement towards them investing in our country. The peace prevailing in the country and openness in investment laws have helped in making Turkish businesspeople make decisions. Of course H.E. President E.D. Mnangagwa is regarded highly by both the Turkish government and the Turkish people.

FZ:  What challenges do you face in promoting economic diplomacy?

AM: The Covid-19 pandemic restrictions provided numerous challenges in our interaction with possible investors. A number of visits were cancelled. However, I am still pursuing revival of such business scouting missions and am positive that they will be realised this year. The mission has been well resourced in both human and material so we are going full throttle in our economic engagements and re-engagements. I have no doubt that we will make our country proud by bringing Turkish investments to Zimbabwe.

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