By Happiness Zengeni
President Mnangagwa returns home after a successful trip during which he held fruitful high-level meetings with renowned businesspeople, directors of multilateral institutions and political leaders in Switzerland and Ethiopia. The President first attended the 48th edition of the World Economic Forum from January 23 to 26, marking his first trip out of Africa and capped the roundtrip with a stopover in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the 30th African Union Summit.
President Mnangagwa used the opportunity of the AU Summit to apprise leaders of the continental body of the political developments back home that saw him ascend to power through a peaceful transition in November last year.
While in Switzerland, the President held fruitful discussions with Swiss leader Allain Berset and made a plea for European countries to consider investments in various sectors mainly manufacturing and agriculture value chains. President Mnangagwa also held successful high level meetings with global businessmen including the United Kingdom-based Swiss billionaire, Urs Shwazernbach.
Shwazernbach is estimated to be worth about $2 billion. Another major highlight of his engagements in Switzerland was the endorsement his Government received from the European continental body. European Union commissioner for international cooperation and development Neven Mimica, after meeting President Mnangagwa, said the EU supports ongoing reforms and efforts.
“A new era is opening up (in Zimbabwe) and the EU will support ongoing reforms and efforts. We look forward to visiting the country in April,” said Mimica. In all instances that the President briefed businesspeople, investors and political leaders about Zimbabwe, he emphasised Zimbabwe’s commitment to reintegrate into the global community after years of isolation; reform its policies to attract foreign investment and grow the economy.
In Addis Ababa, President Mnangagwa told fellow African leaders of his gratitude over their support on the political transition that took place last year and assured them of his commitment to cooperate with all nations.
President Mnangagwa is among a new crop of African leaders who recently became Heads of State and Government in their respective countries, including Liberia President George Weah and Angola’s Joao Lourenco. The AU summit saw Rwanda President Paul Kagame, taking over as AU chairman from Guinea’s President Alpha Conde.
President Kagame’s first speech as AU chairperson highlighted the urgency of changing from old ways of running the continent, noting that time was running out for nations to save themselves from deprivation. “Africa’s defining challenge is to create a pathway to prosperity for our people, especially young people. Elsewhere this has been achieved through industrialisation. But the growth trajectory that transformed Asia is no longer a viable option for Africa.
“We waited too long to act,” he said. Among the options to avoid deprivation he cited creation of a single continental market, infrastructure integration and adoption of technology within economies.
“Technology has evolved so rapidly in recent years that Africa’s window to follow that strategy is narrowing much more rapidly than previously understood. We are running out of time, but we must act now to save Africa from permanent deprivation,” the Rwanda President said.
President Kagame also commended the steps and progress made by the AU to integrate the continent and break long existing barriers such as the Single African Air Transport Market to be launched by the AU soon.
He called for speedy adoption of the Continental Free Trade Area, which is likely to be ready in the course of the year and adoption of self-financing measures to break away from the age old narrative that Africa was a burden to global economies.