The high level visit to Guinea this week by Vice President Kembo Mohadi, which saw fruitful engagements with a number of Heads of State and Government in keeping with the engagement and re-engagement drive, was an eye-opener.
Bilateral engagements which attract investment have potential to assist Zimbabwe’s agenda to attain an upper middle income economy by 2030 and bolster national efforts to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), which swings into action from next month.
VP Mohadi’s engagements in Guinea gave a hint of the amount of work Zimbabwe should put in a push for economic transformation.
He admitted on arrival back home that the visit was “an eye-opener”, and pledged to follow-up on the potential deals that could be derived from the crucial engagements.
The VP’s two-hour meeting with host President, Professor Alpha Conde, is indicative of the extent to which the two countries’ relations can go if responsible ministries put their act together.
“It was a fruitful trip and an eye-opener,” said VP Mohadi. “We managed to meet a number of Heads of State and Government and discussed a number of issues. I am very happy with the re-engagement efforts. It is always good to engage and re-engage, especially within Africa.”
From VP Mohadi’s visit, there were three major takeaways; Zimbabwe badly needs to process its Ambassador to Senegal, Mr James Maridadi’s accreditation so that he is able to represent the country in Guinea, Gabon and Mali; there is need to aggressively market tourist attractions in the country, including the Victoria Falls, which is relatively unknown in large parts of West Africa; and all bilateral agreements signed must be followed through.
Mr Maridadi has multiple ambassadorial postings — Senegal, Gabon, Mali and Guinea. He has already been accredited in Dakar, but is yet to present his papers in the other countries. This means he has challenges working in the other three countries.
Of course, Ambassador Maridadi had lined-up memoranda of understanding (MoU) with Guinea in the areas of language, animal and crop husbandry.
The MoUs could have been signed by now, but were blocked by the devastating Covid-19, which had affected 13 474 people, 12 727 recovered and 80 deaths by yesterday in Guinea.
VP Mohadi also met Gabonese Prime Minister, Rose Christiane Raponda, who indicated that it was critical for Zimbabwe to be represented in Libreville for engagements to be swift.
And if Zimbabwe penetrates the Gabonese market, it will generate more revenue from the exports of agricultural products, including beef. Presently, Gabon imports some agricultural produce from France and other countries.
The country is endowed with manganese, gold and iron ore and is believed to also hold a range of other base and rare earth minerals, including niobium, titanium, copper and diamonds.
Gabon is also into oil and timber, all of which present opportunities for Zimbabwe.
VP Mohadi said he felt it was important that Harare expressed its willingness to have some cooperation with Gabon, and he agreed with Prime Minister Raponda to work on cooperation and come up with some sort of memorandum of understanding. The story is the same with Senegal, Mali and Guinea, where huge opportunities to cooperate exist.
The interaction between VP Mohadi and Angolan VP Bornito de Sousa Baltazar Diogo, showed that while some cooperation agreements have been signed, there was need to ensure they were followed.
From as far back as 2004, agreements with Angola have been signed covering communication, security cooperation in 2007, indicating that relations between the two have been cordial for a long time.
However, as VP Mohadi conceded that very few agreements had been activated and “we want to activate them”.
Aggressive marketing of tourist attractions
Zimbabwe’s marquee tourist attraction is the Victoria Falls, but news that many people in West Africa are unaware that the attraction is in Zimbabwe is shocking.
There is a freshly refurbished Victoria Falls International Airport to the tune of US$150 million, with a 4km runway, potential to handle 1,6 million passengers per year and potential to handle wide-bodied, long-haul aircraft such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A330.
This demands responsible authorities to deepen efforts to market the country’s tourist attractions with renewed vigour.