Victoria Ruzvidzo In Focus
Africa has a propensity to shoot itself in the foot, to talk itself down and to play into the hands of the enemy, so to speak.
The continent often does this with such precision, it is amazing.
This was exhibited at the World Economic Forum on Africa currently under way in Durban, South Africa, when countries such as Zimbabwe were labelled fragile states.
But thank God, a pan-African in the mould of President Mugabe came to the rescue and vehemently dismissed this notion. He was in his element as always. Former African Development Bank president Donald Kaberuka also weighed in with his views, educating the audience that there was nothing called a fragile state but that a state of fragility existed in every country in the world.
While it appeared progressive for the issue to have been allocated an hour of discussion as a seemingly innocent way of finding solutions for the “fragile countries”, it was unfortunate that it had escaped many that every country is fragile in one aspect or the other, hence more time would be required to dissect all 54 African countries one by one without necessarily pin-pointing a few. The rest of the world would require similar attention.
The plenary session titled “Eye on Fragile States” drew a large crowd as delegates sought to hear out the solutions for the so-called fragile states.
The 2016 Fragile States Index listed Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Somalia, South Sudan, Niger and Zimbabwe as the most fragile countries that present so many headaches for the continent.
This did not go down well with many. It’s a grading system that is very harmful to the Zimbabwean brand.
We shall certainly not sound unreal or naïve and pretend that we have no problems in our country, but we refuse to be labelled a fragile state.
Yes, pockets of fragility exist in one sphere and the other as with every country. The most blissful of countries have challenges that they still have to contend with. Even those that have the highest economic growth rates and foreign currency reserves in their trillions still have fragility challenges to deal with.
And the President couldn’t have said it better:
“We are not a poor country and we can’t be fragile with all the resources we have. If someone wants to call us fragile, they are free to do so. I can call America fragile. They went on their knees to get help and they got it . . . some of their companies,” he said yesterday, much to the amusement of the delegates who included four Cabinet Ministers from Zimbabwe: Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Industry Ministry Bimha and Macro Economic Planning and Investment Promotion Minister Obert Mpofu.
Presidential spokesman and secretary for Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Cde George Charamba was among the Zimbabwean delegates.
Private sector representatives included Old Mutual head of emerging markets Mr Jonas Mushosho, US-based Harvard scholar and young global leader Farai Gundani, TV personality and entrepreneur Vimbai Kajese and many others who were helping put Zimbabwe on the world map.
But what we must be more seized with as a country is to improve our brand. How do we find ourselves on funny lists all the time? Is it politics playing out? Are our detractors getting an upper hand? Where are we when all this is happening?
We are always shell-shocked when we find ourselves on funny ratings but it’s about time we pre-empted this by feeding the market with what this country is about. When did we last do regional or international tours to brand Zimbabwe and disabuse the world of the wrong information and exaggerations that it has been bombarded with for too long?
I am sure there is so much we can do to change the negative, if not toxic perception the world has about our beautiful country.
Again we are not trying to camouflage our challenges, but we are putting everything in the right perspective. There is so much untruth about Zimbabwe in the global space, while some challenges are exaggerated to a very large extent, it’s harmful.
We speak about attracting foreign investment, international tourists and other such to boost our economy, but very little will come our way if we remain passive when the world is being fed lies and half-truths about our country.
Of course some efforts have been made in branding Zimbabwe but it is not enough. The Government and the private sector will need to become more aggressive in their endeavour to endear the world. We need something that is constantly speaking to the world about this country until the globe realises that Zimbabwe is a country full of potential, richly endowed with natural resources which are an envy of many.
What we need are partners to exploit these and also efforts to capacitate local investors to engage in more meaningful activities to excavate the immense wealth resident under the ground we walk on.
We appear to be making strides somewhat. Zimbabwe’s attendance at the World Economic Forum this year is highly commendable. We have the President himself attending and four whole Cabinet ministers within the economic cluster for the first time in a long time.
It’s a vast improvement from last year, when not a single minister attended such an important gathering, where at least 1 000 people from 100 countries from government, the private sector and civil society, among others, meet to deliberate on strategies to better the continent.
With the world increasingly becomingly a global village, Zimbabwe needs to be seen in the mix of things.
The country must be represented at such forums where decisions are made and deals struck between development partners, private enterprise and even government to government.
It would be sad were Zimbabwe to miss such an opportunity to network and fly back home with a few million-dollar deals in the briefcase.
We need to maximise on such platforms. For instance, yesterday President Mugabe managed to dispel the fragile state label and enlightened delegates of Zimbabwe’s current state and the potential that exists in this country.
Certainly, there are positives to be expected from this. I am sure the ministers in the line up and even the local journalists who attended will attest to the fact that Zimbabwe benefited from its presence at WEF Africa 2017.
The sharing of knowledge and information will obviously leave the southern African country in better stead.
South Africa is Zimbabwe’s largest partner and we would not be far from the truth to say bilateral discussions were held to explore more synergies and how the two can take their relationship to the next level.
Zimbabwe is a special country that cannot be ignored hence its presence at such forums will surely bear fruit.
I am always amazed and excited when fellow journalists and other people lighten up when they hear we are from Zimbabwe.
It’s a country they hear so much about. It’s a country they love so much, it’s a country where both friend and foe are fixated on.
We need to ride on the attention and tell our story to the world. It would not be harmful to undertake public relations campaigns and international roadshows that will rebrand our country as we move to the next level in our revival strategies.
We need to counter the negative and cheap talk with facts and figures that give a true picture of who we really are.
While we are at it, it would also be progressive to attend to the pockets of fragility that include unemployment, corruption, crime, poor infrastructure, exclusive growth and other socio-economic challenges obtaining in the country.
That would really be nice.
This would also make it easier for proponents of progress to have more positive aspects to speak on. Successes in the Command Agriculture initiatives have induced positive sentiment and boosted confidence, a currency needed to take the country forward.
Let’s run with it, even literally if we have to.
In God I trust!