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President Mnangagwa’s Davos trip
helps rebrand Zimbabwe: analysts

By Tichaona Chifamba HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s recent trip to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, has been widely hailed as a great success with Zimbabwe sloughing off the pariah state tag and assuming that of a state undergoing rebirth and full of opportunities.

Mnangagwa attended the 48th edition of the WEF from Jan. 23 to 26 and met several high profile leaders in finance, business and politics and the European Union.

Analysts say a lot of international goodwill was created by the trip, the first by a Zimbabwean head of state, amid high expectations that the country could return to its former glory days as the “jewel of Africa.”

University of Zimbabwe political science professor Charity Manyeruke said the immediate success of the Davos trip had to do with the country’s image in terms of its willingness to reengage with the international community.

The invitation for Mnangagwa to attend the forum had shown international interest in Zimbabwe and was also a confirmation that the country was part of the international community, she added.

“Also his engagements with international institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) showed that Zimbabwe wanted to be part of the global economic community.

Mnangagwa held discussions with IMF managing director Christine Lagarde and World Bank chief executive officer Kristalina Georgieva, following which the IMF issued a statement, saying that it welcomed his commitment to stabilize the economy.

“Zimbabwe is also sending a message of opening up to the international community and he has boosted investor confidence by saying that foreign investments will be protected. So therefore it makes Zimbabwe an important investment destination,” Manyeruke said.

Mnangagwa also met African Development Bank president Akunumwi Adesina who said he had commended him for the reforms he had already put in place.

State-run The Herald newspaper reported that a high-level delegation would travel to Harare, capital of Zimbabwe soon for talks with the government, with the resolution of Zimbabwe’s external debt arrears among the issues to be discussed.

Manyeruke added that Mnangagwa’s assurances on governance issues and the fight against corruption were also important in boosting the confidence of the international community, since under former President Robert Mugabe’s government many cases involving corruption had been ignored.

The announcement that elections would be held this year and that the international community would be allowed to observe them also gave confidence that the government was intent on improving governance.

Economist and former president of the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce Luckson Zembe said Mnangagwa had scored points on a number of issues.

“First, the presence itself of the President created an opportunity to present the Zimbabwean story and re-engage with the international community. Meetings with other leaders were also positive and now we have the United Kingdom responding positively and sending the prime minister’s representative to come and engage with Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mnangagwa said on Tuesday that he expected to meet Prime Minister Theresa May’s special envoy during the first week of February to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the economy and Zimbabwe’s possible return to the Commonwealth which it left in 2003 over sharp differences involving land.

Zembe also acknowledged the European Union’s interest in supporting Zimbabwe and trying to resolve all outstanding issues.

“The intentions of the Zimbabwean government were well marketed. What is now key is implementation and putting in policies and follow-ups that buttress those intentions. Can we now see real issues on the ground in terms of policies.

“Once we have appropriate policies implemented and impediments removed then we will move from intentions to action. He has sold the country very well but we must move from the international community saying ‘this sounds good’ to saying ‘this is good’,” Zembe said.

He added that the holding of free and fair elections would go a long way in assuring the international community that the country was serious about good governance and democracy.

Political commentator Tichaona Muchapera said Zimbabwe was back on the mainstream narrative not as a pariah state but a state under rebirth as shown by Mnangagwa’s meetings with global leaders.

He added that Mnangagwa had “brought a bag of hope, but empty on detail, time frame and implementation,” although he managed to reconnect with the global power players.

“His appearance on CNN, BBC, online and other outlets as platforms of re-engagement was a publicity coup and created international goodwill, but that goodwill has to be reciprocated by real reforms,” Muchapera said.

The Davos trip, which was Mnangagwa’s first outside Africa since taking over from Mugabe in Nov. 2017, has raised expectations among Zimbabweans that the warmth that surrounded him among global leaders will translate into substantive action and spur economic growth.

Speaking about the trip on social media, Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was once again being regarded as a member of the international community.

He said he was received with warmth and excitement by leaders from across the globe, a real sign that Zimbabwe’s isolation from the family of international nations was over.

“Once again we are a respected country, and global investors are genuinely curious about opportunities in the new Zimbabwe. Make no mistake—the interest in investment opportunities is exploding.

“And my message to global leaders was simple: Zimbabwe is open for business. I set out my vision of a Zimbabwe with a thriving and open economy, with jobs for its youth and opportunities for investors,” Mnangagwa said on his Facebook page.


IMF says to resume lending to Zimbabwe once
it clears debt with other multilateral creditors

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Friday it will only start lending to Zimbabwe once it clears its arrears to other multilateral creditors which include the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

It however, called for concerted international effort coupled with robust local economic reforms to revive and re-integrate Zimbabwe into the global economy.

While noting that the IMF and Zimbabwe’s ties had been evolving in a positive way for some months now, the multilateral creditor insisted that Zimbabwe will need to clear its debt to other international financiers first before it can resume lending.

"We have normalized our relationship in terms of their arrears to the IMF, but they still have a significant debt overhang problem with other international financial institutions and other official creditors.

"So it’s an issue that has to be addressed.

"There has to be an arrears clearance process and a clear strategy for clearing those arrears with other creditors and that also has to be factored in to their ability, their sustainability over time," said William Murray, an official with the IMF communications department.

Zimbabwe owes the World Bank 1.15 billion U.S. dollars, 601 million dollars to the African Development Bank and over 3 billion dollars the Paris Club, among other creditors.

The debt ridden country in 2016 cleared its 108 million U.S. dollars arrears to the IMF.

It has not been receiving concessionary loans from the multilateral financial institution since 2001 when it started defaulting.

Murray said Zimbabwe’s economy faces severe challenges including an unsustainable fiscal deficit which has led to severe liquidity shortages, created inflationary pressures, and threatened the viability of the financial sector and Zimbabwe’s exchange rate regime.

The Zimbabwean economy has suffered years of international isolation after the West imposed sanctions on the country at the turn of the millennium.

But with the advent of a new administration led by President Emerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe has begun taking steps to re-integrate with the global community.

Last month, President Mnangagwa became the first President from Zimbabwe to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland where he met several global business leaders including IMF managing director Christine Lagarde.

Murray said restoring growth in Zimbabwe will require concerted efforts to tackle the fiscal deficit including through rationalizing and better targeting the expense of agricultural support programs.

These efforts should be complemented by structural reforms to strengthen the role of the private sector by improving the business climate and reducing policy uncertainty, he said.


EU provides 17 mln USD to strengthen Zimbabwe’s judiciary system

HARARE Zimbabwe (Xinhua) -- The European Union (EU) has provided 17 million U.S. dollars to Zimbabwe to help strengthen the country’s judiciary system and rule of law.

The assistance comes after the EU recently pledged to support Zimbabwe’s new administration led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa after years of frosty ties.

The funding will go to various stakeholders in the justice sector that include the Judicial Service Commission, Law Society of Zimbabwe, Legal Resources Foundation, the Ministry of Justice and the Chief’s Council.

“The projects we launch today are starting at an opportune time. The ongoing political transition presents a hopefully favorable environment for intensifying justice sector reforms,” the EU’s ambassador to Zimbabwe Phillipe Van Damme was quoted as saying by the state-run Herald newspaper on Wednesday.

In a statement at the end of its Council meeting in Brussels last week, the EU reiterated its commitment to engaging constructively with the new Zimbabwe government.

It also welcomed the stated intention of the Zimbabwean authorities to deliver economic reforms aimed at supporting job creation, growth and sustainable long-term development.

“The EU stands ready to review the whole range of its policies towards Zimbabwe at any moment to take into account the progress achieved in the country.

“In this context, the EU will support the authorities in establishing as soon as possible a constructive re-engagement with international financial institutions based on a clear and time-bound economic and political reform program.” the EU said. 



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