By Joyce Mukucha and Byron Mutingwende
Zimbabwe and Rwanda are working tirelessly on strengthening their business ties within the context of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and the Joint Permanent Commission of Co-operation.
The bilateral relations will see the two countries co-operating in various areas that include ease of doing business, investment, mining, higher and tertiary education, agriculture, tourism, and the ICT among others as both countries are set to widen economic cooperation during the Zimbabwe-Rwanda Trade Conference scheduled to be hosted in March this year in Kigali.
Speaking at the launch of the Zimbabwe-Rwanda trade and investment conference in Harare on the 22nd of January 2020, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Honourable Dr David Musabayana said in line with the AfCFTA which seeks to increase trade between African countries, the conference will enable Zimbabwean businesses to explore and identify investment opportunities in Rwanda’s different comparative and competitive sectors.
“The scheduled conference takes place at a time when the cordial political and economic relations between Zimbabwe and Rwanda are beginning to deepen following the decision by the two Heads of State and Government, President Mnangagwa and President Kagame, to set up Diplomatic Missions in the respective capitals.
“Through these bilateral engagements, opportunities and ways to boost economic cooperation will be identified for implementation. For instance, the two countries can co-operate in Higher and Tertiary Education, Science, Innovation and Technology Development. Zimbabwe skilled teachers could be deployed to work in Rwanda under some framework of cooperation that can be mutually agreed to. Cooperation in the area of tertiary education could also involve the enrolment of students from Rwanda at institutions of higher learn,”said Dr Musabayana.
Dr Musabayana also urged the business people and traders to take advantage of this stronger cooperation and exploit vast trade and investment opportunities readily available in the two countries.
The private sector has been encouraged to play its part and engage in viable business ventures for mutual benefit of both countries.
“Zimbabwean business people are encouraged to scout for investment opportunities in Rwanda and establish commercial presence in that country like other countries are doing. Allow me to conclude by assuring Government of Zimbabwe’s commitment to facilitate economic cooperation with the Government of Rwanda. The private sector should make use of the Embassies that have been established to advance their business interests,” he said.
The Rwanda Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James Musoni pointed out that the two countries could work together to develop joint tourism packages linking the various tourist attractions in Zimbabwe and Rwanda. Tourism is a fast growing sector in Zimbabwe and Rwanda becoming the two countries’ leading foreign currency earner.
On the trade front, trade between Zimbabwe and Rwanda is currently negligible with total trade peaking at merely US$156,000 in 2018 from US$6,000 in 2011. Zimbabwe exports to Rwanda increased from US$6,000 in 2011 to just US$90,000 in 2014 before tumbling to US$4,000 in 2018. During the same period, Zimbabwe’s imports from Rwanda increased from a paltry US$1,000 in 2013 to US$18,000 in 2015 and to US$152,000 in 2018.
Rwanda is one of only countries alongside DRC in which mountain gorillas can be safely sighted and visitors pay high prices for gorilla tracking permits.
Zimbabwe and Rwanda are both signatories to The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) which means both countries stand to benefit through zero customs tariffs on goods traded.
Rwanda has experienced sustained high growth over the years and is fast becoming the jewel of Africa , with an average of seven percent year-on-tear real GDP growth rate since 2010. With a population of 12. 6 million people and GDP of US$9. 5 billion , Rwanda has a rapidly growing middle class.
In his opening remarks, ZimTrade Chief Executive Officer, Mr Allan Majuru said, “With the AfCFTA coming into force in July this year, this event comes at an opportune time to foster close and peaceful relations,