On Monday, Ambassador Brian A. Nichols officially opened the Virtual Post Reconstruction Trade Mission to Mozambique and Zimbabwe. This was the first official U.S. government trade mission to Zimbabwe.
He paid tribute to many talented people and many businesses that can succeed working in Zimbabwe.
The Ambassador said Zimbabwe is a country with incredible untapped potential: It has more than just natural resources – it has a vibrant, friendly, educated, hardworking, English-speaking workforce that, combined with the glorious weather, makes a stunning first impression on anyone who visits.
“And the resources are here – abundant minerals and prime agricultural land. In a little while, you will hear more about the opportunities these resources and people present from our commercial team, as well as a frank overview of some of the challenges you might face. The challenges are real. The corruption and economic policies of the Robert Mugabe era caused what I can only call economic devastation. The damage done then has left scars that have distorted the economy and still impact day-to-day business.
“While I am confident this economy is set to grow in this and coming years, the key opportunity and risk for companies in Zimbabwe are tied up with one question – “When will the government follow through with the bold reforms it has promised?” That question lies at the heart of Zimbabwe’s economic future. That question also shapes the relationship between the United States and the government of Zimbabwe. While it has made efforts to re-engage us and the international community, and it has made reform progress in some areas, we have also witnessed chilling human rights abuses and repression which explain why we still maintain some restrictive policies toward the government. But we are fully engaged here as our commitment is to the people of Zimbabwe.”
The United States is by far the top donor in Zimbabwe, providing over $3.2 billion of assistance since independence to the people of Zimbabwe. It provides critical health and humanitarian assistance, as well as supporting programs to enhance democracy and governance, and promote economic growth.
It has provided over $20 million to help the country respond to COVID-19, and the United States supports global vaccine assistance through COVAX, from which Zimbabwe will benefit. The western country also supports U.S. companies in Zimbabwe.
The business practices of U.S. firms set a positive example with ripple effects throughout the economy. And American companies can advocate for reforms to improve the business climate in a way that might be even more effective than advocacy under the big banner of the U.S. government.
“Again and again, Zimbabwean leaders tell me they want to attract more American companies, and ask how to do so. I think they might listen to you. This trade mission is one of the most concrete examples of the importance we place in providing commercial services to American companies. But in just the last few years we have grown and developed our tools for commercial advocacy, including by establishing a formal Partner Post relationship with the Department of Commerce, allowing us to offer Commerce’s suite of fee-based services.”