Saturday, November 05, 2016

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Zimbabwe-South Africa Bi-National Commission Tonic for Economic Growth
November 4, 2016
Opinion & Analysis
Zimbabwe Herald

ZIMBABWE and South Africa entered an historic chapter in their cordial relations after their Heads of State and Government agreed to set up a joint trade and investment committee by March next year.We believe this development is only going to make Zimbabwe and South Africa even stronger and closer friends for the socio-economic and political benefit of their good citizens.

Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said the new engagement platform that Zimbabwe and South Africa established to cement their relations should deliver tangible results to show the level of commitment and seriousness in deepening ties.

For this reason we applaud the launch of the inaugural session of the Bi-National Commission Summit co-chaired by President Mugabe and his counterpart Jacob Zuma, as a positive development for the two nations.

The two Southern African countries have strong historical ties dating back to the period of their struggles for independence, bolstered when SA gained independence in 1994.

Zimbabwe and South Africa, apart from geographic proximity and close cultural ties, have strong trade and economic relations, which are important and cannot be ignored.

We believe it was in recognition of the critically important strong and cordial relations in trade and investment, not to mention the political sphere that Zimbabwe and South Africa have decided to take economic cooperation to higher levels.

To put things into perspective, about 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s exports go to South Africa, while the country procures an estimated 40 percent of its imports from its neighbour.

Apart from the strong trade, economic and investment ties, backed by several bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding, Zimbabwe represents a key trade corridor for South Africa to and from the rest of the African continent.

As such, the need to continuously nurture or take stock of the growing cordial relations between Zimbabwe and SA cannot be overemphasised, cognisant of the fact that serious socio-economic or political problems in one can, somehow, affect the other

Importantly too, millions of Zimbabweans work and reside in South Africa, which further underlines the importance of strengthening what many believe are already cordial relations.

Targeted milestones under the BNC include strengthening bilateral cooperation in trade, investment, finance, health, education, training, women and gender, sport and recreation, mining, tourism, energy, transport, infrastructure development, information communication technology, science and technology, tourism, immigration, defence and security.

The neighbouring countries stand to reap huge economic and trade benefits if their commitment to cooperate in various spheres, is followed or implemented as has been envisaged.

BNC also called for enhanced cooperation in agriculture, food security, housing and small to medium enterprise or small, medium and micro enterprise development, a source of livelihood for many people from the two neighbouring states.

The Heads of State and Government emphasised the importance of business to business interaction and the promotion of Public-Private Partnerships and joint ventures, a critical step to promoting intra-regional and intra-African trade and investment.

President Mugabe and President Zuma must also be applauded for not being shortsighted to the extent of seeking cooperation only between their neighbouring countries, but for promoting regional integration and development of Sadc.

To that end they called for further progress in the implementation of the Sadc Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap.

In this context they looked forward to the adoption of the Costed Action Plan for the implementation of the Strategy and Roadmap for industrialisation of the region at the Sadc Extraordinary Summit to be held next year.

Admittedly, with the knowledge that international capital favours huge markets with big populations, the coming together of Zimbabwe and South Africa will be noticed globally.

Big conglomerates worldwide will be comfortable investing in a region with close cooperation and critically so in nations that are working together for economic development.

Zimbabwe could benefit from spin-offs from big business investments in South Africa as, in some cases, we possess certain attributes that our neighbours may not have or be competitive.

However, we must be organised as a country to fully benefit from this cooperation. Usually there is a tendency for selfishness and self-centredness where some investors want to go it alone.

Cross-nation investment usually require heavy capital outlay, which is best raised by the coming together of investors in one sector.

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