By Patrick Musira
Intra-African trade presents and remains a focus of discussion in business and investment circles, and for industry experts this ahs proved a real challenge but “we need to put more effort in linking up our trade with neighbours rather than looking at “traditional partners”.
This came out during a Zimbabwe-Angola Business Association breakfast meeting in the capital Harare this morning, when leading government, business officials and international companies converged in Harare for the inaugural business investment platform hosted by the Zimbabwe-Angola Business Association (ZABA.)
Zimbabwe’s first black central bank governor Dr Kombo Moyana urged businesses in the region to move with the times and urged government and local business people from both countries to be committed in developing trade ties between the two Southern African countries.
“We used to be active in intra-African affairs, we were very active and as a result we formed the PTA and AfrEximbank towards that end,” said the respected former governor, going down memory lane recounting the initial zeal in the early years of independence when establishment of regional economic communities was all the rage.
“However, due to different challenges – civil war in Angola and our economic challenges here – development of our relationship was put on hold. We are working on that,” he said, adding: “We may be retired but certainly not retarded.”
After remaining lost in the wilderness for years, however, the initial zeal has come back to life this year, with Angola and Zimbabwe now moving to explore and boost business opportunities prevailing in their two countries.
The government of Zimbabwe was represented by the provincial minister of Harare Metropolitan Province, Miriam Chikukwa, and officials from the ministries of trade and industry, foreign affairs as well as Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief operating officer Givemore Chidzidzi.
In reassuring the business community, Minister Chikukwa said: “Rebuilding trade between our two neighbouring countries is key to increasing intra-African trade and investment is what our country needs. This meeting shows that our local business people have woken up to this reality.”
“Our trade volume does not do justice to our strong historical, political, cultural and regional relations. We need the two countries to explore further avenues of trade and economic co-operation as well as our private sectors to focus on opportunities that each country offers,” she emphasized.
Paul Mangwana, who led the Zimbabwe outbound team to Angola recently, told the first Angola-Zimbabwe Business Association that “although both countries are active members of the two regional economic communities – SADC and Comesa – bilateral trade between the two was negligible”.
“In addition, as partners in the promotion of greater cooperation between the two countries, we should realize our two countries respective strengths. While Angola has the money, we have the managerial skills. They have the land but no commercial farming skills, that we have here. And,” he told the gathering: “Angola is undergoing massive reconstruction – roads, buildings and anything that needs to be built. In short Angola is open for business!”
And in a clear indication of his intent, the lawyer-cum-politician-cum-businessman said ZABA, had also invited his Angolan counterpart to lead a business delegation to Harare next month to explore more business opportunities between the two countries.
“I am convinced a strong relationship is in the making and getting on board can be a springboard to finalise business deals and dream!” he emphasized, adding: “And I can assure you: It’s safer than the UK!”
An official from the Angolan embassy, Victor Cavalho, in turn said the visit had been an “encouraging and significant first step in fostering trade” and he believes “this level of trade can be easily surpassed”.
Zaba co-ordinator Josiah Dimbo said that members of his organisation are in one accord and are moving efforts to make this regional effort a dream come true by urging governments to provide an enabling environment towards this end.
According to the World Bank, Angola’s economy is rebounding after a period of relatively weak growth, with GDP expanding by an estimated 8.1 percent in 2012.
By 2012, however, a combination of high oil prices and rising production boosted GDP growth and generated a large increase in fiscal revenues, enabling the government to clear its arrears and increase public expenditures.
In 2012 the government’s fiscal position strengthened, inflation declined to single digits, and international reserves continued to accumulate.
The recovery of the oil sector allowed the government to boost public spending while maintaining a strong overall fiscal surplus, which is estimated at 8.6 percent of GDP.
Inflation fell to 9 percent, the lowest rate in more than two decades, due to declining global food prices and the efforts of the Angolan central bank (Banco Nacional de Angola—BNA) to stabilize the nominal exchange rate.