Zimbabwe at one time had more than 400 British companies operating in the country, but the United Kingdom is now facing increasing competition from China, now the world’s second largest economy.
Russia is also intending to set its foothold in the continent and President Emmerson Mnangagwa is going to Moscow on a State visit next month.
The office was opened by the Department for International Trade and is headed by Tom Hill.
Hill moved to Harare last month. He previously led the creation of the UK government’s new and much-anticipated export strategy.
Hill speaks to the Global Trade Review about his government’s decision to set up an office in Harare.
GTR: Why is DIT setting up an office in Zimbabwe now?
Hill: Africa is an increasingly important continent to the UK’s prosperity and security interests. We are expanding our footprint across the continent to respond to the demand we see for UK goods and services as well as to deliver on the prime minister’s ambition for the UK to be the largest G7 investor in Africa by 2022. We are seeing a significant uptick in interest in Zimbabwe, including at the recent GTR Southern Africa Trade & Infrastructure Conference in November, and we wish to ensure we are doing all we can to support this interest, whilst also supporting the UK government’s wider commitment to supporting sustainable economic growth and wider political reform in Zimbabwe.
GTR: What will be the remit of the new office?
Hill: We will work to protect and facilitate UK investment into Zimbabwe and advocate for changes to the business environment to unlock further trade and investment. We will also work to develop local export capability to create more markets for UK goods and services in the long-term, positioning the UK as the partner of choice for Zimbabwe. On this point we are working closely with the likes of ZimTrade to create more export opportunities for Zimbabwean business in sectors such as agri-business, and are working to build the brand of Zimbabwean produce in the UK. We are also working with partners in the UK government, such as the Department for International Development and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, to ensure that efforts to support Zimbabwe’s macro-economic recovery are aligned with support for UK business overseas.
GTR: Is trade finance support from the UK government available for Zimbabwe?
Hill: UK Export Finance does not currently provide cover for Zimbabwe. Country cover will continue to be assessed.