In the nearly seven months that Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been in charge, he has battled to turn around a battered economy and match the high expectations of ordinary citizens at home.
Abroad, however, Mnangagwa has scored a significant victory – a thaw in relations with Britain.
Relations between Harare and London, which have been frosty for the past 20 years, are at a new high.
The falling-out between the two countries was sparked by a disagreement in 1997 on land compensation.
Last week, Mnangagwa hosted a 22-member British delegation from Invest Africa, a London-based firm representing 21 organisations in mining, tourism, infrastructure and energy.
Robert Hersov, the chairman and CEO of Invest Africa, said the mood was positive among investors and it was always “better to get in early” before the rush of capital.
Mnangagwa said he had informed the investors that this was a record delegation for his time in government, which he entered in 1980.
“It is almost 38 years now. I have never seen such a huge delegation, very diverse, very global, coming together to little Zimbabwe in Southern Africa,” he said.
The British companies that have operations in Zimbabwe include Standard Chartered Bank, Atlas Mara’s Banc ABC unit, British Airways, Anglo-American and cigarette manufacturer British American Tobacco.
Farhad Nathoo, CEO of the British Business Association in Zimbabwe, said although business still faced challenges such as foreign currency shortages, there had been renewed interest in Zimbabwe lately from Britain.
“The climate has changed and Zimbabwe is now the place to come and have a look. It’s not only delegations that are coming in, but we are receiving emails and calls from investors keen to find out [more about the country].
“The interest is in mining, agriculture and infrastructure. There are lots of engineering firms watching to see what tenders are coming out as the government wants to revive infrastructure across the country,” he said.
The mending of relations with London appears to be a key concern for Mnangagwa and is a departure from the frosty relations under his predecessor, Robert Mugabe.
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