Muchinguri hails Turkey policy on Africa

The easing of COVID-19 induced travel restrictions have seen an increase in economic relations between Zimbabwe and Turkey, with significant high level visits between private and public players from the two countries.

The visits have resulted in the signing of several memoranda of understanding and agreements on cooperation in different sectors of the economy in the past two years which now await signing before they can take effect.

Through Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TİKA), Turkey is providing development assistance to Zimbabwe in various domains.

Since 1992, the countries have had strong bilateral relations which have seen the Turkish government providing scholarship’s to Zimbabwean students to study in that country.

By 1992, Turkey had provided £47 million out of the £900 million in total that the international community pledged as foreign aid to the Zimbabwe government.

Under its policy framework of ‘Opening Up to Africa’, Turkey opened its Embassy in Harare in 2011, ushering a positive effect on the bilateral relations and an increase in the frequency of high-level contacts between the two countries. This was followed by the opening of an embassy in Ankara by Zimbabwe on 3 October 2019.

By 2019, bilateral trade volume had reached US$17, 7 million, with Turkey exports reaching USD US$ 5.9 million and imports hitting US$ 11, 8 million.

Zimbabwe’s main export items are platinum, cotton, tobacco, gold, iron, textile and ready wear whereas machinery and vehicles, other finished products, chemicals, fuel and foodstuffs are the main imports.

And last week, the two countries celebrated the 40th Anniversary of their diplomatic relations, with the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Monica Mutsvangwa, stating that the people of the two nations had shown great energy and enthusiasm to exploit the vast trade, investment and tourism opportunities that existed in both countries.

Muchinguri said the opening of the Turkish Embassy in Harare in June 2011 highlighted the growing relations between the two countries, which dated back to the time of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.

She added that the development symbolized Turkey’s increased foreign policy focus on Africa through the Turkey/Africa Partnership arrangement which started with the inaugural Summit meeting that was held in 2008 in Istanbul.

“In furtherance of its policy of Engagement and Re-engagement, the new dispensation in Zimbabwe reciprocated by opening a resident Embassy in Ankara in October 2019. This gave further impetus to the already existing excellent relations between our two countries. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic which ravaged the world and destroyed economies severely curtailed diplomatic and economic interactions between countries,” she said.

She noted with satisfaction that Turkey was ready to cooperate with Zimbabwe on a mutually beneficial win-win basis, as it had done in several African countries.

Muchinguri urged business people in both countries to take advantage of the existing opportunities and synergies to strengthen economic relations whilst the two governments were still in the process of concluding the legal frameworks that would create a conducive business environment.

“I should emphasize that today all the necessary conditions have been created for expanding and deepening productive cooperation between our two countries. Our friendly relations which are based on mutual respect and beneficial partnership should continue to develop in the interests of the two countries,” she said.

Earlier this month, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to Turkey, Alfred Mutiwazuka, indicated he was working on persuading GLOBAL air passenger carrier, Turkish Airlines’ to start direct flights to Zimbabwe.

He said diplomats deployed to the country in 2009 had expressed confidence that the airline would resume the Ankara-Harare flights by December this year, with chances of also introducing flights to the resort town of Victoria Falls.

“I am engaging Turkish Airlines to fly directly to Harare.  Turkish airlines general manager in charge of sales in Africa was confident that more destinations would be opened by his organisation. He said that Turkish Airlines had suspended flights to some African cities like Maputo and Cape Town due to Covid-19 but would soon reopen the routes,” Mutiwazuka was quoted as saying.

The signing of a bilateral service agreement between Air Zimbabwe and Turkish Airlines in 2017 is expected to increase the chances of bagging the Ankara-Harare –Ankara-Victoria Falls flights deal.

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