By Kester Kenn Klomegah
Zimbabwe, among a few African countries, featured prominently at this year’s edition of the Russian International Industrial and Trade Fair during the first week of July in Ekaterinburg, a city in the Urals region about 1,700 kilometres from Moscow.
About 76 per cent of exhibitors are top managers of Russian and foreign companies, heads of regions and representatives of federal authorities.
Widely referred to as INNOPROM, it is the main industrial, trade and export platform organized annually in Russia. Due to COVID-19, about 90 countries participated in the trade fair held under the theme Flexible Manufacturing in Ekaterinburg, according to INNOPROM official website.
Industry and Commerce Minister, Dr Sekai Nzenza, headed a sizeable business delegation, including officials from the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI), Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA), Zimtrade, the CEO Roundtable, the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) and the Industrial Development Corporation of Zimbabwe (IDCZ).
Zimbabwe and Russia have an overwhelmingly close diplomatic relationship. Russia has been stepping up economic investment in Zimbabwe. Based on that friendship, Nzenza was invited by Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov who was also the fair’s main guest.
Nzenza’s office told Business Weekly that Zimbabwe had fruitful engagements with Russian companies that have expressed interest in the value addition of minerals such as tungsten, lithium and iron.
Russian firms are also keen to explore opportunities in agro-processing, phosphate, fertilizer and medical equipment as well as partnering local institutions in research and development.
There is scope for technology transfer from Russia to help retooling of local companies. Given the distance between the two countries, the perishability of fresh produce has been identified as a major impediment for growing exports to Russia, but the two countries have agreed to “work on that logistical challenge.”
Zimbabwe is currently exporting oranges to Russia and there is potential to increase exports of commodities such as garlic, ginger, macadamia, avocado, frozen fruits and vegetables as well as blueberries. Follow up meetings were held between business organizations in both countries.
She similarly told The Herald newspaper that the main focus participating at INNOPROM “is pushing Zimbabwe is open for business agenda and we are quite encouraged to participate at the fair.”
Russian companies are keen to invest in Zimbabwe’s various industries as the two countries further explore areas of economic cooperation. “The main focus is pushing Zimbabwe is open for business agenda we are quite encouraged to participate at the fair – an opportunity to meet potential Russian investors,” said Nzenza.
As Zimbabwean Ambassador to the Russian Federation, Brigadier General Mike Nicholas Sango, noted in an exclusive interview with me, Russia and Zimbabwe have put in place structures and mechanisms for sustainable economic cooperation. Although Russia’s economy is under pressure from illegal sanctions and the depressed global economic environment, it is committed to assist Zimbabwe’s economic recovery.
He highlighted his government’s key priorities and expectations from Russia as follows:
Agriculture Support: Agriculture is the economic mainstay and provides 15% of GDP. Water harnessing through dam construction, irrigation mechanization, and agricultural machinery are key areas.
Infrastructure Development: Although the country has a fairly well-developed infrastructure, the road and rail infrastructure needs refurbishment and expansion to take trade volumes for the country as well as its neighbours to the north.
Mining: Zimbabwe is endowed with abundant unexploited resources.
Manufacturing: Zimbabwe’s manufacturing sector has been hit hard by illegal economic sanctions. Most industries have outdated and expensive to run machinery. They are in dire need of retooling, refurbishment and funding.
Tourism: Zimbabwe hosts one of the wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. Investment in infrastructure development in the hotels would complement the opening by larger airports to accommodate larger body aircraft.
President Mnangagwa’s administration adopted Zimbabwe is open for business policy meant to woo investors to help revive the economy. In 2019, President Mnangagwa met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin where the two leaders agreed to deepen economic cooperation between the two countries. Russia is one of the major sources of the country’s foreign direct investment, particularly in the mining sector.
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in Southeast Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the south-west, Zambia to the north, and Mozambique to the east. The capital and largest city is Harare.
With an approximate population of 14.5 million, Zimbabwe is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources. It is one of the 16 countries, with a collective responsibility to promote socio-economic cooperation, within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) created in 1980.
World Bank Gives $300m Budget Support to Mozambique
By Kestér Kenn Klomegâh
By June, the World Bank plans to provide $300 million to support the national budget of the Republic of Mozambique, according to the World Bank country director for Mozambique, Idah Pswarayi-Riddihough.
After a meeting with the Mozambican Minister of Economy and Finance, Max Tonela, the global lender’s country director said that priority sectors would include health, education, energy and agriculture. The budget support proposal will be presented to the World Bank board by June.
“We are talking about the first instalment of 300 million dollars, which we hope to take to our administration for approval by 30 June this year. Then we can consider other windows of financing for 2023 and 2024”, said Pswarayi-Riddihough.
International organizations and financial institutions have returned after the Government of Mozambique started to undertake necessary reforms.
In April, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) also returned with a set of new funded programmes to Mozambique, six years after the lender halted its previous deals in the wake of a financial scandal involving three fraudulent security-linked companies, and two banks – Credit Suisse and VTB of Russia, on the basis of illicit loan guarantees issued by the government under former President Armando Guebuza.
Popularly referred to as the “Hidden Debts” scandal involving $2.7 billion (€2.3 million), the financial scandal happened in 2013, and the case has since left an image of a corrupt country and brought high-level government officials to testify as witnesses in the controversial judicial trial. It prompted 14 foreign donors, including IMF, to cut off aid and simultaneously sparked a currency collapse and debt crisis.
The IMF said in a report that its funds would be used to support sustainable, inclusive economic growth and long-term macroeconomic stability, in the world’s third poorest country measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. The programmes will address transparency in debt management and the natural resource sector.
Unlike many of Mozambique’s other partners, the World Bank did not cut off financial assistance entirely after the scandal of Mozambique’s “Hidden Debts” became public knowledge in April 2016. World Bank aid continued, but in relatively small amounts, project by project.
Now the bank seems prepared to return to the modality of direct budget support. Pswarayi-Riddihough said that the improvement in good governance supposedly recorded in recent years contributed to the resumption of World Bank support. She claimed that this was an important step toward regaining the trust of the country’s partners.
Major work had been undertaken around questions of transparency and good governance, she alleged – but admitted that Mozambican civil society is continuing to demand greater advances in these areas. Mozambique’s new programme with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), she added, could give a strong signal to the market. Indeed, it will send a strong signal to all of Mozambique’s partners.
The agreement between Mozambique and the IMF, approved by the IMF Executive Board, will make $456 million available to the country. An amount of $91 million will become available immediately. At the time, Tonela said the agreement with the IMF marked the start of a new phase, leading to the resumption of sustainable growth of the Mozambican economy.
With an approximate population of 30 million, Mozambique is endowed with rich and extensive natural resources but remains one of the poorest and most underdeveloped countries in the world. It is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
Adesina Seeks US Support to Fund $1.5bn Africa Food Plan
By Adedapo Adesanya
The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Mr Akinwumi Adesina, has appealed to the United States to back the institution’s $1.5 billion emergency food production plan which seeks to avert a looming food crisis in Africa caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Mr Adesina was part of a team that testified about global food insecurity and persisting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic before the US Senate subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.
Senators Chris Coons (Delaware), Lyndsey Graham (South Carolina), Dick Durbin (Illinois), Chris Van Hollen (Maryland) and Roy Blunt (Missouri) also participated in the hearing.
Senator Coons, Chair of the Senate subcommittee, stressed that the US should move fast and provide sufficient funding, saying, “We should be concerned and even alarmed about the widening food security crisis that this war is causing for hundreds of millions far beyond Eastern Europe.”
On his part, Senator Graham expressed support for the establishment of a global fund for food security.
Speaking live via videoconference from Accra, Ghana, Mr Adesina said the proposed Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would result in the rapid production of 38 million tons of food across Africa over the next two years.
“The African Development Bank, with your support, is prepared to meet this new challenge and others head-on,” he said.
He explained that the plan is anchored on the provision of certified seeds of climate-adapted varieties to 20 million African farmers and with the disruption of food supplies arising from the Russia-Ukraine war, Africa faces a shortage of at least 30 million metric tons of food, especially wheat, maize, and soybeans imported from the two countries.
Speaking further, the AfDB chief said the lender would invest $1.3 billion in the plan’s implementation and called on the US to make up the funding balance.
“With US support to reduce the $200 million financing gap – we can ensure the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan’s success,” he said.
The Africa Emergency Food Production Plan is currently before the bank’s Board of Directors for approval.
Also providing testimony were Mr David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and Ms Tjada D’Oyen McKenna, Chief Executive Officer of non-governmental organization Mercy Corps.
Ms McKenna said, “A perfect storm is leading to heightened global food insecurity, worse, much worse than the previous food crises over the past decade.” She cited the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change as factors sharpening the current food insecurity.
Mr Beasley said food insecurity had already begun to rise sharply before the war. He said 135 million people were acutely food-insecure before the onset of the pandemic. “COVID comes along and that number went from 135 million to 276 million people marching toward starvation.”
Mr Adesina, then, emphasized that the African Development Bank’s food production plan would foster the production of nutritious food rather than simply calories.
“One of the things we will be supporting through this emergency food production plan is bio-fortified foods. Sorghum fortified with iron. Nutritional supplementation is important,” he said
The bank’s president also said the AfDB was setting up meetings with international fertilizer companies to discuss ways to ensure that African farmers continued to have access to such inputs.
“If we don’t solve the fertilizer problem, we cannot solve the food problem.
According to him, the Africa Emergency Food Production Plan would have a long-term impact on Africa’s food productivity.
The initiative will “drive the structural changes in agriculture, to unleash the full potential of Africa to become a breadbasket to the world.”
Elon Musk Puts Twitter Acquisition on Hold
By Adedapo Adesanya
In a new turn of events, Elon Musk on Friday put his $44 billion deal to acquire Twitter Inc temporarily on hold.
The world’s richest man is carrying out the decision to put the Twitter acquisition on hold citing pending details in support of the calculation that spam and fake accounts indeed represent less than 5 per cent of users.
“Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users,” Mr Musk tweeted on Friday.
This latest move sent the shares of the social media company falling 18 per cent to $37.10 in premarket trading, their lowest level since he disclosed his stake in the company in early April and subsequently made a best and final offer to take it private for $54.20 per share.
Twitter had earlier this month estimated that false or spam accounts represented fewer than 5% of its monetizable daily active users during the first quarter when it recorded 229 million users who were served to advertise.
Mr Musk, a self-proclaimed free speech absolutist, had said that one of his priorities would be to remove “spam bots” from the platform.
This is the latest drama ensuing from the deal after its General Manager of Consumer, Mr Keyvon Beykpour, was relieved of his job on Thursday as part of a major shake-up in the company heralding Elon Musk’s takeover.
The disappointed Beykpour took to the social medial platform to announce the termination of his appointment and said he got the shocking message while still on paternity leave.
According to him, the CEO of Twitter, Mr Parag Agrawal asked him to leave “after letting me know that he wants to take the team in a different direction.” Mr Beykpour, says he never imagined leaving Twitter in such a manner and time.
Mr Musk has other specific plans for Twitter products like verifying users who pay for Twitter Blue subscriptions, charging for embedded tweets, and other changes designed to grow Twitter revenue and users.
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