Past is past: Joy as UK ambassador Peter Vowles delivers sweet news to ED Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe


UNITED Kingdom Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Peter Vowles, has said the historic frosty relations between London and Harare are over as the two countries are now working towards restoring and strengthening bilateral ties.

Charmed by the Second Republic’s economic diplomacy-focused engagement and re-engagement drive, the UK envoy has expressed his country’s commitment to improving the two countries’ bilateral relations.

Despite the continued imposition of illegal Western sanctions over the Land Reform Programme at the turn of the millennium, President Mnangagwa has, since coming into power in 2017, declared that “Zimbabwe is open for business”, and reiterated his administration’s commitment to mending and expanding cordial relations with the global community of nations.

This has seen the UK becoming one of the biggest foreign exhibitors at this year’s Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF), alongside the United States and the European Union who are also exhibiting various goods and services.

“We are serious about wanting to have and deepen our relationship with Zimbabwe, and it’s not a secret that we have had a difficult relationship over history, but the past is the past and we are looking forward to having a strong and mature relationship with Zimbabwe,” said Amb Vowles in an exclusive interview yesterday at the UK pavilion.

“Yes, there are things that we thought we would not agree on and that’s okay, and the maturity of our relationship should allow us to talk about what we agree on and talk on what we don’t agree on and at the end of the day work together to resolve our issues.”

Asked to clarify whether Zimbabwe was still under the UK sanctions he said: “It’s a really interesting question . . . five Zimbabweans and one entity have sanctions against them, that means those five people and one entity cannot live or have access to the UK, but everybody else, about 16 million people can travel to the UK, and do trade.

“I think it’s best we focus on the future and strive to build relations that benefit both countries.”

Amb Vowles said the UK was back at the ZITF after a successful exhibition last year and was looking forward to tapping into more business opportunities having increased and doubled the size of its stand.

“This is an important opportunity to demonstrate the kind of trade opportunities and partnerships between the UK and Zimbabwe.

“We also see trade as a path to connecting our people and our countries for mutual benefit and that’s why we have to demonstrate the current connections for the future. We desire a strong trade partnership between the UK and Zimbabwe.

“We hope to make new connections with businesses and create new relations and new ideas and new innovations so that we can grow economically.”

Amb Vowles said enhancing bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and the UK was critical in unlocking win-win business opportunities for companies from both countries.

He said his country was already supporting Zimbabwe through financing the building of health facilities among other community projects meant to improve people’s livelihoods.

“We have got companies, particularly in the renewable sector where we are bringing solar power, which will attract many investors to come to Zimbabwe and we are bringing experts from the UK to teach and train the local people,” said Amb Vowles.

“I was listening to the mining company, which is generating hydro-power using British generators, and it was confessing that it’s clean and cheaper.

“But equally, it’s also about helping Zimbabwean companies to see opportunity in the UK and that could be through exporting products to the UK like your farmers, say blueberries or citrus, and getting them to the UK market.”

To facilitate improved trade, Amb Vowles said the UK has removed trade barriers. He said there are no duties or quarter restrictions and called upon UK companies to set up shop in Zimbabwe and for Zimbabwean companies to also grab business opportunities in the UK.

“What will make local people benefit from the UK the same way UK people are benefiting from Zimbabwe is through exporting products and getting recognition no matter how small the company is,” said Amb Vowles.

He said since taking over as ambassador of the UK in Zimbabwe some eight months, the two countries have registered immense trade gains.

“Our trade is growing massively because our exports and imports flow have grown to 76 percent over the last 12 months and that’s a huge increase and I want us and the embassy to be supportive of similar growth next year,” said Amb Vowles.

“But it’s true that this is a fraction of what it was, probably about a half in real terms compared to what it was in the 1990s, we lost a lot of ground I guess in the 2000s, and what we want to do is to maximize our presence here and rebuilt our relationships to get it where we were, and beyond,” he said.

“There is a lot more to be done and I think that there is so much trade potential. We did historically, and it’s a big indication of potential in the future.

“We have a lot in common in Zimbabwe, we have got a lot of Zimbabweans in the UK making contributions and when the Diaspora come home they must see opportunities here.”

Amb Vowles further commended Zimbabwe’s involvement as one of the pioneers of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), which he said was crucial for driving intra-regional trade and reaping dividends from a wider continental market.

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