PRESIDENT Mnangagwa arrived in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday for a crucial two-day indaba with his Kenyan counterpart, Uhuru Kenyatta.
The President was welcomed at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr Raychelle Omamo, and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ambassador Frederick Shava, who led an advance party that comprised technical staff and senior Government officials.
Today President Mnangagwa and President Kenyatta are expected to lead marathon meetings that will see several MOUs being signed.
The Zimbabwe-Kenya Joint Permanent Commission on Cooperation is taking place 25 years since the last such meeting between the two countries in what is demonstrative of the Second Republic’s engagement and re-engagement drive under the leadership of President Mnangagwa.
Yesterday, senior Government officials led by Ambassador Shava had engagements with their Kenyan counterparts under the third session of the Joint Permanent Commission on Co-operation (JPCC).
Addressing the senior officials meeting in Nairobi, Ambassador Shava said the third session of the JPCC offers the two countries a platform to come up with smart decisions on the whole programme that will end tomorrow.
“In this regard, I wish to note that Zimbabwe and Kenya enjoy excellent bilateral relations, anchored on our shared history, people to people relations and our close cooperation under the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA),” said Minister Shava.
He said the two countries enjoyed excellent bilateral air services with Kenya Airways flying several times a week to Harare before the restrictions occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Minister Shava said the courier’s route to Victoria Falls offers increased connectivity, flexibility and convenience to travellers, as well as boosting the tourism sector in the Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA) region.
“The close collaboration in the air transport sector was also a boon for the tourism sectors of our two countries.”
He said negotiations on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that covered tourism and wildlife issues had been concluded and they were looking forward to the MoU being signed today in the presence of the two Presidents.
“There is great scope for cooperation in this field through joint marketing of tourism products and packages. Our two countries share two of the seven natural wonders of the world in Victoria Falls and Masaai Mara.
“It is only logical that we closely work together in this area to benefit our communities. In addition, Zimbabwe and Kenya are blessed with many species of wildlife which are a source of attraction to the tourism industry. We should, therefore, not tire in our efforts to derive maximum benefits in this area.”
Minister Shava expressed the need to speed up a number of pending instruments in the economic sector to boost the two countries’ activities in trade issues.
“Zimbabwe and Kenya share common membership in COMESA, the Tripartite Free Trade Area (TFTA) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and should make use of these regional and continental trade arrangements to improve bilateral trade.
“I have been informed that some Zimbabwean companies such as Liquid Telecoms (Pvt) and Innscor have managed to set up shop in Kenya. We should work together to encourage this mutual investment and in this regard, I call on Kenyan companies to consider investing in Zimbabwe.”
Minister Shava said cooperation in the health sector had become more urgent with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and the threat of future pandemics.
He said the pandemic had brought to the fore the weakness in our health systems and Africa’s over-dependence on imported medicines and vaccines.
“We need to come together and develop local pharmaceutical industries.”
In the area of defence cooperation, he said Zimbabwe was pleased with the level of cooperation that had seen the placement of students in defence colleges of the two countries.
Minister Shava commended the strategic partnership and encouraged such good work to continue well into the future.
“In the diplomatic sphere, I would like to thank Kenya for proposing a draft MoU on Political and Diplomatic Consultations.
“I am delighted that we have concluded negotiations on this MoU and it is one of those that will be signed during this Session of our Joint Commission,” said Minister Shava.
Apart from tapping largely in the tourism and agricultural sectors, the two countries share the same challenges that include the recent ban of the football governing bodies by Fifa and the President and his Kenyan counterpart are expected to exchange views and strategise on how to resolve the issues involved in the social sector.