The new era of normalisation

This year marks a turning point for Zimbabwe’s economy and its people.  The country is on the brink of finalising an historic deal which will end a decade and half of sanctions and unlock substantial new funds for economic growth and development. At the heart of this are the negotiations between the Zimbabwe government and the IMF and World Bank launched last year at an international summit in Peru.

The arrangements, in which the African Development Bank (AfDB) will play a leading role, are designed to clear Zimbabwe’s $1.8 billion arrears to international financial institutions and enable the country to raise new funding for important development projects.

The target date for completion of the agreement is June and will involve some African states, notably Algeria, offering to lend Zimbabwe money to repay its arrears. Beyond the key officials in Zimbabwe and in the International Financial Institutions, this financial initiative has won broad international backing from the African Union, China, Japan and the European Union.

However, there is some complex detail still to be agreed between the parties involved: some of its concerns the structure and management of the agreement, and some of it is about future policy and spending priorities.

Furthermore, the conclusion of the negotiations should trigger the wider return of Zimbabwe to play a full role on the international scene with European countries set to end all forms of sanctions on the Harare government. That process will be more complex still, given the number and range of parties involved. Equally there has been substantive progress in the discussions so far.

On the need for a sea-change in Zimbabwe’s relations with the international system, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa and the International Financial Institutions agree: officials talk of the urgent need to move on.

That will be the starting point of the Zimbabwe 2016 conference.  The key ministers, officials and policymakers will be attending to explain their plans and priorities for the rebuilding of the country’s economy. As the country expands its access to the international markets after a long absence, the focus will be on which sectors can produce a rapid response as conditions improve.

Experts on banking and finance and in the other key economic sectors — agriculture, mining, manufacturing and services — will set out a realistic appraisal of operating conditions today and what has to be done to boost growth and create jobs.

Also on the rostrum will be several business leaders from Zimbabwe and some of their international partners from Asia, the Americas and Europe. Our aim is to organise a constructive dialogue between local business and international investors and traders.

For example, Aliko Dangote, Africa’s richest businessman, is setting up a $400 million cement factory in Zimababwe, and several French and other European companies show a growing interest in launching projects there.

Zimbabwean and international bankers will describe how the country can maximise benefits from its return to the international markets.

Representatives from Zimbabwe’s highly qualified and experienced diaspora will also attend the conference to discuss ways in which they can participate in the national rebuilding project.

To complete the picture, the conference will not shy away from tackling the critical questions of political risk and security. It will draw on Zimbabwe’s considerable expertise in these matters from across the spectrum and from international speakers, from Asia, Africa and Europe, who have spent many years working in the country.

Our political and security experts will be asked for their insights on recent developments and for their views on the likely scenarios for the next chapter in the country’s political development.

Within the course of the day, a delegate to the conference will get detailed and highly informed briefings on the  normalisation of international economic and commercial relations, the policy priorities in this new era, an understanding of the opportunities for growth and investment in each sector and a clear sense of the political and security dynamics.

All panellists will be urged to speak as frankly as possible and conference moderators will ensure that all the key questions are put to the speakers and that there is adequate time for delegates to raise their own specific concerns with ministers, officials and experts.

Delegates from business, the public sector, the diplomatic community and from non-government-organisations will be welcome to participate. Please let us know any specific issues that you would like the conference to cover and we will do our best to ensure it is addressed.