Zimbabwe looks to enhance defense cooperation with Turkey

Zimbabwe, a country that faces sanctions from some Western nations, is looking to Turkey for possible defense cooperation, an official said.

Formerly known as Rhodesia, the southern African country gained independence as Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980, from Britain.

Citing colonial rule, Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava told Anadolu Agency (AA) that the sanctions against his country were “agitated by Britain, which was then a member of the European Union.”

Shava said the U.K. at the time asked the EU countries as well as the U.S. to cooperate on imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe.

“The reason being is that Zimbabwe had taken its land back from the colonial owners and distributed it to its own people. … However, one of the targets (of the sanctions) was the military aspects,” he added.

Due to being a former British colony, most of Zimbabwe’s military equipment was imported from the U.K. With the sanctions applied, the country is unable to get spare parts for the equipment from the EU or the U.S.

On that note, Shava said his country has “established its own defense industries and equipment, but the British would not supply us with anything we needed, even though the original product was from them.”

“We looked to the East, and from looking to the East, we got some equipment from friendly countries. We need to continue to advance our sources for defense equipment, and this is why we are looking towards Turkey for defense facilitation,” he said.

Stressing that the most important “need” of Zimbabwe in the field of defense is finding supplies, Shava said they want to continue working on “enhancing” their defense manufacturing capacity.

“We are hoping that we can agree with Turkey to assist us in this regard,” he said.

He further noted that Zimbabwe’s defense minister will arrive in Turkey in August to attend IDEF’21, Turkey’s international defense industry fair.

Commenting on the latest economic reforms in the landlocked country, Shava noted that one of the major steps taken toward economic liberalization is the Indigenization Act.

“This act, at the time, required investors from outside of Zimbabwe to have a certain percentage of their investment be owned by the Indigenous population. Thus, they (the investors) would need a partner. We saw that this was inhibiting investment to a lot of good investors, so we amended the Indigenization Act,” he said. “When you come to Zimbabwe now, you choose your own partners, you negotiate the levels of investment in that company. You just follow the laws of the land you intend to invest in. That is one of the important steps we have taken.”

In its efforts to liberalize the country’s economy, another step the government has taken is the easing of doing business, according to Shava.

“Normally in the past, there was too much bureaucracy associated with trying to establish a business. Now Zimbabwe has created an agency called the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA). ZIDA is a one-stop shop, meaning if you come to Zimbabwe … ZIDA will answer all your questions,” he said.

The agency, which aims to ease doing business, “has representatives from all ministers that matter” and allows investors to register their company “in a fairly short time.”

“I am talking about weeks, not months,” he added.

Shava also mentioned the exemption of duties for companies investing in Zimbabwe, explaining that a company engaged in production that “requires you to bring equipment and you have to import it from somewhere, then there is no requirement for duties paid for this equipment.”

He also noted that the imposed sanctions urge Zimbabwe to address other areas such as human rights issues as well as the aligning of the “constitution of Zimbabwe with the new laws.”

“On the various alignments that happened, we are left with I believe 30 aspects to align regarding the constitutional laws,” he added.

Regarding tourism, Shava said there is a “general promotion of encouragement for our nationals to visit” the countries of each.

“Zimbabwe, in particular, is trying to urge Turkish Airlines to fly to Victoria Falls and bring Turkish tourists to Zimbabwe,” he said, adding that such a move by the popular airline “would enable Turkish citizens to travel more easily.”

“We are working very hard on this,” he said.

As part of its policy of “Opening Up to Africa,” Turkey opened an embassy in Harare in 2011, creating a positive effect on bilateral relations.

According to data from the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), in 2019, the year before the coronavirus pandemic, the trade volume between Turkey and Zimbabwe was approximately $19 million.

Turkey currently has 43 embassies on the African continent, which will soon total 44 with the Turkish Embassy in Guinea-Bissau, according to the Foreign Ministry.

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