Tuesday, June 2, 2009

French delegation expected in Zimbabwe

Thursday, 28 May 2009, The Financial Gazette

A HIGH-POWERED delegation from France is expected in the country tomorrow as part of Paris' fact-finding mission before it fully re-engages the inclusive government after nearly a decade of isolation.

France's secretary for State in charge of foreign trade, Anne-Mary Idrac will be leading the group to Harare barely a week after Norway announced it was renewing aid to the cash-strapped coalition government battling to pay salaries to civil servants.

Diplomatic sources said the visit by Idrac augured well for the inclusive government, which desperately needs financial support from the West to bankroll its operations.

The French government, just like other Western nations, including the United States and Britain, slammed President Robert Mugabe's previous government with targeted sanctions resulting in failure by the State to access crucial lines of credit and international aid. The visit by the French delegation is confirmation of the thawing of relations between Europe and Zimbabwe.

Stephane Toulet, the French deputy ambassador in Harare, said: "The French Secretary of State in charge of foreign trade, Ms Anne-Marie Idrac, is leading a French official delegation that will be in Harare for a brief visit on Friday 29 March."

The visit follows a flurry of similar missions by a number of African, Western and Nordic countries to Zimbabwe since the formation of the coalition government in February, among them Denmark, Norway, and the United Kingdom.

South Africa recently sent a delegation comprising private investors in a show of confidence in the new government.

The business delegations expressed interests in pursuing investments in the country.

On Monday, Norway announced it was resuming aid to the troubled government it cut off in 2000 citing alleged irregularities in the controversial general elections in which the Movement for Democratic change nearly upset ZANU-PF.

The Norwegian government, one of the first to renew aid with the new government, said it would immediately pump US$9,17 million into the country via non-governmental organisations, the World Bank and United Nations, avoiding the government's financial routes.

The money would help boost the health and education systems and support the coalition government which has sent out a begging bowl to raise about US$8,2 billion it badly needs to bankroll operations.

In a clear sign the Western countries are warming up to the new government, German has pumped in 10 million Euros, Australia US$16 million and Britain announced 15 million pounds in humanitarian aid.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is expected to lead a government delegation to German early next month.