Hebert Zharare in ALGIERS, Algeria
ZIMBABWE and Algeria are negotiating major deals in various sectors of the economy that are set to boost the implementation of the country’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset, Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba said here yesterday.
This comes as Zimbabwe’s foreign policy has started paying dividends following the signing of mega deals with China and Russia recently worth billions of dollars in areas that include infrastructure development, energy and mining.
As such, Mr Charamba said a high powered technical delegation from Algeria was headed for Zimbabwe next month to scout for more areas of co-operation.
This was revealed following a closed- door meeting between President Mugabe and Algerian Prime Minister Mr Abdelmalek Sellal and his delegation comprising Minister Delegate in charge of Maghrebian Nations and African Affairs Mr Abdelkader Messahel, and the recently appointed Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Nacerdine Sai.
“The President told the Algerian Prime Minister and I quote: ‘We are pushing for joint venture projects with Algerians, the joint projects with a country that we know. We know your past, you have been consistent, we trust you’,” said Mr Charamba.
He said the critical areas the Algerians were interested in were energy, water development, education and beneficiation of both minerals and agricultural products.
“You will notice that we are concentrating largely on two key areas at a bilateral level,” said Mr Charamba.
“We are concentrating on selling our infrastructural programme and you know that it is a key pillar in Zim-Asset.”
Mr Charamba said Zimbabwe had abundant coal, water for hydro-power generation and coal bed methane gas that needed to be exploited.
He said Zimbabwe wanted to get technology from Algeria to extract methane gas in Lupane, Matabeleland North Province. He said the region was facing an energy deficit, adding that the excess energy to be produced from the joint venture projects would be “dumped” into the national grid and exported.
Mr Charamba said in view of the recurrence drought Zimbabwe had been experiencing, it was agreed during the meeting with the Algerians that the two countries form joint projects on water development.
He said Algeria was very advanced in the use of water and its agriculture sector had state-of-the-art infrastructure, adding that there was need for the North African country to help Zimbabwe develop irrigation infrastructure and construct more dams.
Mr Charamba said one of the clusters of Zim-Asset, beneficiation, was going to benefit much from the proposed joint venture deals given that the Algerians were keen on the development of technology to add value to minerals such as chrome, iron, tin and diamonds.
He said there was need for the country to go beyond the exportation of raw minerals.
In agriculture, Mr Charamba said, the North Africans were interested in setting up state-of-the-art tobacco pressing infrastructure that had the potential to increase the value of the crop five times before export.
“A team of experts is going to be dispatched to Zimbabwe in mid-April and I think the idea is they want to combine the trip with ZITF in Bulawayo,” he said.
“That team will be comprised of representatives of Government and experts in energy, industrial technology and agriculture and some entrepreneurs who want to expand down south.”
Mr Charamba said Algeria had a lot of investable capital that Zimbabwe wanted to tap into, adding that the Zimbabwe-Algeria Joint Commission that had been dormant for about five years would be activated.
He said the commission was likely to have its meeting in Algeria in October this year. He said in the manpower development, the Algerian Prime Minister said his Government would double the scholarships Zimbabwe was receiving to 80, adding that Government would prioritise technical areas that included the energy sector.
Mr Charamba said Zimbabwe’s foreign policy would reap massive economic spin-offs in the long run.
Zimbabwe’s relations with Algeria date back to the days of the liberation struggle and the two countries have been co-operating in the area of education and trade, among others.