The governments of Zimbabwe and Qatar aim to stimulate trade relations, but such statements of intent are met with scepticism by those that understand Zimbabwe, GTR discovers.

The newly-appointed Qatari ambassador to Zimbabwe, Salem Abdullah Al-Jaber, will reportedly instruct a technical team to visit the Southern African country to look into some areas of potential co-operation. “Qatar has good relations with Zimbabwe and we talked about the road map on agriculture, tourism, investment and other things,” Al-Jaber said following a recent meeting with the Zimbabwean agriculture, mechanisation and irrigation development minister, Joseph Made. 

Agricultural development is important to Qatar, which has little arable land, and soft commodities like cereals, cotton and tobacco also present export opportunities. But GTR understands there is a chance the agreements will not lead to trade between the two countries. Managing director of TFC Capital, a Harare-based project finance advisor, Omen Muza, is sceptical about whether trade flow between Zimbabwe and Qatar will materialise.

“We hear a lot about bilateral trade flows in Zimbabwe, some of which eventually never get signed,” he tells GTR. “People talk a lot about investing in Zimbabwe and don’t actually get around to doing anything of the sort. As a country we are so desperate for investment that our politicians never miss an opportunity to trumpet even the most tentative opportunities.”

GTR understands that the incentive of arable land makes an agricultural deal with Qatar more likely but Muza is quick to distinguish between the diplomatic intentions of government and completed transactions that have real economic significance. “I don’t think there’s a deal to talk about yet. Everything is still in the future,” he added.

Nonetheless, the Zimbabwean government is reportedly optimistic about future trade with Qatar: “This is the first step to agreeing a memorandum of understanding that will be signed between the two countries. What is important is to urgently receive a technical mission from Qatar so that we are able to indicate to them the various activities we are undertaking and the potential we have,” Made said.