Zim-Dubai Business Council: What is the end game?
Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
ON 27 December last year, the Dubai Chamber of Commerce announced the establishment of the Zimbabwe Business Council in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), as a non-profit making organisation with a mandate to promote the commercial interests of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean businesses in Dubai and the UAE at large.
The launch of the Zimbabwe Business Council (ZIBCO) is in line with the Dubai Chamber’s plans to establish new country-specific business councils and expand their roles to boost UAE’s foreign trade while promoting cross-border business opportunities for member businesses and organizations.
Essentially, the Zimbabwe Business Council in the UAE is expected to play a pivotal role in growing the Dubai-Zimbabwe business relations by bringing together Zimbabwean businesses operating in Dubai and the UAE through building an ecosystem of coordination and networking, which will, in turn, build further trade corridors between the two trading nations.
The establishment of the Zimbabwe Dubai Business Council is one of the positive offshoots of Zimbabwe’s participation at the six-month-long 2020 Dubai Global Expo, which ended in March last year and culminated in the signing of several business development and trade deals across sectors.
Already, the two countries enjoy cordial bilateral relations, which have been significantly scaled up under the Second Republic led by President Mnangagwa, buttressing the deliberate economic diplomacy-focused engagement and re-engagement stance with the global community.
Since 2018, this has been one of the key result areas in transforming the country’s economy through unlocking domestic and foreign direct investments, which are critical in driving momentum towards the attainment of an upper middle-income economy vision by 2030.
Official statistics already indicate that the UAE is Zimbabwe’s second-largest export destination market and through coordination with stakeholders, the new business council is expected to play a huge part in strengthening the trade relations between the two countries.
Given Dubai’s strategic economic positioning, this will, in the long run, assist Zimbabwe in significantly growing its business footprint in the UAE and surrounding Arab and Asian markets.
Below are some of the critical questions sent by Business Chronicle and the written responses from the ZIBCO executive committee chaired by Dubai-based financial economist, Mr Innocent Rungano Nyaude.
Q: What is the main purpose of the Zimbabwe Business Council?
A: As defined in Article 2 of the Articles of Association of the Council, the main objectives of the council are: to promote the commercial interests of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean’s businesses in the UAE, promoting Zimbabwean-owned UAE registered companies and their goods and services, strengthening trade relations between Zimbabwean companies, business people and other companies in the UAE, as well as contributing to an increasing trade volume between the two states.
Q: What are your impressions about this breakthrough and what is its significance to Zimbabwe?
A: This is a very significant development and milestone, which reflects the growing bilateral relations between Zimbabwe and the UAE. You will note that currently, the UAE is the second largest destination for Zimbabwean exports after South Africa and the establishment of the Business Council will culminate in further growth in the trade relationship.
Q: Building from the World Dubai 2020 Expo, what is your game plan going forward in terms of pushing investment and trade between the two states?
A: One of the key learning points from the period post-Expo 2020 was the importance of follow-ups. Significant networks were established and the in-depth conversations that took place created solid platforms that should be leveraged deliberately and intentionally.
We intend to help Zimbabwe continue and further the engagements with potential investors and partners we met during the Expo. Further, we intend to bring together as many Zimbabweans as possible who are doing business in the UAE and who have continued to lift the Zimbabwean flag high. The more coordinated we are as a unit, the more business we will be able to generate.
Q: You met the President early last year as businesses and engaged on many issues, what is the next step now that you have been fully established?
A: The meeting with the President during his earlier visit to the UAE in March 2022 on the Zimbabwe National Day at Expo 2022, presented a unique opportunity for Zimbabwean government officials with Zimbabweans in the UAE to have impactful conversations.
Now that we have been fully established, we look forward to officially building upon the momentum that was created and continue to engage with the government of Zimbabwe and the various stakeholders for collaboration.
One critical step is for us as a council to build a more coordinated and well-networked group, which will then be able to take advantage of some of the opportunities that exist and come together in proffering solutions in some areas where our experience will be of value to Zimbabwe.
Q: Please share insight on the organizational structure and leadership, who is doing what etc?
A: The Zimbabwe Business Council is a member-based organization where the members elect through a voting process the executive committee, which will have the mandate to run the day-to-day operations of the council.
As we were still going through the formative stages, the current executive committee was elected by the founding members of the council, those who had provided their trade licences in support of the establishment of the council. The current executive committee has the chairperson, director of finance, membership and operations directorate, public relations and communications, events and programs director, legal affairs director, and director of government affairs.
Q: How do you intend to work with local business peers and other business member associations?
A: As a member-based council, our primary mandate is the representation of the interests of our members and the promotion of our members’ businesses. The UAE is a vibrant economy and as such, interaction with various societies and associations will give us a platform to learn and promote trade and business with a wider business community.
The business council will be a critical platform for members to market and promote their businesses to other member businesses and individuals. Members will also have access to a database of other members and their businesses as a directory.
This will also facilitate more focused and structured access to information disseminated from the Embassy and Zimbabwean authorities at large through the council’s communications team. Access to social programs such as charitable activities as determined by the CSR unit of the council, as well as speaking and moderating platform for members at council events and gatherings, is also part of the package.
Q: Any other critical insights you need to share?
A: Aside from members, the council will also build relationships with partners and such partnerships will be critical in building the growth of the relationship between Zimbabwe and the UAE.
Key institutions such as Zimbabwe Investments and Development Association (ZIDA), ZimTrade, Industrial Development Corporation, and Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries to name a few will be key partners for the council.
All these will be managed through the guidance of the Zimbabwean Embassy in the UAE whose staff are honorary members of the council.
Q: Can we expect increased trade between Dubai and Zimbabwe as a result of this?
A: This is the hope and a goal for the council. Through enhanced coordination and cooperation between the council and various stakeholders both within the UAE and in Zimbabwe, we see the potential for trade to grow between the countries.
As highlighted, UAE is the second largest destination for Zimbabwean exports, there is scope to grow the volumes, but also scope to improve the imports into Zimbabwe from the UAE, which will lead to an improved balance of trade.
Q: What are the business council’s immediate targets?
A: Our short-term target is threefold – to get the council fully operational, commence registering members, and deliver on the core mandate of the council to the members. Secondly, we will be planning an event to officially launch the council, hopefully within the first quarter of 2023.
The council will have different membership categories, with the main membership category being businesses registered in the UAE owned, or co-owned by Zimbabweans. Such businesses will be segmented by sizes such as corporates or SMEs. We will also have other membership categories such as professionals, students, associates, and offshore members.
There will be an annual membership fee, which will be paid to the council after completing an application form, which will be reviewed and approved by the executive committee.
Q: What are the benefits of becoming a member?
A: As a member, one will get access to a network of other Zimbabwean-owned, led, or managed businesses and have a platform to market and promote your business. As an individual, you will get access to a wealth of knowledge and experience from the various members who will be from different sectors of the economy, different experiences, and different points of view. Among other benefits you will have:
Strategic engagement and networking opportunities with access to carefully structured platforms and programs throughout the year, access to industry insights and experiences as our membership will span across various sectors and industries and we will have the ability to call on various captains of industry to share industry trends and insights.