HARARE – Zimbabwe and the Republic of Korea established diplomatic ties in 1994.
At that time, Zimbabwe was still described as the breadbasket of Africa, thanks to the well-organised agricultural system that bolstered the economy.
Moreover, the level of Zimbabwe’s economic development was comparable to that of South Africa.
The ties between Zimbabwe and the Republic of Korea remained strong even during the tumultuous have era from 2000 to 2010 during the land reform programme, during elections, the imposition of sanctions and the establishment of the Government of National Unity (GNU).
Our two countries have maintained relations in the face of various difficulties, especially during hyper-inflation and economic regression that has eroded much of the accomplishments independent Zimbabwe had made and left it,dithering on the brink of collapse.
I was assigned to Zimbabwe in April this year and after seeing Harare with my own eyes, I could not help being optimistic about Zimbabwe, in contrast to the general impression l got from the media and from my acquaintances.
Zimbabwe does not possess the characteristics of a collapsed state like other countries which fit this criterion. Even the living conditions appear to be favourable despite the apparent water shortages and frequent power cuts that occur throughout the country.
The overall condition of roads and infrastructure, although they are aged and in need of refurbishment,it is still much better than those of other African countries.
It has been twenty years since South Korea established diplomatic ties with Zimbabwe, the bilateral relations between the two countries have room for improvement. 20 years signify maturity and growth and it is high time that Zimbabwe and the Republic of Korea built a firm foundation for future oriented relations, working together a broad range of areas.
Some Korean companies are looking for investment opportunities especially in the areas of energy infrastructure. Yet, there is no tangible outcome since they are carefully watching the socio-political events closely. Zimbabwe is at a critical point of transition that can either spell boom or gloom for the economy.
Zimbabwe is blessed with abundant human capital, natural resources that include precious minerals like gold, diamond, platinum, chrome, coal and rare earth.
Hence one can say that the potential of mining development in Zimbabwe is second to none in the Southern African region and this could attract the much needed and worth while investment.
In the areas of mining and infrastructure development,the Republic of Korea has been relegated the role of an observer although Zimbabwe’s cooperation with China and Russia has drastically expanded in the same area.
At the same time efforts made to normalise the relations with Zimbabwe particularly from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund has restoring investor confidence.
However, the political situation on the ground is being closely monitored and the political uncertainty does little to boost the investor confidence even with the resumption of political dialogue that was suspended over a decade ago.
Regardless of the prevailing uncertainty in the political environment, I am of the view that this is the right time for Korea to review and expand cooperation with Zimbabwe.
Numerous joint projects that aimed at assisting the development of Zimbabwe have been implemented by our two countries.
I truly hope to instill the confidence l have for Zimbabwe to Korean companies so that they can take a step forward and preemptively secure a competitive edge in Zimbabwe.
There is no perfect time or perfect setting in terms of business opportunities.Zimbabwe is a land full of opportunities and promise.
*Yong-Kyu, Kwon is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea