THE government’s export drive in the Far East has suffered a major setback after its Singapore Expo Centre closed down because of mounting operational costs.
It also emerged this week that most of the business deals signed between Singaporean and local businessmen had failed to take off due to lack of commitment from the Zimbabwean side.
The Singapore Expo Centre, officially opened by President Mugabe two years ago, closed in December because the promoter, Metropolitan Bank, was facing escalating maintenance costs.
Metropolitan Bank chairman Enock Kamushinda, a major architect of the Asian initiatives, confirmed in an interview on Wednesday that the centre had shut down in December.
“We shut it (the Singapore Expo Centre) sometime in December due to mounting costs. We are going to incorporate that into the one in Malaysia. But we are still in business,” said Kamushinda.
Kamushinda denied claims that he used the Malaysian Expo Centre to persuade the host government to give him a banking licence. Kamushinda got the licence around July last year.
The Zimbabwe Independent is reliably informed that the Expo Centre in Malaysia could also have been shut down. But Kamushinda said the Expo had only been moved to new central offices.
“We want to make it a one-stop shop. That is why we are centralising the centres,” he said.
Despite Mugabe’s many business trips, trade between Zimbabwe and the Asia Tigers remains minimal. An agreement between with Malaysian business people to build a TV/DVD assembly plant in Zimbabwe has not been implemented. There are now fears that the agreement might fail to take off.
The Independent understands there has been no progress despite numerous MOUs signed with Malaysia for various business proposals. Malaysia is understood to have agreed to construct a PC assembly plant and an egg production facility. These are yet to be implemented due to lack of commitment from the Malaysian government and the local businesspeople.
Zimbabwe’s foray into the Far East is part of the Asia/Africa Investment Technology Promotion Center launched as a Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad) initiative last year.
The programme is funded by the government of Japan and implemented through the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation headquarters in Vienna.
The South/South initiative under the Ticad programme envisages closer co-operation between African countries and South East Asian economies in the areas of trade and investment.
Mugabe has for the past three years promoted investment and trade with South East Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand but there has been very little to show for it.
Japanese ambassador to Zimbabwe Tsu-neshige Liyama last week said he was happy with Zimbabwe’s progress under Ticad. He said Ticad was not just about trade and investment but was a replica of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).
“The concept is the same,” said. “It is a twin of Nepad. We support the Nepad concept because it is a sister programme of Ticad. Ticad is Nepad made in Japan,” he said.