HARARE, May 28 (The Source) – Zimbabwe could receive €234 million in development assistance from the European Union (EU) if the bloc lifts its decade-old embargo on provision of direct financial support to Harare at a meeting set for November, officials said on Wednesday.
Frosty relations between Zimbabwe and the EU, which saw the bloc impose sanctions on President Robert Mugabe, his inner circle and selected firms in 2002 over alleged rights abuses, appear to be thawing after the bloc progressively eased the embargo since 2009 when the veteran ruler agreed to share power with the opposition.
While Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party regained control of government in another disputed poll in 2013, the EU has continued the rapprochement and will resume direct development assistance to Harare this year if the European Council of Ministers votes to lift the embargo.
EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Arricia said the financial support will be provided under a six-year programme called the National Indicative Programme.
“The European Union has earmarked €234 million for this National Indicative Programme for the period 2014 to 2020,” he told delegates at a consultative meeting for the 11th European Development Fund in Harare.
“All this is pending the decision of the European Council of Ministers in November. All the events that will follow will depend on that decision, which we hope will be positive.”
Dell’Arricia said the funding, if granted, would be restricted to agriculture, health as well as governance and institutional strengthening.
Speaking at the meeting, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said he was optimistic that the EU ministers will lift the embargo, allowing the country to receive the much-needed financial support.
“Given the extensive discussions that we have had, I have no doubt the promises for assistance under the European Development Fund will be honoured,” he said.
The funding, he said, would support initiatives under the country’s new five-year economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.
In what he described as “building a cattle kraal before taking possession of the cattle,” Chinamasa said plans had already been made on how the funding would be used.
A total of €88 million will go towards supporting the agriculture and health sectors, he said, while €45 million will go towards governance and strengthening of institutions.
Civil society groups would be allocated €6 million while the Ministry of Finance will get €3 million, with the remaining €4 million funding technical support.
Chinamasa said Zimbabwe required support to rebuild and modernise its critical infrastructure to facilitate meaningful economic recovery.