Harare continues to enjoy healthy bilateral relations as demonstrated by an increase in the number of global cities that have expressed interest in becoming Harare’s twin.
According to Wikipedia, twin towns or sister cities are a form of cooperative agreement made between towns, cities, countries, oblasts, prefectures, provinces, regions, states and even countries in geographically and politically distinct areas to promote cultural and commercial ties.
The City of Harare is currently in twinning arrangements with three world cities: Munich (Germany), Nottingham (UK) and Cincinnati (Ohio, United States). The latest cities likely to be added are Shenzhen of China and Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Other bilateral arrangements which are also lying dormant include that of Lusaka (Zambia), Guangzhou (China), Cheonan (South Korea), Havana (Cuba), Moscow (Russia), Dakar (Senegal) and Cairo (Egypt).
His Worship, the Mayor of Harare, Bernard Manyenyeni reported to a full council meeting in March that he had received a letter from the Chinese Ambassador His Excellency Lin Lin proposing the twinning of Harare and Shenzhen.
This was quickly noted by the councillors who urged the Mayor to ensure that the twinning arrangement went through without delay. Councillor Wellington Chikombo said that the partnership was greatly welcome and should be supported.
“Harare should work with other cities and Shenzhen’s invitation is welcome. If we can increase the number from the current three, that is a plus, whether looking east or west,” said Chikombo.
Other councillors concurred with Chikombo by asking the mayor to extend an invitation to Shenzhen’s mayor so that he can visit Harare. Shenzhen is a sub-provincial city in the south of China’s Guangdong province.
With a population of over 10 million, the city became one of China’s first Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in late 1979. Harare is set to benefit immensely from the twinning arrangement as the Shenzheners enjoy an annual economic growth rate of 10% and a vibrant economy with an $18 billion GDP.
Another city interested in partnering Harare is Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital. Mayor Manyenyeni said that he had received a memorandum of understanding from the Ethiopian Ambassador on the twinning arrangement, which was approved by the previous council in 2012.
In an interview with Harare News, Mayor Manyenyeni said that his office was working on a few options, each with different features and benefits. The mayor also revealed that traditionally Harare may have entered into these partnerships with a beneficiary mentality.
“The issues are changing and so are the attractions. We now have a lot more to gain from cities like Kigali, Shenzhen, Dakar and Addis [Ababa] than we had previously conceived. They are now offering quite a lot of models and experiences relevant to Harare than some of our historical reference points around the globe,” said Manyenyeni.
Mayor Manyenyeni added that the nature and extent of twinning options are no longer standard and the outcomes are varied and dynamic. According to the mayor, standard provisions of twinning arrangements have been material support, technical, cultural and official exchanges.
“No two cities will offer the same attractions…which is why having five or six strong active sister set-ups bodes well for us. Harare used to insist on twinning only with other capitals but with our lower appeal as a country, our relationships are now more open,” said Manyenyeni.
Harare already benefits from its twinning with Munich as the German city has donated some equipment to the Sunshine City. Through the relationship with Munich, Harare is now into a tripartite arrangement with e-Thekwini in South Africa.
Photograph: Lychee Park in Shenzen, China. From Wikipedia Commons