Bilateral relations between Switzerland and Zimbabwe have strengthened in recent years, particularly through humanitarian aid and development cooperation activities since 2008. In future, the implementation of economic reforms and democratic principles could pave the way for a strong relationship that enables socio-economic development, trade and investment.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
Switzerland has set out a strategy for sub-Saharan Africa for 2021–24.
In 2017 Switzerland and Zimbabwe signed an international cooperation agreement on humanitarian aid and technical and financial cooperation. The humanitarian, technical and financial assistance projects contribute to sustainable poverty alleviation, democratic development, peacebuilding and respect for human rights and the rule of law.
Following serious human rights abuses in the early 2000s, Switzerland imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe which were later restricted to the state-owned Zimbabwe Defence Industries.
Although Zimbabwe has been experiencing weak growth in recent years, the country's natural resources (agriculture, mining, tourism), strong institutions and well-educated population represent considerable economic potential. Swiss business interest in Zimbabwe's market has increased since the end of President Robert Mugabe's rule in 2017; today, Switzerland is one of the largest European investors in the country.
The two countries have signed a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIT).
Cooperation in education, research and innovation
Researchers who are citizens of Zimbabwe can apply to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships.
Peace support and human security
Since 2015 Switzerland has been working with Zimbabwe's government, parliament, civil society, churches, traditional leaders and private sector to promote peace and democracy. Switzerland supports the country's efforts in conducting inclusive dialogue among different stakeholders, dealing with the past and national reconciliation.
Development cooperation and humanitarian aid
Zimbabwe falls under the SDC's regional programme for southern Africa. For the 2018-22 period, the focus is on agriculture and food security (irrigation, nutrition, renewable energies, etc.). The progamme also addresses HIV/AIDS prevention among young people and supports initiatives to help people affected by HIV/AIDS.
As set out in Switzerland's International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24, Zimbabwe will remain a priority country for bilateral development cooperation. The next progamme, which will focus on Zimbabwe together with Zambia, will start in 2023.
Swiss nationals in Zimbabwe
According to the statistics on the Swiss abroad, at the end of 2020 there were 182 Swiss nationals living in Zimbabwe; 214 Zimbabwean nationals were living in Switzerland.
History of bilateral relations
After recognising Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, Switzerland opened a consulate in Harare, which became an embassy in 1981.
An important aspect of Swiss–Zimbabwean relations is the role of Swiss Christian missionaries who have been present in the country since the early 1900s.The largest Swiss mission is Driefontein, which is mainly known for its primary school built in 1934 where many prominent Zimbabweans were educated. Driefontein has also adopted the Swiss approach to vocational training and established a technical school.