CAPE TOWN, Visiting Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday urged his countrymen residing abroad to return home following the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe.

It's time for Zimbabwean nationals in the diaspora to return home, Mnangagwa told a crowd of Zimbabweans in Pretoria during a visit to South Africa.

Millions of Zimbabweans fled to foreign countries, most of them to South Africa, during Mugabe's 37-year rule.

Mnangagwa said Zimbabwean nationals living in South Africa should return home and put the skills that they have acquired in the neighboring country to great use in the rebuilding of the Zimbabwean economy and development of their motherland.

"I appeal to you to come to Zimbabwe ... Zimbabwe is your home," he said, adding that from now on Zimbabwe is now open for business.

He urged his countrymen to let bygones be bygones and look in the future with hope.

Mnangagwa thanked his South African counterpart Jacob Zuma for the warmth and hospitality provided to Zimbabweans living in South Africa.

Earlier on Thursday, Mnangagwa met with Zuma and both leaders pledged to strengthen economic trade and cooperation between the two countries.

Mnangagwa was on his first working visit to South Africa, which was also his first official visit outside of Zimbabwe since his assumption of office on November 24, 2017

The two presidents emphasized the warm historical relations between the two countries and the need to ensure the further deepening of these relations, South African presidential spokesperson Bongani Ngqulunga said.

The two heads of state agreed on the need to strengthen economic cooperation and expand economic and trade relations between the two countries, and to make this a key feature of the cooperation agenda, in support of Mnangagwa's mission to revive the Zimbabwean economy, said Ngqulunga.

The Zimbabwean economy has been hard hit by sanctions imposed by Western countries and other challenges over many years.

According to the Zimbabwe's embassy in South Africa, the main purpose of Mnangagwa's visit was to attract investments from South Africa.

South Africa and Zimbabwe enjoy cordial bilateral relations underpinned by strong historical and political bonds that date back to the era of the liberation struggle.

The two countries have convened their Bi-National Commission (BNC) meeting every year since 2015. The BNC is co-chaired by the two heads of state.

The previous session of the BNC was held on October 3,2017, with the participation of Mugabe, who was deposed not long after he returned home.

South Africa and Zimbabwe have signed over 40 memoranda of understanding and agreements, covering wide aspects including security, energy, agriculture, mining, infrastructure development, trade, transport and arts and culture.

Trade between the two countries has seen exponential growth over the years with Zimbabwe being one of South Africa' s top five trading partners in the region and the continent.

South African exports to Zimbabwe in 2016 were worth 29.3 billion rand (about 231 million U.S. dollars), official statistics show.