Golden Sibanda Senior Business Reporter
China, the world’s second largest economy after the United States, says political and economic changes that have happened in Zimbabwe put the country in good stead to benefit from funding support China has set aside under the Belt and Road Initiative.
The Asian tiger has earmarked $120 billion for co-operation with Africa under the initiative.
Zimbabwe saw long awaited change of power with the rise to power in November last year of President Mnangagwa and his subsequent victory in the July 30, 2018, harmonised election, following which the President appointed several new faces to his new lean Cabinet.
But the Asian economic giant has implored its now comprehensive strategic partnership ally to move with speed and draw up a list of bankable and feasible projects that can be funded in terms of the Belt and Road Initiative, or else the resources that are available will be exhausted by other African States that may move faster.
Zimbabwe reportedly did not benefit as much as it should have from China under the previous leadership due to the former administration’s policies. Also, he said the previous administration would not follow through on signed co-operation agreements.
China’s acting ambassador to Zimbabwe Zhao Baogang was speaking at a workshop organised by the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) and facilitated by the UZ Graduate School of Management on how Zimbabwe can unlock Chinese funding. The Chinese diplomat gave a lecture on how China turned around its economy to grow at an average 9 percent per annum over four decades.
Ambassador Baogang said China was acutely aware of the urgent need for development in Zimbabwe and was doing everything humanly possible to encourage Chinese investors to come to invest in the country. The top diplomat expressed hope that exploratory visits by Chinese investors could lead to investments.
China initially set aside $60 billion under the Belt and Road Initiative, which its President Xi Jinping initiated in 2013 with the aim of building a closer Africa-China community with a shared future, but doubled the figure by adding a further $60 billion pledge at Forum for China-Africa Co-operation in Beijing last September.
The funding pledged at FOCAC 2018 entails $15 billion for grants, interest free loans, concessional loans, $30 billion lines of credit and $10 billion for investment in African countries, Ambassador Baogang noted.
Under the Belt and Road initiative there are several categories for proposed co-operation and funding support chiefly funding support towards policy co-ordination, trade facilitation,connectivity facilitation, and also people to people exchanges.
“What is interesting is that Zimbabwe is also part of this (Belt and Road). This year President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited China, we signed MoUs … I believe that Zimbabwe will benefit greatly from the Belt and Road Initiative,” Ambassador Baogang said.
“We expect that Zimbabwe could benefit from the concessional loans provided by the Chinese government, by Chinese financial institutions under the framework of FOCAC. The most important thing is that the different departments of the Government have to have more coordination and come up with bankable, feasible projects; give us a list of projects then we can have more consultations on these and then in future we hope we can reach consensus on some of the projects.”
The Chinese diplomat said to achieve success, China undertook deliberate reform measures and implemented policies, through its strong political leadership, which have bore phenomenal results and placed the country at the top of the global economy and also gave it more political influence and that Zimbabwe needed to do the same.
“I suggest some experts should do some research on experiences in Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique or Zambia and certainly, you also have your own advantages and you must try to see what you have done well and problems you have and then you correct or improve them, I believe you can attract more Chinese investment.”
Through reforms it has undertaken by attracting in the last 40 years, Ambassador Baogang said China has developed fast, averaging growth rate of 9 percent and this has enabled the world’s most populous country to lift out of poverty 740 million people, which he said is “great achievement and we have 1,4 billion people.”
He said apart from efforts Beijing is making to promote Chinese investment in Zimbabwe, the Chinese investors also naturally liked Zimbabwe due to the country’s good climate, skilled human resources and the strong political leadership.
Ambassador Baogang backed Zimbabwe to attract significant Chinese investment as Government; under the leadership of President Mnangagwa was “hard working” together with the current ministers “so if we have good policies those investors will come.”
“We experiment, we always want to cross the river by feeling the stones, we have to touch the stone and then step on it, once we feel that we are safe, then we cross the river. In China when we make policies we first seek the views of Government officials, then experts; then we implement the policies in small cities or limited regions and when we see that they are successful, we put into wider practice,” the ambassador said.
He said that China’s success was due to its hard work and “if we compare the performance between the two sides we can see the difference.” Further, economic success was due to the fact that China embraced the world and changed our mentality.
“Later, we found out that we must embrace the world, attract FDI. Because now we have investment, we have employment, we have salaries, we have technology transfer and after several years we can replicate it, we can copy it. “From the Zimbabwe perspective, we are happy to see that you have a new political dispensation and new Government, new leaders, new economic needs, new policies, amended the indigenisation (and economic empowerment) policy; no limits for many sectors. This is greatly welcome by the investors,” Ambassador Baogang said.
He also pointed out that China would not only focus on developing itself alone, but wants to go out, expand the market and desires to achieve common prosperity around the world and we want to develop more cooperation around the world.
To that extent, he said China has been the biggest foreign investor in the country with demonstrable mega investments in agriculture (tobacco), airport infrastructure, energy projects ( Kariba, Hwange), manufacturing (cement), chrome (Afrochine).