Sunday, January 22, 2017

President Mugabe’s China Master-stroke
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

President Mugabe’s recent meeting with his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jingping has started bearing fruits as several Chinese investors are already in the country to effect deals under Special Economic Zones.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe has started reaping rewards from the US$60 billion fund under the Forum on China-Africa Corporation (FOCAC), as economic co-operation between Harare and Beijing is expected to soar in 2017.

This comes as a latest update from the Chinese embassy in Harare.

Most of the deals signed between Harare and Beijing are at various stages of implementation.

A few weeks ago, President Robert Mugabe met his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping in Beijing with the Oriental State’s leader making a firm pledge to enhance economic co-operation between the two countries and also committing to complete implementation of the mega deals.

President Xi’s strong affirmation was a clear sign that the world’s second largest economy means business in its engagement with Zimbabwe.

In an apparent heed to their leaders’ call, a number of Chinese investors are set to invest in the country through the SEZ model, which involves turning geographical areas that are endowed with economic potential into industrial growth centres.

Last week, Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe His Excellency Huang Ping said everything points to greater co-operation between Zimbabwe and China in 2017 following the meeting between President Mugabe and President Xi.

“I was honoured to attend the meeting and witnessed with my own eyes as the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to stronger bilateral relations and more fruitful practical co-operation,” said Ambassador Huang.

“Such high-level reception for leaders on vacation has never been seen before in China.

“It gives me and my colleagues in the Embassy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China more confidence and motivation to work even harder in 2017 and make sure we turn such a vision into reality.”

In an interview with The Sunday Mail, chargé d’affaires at the Chinese Embassy in Zimbabwe Mr Zhao Baogang said numerous Chinese investors are eyeing to invest in SEZs.

He said the recent signing of the SEZ Act into law by President Mugabe had jolted many Chinese firms to invest in Zimbabwe, as they are familiar with the model which has yielded success in their home country.

“There are a number of companies that have come to Harare to do business investigation studies since the Special Economic Zones became law.

“In general, they are happy to see that you have the Special Economic Zones. Now they are doing some research to see how they can invest.”

Mr Zhao said among the companies that have expressed interest to invest in the country so far, a top Chinese firm – Hualong – has shown eagerness to immediately splash its investment.

“Hualong has already said that they are going to invest. So far they have established offices in the country and they are targeting the construction sector and tourism.” Mr Zhao said some of the companies that have made inquiries so far are engaging with Government.

He said China’s imports bill is set to rise to US$8 trillion in the next five years, up from US$2 trillion, thereby offering massive economic opportunities for its friends such as Zimbabwe.

Turning to the US$60 billion that was pledged by China for African countries under the auspices of the FOCAC, Mr Zhao said Zimbabwe is one of the beneficiaries of the fund.

“At the FOCAC summit, held in South Africa, the Chinese Government promised that it would provide US$60 billion for Africa.

“What you need to understand is that it is project based. It does not mean that China will cut the US$60 billion and divide it among the 54 African countries. This depends on all the projects which are on the table.

“So proposals have to be made to the Chinese Government and to the Chinese banks. Feasibility studies are then done and if we see that the project is feasible we will provide fund for such projects. The New Parliament Building as well as the Victoria Falls Airport can therefore be seen as being part of this fund.”

On the mega deals signed in 2014 when President Mugabe visited Beijing, as well as in 2015, when President Xi visited Harare, Mr Zhao said most of the projects are being implemented.

“We have to differentiate the Memorandum of Association and actual contracts signed. Most of the deals are on course and they are being implemented.”

Mr Zhao said construction of the new Parliament building is set to commence soon with China having already committed US$46 million for the first phase of building works.

In his presentation during the 2nd China-Zimbabwe Media Forum held recently, deputy general manager of Sino-Hydro Mr Wang Jian said one of the mega deals, the Kariba South Hydro Power plant expansion, is now nearing completion.

The project has created 1 500 jobs to date.

“75 percent of civil works have been completed while 30 percent of mechanical installations have been done. The first unit will start to generate power at the end of 2017,” he said.

He said the second unit will be up and running by March next year, adding a total of 300 MW to the national grid.

Since its official commencement in 2014, the Kariba South Extension project has progressed with considerable speed and is clear evidence of successful implementation of the mega deals.

Sino-Hydro has also signed an agreement with the Zimbabwe Government to construct the US$600 million Kunzvi Dam.

Mr Zhao said commendable progress has been made on the US$1, 4 billion construction of Hwange 7 and 8 Power Plants.

“Cooperation is going on and I understand that the two parties are still talking on the agreement.”

The US$150 million expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport was recently successfully completed.

The Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure Development has since revealed that it has engaged the same Chinese financier and contractor for the expansion of Harare International Airport.

China has also released $65 million for NetOne’s network expansion as part of the US$218, 9 million concessional loan signed by Government under the company’s Phase II project.

The loan agreement carries an interest rate of 2 percent per annum and is payable over a period of 20 years.

China also provided US$144 million for the rehabilitation of Harare’s Morton Jeffrey Water plant.

To fulfil the deal signed on providing food aid, China has availed 19 700 metric tonnes of rice worth US$24, 6 million while also providing 10 000 tonnes of urea fertiliser.

The Asian giant capacitated the National Parks and Wildlife with state of the art equipment for wildlife protection valued at millions of dollars.

Addressing journalists on the sidelines of a tour of the China Industrial International Group of Zimbabwe (CIIG) last week, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa said more Chinese markets are going to be opened for Zimbabwe’s agriculture products this year. “We are exploring Chinese markets to be opened for Zimbabwean agriculture products inclusive of horticulture, beef, poultry and stock feeds.”

Minister Chinamasa said China is set to partner Zimbabwe for more SEZ with two initial projects identified in Mazowe and Norton for agriculture.

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