Felex Share Senior Reporter
Mega deals signed by President Mugabe during his State visit to China last year are set for take-off, with the Asian economic giant announcing yesterday that it will immediately bankroll a number of selected infrastructure projects.
Identified projects, whose funding is ready, will be implemented this year, with special economic zones being constructed in Harare and Bulawayo, major roads being dualised, national railway links being rehabilitated and water projects being completed.
The financial support to the much-needed key economic enablers is expected to create thousands of jobs and spur economic growth in line with Zim-Asset.
The finalisation of the deals was revealed when visiting Chinese experts from the National Development and Reform Commission met President Mugabe at State House in Harare yesterday.
The NDRC is the economic planning body of China and has been in Zimbabwe to verify the bankability of the projects before starting to finance them.
Speaking after the meeting, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda said the projects would revive the economy by rehabilitating, upgrading and building key physical and social infrastructure and utilities as espoused in Zim-Asset.
He said as a follow up to the mega deals, President Mugabe sent Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to China in a move that saw an “upgraded” Memorandum of Understanding being signed between the NDRC and the Office of the President.
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“It is the upgraded MoU which has resulted in the sending of a six-member delegation to concretise the deals and work out a framework on going forward,” Dr Sibanda said. “The identified projects agreed will be implemented this year.”
Dr Sibanda said special economic zones would be built during the first phase of the mega deals.
“We have identified special economic zones as a definite programme of action, that is SunWay City in Harare as well as one in Bulawayo, entailing a construction of an industrial economic zone covering beef to leather industry, cotton to textile industry, steel and foundry, entailing the rehabilitation of the National Railways of Zimbabwe, the headquarters of our rail system,” he said.
“We have projects in the infrastructure area to be done and this includes the road system from Beitbridge-Masvingo-Harare-Chirundu as well as rehabilitation of rail links spanning Bulawayo through Gweru and Harare up to Mutare and going as far as Mozambique.
“The phase will also see works being done on the railway line to Victoria Falls passing through Hwange from Harare where it will link with the Copper Belt and eventually Angola.”
Dr Sibanda said the Gweru-Chiculacula railway line up to Maputo will be refurbished, while the Harare-Nyamapanda Highway would also be dualised.
He said Government had identified some Chinese companies that are in the country to work on some of the projects.
“They are familiar with the risky environment and have accepted it,” said Dr Sibanda. “We are going to simplify the procurement system and we will discuss with the State Procurement Board. If people are bringing in their money there is no need to take long to approve the procurement.”
Other special economic zones, Dr Sibanda said, would be created along the way.
“This means thousands of jobs for the local people and Zim-Asset picking up pace,” he said. “The Kunzvi Dam, Musami and Osborne water projects will also be undertaken.”
Leader of NDRC, Dr Liu Jianxing, said it was all systems go with the implementation of the projects set to start soon.
“We are starting this as soon as possible,” he said. “We have talked to different officials from different departments and we had some field visits in Bulawayo.
“We visited the Cold Storage Company in Bulawayo and we think it is a good project with great potential to drive this country’s economy. We have heard that the beef from Zimbabwe is the best in the world and a lot of my people hope to eat that beef.”
He added: “We also visited the NRZ and we know that it is a State-owned company and has played a very important role in terms of development. Even though it has faced a host of challenges, we hope to bring in Chinese investment and advanced technology to revatilise the company and turn it into a competitive one in the African region.”
Dr Liu said China was prepared to take economic risk and assist Zimbabwe in transforming its economy.
The mega deals were signed as part of Zim-Asset, the five-year development programme that was crafted to provide solutions to problems facing the economy that rose due to the West’s illegal sanctions regime.
Special Economic Zones are areas in which foreign and domestic companies can trade and invest without the same control and regulations from central Government.
These areas are designed to encourage overseas investment and boost the country’s economic growth.
In China, the concept has been a huge success and saw towns growing into big cities after they were turned into SEZ areas.
Shenzhen, in Southern China near the border with Hong Kong, was among the first four locations in the country to be given SEZ status.
At the time, the city was just a small town, now, 33 years on, it is a booming trade hub and one of China’s largest cities.
The other areas that have established big cities due to the SEZ concept are in China’s Guangdong and Fujian provinces.