The establishment of Africa’s largest steel plant in Zimbabwe by a Chinese company sets the country on the path to rapid industrialisation and reversal of the effects of sanctions imposed by the West, Ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa has said.
Ambassador Mutsvangwa, the former Zimbabwean envoy representative in Beijing and newly-appointed Secretary for Information and Publicity of the ruling Zanu PF party, was guest speaker to academics, think tanks and diplomats at a hybrid conference hosted by the China-Africa Institute of Tsinghua University yesterday.
The conference was held as a review of the just-ended 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in Dakar, Senegal, and ran under the theme, “China-Africa Cooperation in the New Era: Opportunities and Challenges”.
Ambassador Mutsvangwa praised Chinese President Xi Jinping for his foresight in giving the greenlight for the steel project in Zimbabwe as way back as 2014.
He said increased flow of Chinese capital into Africa meant that host countries could now produce products for the world market.
“In the case of Zimbabwe, we are engaged with the Chinese beyond State companies, beyond traditional investment initiatives,” said Ambassador Mutsvangwa.
“What we now have in Zimbabwe is the arrival of Chinese businessmen on the world stage who are becoming part of the Fortune 500 Companies of the World in the private sector, who have decided that they will go to Africa, invest in Africa for the Africans and make Africans produce products for the world market from Africa.
“Since 2010, Tsingshan Holdings, a major private company in China, which is the largest stainless steel producer in the world, has been in Zimbabwe and has in this past year decided to build what’s probably the largest steel plant in Africa today.
“This is a major development where Zimbabwe, with its abundant iron ore, chrome ore, coke resources, will now join nations of the world in steel production. And when you have steel and cement, your highway is assured.”
Ambassador Mutsvangwa said pre-independence, the industrialisation of the country — then known as Rhodesia – had been guaranteed by the establishment of a steel plant. “In the post-independence era, that plant was closed and Zimbabwe lost its steel plant,” he said. “Now, with Chinese help, we are joining the nations of the world in steel production and we will play a major role in Africa’s role by supplying steel made in Zimbabwe with Chinese technology for the African, regional and world markets.”
Praising President Xi for giving a nod to the Tsingshan project in 2014, Ambassador Mutsvangwa noted that “political vagaries’ in Zimbabwe had almost torpedoed the project, which was only revived when President Mnangagwa took office in 2017.
He said relations between China and Africa were mutual, consensual and futuristic, debunking the myth that Africans lacked agency in the interaction.
Former Chinese Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Counsellor Zhao Baogang, now based at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing — also attended the conference.
“China and Africa are always close to each other and help each other,” Mr Zhao remarked, and noted the support by Africa of China at the United Nations, during the Covid-19 pandemic and regarding questions such as Hong Kong and Taiwan, among other areas.