Kuda Bwititi Chief Reporter
Zimbabwe last year enjoyed a trade surplus of US$445 million with China, in a show of the positive upshots of the growing relations between Harare and Beijing.
China’s Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Mr Gou Shaochun, said this in an exclusive interview with The Herald, revealing that he was eager to see more Chinese investors in Zimbabwe, particularly in the manufacturing sector, which is key to the country’s industrialisation and modernisation.
He said trade between Zimbabwe and China stood at US$1,3 billion in 2018, with Zimbabwe enjoying the larger share of exports.
“The statistics on trade between Zimbabwe and China in 2018 is US$1,3 billion, with China importing US$890 million worth of products and exporting US$445 million worth of products. It shows that Zimbabwe enjoys a US$445 million trade surplus by trading with China. These numbers are similar every year. China wishes to expand trade scale with Zimbabwe and help Zimbabwe reconstruct its economy,” Ambassador Guo said.
Following the elevation of cooperation between the two countries from all-weather friends to comprehensive strategic partnerships, Ambassador Gou said he was eager to see more Chinese investors in the key manufacturing sector.
“There is great potential to explore more possibilities to support Zimbabwe to recover its industry, particularly in the manufacturing sector, like paper making, food processing, textiles and car manufacturing. In this way, we can help Zimbabwe to save or even earn more foreign currency which is in high need at the moment,” he said.
Ambassador Guo said Zimbabwe was a convenient investment destination for solar energy and electric cars, which can help to ease fuel supply challenges bedevilling the country.
“We would also like to encourage more Chinese enterprises to invest in solar power area and to invest in electric cars so as to help Zimbabwe reduce its dependence or consumption on fuel and go green.”
Since assuming office, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration has reinforced the age-old strong relationships between Zimbabwe and China, in a development that has seen revilatisation of economic projects signed between the two countries.
Ambassador Guo said progress on the “mega deals” signed between the two countries were laudable with some projects such as the Victoria Falls International Airport expansion, Kariba South Hydropower Station Extension and the TelOne fibre optic project having been successfully commissioned.
Other projects such as the New Parliament building, which was fully funded by free aid from the Chinese government and the Hwange Power Plant, bankrolled by a Chinese loan, are at advanced stages of implementation.
“These major projects serve as boosts for the economic and social development of Zimbabwe. It is common sense that a country needs a huge amount of capital and a series of infrastructure construction in its economic take-off and early stage of industrialisation. What I want to emphasise in particular is that there has never been any political strings attached to our assistance. It was, is, and will be our consistent principle,” Ambassador Guo said.
He also noted that “tourism can become another new mega deal” saying: ”For many years, the annual figure of Chinese outbound tourists has exceeded 130 million. If 1 percent or even 0,1 percent of them travel to Zimbabwe, it’s a huge market for Zimbabwe, which means huge business opportunities and a large number of new jobs.”
He also encouraged Government “to introduce more policies that are conducive to business in the aspects of land use, tax exemption for import of equipment or spare parts for investment purposes and the arrangement of use of foreign currency”.
With regards to negativity about Chinese investment to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Guo said China has “no political strings attached” to its assistance.
He added: “We noted that a small number of people with ulterior motives have been discrediting such normal trade as looting Zimbabwe’s resources. We hope that the Zimbabwean Government will speak out for foreign investors.”
Ambassador Guo said Zimbabwe had been unfairly treated by some countries on the international front and China will continue to speak up in support of President Mnangagwa’s administration.
Since assuming office, President Mnangagwa has visited China twice to meet President Xi Jingping, with the two leaders pledging to fortify bilateral ties.