China says it is considering fresh funding for new projects in Zimbabwe that should help in the economic development of the country, an official has said.
China’s Deputy Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Zhao Baogang told The Sunday Mail Business that discussions were already underway for possible funding of other major projects.
This will be in addition to ongoing projects such as the Hwange Thermal Power Station, expansion of the Robert Mugabe International Airport and the development of a new Parliament building in Mt Hampden, west of Harare.
“Several projects are under consideration, but I cannot reveal much now, but I can assure you some projects are being discussed,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the just-ended Zimbabwe Annual Debt Conference hosted by African Forum and Network on Debt Development (AFRODAD) in conjunction with Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt Development (ZIMCODD).
According to the deputy ambassador, the projects will be in the energy sector, although he could not provide finer details as they are still at delicate stages. Zimbabwe has been battling severe energy shortages which have crippled industry and production.
Domestic consumers have not been spared either, as they have been subjected to as much as 18 hours of load-shedding.
Mr Zhao said China’s interest in the energy sector will help narrow Zimbabwe’s energy deficit and enhance industry activity, thus contributing to economic development.
“Power shortage is a severe problem and we want to make a contribution to the resolution of the power situation in the country. Without energy, industries do not function at full capacity,” he said.
According to AFRODAD, the energy sector accounts for 62 percent of China’s investment in Zimbabwe between 2005 and 2019.
Other investments have been channelled towards real estate, agriculture, manufacturing, telecommunications and other sectors.
However, China’s investment in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa has often received mixed reactions with fears that the Asian giant was subtly “colonising” the African continent and milking the region of its rich natural sources as its investments are considered “opaque and lacking transparency”.
This is despite the fact that China has fuelled growth in Africa and Zimbabwe in particular which other multilateral lenders have shunned.
According to statistics from the General Administration of Customs of China, in the first half of 2019, China’s total import and export volume with Africa was US$101,86 billion, up 2,9 percent year-on-year.
China recently launched a US$1 billion Belt and Road Initiative infrastructure fund for Africa, and last year delivered a whopping US$60 billion African aid package, further consolidating its robust economic influence.
However, Mr Zhao maintained China’s involvement in Africa and Zimbabwe in particular was mutually beneficial and a sign of the world’s second largest economy’s commitment towards Africa’s development.
He added that Zimbabwe was full of investment opportunities not only for Chinese firms, but other global investors; for instance, in agriculture, mining, energy and tourism.
However, to attract more foreign direct investment into the country, Zimbabwe still needs to create a conducive business environment.
“We are all-weather friends and we will continue to support Zimbabwe when you are in difficulty and hope you can achieve development and get out of the negative situation.
“But, Zimbabwe should address issues like electricity and water supplies. Investors from all over the globe and China will come, but if there is no electricity then production will be limited and investors do not want that,” said Mr Zhao.