Source: Wang’s visit must focus on economy | The Herald January 7, 2020
Lovemore Chikova Development Matrix
The impending visit by Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi to Zimbabwe this week should help refocus all efforts on immediate needs that will result in a quick economic turnaround.
Relations between the two countries have been known to be at their strongest on the political side.
China is regarded as a world economic giant that has dominated the scene, being second only to the United States, creating more opportunities for cooperation in the economic field with its allies.
It is imperative that during Mr Wang’s visit, officials do reflect on how far they have managed to deal with economic issues in relation to their strong political relations.
Economic aspects making up the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Action Plan (2019-2021) should be reflected upon during this visit with regards to their implementation in Zimbabwe.
Under the plan, China outlined an economic cooperation roadmap with African countries in agriculture, food security and food safety, industrial partnering and industrial capacity cooperation, infrastructure development, energy and natural resources.
Other areas of cooperation under the action plan are tourism, investment and economic cooperation, trade and finance.
China also pledged in the action plan development cooperation, science and technology cooperation and knowledge sharing.
These are some of the issues that are holding back African countries, including Zimbabwe, from effectively pursuing their development agendas.
Quick implementation of these cooperative ideas can result in a win-win development for both China and Zimbabwe.
Yet, a lot of white papers have been produced on how China and African countries can have an effective cooperation agenda, but with little action to enhance the implementation of such good ideas.
Of course, some of the blame for such a lethargic response has been put on African countries, including Zimbabwe, which have been failing to create conducive environments to attract more investment from China.
In the case of Zimbabwe, there have been no clear policies on dealing with potential investors from the Asian economic giant, with a fragmented framework that consisted of various organisations.
Issues such as incentives and operational rules and regulations are being handled by different organisations, which end up duplicating their roles, thereby confusing the would-be investors.
For instance, the Zimbabwe Investment Authority (ZIA) had its own parameters, quite different from other organisations like the Zimbabwe Special Economic Zones Authority and the Joint Venture Unit, which also dealt with investors.
But this is all expected to be corrected with the advent of the Zimbabwe Investment Development Agency (ZIDA), which brings all organisations dealing with investors under one entity.
All those responsible for licensing investors and setting of the proper incentives will be operating under ZIDA, thus lessening the burden for investors.
The ZIDA Bill has been passed by Parliament and now awaits the President’s assent for it to become law.
This is why there is this hype over the pending visit of Mr Wang, a high-ranking official in the Chinese political system, who is expected to discuss new opportunities that exist in Zimbabwe with local officials.
His choice of Zimbabwe among the five African nations he will visit is no fluke, and there are a lot of expectations that it will unlock the economic benefits expected to accrue from the two countries’ good political relations.
Apart from Zimbabwe, Mr Wang will also visit Egypt, Djibouti, Eritrea and Burundi, as part of a tradition which started in 1991 in which a Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister’s first foreign visit each year is in Africa.
For Zimbabwe to achieve its set targets and Vision 2030 of an upper-middle-income economy, the country needs cooperation and development assistance from its partners.
And China has proved to be an outstanding cooperative partner for the country judging by some of the achievements made in the past in enhancing the developmental agenda.
What makes Mr Wang’s visit to Zimbabwe more special is that it comes after relations between the two countries were elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership recently.
In explaining comprehensive strategic partnership in 2004, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said such cooperation was all-dimensional, wide-ranging and multi-layered.
The cooperation covers various fields, including economic, scientific, technological, political, cultural, as well as both bilateral and multilateral levels.
But this visit is pregnant with expectations, especially from ordinary Zimbabweans, that these good political relations will finally translate into fully-fledged economic deals that bring a quick turnaround to the country’s fortunes.
Of course, China has been implementing mega projects in certain sectors in Zimbabwe.
These include the Kariba South Power Station, the New Parliament Building in Mt Hampden, expansion of Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station and the new Victoria Falls International Airport.
But it is notable that there are many Chinese multi-billion-dollar firms interested in opportunities that exist in Zimbabwe, especially for foreign direct investment.
This is why it is important that the visit by Mr Wang focuses on what can be immediately done to help Zimbabwe unlock its potential and be able to attract investment from the Asian country.
Zimbabweans’ focus at the moment is on the economy, and this is the topical issue which Mr Wang and his local counterparts should put high on the agenda in their interactions.
The New Dispensation led by President Mnangagwa has set its goals on reviving the economy, and opportunities exist for Chinese firms to play a big part in aiding such a vision.
It is time that the Asian economic giant steps out and direct its relations with Zimbabwe towards areas that afflict the country and need an immediate turnaround.
Once the economy gets back to its feet, Zimbabwe can once again reclaim its proper position among other nations of the world, bringing more benefits to its cooperation with China.
Political relations between Zimbabwe and China are well-grounded, with their long history stretching back to the liberation struggle when the Asian country helped liberation fighters.
They strengthened after Independence, with China being always on the side of Zimbabwe at international forums like the United Nations.
This show of strong political relations between the two countries has earned plaudits from various spheres, including ordinary Zimbabweans.
And Mr Wang’s visit is as a result of an appreciation of good political relations.
This is why it is important to take the relations to a new level that focuses directly on the immediate needs of Zimbabwe to help quickly kick-start its development path.
Of course, there are a lot of projects being implemented by China in Zimbabwe as mentioned above, but most of these are long-term, whose impact on the economy will be felt later.
There is a need to move faster in establishing enhanced economic cooperation that directly addresses the problems obtaining at the moment.
There are lots of areas for economic revival in which the two countries can establish win-win cooperation for the immediate benefit of people of both countries.
Topical issues in Zimbabwe at the moment include the shortage of fuel, shortage of foreign currency, water problems in cities, shortage of electricity, shortage of cash, high prices of basic goods and transport fares.
It is actually a vicious circle in which Chinese firms would shun investing in the country because it faces such problems.
Why not cooperate in addressing such immediate concerns so that the firms from China can see reason to invest in Zimbabwe because they will be assured of smooth operations.
These issues and many others, need quick solutions, and China can play a part in ensuring cooperation between the two countries focuses directly on them to provide win-win solutions.
The basis of such cooperation has already been laid with the embarking on economic revival projects like the new Victoria Falls International Airport, the Kariba South Power Project and the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station.
What is now needed is the encouragement of foreign direct investment (FDI)to help utilise these projects, leading to the revival of industries and the general increase of economic activity.
The availability of power from the Kariba South Power Station and the expansion of Hwange Thermal Power Station, for instance, should be complemented by progress in industrial growth where the power will be utilised.
Zimbabwe offers massive opportunities for Chinese firms, especially in its vast, yet underutilised special economic zones, and many other areas where strategic partnerships can be forged.
The Asian country has the advantage of technological advancement from which Zimbabwe’s economy can immediately benefit.