By Lloyd Mbiba
HARARE - Chinese vice President Li Yuanchao spent less than an hour in Zimbabwe en route to Zambia for a four-day official visit, were he signed development loan and grant agreements worth $64 million.
Li Yuanchao spent less than an hour in Zimbabwe on Wednesday during a stopover at the Harare International Airport en-route to Zambia for the four-day State visit.
It was not a planned visit to Zimbabwe as Vice president Joice Mujuru had to meet her Chinese counterpart at the airport.
Li Yuanchao is said to have reiterated to Mujuru his country’s commitment to assist financially, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZimAsset).
Zambia will use the funds to improve its water reticulation system in rural areas, upgrade the country’s only international airport in Lusaka and improve education facilities, among a raft of other projects.
From there on, Li Yuanchao will pay a visit to Tanzania to promote economic and trade partnerships.
While Zimbabwe refers to China as its all-weather friend the Asian giant has been busy investing in other African countries.
The recent snub on Zimbabwe has once again reignited the debate on whether the Chinese are indeed our all-weather friends.
China become a major player in the country’s economy through their State-owned enterprises like Anjin Investments — involved in a diamond mining venture in Chiadzwa — and Sino-Zimbabwe Holdings.
According to Global Witness’ report, Anjin has the most lucrative diamond concessions, given in exchange for the $98 million for the construction of the army’s National Defence College.
Prior to these projects, the Chinese were accused of opting for the retail businesses in foodstuffs, household goods and clothing which — apart from crowding out struggling indigenous entrepreneurs and crippling the clothing industry — did not add much value to the country’s economy.
President Robert Mugabe, during his key-note address on Independence Day in April accused the Chinese of flooding the country with cheap labour.
A week later, Presidential Affairs minister Didymus Mutasa blasted China for failing to come on board and help the country revive its economy, adding Zimbabwe was on its own.
Chris Mugaga, economic analyst told the Daily News on Sunday this week that the Chinese are reluctant to come to Zimbabe because of political risk.
“They are avoiding us obviously because there is political risk in Zimbabwe. It is for this reason that they are going elsewhere with their investments,” Mugaga said.
While Maxwell Saungweme, a development analyst, said China was never Zimbabwe’s friend and instead, it is the southern African country that claimed to be in good books with the Asian tiger.
“The issue is the Chinese were never our friends and will never be. We are the ones who tried to befriend them but they don’t see much economic benefits for investing in good relations with Zimbabwe,” Saungweme said.
He added that Zimbabwe does not provide a favourable environment for investors.
“The truth is that in spite of mineral endowments and high literacy levels, we are not an attractive investor destination. The biggest risk investors shun Zimbabwe for is political risk that has been hovering over the country since 2000 when we embarked on land invasions,” he said. Daily News