Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
THE proposed visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to the country early next month is a major endorsement on Zimbabwe’s readiness to attract foreign investment and foster economic transformation, the business community has said.
President Xi will visit Harare on a historic two-day state visit set to elevate political and economic ties between the two countries.
President Robert Mugabe this week said he looked forward to his Chinese counterpart’s visit with “great interest”.
Excited industry executives and business unions yesterday described the visit as a “grand confidence boost” on the country’s investment image.
“China is the second largest economy in the world and being visited by a global leader from a giant state is of huge significance especially in terms of image and perception, which is a problem for the country,” Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries deputy president, Sifelani Jabangwe, said.
“We’ve been branded negatively by others and this unique visit will allow China to see us as we are not as reported by others. Chinese businesses and their media will follow their President and report positively the opportunities we have. The visit will market Zimbabwe to them and to the whole world. This on its own is good before we consider issues that would be discussed during the visit.”
Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce president Davison Norupiri also said the country stands to benefit immensely from the visit.
“This visit means a lot for Zimbabwe. It shows the Chinese have confidence in our economy. Chinese leaders don’t just visit a country unless they’re planning some massive investment there.
“As a country we may expect an economic boom in terms of foreign direct investment from China. I believe Xi is visiting us because China wants results and that’s the nature of Chinese,” said Norupiri.
“Our view is that we still have people and investors who still want to do business with Zimbabwe. As a country we need to support the initiatives by President Mugabe and his team. This is important in harnessing the needed investment.
“We urge everyone in the system to play their part constructively. We need to speak with one voice in order to revive the economy. If we exhibit divisions we do a disservice to ourselves.”
Norupiri said the business community in the country would be keen to engage the Chinese delegation on investment issues if granted opportunity.
Economic analyst Reginald Shoko said Zimbabwe needs to organise a strong inclusive team that will fruitfully engage the Chinese delegation.
“Obviously the Chinese President will bring with him representatives from parastatals, heads of banks and the private sector. This would be a strong endorsement on Zimbabwe. We also need to align our team well so that we engage fruitfully,” said Shoko.
He said the government should not limit participation on business engagement to ministries and parastatals alone, most of which are limping, but urged opening of the horizon to the private sector and SMEs in a manner that spreads and protects interests of indigenous businesses.
“China is a global market and they can import our semi-processed goods. We need to look at areas where we’ve comparative advantage and use this opportunity to tap their huge market,” added Shoko.
“We’ve done well in creating good political relations with China but weak on making follow ups on business deals. This visit is a powerful endorsement of a business partnership that we should exploit.”
Another economic analyst Morris Mpala said the visit by the Chinese leader should be viewed in economic terms.
“It’s an opportunity for business. In fact China is all about economics than politics because their politics is governed by economics, check all their deals since the 1980. The Chinese have been working for years and years and it’s only showing now,” said Mpala.
“Business needs a round-table to air their views with the delegation. Remember China is a member of the BRICS group; they are a powerful voice whether directly or indirectly. In any case Xi’s endorsement on Zimbabwe’s business would make other players in the BRICS comfortable.”
It would only be the second time that a Chinese President has visited Zimbabwe. President Mugabe has said the visit will enable the country to discuss economic projects and programmes that need China implementation support.
“It’s more than the visit of the Chinese head of state, that’s very important to us. We’ll discuss programmes of cooperation,” said President Mugabe.
President Xi will be in the country on December 1 and 2, a visit that President Mugabe sees as of great significance to Zimbabwe which has been gravitating towards China, generally The East, seeking economic lifelines to jump-start the economy ravaged by debilitating economic sanctions imposed by the European Union and the United States as retaliation for the government’s land reform programme.
From Zimbabwe, the two leaders will attend the sixth ministerial meeting of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in South Africa.
President Mugabe made a State visit to China last year where the two countries signed a number of agreements that will see the Asian giant providing financial and technical assistance in infrastructure development in the areas of transport, agriculture, water, and tourism and power generation among others.
Several Chinese delegations have since visited Zimbabwe to expedite the implementation of the deals, most of them underwritten by Chinese banks and investors.
China, alongside Russia, have announced multi-billion dollar investments in Zimbabwe which when complete will lessen the impact of Western sanctions on Harare.