By Kuda Chideme, HARARE May 20 (The Source) – Zimbabwe should adjust its trade policies in order to become a more attractive investment destination as it is competing with other African countries for Chinese investment, an official said on Wednesday.
Visiting head of a Chinese business council responsible for promoting South to South trade, Lv Xinhua, said the Asian country had an open trade policy and would channel its investments to destinations where it would get the best returns.
Xinhua told journalists on the sidelines of a business symposium in Harare that Zimbabwe was competing for investment with other countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia.
“Generally we believe the direction of your government is correct but in terms of attracting more foreign investment we suggest that if you are to attract more Chinese investment the government needs to continue to optimize incentives for investors,” he said.
President Robert Mugabe’s government has increasingly relied on Beijing for succour, following its isolation by its traditional western donors over alleged rights abuses following successive disputed elections since 2000 and Zimbabwe’s oft-violent seizures of white-owned farms to resettle blacks.
The Asian giant has become Zimbabwe’s biggest trade partner with trade between the two countries peaking to nearly $1.2 billion between January and November last year compared to $1.1 billion for the whole of 2013.
Addressing the same briefing, Chinese ambassador Lin Lin added that there was need for government to compare its policies with those of other countries in the region.
“Zimbabwe should compare its investment policies with other African countries, particularly with neighboring countries to see whether your policies are more attractive or more preferential because investors will go where they believe they can get more profits,” Lin Lin said.
In August 2014, Mugabe and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping oversaw the signing of various deals, mostly on infrastructure, worth billions of dollars.
Apart from gaining a foothold in Zimbabwe’s retail, mining and agriculture sectors, China has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into Zimbabwe’s infrastructure projects, notably a $144 million water system upgrade for the capital Harare and the addition of 300 megawatts to the 750mW Kariba hydropower project to the west of the country.