Kuda Bwititi, Harare Bureau
China’s signature foreign policy programme, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has opened fresh opportunities for Harare to elevate its relationship with Beijing and also unlock fresh funding for economic projects, a top Chinese official has said.
The second BRI summit ended at the weekend, unlocking multi-billion dollar deals for countries which China has partnered under the initiative.
About 40 Heads of States from around the world, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, attended the summit which sought to elevate China’s connectivity with the rest of the world.
Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa headed Zimbabwe’s delegation at the summit.
In an interview, China’s deputy ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Zhao Baogang said Harare is poised for massive benefits from BRI.
Mr Zhao said financial cooperation between the two countries is expected to go north.
“We want to emphasise that China will continue to provide more loans and more grants to Zimbabwe. But what is important to note is that even greater financial cooperation can be achieved through the investment that the Ambassador has emphasised.
“There is no limit to the amount of investment that can come to Zimbabwe from China. We urge your Government to do more to attract Chinese investors through the ease of doing business.”
Mr Zhao the said the ball was in Zimbabwe’s court to receive capital from China as the Oriental State plans to invest $750 billion in the next 10 years under BRI projects.
“It is really up to Zimbabwe’s Government and business to see what projects they come up with to get a bigger share of the $750 billion.
“Since BRI was launched 300 000 jobs have been created on the Old Silk Road route.”
The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West.
Mr Zhao said in line with the thrust to upgrade relations, a high-powered Government delegation headed by Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade will visit Beijing in the next few weeks.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in China has invited your Minister of Foreign Affairs to discuss these issues. We believe that such dialogue gives the platform for us to understand each other and understanding each other is the foundation for greater cooperation.”
Mr Zhao said there is great scope to increase trade between the two countries, as the world’s second largest economy provides a huge market opportunity for Zimbabwe to sell its products, particularly agriculture.
He said in the next decade, China’s commodities market will be worth a whopping $24 trillion.
“This year in June, Zimbabwe delegation will be invited to China for a high level exhibition in the city of Chang- Sha.
“This will be yet another chance for Zimbabwe to showcase its products. There is a huge market for agriculture produce, in particular citrus products.
“In fact it is estimated that in the next 10 to 15 years, China will import US$24 trillion of goods from around the world. China has a huge market through its 1,4 billion people.
“We want your Ministry of Agriculture to work with our embassy to take up these opportunities which can be very lucrative for Zimbabwe.”
Mr Zhao said under the BRI’s infrastructure cluster China wants to assist Zimbabwe in the construction of railways and roads.
He said under people to people exchanges more than 1 000 Zimbabweans will travel to China for educational scholarships and training programmes.
There is also going to be an enhancement in cultural exchanges between peoples from the two countries.
In her remarks in one of the meetings at the summit, Minister Mutsvangwa said BRI “could not have come at a more propitious time for Zimbabwe” as it feeds into Vision 2030.