China, Zimbabwe sign 10 pacts on President Xi's visit

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02 December 2015

On the first visit to Zimbabwe by a Chinese leader since 1996, president Xi Jinping today witnessed the signing of 10 economic agreements, which included an agreement for the expansion of the southern African nation's largest thermal power plant.

Zimbabwe, which had fallen out of favour with the West after President Robert Mugabe's government faced accusations of vote rigging and human rights abuses, is increasingly looking to China for investment to help an economy desperate for new infrastructure like roads, power and water.

China's Export and Import Bank signed an agreement for the provision of over $1 billion for the 600 MW expansion of Hwange thermal power station, which would be undertaken by Chinese firm Sinohydro Corp.

Xi would travel to South Africa tomorrow, where he would meet president Jacob Zuma and later co-chair the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit in Johannesburg.

The Chinese firm won the $1.5 billion bid to add two generation units at Hwange in western Zimbabwe in October last year. The additional capacity is expected to go a long way in tackling the crippling electricity shortages that plague the country's economy.

China's Exim bank would also provide a loan to state-owned telephone firm TelOne for the installation of fibre for internet broadband.

Xi is expected to address a joint press conference with Mugabe after signing economic deals later tomorrow.

China is Zimbabwe's biggest foreign investor, pumping in $600 million in 2013, according to Chinese ambassador to Harare, Huang Ping.

Mugabe and Xi are expected to sign several "mega deals," said Ping.

In South Africa, Xi will address a forum on cooperation between Africa and China as he works to strengthen ties with this continent that is a key supplier of oil, minerals, tobacco and cotton to Beijing.

China's growth in Africa has slowed over the past two years as the weakening Chinese economy demands fewer of Africa's resources, although overall trade topped at $200 billion US last year.

Mugabe, whose country is struggling with mass company closures, high unemployment, low liquidity and foreign direct investment and food shortages, has said he and the Chinese leader will discuss "some of the projects and programmes we want China to assist us in undertaking."

China's imports from Zimbabwe include gold, diamonds, platinum, tobacco, nickel and chrome. China has invested in construction, energy and telecommunication projects in Zimbabwe.





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