Mnangagwa’s China trip brings economic hope back to Zimbabwe
An historic trip to China by Zimbabwe’s new president has opened up a new page in bilateral relations.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in power since November 2017, described his first state visit outside of Africa as a huge success. His five-day state visit was viewed by many as the most important he has made so far.
On April 3, after being welcomed with full military honors by Chinese President Xi Jinping, talks yielded a commitment to step up cooperation and the signing of a string of Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) spanning economic and technical support, humanitarian assistance, human resource development, education, water, sanitation and infrastructure development.
Chinese President Xi Jinping holds a welcome ceremony for his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa before their talks at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, April 3, 2018. /Xinhua Photo
Mnangagwa’s China trip was closely followed back home where hopes are pinned on him to recover a stagnant economy by bringing idle industries back to life, creating jobs and increasing foreign direct investment.
“I am hoping President Mnangagwa’s visit will reassure Chinese investors and strengthen areas of economic collaboration,” said Sharon Mazingaizo who is employed as a receptionist in the capital Harare. “I am expecting more investment into Zimbabwe as a result of the trip.”
Her sentiments are shared by economic and social commentator, Davison Gomo, who says Zimbabwe stands to benefit if it is incorporated into the “Silk Road.”
National flags of China and Zimbabwe at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 2, 2018. /VCG Photo
“I think if the two presidents can agree, at their level, that this is what Zimbabwe needs and that this how it expects China to assist, then the ministers, technocrats and business people can then work out the finer details, then this trip will have been a success,” he said. “If we can get on the Silk Road then so many facets of our infrastructure will be addressed and you know that will create lots of jobs.”
Chinese financial support is already making a significant difference to Zimbabwe’s infrastructure. Loans from China’s Exim Bank have been used to expand power generation capacity and upgrade airports. More credit lines are expected to help Zimbabwe leap frog more than 18 years of isolation and decline.
“For me tourism is one area where I expect Zimbabwe to leverage its partnership with China. We know China is huge untapped source market for our tourism sector so we need to find ways to attract more tourists here and use Chinese finance to improve facilities such as air strips, hotels and recreation facilities,” explained Desire Chingombe, a courier driver.
President Mnangagwa’s trip comes at a crucial time for his administration which is gearing up for watershed elections in July. The polls will have a bearing on Zimbabwe’s international re-engagement and the work the new government has done in its four months in office.
China-Zimbabwean business forum held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, April 3, 2018 /VCG Photo
It’s so far so good according to Daniel Sei Muriyamwe, a rural high school teacher, from Manicaland Province.
“My view is that Mnangagwa hasn’t done anything wrong yet,” he said. “We need to give him time to roll out his policies.”
Others aren’t convinced and expected him to resolve a long running cash shortage within his first few months in office.
“There are some things they have promised us they will do, like infrastructure, money in banks, but there are still queues at the banks, prices of goods are going up so for me nothing has changed so far,” said Privilege Nhiwatiwa, a Harare resident
But many remain optimistic.
Sharon Mazingaizo has been especially encouraged by the inclusivity that the new president has demonstrated.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa delivers a speech during a China-Zimbabwean business forum at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, April 3, 2018. /VCG Photo
“President Mnangagwa has taken steps in engaging citizens across all spheres to work together for the development of the country and to fight corruption. He has pledged free and fair elections and invited international observers to monitor the elections,” she said.
Zimbabwe has a lot riding on the polls but also on Mnangagwa’s China trip which many expect to yield positive practical outcomes.
Innocent Kagodore, an unemployed graduate said: “We have heard a lot of promises from the president but it will take time to see the results. We have to wait and see what he comes back with from China. At least China has stood by us through the hard times so we can be sure they will work with us now.”
President Mnangagwa described his trip as a huge success. He hailed the chemistry between the two nations which had seen Zimbabwe laying bare its challenges to which the Asian giant responded positively.
Citizens of his country hope this will mark a turning point that will put their nation on a path to economic growth and prosperity and which can begin to deliver the brighter future that they all yearn for.