Unskilled ministers to be sent to China


THE Chinese embassy is organising seminars in Beijing for Zimbabwean cabinet ministers and bureaucrats to help them learn how to engage top investors and financial institutions in the world’s second largest economy after it emerged that they had exhibited little knowledge on how to structure bankable project proposals.

The officials will receive lessons on how to design sound project proposals, an area they lacked skills in, diplomatic sources said.

This follows concerns that Zimbabwe is failing to fully utilise the US$60 billion which Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to finance projects in Africa in the form of assistance, investment and loans under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) meeting in Beijing in September last year.

Zimbabwe has been outdone by other African countries in terms of accessing the money.

A top Chinese diplomat accredited to Harare told the Zimbabwe Independent in an interview that the embassy had realised that many Zimbabwean ministers do not know how their portfolios can benefit from the facility, hence the decision to take them on learning trips to the Asian nation.

Some of the project proposals have been rejected after failing to satisfy investor requirements, according to the diplomat, while some ministers do not know which specific projects qualify for funding under the BRI.

The BRI is an ambitious undertaking by China to improve infrastructure and investment in Asian, African and European countries.

“Thus this year we will work together. We have our plans well set,” the diplomat said, adding that they have already had the embassy’s plans approved by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

“We have met with the President twice this year and we had very good discussions. He is happy with our plans. We will soon invite ministers to talk to financial institutions and potential investors in China.

“Twenty financial institutions there have already confirmed their interest. We have realised that Zimbabwean government officials don’t know how to engage these people and it’s our duty to facilitate these discussions, we need to have more discussions,” the diplomat said.

“Sometimes, we talk to the ministers and ask them: Do you know about the Belt and Road Initiative, and they ask: which road, the road from Harare to Mutare? So we want them to attend seminars in China and familiarise themselves with how these programmes work.”

He said key sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, mining and construction are being targeted for these programmes.

“There is no reason why, for instance, Zimbabwe should not benefit from the big Chinese tourist source market. Each year, we have around 140 million outbound tourists. So we can’t just talk, we have to also walk.

“We want Zimbabwe to set up offices in Beijing and Shanghai specifically to promote the country’s tourism resorts. Zimbabwe has very attractive tourist destinations like the Victoria Falls, Great Zimbabwe and the national parks.

“China has a big middle-class, which spends a lot of money on travelling and we think Zimbabwe can benefit a lot from that money. These are our plans and ideas for this year,” the diplomat said.

This also comes as China has lined-up several multi-sectoral billion dollar investment projects for Zimbabwe for this year, covering mining, manufacturing, steel and hospitality sectors.

China, the single largest foreign direct investment source for Zimbabwe in nearly two decades, invested US$3 billion in the country under the older funding facility, a sum which is well below what other African countries like South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya are getting.