Chinese provinces are increasingly taking an interest in exploring African markets for their investments and help firms on the continent increase production capacity.
The venturing into Africa by the Chinese provinces is in line with the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) and pronouncements by the Chinese government at the last meeting of the body in South Africa last year. China is the biggest backer of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, a platform which envisages all the 54 countries on the continent enjoying some form of industrialisation by that year.
In that pursuant, six Chinese provinces recently held the Forum on Global Production Capacity and Business Cooperation in Wuhan city of Hubei province of China to seek ways of increasing this cooperation. The provinces were Hubei, Jiangxi, Shanxi, Anhui, Henan and Hunan.
The forum saw the provinces signing 28 major projects worth about $8 billion in areas such as infrastructure, high and new technology, new energy, bio-pharmaceutical, energy conservation, logistics and environment protection. Chinese officials who spoke at the forum included Director General of the Department of African Affairs at Chinese Foreign Ministry Mr Lin Songtian, Vice President of China-African Business Council Mr Zhang Huatong and the general manager of the Department of Northeast Africa Investment Mr Li Dongwei.
Mr Lin said Africa had bright prospects and Chinese provinces and firms should take an active role in the continent’s development. “Africa is the important direction of China’s international cooperation on production capacity,” he added. African delegates invited the Chinese provinces and firms to partner with their countries.
Speaking at the forum, Zimbabwean ambassador to China Mr Paul Chikawa said African countries needed to broaden their industrial bases and increase production capacity. “We have several opportunities spanning several sectors - infrastructure, energy, water, transportation, housing, construction, agriculture and agro-industry, tourism as well as, indeed, trade itself,” he said.
“It is in this regard that we invite and welcome Chinese companies to come to Zimbabwe to operate under the banner of the production capacity cooperation.” One of the Chinese provinces to take this initiative to a higher level is Jiangsu, which continues to invest millions in countries such as Zimbabwe. The province recently completed the expansion of the Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe, at a cost of $150 million and has invested more funds in iron and steel metallurgy, agriculture, construction and installation,
Victoria Falls is the major tourist attraction spot in the country and is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation as a World Heritage Site and is also considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Responding to questions from this reporter on the province’s investments in the Southern African country recently, the Jiangsu Provincial Department of Commerce said the volume of trade with Zimbabwe was growing.
“In 2015, Jiangsu’s trade volume with Zimbabwe totaled $56.39 million, up by 18.4 percent from a year earlier,” said the province. “Of this total volume, $53.80 million were from Jiangsu’s export to Zimbabwe, up by 72.8 percent, $2.59 million import, down by 84.3 percent. “Among our exports to Zimbabwe, machine, mechanical appliance, electrical equipment and the parts took the first place, accounting for 53.3 percent, base metal and its metal works as well as textile raw material and textile products ranked the second and third, accounting for 12.1 percent and 11.7 percent respectively.”
Jiangsu said imports from Zimbabwe were mostly minerals, accounting for 69.7 percent, textile raw material and textile products ranked second, accounting for 26.7 percent, wood and wood products ranked third, accounting for 3.6 percent. “Meanwhile, we encourage our enterprises to carry out investment study activities in Zimbabwe,” said the province. “We will continue to serve and support Jiangsu enterprises in their endeavour to invest and develop African countries, including Zimbabwe.”
The province urged the Zimbabwean government to strengthen the inter-governmental communication with major investing countries and implement cooperation that truly reflects mutual benefit and win-win relations. The China Jiangsu International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group Ltd (CJI), a State firm of Jiangsu province, was instrumental in carrying out the Victoria Falls International Airport Expansion and many other projects.
The expanded airport was put into service in December last year and it is estimated that the number of tourist arrivals at the resort would increase from 500,000 to more than two million per year. Wide body airplanes such as Boeing 747 and 767 and Airbus 340 and 380 will now be able to take off or land on the newly-built airfield runway.
“In Zimbabwe or even Southern Africa, this airport will be regarded as a modern international airport, for all its technical and application dimensions have reached high standards of today’s international civil aviation services,” said CJI in response to the questions. “The expansion on Victoria Falls Airport brings jobs to local people, horns the skills of Zimbabwean technicians, teaches Chinese big time construction technique and management to Zimbabwean counterparts, nurtures a group of talents locally and helps promote the construction industry in Zimbabwe.”
CJI said it would continue to engage in facilitating development of African express railway network, expressway network, regional aviation network and infrastructure in cooperation strategies between China and African countries.