Manicaland leverages on Zim Sino Relations

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7 mins read

Ray Bande

Mutare- Manicaland is working towards becoming Zimbabwe’s top investment destination amid growing Chinese interest in the province.

According to the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA)’s 2023 Fourth Quarter Report released this month, Manicaland was ranked second in projected investment value per province at US$1. 4 billion, behind Masvingo’s US$1.7 billion.

Manicaland’s remarkable performance in attracting high value investments dwarfed that of Harare at US$1 billion and Zimbabwe’s former industrial base, Bulawayo, which managed to woo investments worth US$53 million during that quarter.

One of the biggest drivers of the surge in the projected investments is the interest registered by Innermost Resources Zimbabwe (Pvt) Ltd in a venture to process gold in Penhalonga.

Innermost, a locally registered firm, describes itself as “a mining organisation focusing on disruptive, innovative mines redevelopment and capacitation models for responsible, future proof mineral resources extraction.”

During the 2023 fourth quarter, ZIDA issued the firm a licence to undertake US$1.4 billion minerals processing projects in Penhalonga (Manicaland), Turk Mine (Matebeleland North and Kwekwe (Midlands).

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The ZIDA figures revealed that in Manicaland, just as the national investment trends show, China is a major source market for investors for the province, largely because of Zimbabwe’s Look East Policy that was first enunciated two decades ago.

China is now the biggest source of investments for Zimbabwe’s agriculture, mining and informal sectors.

It is also the country’s third largest trading partner.

A 2023 throwback investigation by The Manica Post in collaboration with the Information Development Trust (IDT), a non-profit organisation that supports investigative journalism in Zimbabwe and Southern Africa, showed a huge jump in Chinese investments in the country, especially post 2017.

Manicaland now says it wants to take advantage of the trends to grow the provincial economy from US$2.5 billion to US$10 billion by 2030.

“The province has competitive advantages in the mining, tourism and agriculture sectors, particularly in fruits and vegetables production,” said Mr Munyaradzi Rubaya, the director for Economic Development in the Office of the Permanent Secretary for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution.
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“Its perennial rivers and dams can be used for power generation, surfing, fish farming and irrigation,” he added.

“We are geared to leverage on the long standing China-Zimbabwe relations to ensure that we get as much Chinese investment as possible in the province.”

Last year, Zimbabwe shipped its first consignment of citrus fruits to China under a new protocol between the two countries, and Mr Rubaya believes it is a boon for Manicaland, which has citrus fruits in abundance.

The province has developed several strategies to lure investors, especially from China, that include participating in specialised exhibitions, using social media platforms, embarking on trade missions and road shows.

“We are developing a live website to market the province,” said Mr Rubaya.

“We are also developing investment literature that dovetails with pamphlets, brochures and magazines that tell the story of investment opportunities in the province.

“Investment fora such as indabas, conferences and meetings, social media platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, exhibitions, expos, business missions, trade missions such as Sanganai/Hlanganani World Tourism Expo have also been part of our efforts to make investment opportunities in Manicaland known.”

Of late, Chinese investors have shown an appetite for mining ventures in Manicaland with gold, lithium and diamonds being some of the most sought after minerals.
5. In August last year, President Mnangagwa commissioned a US$45 million floatation plant at the Chinese-owned Sabi Star Lithium Mine.

The mine, which is owned by Max Mind Zimbabwe, is one of the biggest investments in the province post 2017 by a Chinese firm.

Chinese investors were also behind the construction of the imposing Golden Peacock Hotel in Mutare.

The Asian giant also has an active presence in the Chiadzwa diamond fields where Anjin Diamond is its flagship investment.

Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) Manicaland president, Mr Bernard Makoni said there is a big interest in the Chinese, be it as customers or partners, in the province.

“In fact, there is a drive at local and country level through partnerships with ZIDA, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and also ZimTrade (to bring Chinese investors to Manicaland),” said Mr Makoni.

“Chinese investors are into timber and timber products. This can be value addition or primary breakdown. They are also into mining. As CZI, in terms of investment promotion, we strongly support ZIDA’s activities.

“We participate in outward missions that are done by Government on investment promotions.”

Sino-Zimbabwe trade hit a new high last year as it grew by 29.9 percent and this was attributed to increased exports destined for China. ZimTrade said Zimbabwe recorded a 120 percent growth in exports to China last year to US$1.3 billion. China now accounts for 17.7 percent of Zimbabwe’s exports and the country in 2023 enjoyed a US$300 million trade surplus.

The country mainly exports tobacco leaf, processed tobacco, ferroalloys, edible fruits, leather, iron and steel and chrome ore, among other primary products.

On the other hand, Zimbabwe imports machinery, pharmaceuticals, pesticides and vehicles, among other products from China.

Beijing was President Mnangagwa’s first foreign destination outside Africa when he succeeded the late President Robert Mugabe six years ago, and the visit marked the beginning of heightened Chinese investments in Zimbabwe

President Mnangagwa’s visit in 2018 saw China upgrading the bilateral status between the two countries to that of a comprehensive strategic partnership.

The comprehensive strategic partnership status conferred on Zimbabwe preferred status as a destination for investment capital, aid, skills and other initiatives led by China.

This story was commissioned by Information for Development Trust (IDT) and published by Manica Post.