Everyone is looking East
Bernard Bwoni Correspondent
China owns US$1,317 trillion of the US Government’s Treasury bonds and you never hear anyone commenting that China is colonising the USA? In the case of Zimbabwe you often hear sensational headlines as ‘Zimbabwe Government ‘sells out’ to China or ‘Zimbabwe mortgaging Zimbabwe’s future to China’. President Mugabe was recently in China to negotiate a package to fund the country’s Zim-Asset blue-print and other infrastructural development projects. Just as with the relationship between China and the US, President Mugabe’s trip was purely a business and the key is mutually beneficial engagement.
The country is negotiating for a US$4 billion rescue package to steady the economy and start implementing major infrastructure developments. The Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Project Delivery System is a way to finance big projects especially infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships where China will receive a concession from the government to construct big infrastructure development projects in Zimbabwe.
This is a mutually beneficial agreement where Zimbabwe will acquire power plants, major highways, huge solar projects, railways, airports, water supply facilities and China will also benefit from her investment and recover the costs of funding the projects.
The Chinese will fund new and existing capital projects under the BOT basis and this will ensure that the country pays for the projects over a long period. This allows for tangible development and the tax burden will not fall on the already struggling people of Zimbabwe.
Some sceptics have expressed concern that the country is planning to sideline the State Procurement Board and award government infrastructure projects to Chinese state companies without going to tender. But these are government to government initiatives to fund national projects there is no need for them to go through tender. There are many countries world over using BOT initiatives to fund huge infrastructure projects and these include the Saudis with their oil, Abu Dhabi, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand and the Channel Tunnel was constructed on the backdrop of a BOT with a 60 year concession period.
So when you hear such statements as President Mugabe has gone to China to mortgage the country and that this is a ‘so-called new form of colonialism’, the point remains that it is just a BOT, purely a commercial deal that is not only unique to Zimbabwe.
There is concrete, visible and tangible evidence of the roads and other infrastructure that China is building in Africa whereas engagement with traditional development ‘partners’ continues to witness conflict after conflict in any area of resource-abundance.
All eyes seem to be looking to the East side of the continent and final destination China. The vision of one extraordinary African, President Mugabe was to look east when all other avenues were locked shut by the country’s traditional engagement partners who always seem to prosper at the misery and suffering of others. Now this vision is equally shared by the same traditional engagement partners and as President Mugabe ends his weeklong visit to China at the invitation of Mr Xi Jinping we explore how this look east is not ‘a new form of colonisation of Africa by China’ as some in Zimbabwe and in the western media have made us to believe.
It is only just over six months ago that the British Prime Minister Mr Cameron, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr Osborne and Mayor of London Boris Johnson all led individual high powered business and trade delegations to China.
That went to pass without anyone proclaiming that Britain was being colonised by China. It is what it is, purely a business deal. The US and Europe have been tripping over each other seeking economic lifelines from the same Chinese they claim are on a ‘new form of colonising Africa’.
It was remarkable seeing President being welcomed with such honour from our honourable friends from China.
He was welcomed with a full honour guard outside the Great Hall of the People where he received a 21-gun salute. That is the nature of the relationship with our engagement partners from the east, mutual respect.
Zimbabwe is going to triumph and that is thanks to the vision from the country’s look east policy.