China should look at Zimbabwe as its centre-piece for development co-operation in Africa because the country is more psychologically and strategically prepared to accept China as a development partner than any other country, a former Zimbabwean diplomat has said.
Businessman and former Zimbabwean Ambassador to China Chris Mutsvangwa told Xinhua in a sideline of a symposium on Sino-Africa and Sino-Zimbabwe relations here recently that Zimbabwe was strategically located in the Southern Africa region because most of the telecommunications and transport network were interlinked through the country.
"If you are talking of a strategic location as an investor, this is the place you will think of putting your industry. But more important, because of the fact that we have made more advances than any other country in opening up to China, we are much more psychologically prepared to accept China as an investment partner," Mutsvangwa said.
Mutsvangwa said Zimbabwe's problems with the West also stem from the advances it had made in dealing with emerging powers like China and India. "No African country is advanced in thinking as Zimbabwe," he said.
He encouraged more Chinese investment in Zimbabwe, saying Zimbabwe was not a basket case, but a case for the future of Africa.
Mutsvangwa said there was no way people to people relations could be furthered unless there were Chinese banks in Africa.
"We need sooner rather than later, Chinese banks to have a physical presence in Zimbabwe in one way or another. I know that there you have the China Development Bank but that's a policy bank. We need presence in the commercial banking sector," he said.
He also proposed a currency swap between Zimbabwe and China to help restore the value of the local currency and the creation of local economic zones.
While Air Zimbabwe flew to China, Mutsvangwa called for reciprocal flights from the Chinese.
The Secretary of Regional Integration and International Co-operation, Tadeous Chifamba, also proposed a currency swap but went further to highlight the lack of specific integration between China and regional organizations such as the Southern African Development Community.
He added that Zimbabwe had not fully optimized the benefits of bilateral cooperation because of balance of payments problems resulting from persistent droughts and the effects of sanctions.
However, he said, there are high expectations that China, which has always stood by Zimbabwe, will participate actively in the economic recovery efforts of the inclusive government by giving support to the Short term Economic Recovery Program though any or a combination of the following measures: debt rescheduling or forgiveness, provisions of lines of credit and credit loan financing.