HARARE, Dec 3 (NNN-NEW ZIANA) — President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has left for
South Africa where, as the African Union (AU) chairman, he will lead continental leaders in key trade and investment talks with China, Africa’s fastest growing, and preferred economic partner.

In President Mugabe, Africa has a leader who is genuinely and keenly committed to the continent’s economic tilt to Beijing and other rising Asian economies, away from domineered trade ties and structures with the West.

As way back as the turn of the millennium, he foresaw China’s rising global economic power, and shifted Zimbabwe’s trade orientation towards Beijing, specifically, and Asia, generally. The rest of the world has since caught on to President Mugabe’s vision, including the economically mighty of the West.

In the last few months alone, for example, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been hosted by United States President Barack Obama in Washington, and British Prime Minister David Cameron, and Queen Elizabeth in London as nations around the world scrambled for a
slice of China’s business.

For Zimbabwe, President Mugabe’s prophetic pro-Asia economic policy shift, dubbed “Look East”, has paid off handsomely, with China having long displaced Western countries as Harare’s biggest trade partner.

This picture is also generally reflected across Africa, something which has enlisted both envy and scorn from the West, whose own economic ties with the continent are declining as the continent searches for better trade and investment terms.

From a low figure of 10 billion US dollars in 2000, annual two-way trade between Africa and China has now ballooned to 220 billion USD in 2014. This year, Chinese officials estimate trade with Africa will increase to around 300 billion USD despite China’s economic slowdown which
has constricted commodity imports from the continent.

By 2020, Beijing plans to increase trade with Africa to 400 billion USD annually, almost equal to China’s current trade volume of euro 467 billion a year with the European Union.

Africa has also received tens of billions of dollars which Beijing is pouring, in various ways, into Africa annually in investment, particularly in infrastructure.

For instance, between 2001 and 2010, China’s Export-Import Bank extended 62.7 billion USD in loans to Africa, 12 billion USD more than the World Bank did over the same period.

It is against this background that a lot of deal-making, and strategic positioning is expected at Friday’s 6th Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) summit in Johannesburg, to be ttended by most of Africa’s leaders.

President Mugabe, as the African Union chair, will lead the African team into the talks, advantageously days after meeting President Xi in Harare. — NNN-NEW ZIANA

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