Harare airport - Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Harare on Tuesday on a two-day state visit as Zimbabwean officials, including President Robert Mugabe, are warming up to investment opportunities from the world’s fastest-growing economy.
Mugabe and Xi will hold talks later in the day and sign investment deals as Zimbabwe seeks to enhance infrastructure development to offset a crippling capital gap.
Xi touched down at Harare International Airport escorted by two fighter jets and two helicopters while schoolchildren and activists from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party lined the streets to the airport.
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Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the visit to Harare by the Chinese leader shows the country's growing trade and economic ties with Zimbabwe, whereas previously ties between the two countries mainly centred on diplomatic and political issues.
“The Chinese are becoming strong in terms of their investments in Zimbabwe. There is a lot of interest in all sectors of the economy from Chinese investors,” Chinamasa said at Harare airport.
Xi inspected a guard of honour mounted at Harare airport's domestic terminal. A 21-gun salute was fired in his honour as Zimbabwe pulled out all the stops to welcome the leader of the world’s second-largest economy.
Several investment deals are set to be signed between the two countries at Zimbabwe’s State House on Tuesday evening and the ceremony will be presided over by Mugabe and his Chinese counterpart. Xi will fly to South Africa on Wednesday, where he is expected to preside over a China-Africa economic and investment conference from December 4 to 5.
Zimbabwe's Secretary for Foreign Affairs Joey Bimha was quoted on Tuesday morning saying it was “all systems go and the agreements to be signed will be in the areas of communication, civil aviation, transport (and) infrastructure” among others.
China has emerged as a strong trade partner for Zimbabwe, alongside South Africa. Data released at the Zimbabwe-China Business Forum held on Monday shows Zimbabwe is now Chinese investors' 6th most preferred destination in Africa.
Reports show China had poured in as much as US$600m in investment into Zimbabwe by 2013; the figure is expected to have grown significantly in the past two years. In Zimbabwe, Chinese investors are active in chrome mining, construction, retailing and distribution, cement manufacturing and communications among other areas.