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Infrastructure investment programme for Zimbabwe: Enter the Dragon

07 Dec 2017 at 09:59hrs | Views
The role of infrastructure is crucial because it underpins development. It lays the base on which economic activities can take off from which then makes it clear that infrastructure provision is a prerequisite for economic development. It is said that infrastructure unlocks economic prospects and promotes growth. Because infrastructure drives economic development and economic growth, it is through infrastructure development that an economy can become an economic role player, both domestically and internationally. Governments should without fail provide infrastructure in order to encourage fundamental economic growth and the safeguarding of competitiveness, both in the domestic and international markets. It should be also recognized that infrastructure is not only essential for economic growth, but also for the delivery of basic services such as water and health, among other things. Social service delivery requires efficient and functioning systems of water, energy and social infrastructural services which are all essential for general human well being. An important determinant in ensuring the well-being of all citizens is the provision of adequate public infrastructure for communities, households and individuals to access publicly provided services.

However, it should be noted that financing of infrastructure is a major problem every government faces. Resultantly, it would be worthwhile to ensure that wherever infrastructure is provided, it must be provided at a reasonable cost. Hence, there is need to ensure that infrastructure is delivered in a cost effective way to save governmental resources. When financial resources are applied it should be ensured that they are applied where they are needed. Bearing in mind that the financing of infrastructure is a burden, the Zimbabwean government should engage players that offer infrastructure at reasonable and affordable costs. One player who has been instrumental in this regard is China.  In the last couple of years, China has become a key source of financial support for numerous infrastructure projects being undertaken in Africa. The development of infrastructure is a key pillar of the relationship between China and Africa. Most of the infrastructure projects awarded to Chinese companies are financed by their government through loans and grants. Chinese massive investment in infrastructural projects have made them Africa's biggest partner (for its infrastructure sector) and accordingly the Chinese have become the leading funder for infrastructure in Africa after outpacing the World Bank in 2012.

Zimbabwe has old and poor infrastructure and as a result of this they do not have a foundation for economic growth and development. Lack of investment in infrastructure is a challenge that Zimbabwe is currently facing. Lack of financial resources has made investment in infrastructure a difficult undertaking in Zimbabwe. The infrastructure financing gap in is quite huge. This, then, makes the idea of engaging China in the investment of Zimbabwe infrastructure a significant windfall.  Zimbabwe's infrastructure is in a bad state and as a result the country should embrace China as a large scale infrastructure financier. However, Zimbabwe needs to be cautious when entering into economic and political ties with China. On one hand, Zimbabwe should embrace the opportunities offered by the relationship with the Chinese but on the other hand, it should preserve and promote its interests. The infrastructure development projects should be of an economic nature. The Zimbabwean government should encourage equitable infrastructure investment with China but at the same time, Zimbabwe needs to negotiate on its own terms, identify priorities, and leverage opportunities to further Zimbabwe's interests.

This is an edited and reworked version of my articles titled:
(i)    China-Africa Relations: What Lies Beneath?  The article first appeared in the Chinese Economy, a journal produced by Taylor and Francis).
(ii)    Economic Regulation and Cost Effective Infrastructure Delivery in South Africa: A Literature Survey (Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences)

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Source - Dr C. Mlambo
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