Analysis: Zimbabwe, China economic relations strengthen

…As trade volumes breach record, more investments set to increase cooperation

Tichaona Zindoga

Economic relations between Zimbabwe and China continue to improve, and as the year closes, 2025 will likely see more exponential growth.

Recent statistics and developments are remarkable. This past week, it was revealed that the two countries exchanged goods over US$2.4 billion — a record achieved last year — in the first nine months of the year.

Information from authorities indicates that trade between China and Zimbabwe increased by 39.4 percent to US2.43 billion, meaning the year is going to end on another record.

Zimbabwe’s exports to China in the 9 month period totalled 1.36 billion dollars, while imports amounted to 1.07 billion dollars, the embassy said, adding that “China’s continually expanding imports contributed to a 29 million dollars trade surplus for Zimbabwe.”

At the same time, the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency has said China is Zimbabwe’s third-largest export destination, with neighbouring South Africa as the largest and the United Emirates as the second-largest export market.

According to Zimstat, China is Zimbabwe’s second-largest source market after South Africa.

Mining and agricultural products dominate exports to China.

Further developments mark a lot of promise for the consolidation of economic cooperation of the two sides.

Zimbabwe has begun exporting citrus fruits to China and is also set to add other agricultural commodities such as macadamia nuts, blueberries and avocados into the basket, thus widening the revenue and export base.

In the past year, more and more Chinese have invested in lithium, meaning that the metal — useful in new energy materials in batteries for electric vehicles, solar and electronics — will significantly add to exports.

Prospect Lithium, owned by Chinese giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, began exporting lithium concentrates at the beginning of the second quarter of the year. At peak it will produce 4.5 million tonnes of ore and 450 000 metric  tonnes of concentrate per year.

There are a dozen other major Chinese companies in the sector, including Bikita, Kamativi and Tsingshan.

Incidentally, the companies formed an industry association last month, which is a key development in the sector, as well as economic relations between Zimbabwe and China.

Tsingshan, which is operating probably the biggest mineral value chain, is set to begin steel production early next year, as the US$1.5 billion steel plant starts operations.

Mining itself is set to rake in billions of revenues, and contribute to the Gross Domestic Product.

All these mean not just export revenues, but also employment for Zimbabweans to support the domestic economy.

Already, as the largest source of FDI, Chinese companies as a bloc are the biggest employees in the country. Zimbabwe is also set to benefit from influx of Chinese equipment such as machinery and trucks, which are boosting productivity for local companies and entrepreneurs.

At policy level, Zimbabwe has aligned itself with China’s development thrust seen in the Belt and Road Initiative, which will see the country benefiting from huge infrastructure projects in energy, transport and telecommunications.

The upgrading of power infrastructure and airports through bilateral agreements will drive the economy by creating conducive environment for productivity.

Still, the full potential of these projects has not been exploited.

There is a wonderful opportunity to deepen economic cooperation so as to enable Zimbabwe to meet its development goals, and improve livelihoods of ordinary people.

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