Zimbabwe Considers Privatization Drive, Chinese Companies Likely to Bid

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in office since November 2017, has proposed the part-privatization or sale of 35 state-owned enterprises as part of an effort to reduce the country’s debt burden of at least $11 billion dollars. Coming just days after President Mnangagwa made a state visit to China, it can be expected that Chinese firms will be among the bidders, if and when the privatization drive takes place. Prior to his visit to Beijing, he told Chinese state media that the plan “is not only about attracting capital into Zimbabwe. It’s an issue of leapfrogging after 18 years of isolation so that we catch up with the rest of the developing countries.”

China played a role in the recent political transition in Zimbabwe. Military chief Constantino Chiwenga visited China days before Mugabe’s fall, while Beijing also sent Special Envoy and Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong to Harare shortly after Mnangagwa assumed office. While it is unclear which state firms Mnangagwa will seek to sell, part of China’s interest in Zimbabwe is due to the country’s rich mineral and metals reserves. Zimbabwe has the world’s second-largest platinum reserves, as well as the fifth-largest lithium reserves. Cooperation on mineral resources development was among the topics discussed when Xi Jinping received Mnangagwa in Beijing. The Zimbabwean President’s visit to China was his first non-African travel since coming to power.