Editorial Comment: Looking East will unlock opportunities

PRESIDENT Mugabe is among African and Asian leaders attending the Asia-Africa Summit in Indonesia where high-level talks are being held to strengthen South to South co-operation. Sixty years ago, the arrangement was more of a political engagement. But over the years, the two regions have built a comprehensive agenda with issues such as inter regional integration and economic development now receiving more attention.

Zimbabwe has embraced this arrangement by adopting the Look East Policy at the turn of the millennium following hostilities from the West, which imposed illegal sanctions on the country as a show of its displeasure of the land reform programme.

The policy received condemnation mainly from opposition circles, but the rest of the word has now realised the new global economic and political order and the growing importance of the eastern hemisphere in the economic and geo-political terms. In recent years, economic power has been shifting to the East with China emerging as one of the leading global powerhouses in a number of aspects than one.

Firstly, China is the second biggest economy after the United States, Chinese exports have grown steadily in recent years on the back of significant improvements in competitiveness which came into play mainly through specialisation and mass production.

Secondly, China has presented itself as a better investment place for investors due to its strong population of 1,3 billion people; about 20 percent of the total world population.

This, coupled with conducive investment policies and guaranteed demand for goods and services, has seen China attracting 490 out of 500 best companies in the world. To spice it all, China has emerged as the largest lender of money in the world.

Zimbabwe has, in recognition of the strides taken by China in the global and political sphere, aligned itself with the Asian giant, its all-weather friend and first major global power to recognise its Statehood at Independence from Britain in 1980.

China is no doubt the torch bearer of the East when it comes to economic and political relations with its 2008 veto of the US and Britain’s attempts to have Zimbabwe embargoed by the United Nations to remain etched in local history for eternity.

Aside from the strong political relations dating back to pre-independence, economic relations too have scaled dizzy heights. Trade between the two is now in excess of $1,1 billion and favours Zimbabwe while the watershed State visit by President Mugabe last year epitomised the relations after five mega infrastructure deals were signed.

It therefore, makes it rationally inevitable for any country to engage the East, in particular, China because of the Asian giant’s growing economic importance on the global arena.

Outside China, there are a number of interesting lessons developing nations like Zimbabwe can learn from countries in the East such as Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and India.

With respect to India, the country is renowned for its expertise in diamond polishing and jewellery which brings a lot of scope for Zimbabwe particularly now as we are working on adding value to our minerals as enshrined in the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio Economic Transformation.

Zimbabwe and other developing countries also have a great deal to learn from the East on Information Communication Technologies. South Korea is a unique country, which in 1970 was poorer than Ghana, with an income per capita of around $70.

Interestingly, the secret to South Korea’s success was the power of innovation, which was built by its human capital.

Today, South Korea is proud producer of international brands such as LG, Samsung, Kia Motors and Hyundai with more than $200 billion foreign exchange reserves. In addition, South Korea is one of the leading ship builders in the world and has the sixth biggest steel manufacturing company in the world called Posco. As such, it is of paramount importance for Zimbabwe to interact with South Korea and indeed the East.

Indonesia, a newly industrialised country with leading exports in electrical appliances and textiles presents Zimbabwe with great opportunities for trade and investment.

In our view, Zimbabwe’s struggling textile sector can learn a lot from Indonesia as well as Thailand with a view to get a leaf or two on what made their countries textile exports grow. The list of high performing Eastern countries is endless.

We must, as defined by the spirit of South-South Co-operation, always strive no matter our situation, for win-win deals. This was the principle that is guarded jealously by Asia.