Mutambara blasts China

DALIAN, China – Africa was "sick and tired" of having its natural resources exploited by China and getting little development in return, Zimbabwe's deputy prime minister said on Friday.

"We are sick and tired of the old model, where China comes to Africa and extracts raw materials and goes back to China," Arthur Mutambara told Reuters in an interview on Friday. "Now we are not interested in that."

China is one of the few countries close to the long-embattled Zimbabwe government, but that did not deter Mutambara from challenging Beijing to do more to help development.

"We are not going to produce raw materials in Zimbabwe for China. China will come on our terms as partners," he said during a trip to China to attend the World Economic Forum in the northeastern Chinese port city of Dalian..

"We want to manufacture cars with China in Zimbabwe. We want to manufacture computers with China in Zimbabwe."

China and African nations will gather for their latest summit later this year in Egypt.

While Mutambara does not stand at the front ranks of Africa’s leaders, his strong comments may suggest some of the ambitious expectations that Beijing must address as that summit approaches.

Mutambara leads a faction of the Movement for Democratic Change, the opposition group that has secured a place in Zimbabwe’s government, which is struggling with deep economic malaise, inflation and scant investment. 

Zimbabwe has asked the world for help for its devastated economy, and says it needs $10 billion to rebuild dilapidated infrastructure and ease a 90 percent unemployment rate.

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Zimbabwe has urged Chinese mining companies to invest in that sector, but Mutambara said his government also wants China to channel investment into building the manufacturing plants that are China’s strength, for products such as catalytic converters and computers, and funding the country’s banks.

"China has a lot of capital," he said. "We want them to capitalize our banks so we can invest in agriculture."

Mutambara said Zimbabwe was in talks with Chinese companies on potential manufacturing projects, but he gave no details.

While Beijing has shown more support for Zimbabwe’s government than Western powers, Chinese investors have remained skittish about investing amid the recent unbridled inflation and political turmoil.

Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change in February formed a brittle coalition administration with President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF to end a long-running political crisis and a decade of economic ruin.

As he became a pariah in the West, Mugabe has tried to boost economic ties with Asian countries, especially China.

Beijing and Chinese companies have pledged tens of billions of dollars to Africa in loans and investments, mostly to secure raw materials for the world’s fastest-growing major economy.  

China’s trade with the continent has jumped by an average 30 percent a year this decade, reaching nearly $107 billion in 2008.

Tsvangirai said earlier this year that Zimbabwe had secured $950 million in credit from China to help rebuild its economy, but the Zimbabwe Finance Minister later said no such agreement had been reached. Reuters