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China's finance minister visits Zimbabwe to bolster bonds

Africa's resources central to China: expert
Cape Town (AFP) Feb 8, 2011 - Africa's rich natural resources will remain key to China as the Asian giant grows at a more moderate but sustainable pace, an expert on the country told an African mining conference Tuesday. "We feel that demand from China is something to rely upon," said Kobus van der Wath, managing director of consultancy Beijing Axis, adding that China's economic performance was not a "flash in the pan". "If anything we will see a more moderate growth rate and therefore more moderate but certainly more sustainable demand." China should be viewed as a broad player on the continent, where a lack of infrastructure and capital play to the its strengths, he said.

The world's second-biggest economy "comfortably" had outbound investments of more than $50 billion a year but there was greater appetite and ability to invest more, particularly in Africa, he said. The "Chinese, although they are not new, are becoming a far more intensive player... and far more assertive in their global aspirations," van der Wath told delegates at the Investing in African Mining Indaba conference. "Raw materials is a big focus for this global expansion and really Africa is also a very big focus." "Africa will continue, and developing countries and resource hubs will continue, to be very very important in terms of focus," said van der Wath. Africa drew 14 percent of China's investment last year, he said.

S.Africa criticized for sending 'warship to Ivory Coast'
Abuja (AFP) Feb 8, 2011 - The west African bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday chided South Africa for sending a "warship" to Ivory Coast, but Pretoria's ambassador said it was a support vessel dispatched to the region and not meant for any military purpose. James Victor Gbeho, head of the 15-nation West African bloc which has threatened to use force to oust Ivory Coast strongman Laurent Gbagbo, told journalists "there is a South African warship docked in Cote d'Ivoire." "Action such as that can only complicate the matter further," he said.

South Africa's ambassador to Nigeria disputed Gbeho's reference to the vessel as a warship and said it could serve as a neutral negotiation venue. He said a similar arrangement was used for the Democratic Republic of Congo years back when South Africa mediated. According to the ambassador, the vessel had initially docked in Ghana, but he said he did not know its current location.

"There is nothing amiss about the vessel we sent. It's just a harmless support vessel," Kingsley Mamabolo told AFP. "It could be used for evacuation. It's not meant to go and intervene militarily. "It's ridiculous for anybody to suspect that South Africa would want to do a thing of that nature," he said. "We have in the past sent ships (to troubled areas) which are not combat ships, but support ships for various reasons such as a venue for neutral negotiation, or in the event of evacuation." He said South Africa "in principle has never believed in intervention by force."

"South Africa will never, ever intervene without consulting the regional bloc, in this case ECOWAS, and that we will never do anything that has not been authorised or mandated by the African Union (AU)." ECOWAS has recognised Gbagbo's rival Alassane Ouattara as president and demanded that Gbagbo quit power. But the AU has tasked a panel of five heads of state to find a peaceful, binding solution by the end of February. The panel, made up of the leaders of Burkina Faso, Chad, South Africa, Mauritania and Tanzania, sent a team of experts on an exploratory mission to Ivory Coast.
by Staff Writers
Harare, Zimbabwe (AFP) Feb 6, 2011
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visits Zimbabwe on Thursday to buttress ties between the Asian powerhouse which has solidly backed the southern African nation battered by western isolation.

Yang's two-day visit is "to further consolidate bonds and friendships between our two peoples," the Chinese embassy in Harare said.

He is expected to meet President Robert Mugabe and senior government officials but government has not revealed details of the meeting.

"We are confident that after Minister Yang's visit, Sino-Zimbabwe relations will be uplifted to a higher level," ambassador Xin Shunkang told journalists, when announcing Yang's visit.

Yang's visit comes weeks after Zimbabwe's investment promotion minister Tapiwa Mashakada announced plans by China Development Bank to fund investments worth $10 billion in Zimbabwe's mining, agriculture and infrastructure sectors.

Zimbabwe and China have political ties dating back before Zimbabwe's independence when Beijing provided arms and training to guerrillas fighting British colonial rule.

China has also been pivotal in protecting Zimbabwe at the UN. In 2008 China vetoed a UN Security Council resolution seeking sanctions against Harare.

Chinese construction companies are involved in major projects in Zimbabwe, including the construction of the country's main sports stadium and several government buildings.

Ambassador Xin said Yang's visit at the invitation of his Zimbabwe counterpart was to "show our support to Zimbabwe's justified requests at international arena and exploit and expand our mutually beneficial co-operation."

In 2010 China exported $159 million worth of goods to Zimbabwe, according to the national statistics agency.

"Chinese companies have made inroads in the main sectors of the economy," said Takavafira Zhou, a political scientist from Masvingo State University.

"We maybe apportioning the country to the Chinese companies and regret later. What we are having is Chinese imperialism. The Chinese businesses are killing local companies and unfortunately with the blessing of ZANU-PF," said Zhou, referring to Mugabe's party.

Faced with the crippling western sanctions, Mugabe adopted a "look east" policy, which saw the country receiving loans from a number of eastern nations.

Political commentator Christopher Mutsvangwa said Yang's impending visit was an affirmation of burgeoning ties.

"The political bond is now taking an economic dimension as China is looking at business opportunities in Zimbabwe," Mutsvangwa, a former ambassador to China, said.

In recent years, Chinese traders have moved into shops previously left empty at the height of the country's economic crisis. But Asians have been criticised for flooding the local market with cheap-quality imports, derisively referred to as "zhingzhong" which have been blamed for putting locals out of business.

"Mugabe has stated several times that he was looking east in terms of investment...perhaps China can fill a void where the west has left gaps," said Sanusha Naidu, research director for emerging powers in Africa Initiative for Fahamu, a human rights and social justice advocacy group.

"China is also looking at resources that Zimbabwe has. The visit could be also about looking at the other actors in the Zimbabwe economy in terms of how Chinese investors compete with South African and Indian investors," Naidu said.

Sanne van der Lugt, a research analyst at the Centre for Chinese Studies at South Africa's Stellenbosch University, said China is one of Zimbabwe's few remaining friends.

Zimbabwe's economy is recovering from a decade long political crisis which paralysed the economy and shut down industries. The crisis ended with a shaky powersharing government between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

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Mutiny by south Sudan ex-militiamen kills 20: army
Juba, Sudan (AFP) Feb 5, 2011
A rebellion by former pro-Khartoum militiamen in south Sudan against giving up their heavy weapons sparked two days of clashes which killed 20 people in oil-producing Upper Nile state, a military spokesman said on Saturday. The fighting in Malakal, the state capital, close to the border with the north, killed 20 including two children and wounded at least 24, said Philip Aguer, spokesman for ... read more

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