Zim-China visa regime to boost business

Zimbabwe’s new visa regime for the Chinese is set to improve business with the world’s second biggest economy that is seeking investment opportunities across the globe.

Recently, China was moved to category B from C on Zimbabwe’s visa regime allowing Chinese nationals to apply for a visa at the port of entry in the country.

Speaking to NewsDay, Chinese Federation of Zimbabwe deputy president Steve Zhao said the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping had garnered interest in Zimbabwe from China.

Jinping visited Zimbabwe last year, becoming the first President of the Asian giant to visit the country since 1996.

“When President Xi Jinping came here last year, Zimbabwe’s name came up and if you compare the tourism interest in Zimbabwe between last year and this year it is much higher this year that was a big advertising for Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has been facing economic challenges so it is difficult to spend money like countries such as South Africa to do marketing in China,” Zhao said.

“At the moment, you have to make sure you are ready to work with these Chinese people. Right now, Chinese people are looking for business opportunities from all over the world. Tourism is a gateway to the country that can attract a lot of people coming for tourism from China.

“When they see the weather is beautiful, the country is peaceful and that there are plenty of resources and there are a lot of opportunities then business will increase in Zimbabwe.”

He said at the moment Zimbabwe needed to be ready to receive tourists and that if the visa issue was laid out smoothly, tourism from China within a year, could double or triple benefitting Zimbabwe’s revenue streams.

Zimbabwe has been heavily reliant on China as its major foreign trading and business partner since the West reduced its trade with the country.

The Sino-Zim business relationship began in May 1996, when the two countries entered into an agreement on the encouragement and reciprocal protection of investments. This agreement protected Chinese firms from reprisals in doing its business in the Zimbabwe.

The main goods imported from China into Zimbabwe were capital investment machinery and second rate finished products which have now saturated the local market.

However, economist Kipson Gundani said Zimbabwe needed to value-add its goods and services.

“Given the Chinese growth momentum in areas of trade and off shore investment, this is likely to boost business between China and Zimbabwe. However, we may see decremented benefits to Zimbabwe if we do not deliberately value add our services and goods we trade with China,” Gundani said.

“Free movement of people is a significant accelerator to economic development through enhancing trade in services and investment flows.”

A measly 6 000 Chinese tourists visited Zimbabwe last year, the worst in the region, while Botswana had an estimated 43 000, Zambia 55 000 and South Africa 158 000 to name a few.