‘Failure to transfer money back to China dampening spirits’

BY MTHANDAZO NYONI recently in HeFei, Anhui province, China

CHINESE investors say they are committed to continue investing in Zimbabwe, but unfavourable investment conditions like failure to expatriate investment back home were dampening their spirits.

Speaking to NewsDay during a visit to China recently, investors said they were struggling to remit their money outside Zimbabwe, a situation that has made it
difficult for some of them to continue pouring more money into the southern African country.

“It’s difficult to recover the money. Even now, it’s not allowed to transfer your money back to China. It’s not allowed. So, we have to do business locally. If
we have problems, we even have to increase our investment,” Zim-China Wanjin Agricultural Development Company’s former general manager, Yang Zhimeng, said.

Zim-China Wanjin Agricultural Development Company, which is a joint venture between Zimbabwe’s Defence ministry and Anhui Provincial State Farms Group of
China, currently operates three farms in Zimbabwe, producing wheat, tobacco, maize, cotton and soyabeans.

Zhimeng, however, said they had no plans to de-invest.

“We have no plans to retreat. We are trying to overcome the difficulties. We hope the environment will improve. It’s not easy to operate farms at the moment.
So, we need a better environment. It’s not easy to continue the operations. It’s impossible to take the money back,” he said.

Anhui Foreign Economic Construction (Group) Co Ltd (Afecc) vice-president Tian ShiYue echoed similar sentiments.

“This is also the major problem that we are facing (unable to expatriate funds). I think all the companies that have invested in Zimbabwe face the same
problem. To be frank, right now the investment environment is not so good for that reason,” she said.

The company has been in Zimbabwe for more than 10 years, working with government on different projects.

ShiYue hoped that the new government, led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, would improve the investment climate to attract investors.

“Also, the other big problem is the exchange rate. It has been changing very fast and it affects investors’ confidence. We hope the investment environment will
be improved in the future,” she said.

Afecc was extracting diamonds in Chiadzwa through Anjin Investments, but was barred from mining diamonds by government in 2016 for alleged failure to remit
taxes and royalties.

Some of its portfolios, through its Anjin Investments vehicle, include the three-star Golden Peacock Hotel in Mutare and shareholding in Harare’s Long Cheng
Plaza Mall. The Chinese firm constructed the US$98 million National Defence University, which now hosts regional military personnel who come for training in
Zimbabwe.

Investors also complained about labour laws which they said were rigid, restrictive to investment and turned to be more favourable to employees.

This, they said, scared away many prospective investors.

Anhui Provincial State Farms Group deputy general manager and chairman of the Zimbabwe joint venture Hunyani farms Chen Ren Hu urged government to remove
investment bottlenecks to boost investor confidence.

He said agriculture has potential to improve people’s livelihoods.

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