IN this instalment, we look at a US$1,8 billion deal between the Government of Angola and China Railway Construction Corporation Limited.
This deal was struck in 2006.
It was for the construction of a 1 344km Cape gauge railway line.
It is known as Benguela Railway Line and is of great regional importance as it connects the Atlantic port to Angola’s eastern most city of Luau, which borders the Congo.
This connects to Katanga railways which lead to Zambia.
The Benguela Railway Line had been in existence since the 1920s but was under colonial ownership.
In 2001, it ceased being under Belgian ownership and was taken over by the Angolan Government.
Though disrupted by civil wars, the railway line which was contracted to the Chinese to reconstruct, became functional within 10 years.
It has been operational since 2015.
Most African nations were colonised in the late 1800s, when a European scramble for Africa was initiated in Berlin, Germany.
Africa was divided up into lots and claimed by the German, British, French and Belgian governments, among others, without the knowledge or consent of Africans.
Afterwards, the Europeans set forth to claim the lands they allocated themselves on maps.
They came with subtlety, deceit and violence against an unsuspecting people.
The livelihoods of Africans would change forever, leaving only remnants of our trades, technology, culture and history of old.
What we previously considered civilised was overtaken by alien influence.
The result is a state of being deemed underdeveloped or Third World countries as the West likes to put it.
In Africa’s quest for independence and sovereignty, Zimbabwe’s arrival was later than most.
While most of North Africa became independent early in the 1900s, and sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s.
Zimbabwe became independent in 1980 with South Africa being free in 1994.
It, however, seemed that Zimbabwe and South Africa, having undergone colonialism for a relatively longer time, had better infrastructure such as roads and so on.
When we became independent, affairs concerning the planning and development of infrastructure became our responsibility.
Not so was the case in South Africa which remains largely in the hands of the white settlers.
Since the 1980s, Eastern nations like North Korea and China have been behind the construction of important monuments like the Heroes’ Acre.
After relations with the West worsened owing to Zimbabwe’s involvement in the DRC war and its Land Redistribution Programme, a look east policy was officially adopted.
Since then, other African nations have taken the same initiative to look east and much development has since taken place.
However, Zimbabwe which used to be known for having the best rail and road networks is not fully utilising its ties with Eastern nations like China to exploit its strategic position.
Bordering Zambia to the north, Mozambique to the east, South Africa to the south and Botswana to the west, Zimbabwe could leverage its important location which allows access into the hinterland and towards the coast by modernising it rail systems.
The same goes with goods and passengers travelling north from South Africa and vice versa.
China can be a big problem solver of our challenges in terms of transport and other infrastructure.
Other African nations that were far behind us and void of rail networks and tarred roads are now equipped with new age standard gauge rail networks and thousands of kilometres of newly tarred highways.
An example is the DRC.
Much of the technology and infrastructure Zimbabwe used to be renowned for in the 1970s and 1980s is getting irrelevant, out of fashion or obsolete.
There needs to be re-planning, revamping and rejuvenation in different fields to give Zimbabwe a chance to bask in her past glory.
Will the then bread basket of Europe and Africa now be reduced to a nation dependent on forex and imports?
What of the intelligent, strong and entrepreneurial nature that Zimbabweans are known for at home and in the Diaspora.
Will these skilled human resources not be utilised to produce basic and luxury commodities locally, with technical assistance from nations like China?
If China’s rise to economic world power status has taught us anything, it is that there is no short cut to economic stability. Hard work, taking risks and sacrifice are the safest and most certain routes to economic prosperity.
We have seen how the Ethiopians are trying to train their population in all manner of industry.
Their limitations, owing to limited adult literacy, are not a factor in Zimbabwe.
Anyone is therefore capable of learning anything.
In this time of price rises, forex shortages and the consequent unavailability of some basic and luxury goods, the importance of exploiting the skills and services of the Chinese cannot be ignored.
It is my sincere hope that the examples of what China has done so far in other African countries can convince us that China is not the new coloniser that the Western media makes it out to be.
Rather, they are our chance to break away from our former colonisers with a tried and tested, non-hostile catalyst of development which can even see us overtaking our Western counterparts in some areas.
Through China, a farmer and miner can procure equipment that enables them to work faster and more efficiently.
They can then procure machinery and skills to process the raw materials and raise their value therein.
We can then have a chance to rely on ourselves and not imports.
Perhaps it is this level of organisation and self-determination that the West fears when it demonises China’s involvement in African business.