Zimbabwe’s US$3bn China loans: Here’s what they were used for

Chinese power: Kariba generator unit funded by Chinese loans

Between 2000 and 2020, China gave 1,188 loans worth US$159.9 billion to Africa.

How does Zimbabwe compare?

Zimbabwe got at least 30 loans worth US$3 billion over those 20 years. The country accounts for 1.9% of the value of the loans to Africa over that period, according to a new report by Boston Univeristy’s Global Development Policy Center.

Angola got the most loans, taking 254 loans worth US$42.6 billion. Angola’s share of the value of Chinese loans to Africa is 26.7%. Zambia got 78 loans worth US$10.1 billion, and accounts for 6.3% of China’s Africa loans.

Here are some of the key projects funded by Chinese loans.

Chinese power

The bulk of China’s loans to Zimbabwe have gone into the power sector. This includes the expansion of the 300MW expansion at the Kariba power station, which was funded by the China Export-Import Bank and built by China’s Sinohydro. The plant was commissioned in March 2018. China has also provided a loan for the construction of two new thermal power units at Hwange, which will add 600MW to the grid when complete.

ICT: Network expansion

In 2015, TelOne, the state-owned telecoms company, got a $99 million loan to expand its fibre optic network. TelOne used part of the loan amount to lay cable, starting with a project to lay 330 kilometres of fibre on the Bulawayo-Beitbridge route. China also extended loans to fund three network expansion phases at mobile operator NetOne.

Taking flight: China’s airport loans

In transport, China’s biggest loans have been for the expansion of two airports; a US$164m loan to expand the Victoria Falls Airport and another loan, of US$152m, for the expansion of RGM International in Harare.

Playing defence

China’s has lent money to Zimbabwe for the purchase of 12 Airforce of Zimbabwe trainer jets, and for the construction of the Zimbabwe Defence College.

Agric spending

In 2016, China lent a total of US$226m to Zimbabwe for farm equipment and inputs.

Water and health

In 2012, China lent US$144 million to Harare to refurbish its aged water reticulation system. China also provided funding for the construction of Mahusekwa hospital, as well as for equipment and medicines.


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