Tafadzwa Muranganwa/Brenna Matendere
Harare—Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe is increasingly tapping into opportunities provided by Chinese investments.
China’s growing presence in Africa is attracting the attention of other established financial institutions too.
The Absa Group, a lender based in South Africa, has indicated its plan to establish an office in China.
The office would initially act as an advisory centre that links ABSA with Chinese investors.
Stanbic Bank, which commenced business in Zimbabwe in 1992, is a subsidiary of the South Africa-headquartered Standard Bank Group that opened its first branch in the then Rhodesia in 1892.
Last month, the bank convened a two-day exhibition in Harare that was meant to bring together Chinese and Zimbabwean investors, following up on a job fair it organised in 2022.
While Zimbabwe has witnessed an influx of hundreds of Chinese investments post-2017 when President Emmerson Mnangagwa took over from the late long-ruling Robert Mugabe through military assistance, only a handful of companies from the Asian country heeded the invitation to exhibit at the recent Stanbic China Day fair that ran under the theme, “Creating Sustainable Partnerships for Growth”.
On the opening day, the vice president of the Chamber of Chinese Enterprises in Zimbabwe (CCEZ), Shane Liu, noted that Chinese investments in the southern African nation were growing.
“With recent years, there are increasing numbers of well-established and capable Chinese companies which are investing in Zimbabwe. We are glad to see that Chinese private investments also becoming a vital force to promote Zimbabwe’s economy,” said Liu.
The CCEZ was formed in 2006 and has over 80 member companies that are active in Zimbabwe’s agriculture, mining, renewable energy, infrastructure development, telecommunication, trade, manufacturing, logistics and transportation sectors.
The chamber confirmed that it worked closely with Stanbic Bank Zimbabwe.
“Stanbic Bank has for long valued its relationship with the Chinese business community in Zimbabwe and works closely with our chamber. Last year, we partnered to host a highly successful job fair,” he added.
China is now the biggest source of investments for Zimbabwe’s agriculture, mining and informal sectors of the economy. It is also this country’s third largest trading partner.
Trade between Zimbabwe and China surged 29 percent year-on-year to a record high of US$2.43 billion in 2022, according to the Chinese embassy, with the former exporting US$1.3 billion and importing US$1.13 billion worth of goods from the Asian country.
Zimbabwe mainly exports tobacco leaf, processed tobacco, ferroalloys, edible fruits, leather, iron and steel and chrome ore, among other primary products and imports machinery, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, vehicles, spare parts, among other products from China.
Latest statistics from the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (ZIDA) indicate that, in the third quarter of 2023, Chinese companies were awarded licenses with a potential to bring US$2.79 billion in investment inflows.
Stanbic Bank head of trade and Africa-China banking, Tapuwa Nyika, told the media at the trade fair that his institution had moved to clinch partnerships with a number of Chinese companies.
Stanbic’s interest in Chinese investments was always coming, considering that the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC)—the biggest global bank by assets—is a notable stakeholder in Standard Bank.
In August, Standard Bank renewed its 15-year strategic cooperation with ICBC for a further five years.
“Standard Bank has long understood the primary importance of China to the growth of our continent, and I am privileged and honoured to thank my colleagues at ICBC for their ongoing partnership. We look forward to the next 15 years together as we build on our successes and drive inclusive and sustainable growth in Africa,” said Standard Bank Group chief executive, Sim Tshabalala, at the signing ceremony.
“This relationship between Standard Bank and ICBC is critical to accelerating Africa’s economic development, broadens China’s relationships with Africa, and gives African exporters access to the world’s largest and most dynamic market,” he added.
Stanbic used the latest fair in Harare to launch an exporters’ guide to China that provides information on how Zimbabwean investors can enter the Chinese markets.
The partnership between Standard Bank and ICBC has seen over 3,500 Chinese commercial, corporate and state-owned entities setting up shop in 15 African markets, according to the former, with the bulk of the firms being private firms.
Nyika praised the emerging relationship between Stanbic and ICBC.
“China’s economic influence is spreading throughout the globe and, as Stanbic Bank, we have opened this window for our clients to maximise on this event (Harare fair) and expand, leveraging on our relationship with ICBC,” said Nyika.
The October fair in Harare followed a three-day Zimbabwe–China business forum held in Beijing earlier in the year where Stanbic and 25 Zimbabwean companiess participated.
According to Nyika, the companies from Zimbabwe had business meetings with 250 Chinese entities from various sectors of the economy.
Nyika also revealed that Stanbic had since entered into partnership with another Chinese conglomerate, Zhejiang International Trading Supply Chain Co. Ltd, which trades as Guamao and has over 10, 000 validated Chinese suppliers.
“The partnership with Guamao ensures that Zimbabwean businesses wishing to buy products from China are guaranteed superior quality goods,” he said.