• Southern Africa economy struggles to rebound from recession
  • China agrees to fund electricity project, wildlife authority

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe heaped praise on China for its support, which he said is partly offsetting the effects of sanctions, as the countries signed aid deals to fund power generation projects and build a new parliament in the southern African nation.

"As we engage with various Chinese institutions in structuring cooperation projects, against the backdrop of illegal sanctions, we greatly appreciate the understanding and flexibility shown by China," Mugabe said at a state banquet in the capital, Harare, on Tuesday to honor the two-day visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

"It is that empathetic approach, based on principled solidarity and genuine friendship, which is accelerating our recovery from debilitating sanctions," said Mugabe.

Zimbabwe’s economy is struggling to rebound from a near decade-long recession through 2009, after Mugabe’s government backed an often-violent program to seize white-owned commercial farms, slashing tobacco exports. For years, the European Union and U.S. have imposed targeted sanctions, although some restrictions have been eased recently, in response to allegations of human rights abuses and electoral fraud.

Like other nations in Africa, Zimbabwe has increasingly turned to China to help finance large-scale infrastructure projects as trade surged. China is Africa’s biggest trading partner, with two-way flows exceeding $220 billion last year.

China’s Export-Import Bank will lend Zimbabwe $1.2 billion to repair and expand the main Hwange coal-fired power plant, with the work being carried out by Sinohydro Corp. Deals were also signed for China to fund construction of a pharmaceutical warehouse and parliament building, Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said. The countries agreed on an aviation partnership and support for Zimbabwe wildlife authorities.

Xi will leave for an Africa-China summit in neighboring South Africa on Wednesday.

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