Chinese partnership to boost HE infrastructure

Zimbabwe and China have developed a framework that will pave the way for skills and infrastructure development at Zimbabwean universities and in other sectors as the African government pushes to create university towns.

This was after the Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa visited China last week for a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping.

The meeting comes a month after Zimbabwe held the Higher and Tertiary Education Infrastructure Investment Conference in which it was pushing for public-private partnerships and build-operate-transfer models to develop infrastructure at institutions of higher learning.

The China trip was Mnangagwa's first visit outside Africa following the resignation of former president Robert Mugabe last November.

Since taking power, Mnangagwa has declared that Zimbabwe is open for business and has since held several investment conferences, including one for infrastructure development at universities.

Mnangagwa's spokesperson George Charamba in an article in the state media said the president's China visit will result in skills and infrastructure development.

"The second key gain came by way of a Chinese initiative to upgrade Zimbabwe-China bilateral status to that of a comprehensive strategic partnership. This is quite a departure from the nebulous ‘all-weather friend status’ which, though sweet to repeat in the political mouth, materially and concretely amounted to little in the marketplace. Comprehensive strategic partnership status in effect confers on Zimbabwe preferred status as a destination for investment capital, aid, skills and other initiatives,” he wrote.

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira last week told University World News the strategic partnership which now exists with China is set to benefit the higher education sector, especially with infrastructure development. He said his ministry has been looking for partnerships “everywhere” since the new administration came into office.

“I want to tell you that we have infrastructure development proposals as we have been looking everywhere for partnerships. We have a deficit of accommodation for 139,000 students and we have been wooing investors for joint ventures,” he said.

“We are planning to create university towns, and this is a unique model whereby an investor develops infrastructure and gets the money by collecting money from students, let’s say for 10 to 15 years. After that they leave the building; they cannot take the buildings away with them.”

The minister said he cannot divulge at this stage all of the proposals agreed on, but in May some of the projects may start taking shape.

During last month’s higher education infrastructure conference, representatives of universities and colleges also had an opportunity to table infrastructure requirements for tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe, including modern libraries, lecture rooms, clinics, state-of-the-art sporting facilities and student and staff accommodation.

During the conference, Mnangagwa said public-private partnerships and build-operate-transfer were models which could be adopted in infrastructure development by higher education institutions.

“The initiative to invest in universities has received tremendous response from investors, both domestic and foreign,” he said.

President Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe’s education has been able to compete globally but the missing link has been infrastructure development.