Business

Zimbabwe trade fair boycotted by India and Russia

A diamond mine in Zimbabwe Image copyright AFP
Image caption A number of foreign miners have interests in Zimbabwe

India and Russia have boycotted a major international trade fair in Zimbabwe in protest against the country's policy of taking control of foreign companies.

Chinese firms, however, have come to the trade fair in Bulawayo in droves.

Earlier this month, President Robert Mugabe's government said it had taken majority ownership of foreign-owned mining firms which had not ceded a controlling stake to black Zimbabweans.

Observers have expressed scepticism about how the state could take control.

Soured relations

Mr Mugabe's power-sharing government is keen to attract foreign investment and had high hopes for the event this week in the country's second city.

China is the single biggest investor at the trade expo, with Chinese companies taking up 90% of the stands.

Some companies from Germany and Italy have also taken stands.

The theme of the trade fair is "investing locally, reaping globally".

However, the absence of investors from India, Russia and elsewhere in Europe highlights how relations, which soured between Zimbabwe and Western countries over allegations of human rights abuses, are still far from restored, says the BBC's Brian Hungwe based in Zimbabwe.

In recent years, foreign direct investment has dried up, but the Chinese appear to be well on their way to filling the gap, he adds.

Land seizure

The Mugabe government set a deadline of late last year for foreign firms to hand majority control to locals under its controversial indigenisation policy.

Mr Mugabe says such moves are needed to right the wrongs of the colonial era, which left most of the economy in the hands of the white minority.

But his seizure of most of the country's white-owned land has been widely blamed for causing the country's economic collapse.

Mr Mugabe's coalition partner and long-time rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, has always opposed his plans to seize control of foreign firms.

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