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Zimbabwe's Mugabe welcomes Chinese tech investment

Er, cheers Bob but keep it down, yeah?

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China’s technology industry received an unexpected, and possibly unwelcome, piece of publicity on Thursday when Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe hailed the success of the “technology transfer” between the two countries.

The Hitler moustache-fancying tyrant apparently thanked outgoing Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Xin Shunkang, for the strong assistance the People’s Republic has given his country and Africa in general, Xinhua reported.

Although the state-run newswire did not quote Mugabe directly, it said he expressed the hope that China can “speed up its technology transfer to Africa and strengthen the exchange of technicians to help Africa to raise its products' added value”.

China has been investing significantly in the continent for years now, in return for access to its vast reserves of oil, minerals and other resources as well as boosting cultural and diplomatic ties in on-going efforts to challenge a perceived western capitalist hegemony.

A Standard Bank Group report from last year predicted Chinese investment in Africa could rise to $50bn by 2015, with bilateral trade worth $300bn.

Information and communications technology is at the forefront of this investment, with companies such as Lenovo, Huawei and ZTE all ploughing significant sums into the region.

Huawei, for example, has had a presence in Africa for 15 years, investing over $1.5bn to establish four regional headquarters, 20 representative offices, two R&D centres and six training centres across the continent, according to info on its web site.

IDC senior research manager Milly Xiang told The Reg that Huawei and ZTE have both achieved strong growth in the region.

“As those less economically developed countries are commonly less penetrated by leading multi-national vendors, it’s comparatively easier for Chinese vendors to make it a start point for overseas market penetration,” she added.

“The experience they get by working with local customers – things like culture differences, local service and support, partnerships and alliances – lay a foundation for their steps into other regions as well.”

Both, however, will probably want to keep at arm’s length any associations with human rights abuser Mugabe, despite the EU lifting more of its sanctions against the country earlier this year.

The firms have come in for a bit of stick in the past after being accused of selling tech to Iran. ®

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