Black Affairs, Africa and Development

In Tanzania, we need to talk about China – By Erick Kabendera

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Better friends than the West?

If Tanzania’s founding father, Julius Nyerere, were still alive today, he would surely be considering withdrawing the speech he gave in 1965 when he was famously stated that “it is not China policy at all” to use its economic aid to exploit Africans.

Over 50 years later, the Chinese are no longer searching for a possible railway route to link up the Zambian copper belt with the Tanzanian coast. But they are still here and currently engaging in a process of frantic foraging for the country’s natural resources.

Investments such as the 532 km natural gas pipeline linking the southern Tanzanian gas fields to the country’s biggest city, Dar es Salaam – financed by the Chinese government-owned Export-Import Bank to the tune of $ 1.2 billion – show that the Chinese are here to stay.

In the past few months, the country has learnt a few things about Chinese operations in Tanzania. These include a deep involvement in elephant poaching; Chinese businesspeople being ushered through airport security points without inspection; Chinese business gurus driving straight to State House to sign a deal to repair an airport in exchange for a mining site, and UN allegations of Chinese companies smuggling gold from DRC through Dar es Salaam with the help of corrupt customs officials.

On top of that, the Communist Party of China seems to be renewing its close relationship with Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, which has remained at the helm of power since the country’s independence in 1961, with the aim of using the party to influence investment and trade decision-making.

Not only have visits of CCM officials to China, and vice versa, increased in frequency, but the Chinese Ambassador, Lu Youqing, late last year went as far as accompanying CCM officials on a regional tour in Shinyanga where, at a public rally, he pledged continued support to help the ruling party implement its election manifesto.


Erick Kabendera is a Tanzanian freelance investigative journalist.  Tweet him @kabsjourno
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