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Tanzania Remains Secretive About Deals With China

Tanzania Remains Secretive About Deals With China

From Mail & Gaurdian

The Chinese presence in the Tanzanian economy is growing rapidly as the eastern giant intensifies its quest for natural resources and a gateway to other African states.

During a state visit to Tanzania in March this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Jakaya Kikwete signed at least 19 agreements reportedly worth more than $6-billion.

According to the website Open Data for International Development (AidData), China has become Tanzania’s largest single trading partner — last year it accounted for 15% of Tanzania’s trade, valued at $2.47-billion — and its second-largest source of investment.

AidData reports that, between 2001 and 2011, mineral-rich Tanzania received $4.6-billion in Chinese funding, which has the added attraction that it does not come with the conditions about human rights and transparency demanded by some Western funders.

But many Tanzanians are concerned that their country will not be the main beneficiary of the big government-to-government deals and worry about the secrecy surrounding them.

Details are hard to uncover as the infrastructure contracts are not awarded by competitive tender and government ministries are extremely reluctant to provide information.

Parliament kept in the dark
Tanzanian MP John Mnyika complained that not even Parliament is informed.

He wrote twice to the infrastructure ministry for information, without result.

A government foreign service officer, Adam Issara, refused to answer questions.


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“I don’t know the details of the contracts; they’re between the two countries. And, anyway, why do you want to know?” Issara demanded.

An official at the Chinese embassy in Dar es Salaam, who would not give his full name, asked amaBhungane to email questions to him. This was done twice but he did not respond.

An amaBhungane investigation found that Chinese business activities in Tanzania are focused particularly on raw materials such as iron ore, coal, the gemstone tanzanite, gold, diamonds and uranium — and on the infrastructure needed to transport these.

China’s interest
“China is mainly interested in sectors such as roads and railways that will help it easily feed its industries,” a University of Nairobi academic, Samuel Nyadema, is quoted as saying in Kenya’s East African newspaper.

He said that the Chinese use project financing “as bait to secure routes to scarce natural resources.”

Central to the Chinese companies, mainly state-owned, is the China Merchants Group, which is building a new port, highways and a railway line.

Chinese firms have also shown an interest in Tanzania’s oil, gas, wildlife and agricultural products.

The major component of the deal clinched in March this year is for the construction of a port at Bagamoyo, northwest of Dar es Salaam, for $10-billion.

Funded by the state-owned Import-Export Bank of China, the facility is planned to be Africa’s largest.

Read more at Mail & Gaurdian.