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Xi set to unveil $10bn Tanzania port project

 Xi arrived in Tanzania late on Sunday, and will attend the Brics summit in South Africa on Tuesday and Wednesday

Story highlights

  • Xi is expected to sign co-operation agreements with Tanzania, including a $10bn port project
  • The port, which is located north of Dar es Salaam, will be linked to a special industrial zone
  • The Tanzania-Zambia railroad, built in the 1970s, was one of China's first major infrastructure projects in Africa

Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to unveil a big port project in Tanzania during his first visit to Africa as head of state, highlighting China's growing infrastructure investments in the resource-rich continent.

Chinese investment in and trade with Africa have soared over the past decade, with China's lending to developing country governments and companies surpassing that of the World Bank during certain periods.

The visit to Tanzania is rich in symbolism because the Tanzania-Zambia railroad, built in the 1970s, was one of China's first major infrastructure projects in Africa.

During his trip, Mr Xi is expected to sign several co-operation agreements with Tanzania, including plans for a $10bn port project in Bagamoyo, Philip Marmo, Tanzania's ambassador to China, told the Chinese newspaper 21st Century Business Herald.

The port, which is located north of Dar es Salaam, will be linked to a special industrial zone and function as a trade hub linking Asia and east Africa, with the state-owned China Merchants Group leading the port construction, according to Mr Marmo.

Tanzania has made several natural gas discoveries in recent years and China surprised western donors when it offered to build and finance a 532km gas pipeline to link the gas deposits in the south of the country to the port in Dar es Salaam, despite the fact that there is not yet the proven gas resources to fill the pipeline and no plan to sell what little exists.

    Construction on that pipeline, which was funded by a $1.2bn loan from the Export-Import Bank of China, nevertheless began last year on what one observer said was "ludicrously good" terms, with a seven-year interest-free period before low rates come into effect over 30 years. But others cautioned it may be an expensive way to indebt Tanzania to Chinese interests.

    China's top diplomat for Africa said it was "inevitable" that Mr Xi included the continent on his first overseas trip as head of state.

    "Africa's importance in our foreign policy has been rising," said Lu Shaye, head of the African affairs department at the Chinese foreign ministry. "We want to strengthen our co-operation with developing countries, this is a main direction of our foreign strategy."

    Mr Xi arrived in Tanzania late on Sunday, and will attend the Brics summit in South Africa on Tuesday and Wednesday, followed by a visit to the Republic of Congo on March 29-30.

    In a statement issued on Sunday, Mr Xi said China and Tanzania shared an "all-weather" friendship.

    "In the nearly five decades since we have established diplomatic relations, we have built up trust and constantly supported each other," he said.

    Mr Xi is expected to give a speech on China-Africa relations later on Monday. The China Merchants Group declined to comment on whether they were involved in projects in Tanzania.