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Tanzania envoy recounts time-tested friendship

By ZHU DIQI/XU WEI | China Daily | Updated: 2023-08-31 06:55

As Mbelwa Kairuki wraps up his six-year tenure as ambassador of Tanzania to China, he recounts with pride how the two nations have built up their time-tested friendship and solidified bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative over the years.

Mbelwa Kairuki

In an interview with China Daily, Kairuki expressed strong disapproval over theories that China's engagement with African countries has led to "debt traps".

"When people claim that China has ulterior motives with Africa, that China's agenda to grab resources, or China's agenda to trap African countries into debt, for us who know the history, we just laugh and say these people, they don't know what they're talking about," he said.

China did not "start yesterday to work with African countries", and Tanzania has never experienced any dictation to do anything that would compromise its sovereignty, he said.

Kairuki said China's share is "very, very little" in the overall debt structure of many African countries, compared to other financial institutions and countries.

He lashed out at those who "make noise" when African countries borrow from China to build railways and ensure that people have access to clean water, saying that some Western nations have failed to provide what China has provided over the years and they should stop holding back African countries to work with China.

The friendship between China and Tanzania can be dated back to the 1970s when China supported the building of the Tazara Railway, during a time when China itself was facing challenges of poverty and Tanzania was among countries that offered crucial support to Beijing in the restoration of its lawful seat in the United Nations.

Even today, the railway, which is widely seen as a symbol of China-Africa friendship, continues to provide services to countries including Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, serving as a major transport corridor for the two nations, Kairuki said.

The two nations have also reaped benefits from their partnerships under the BRI, which has served as a platform for infrastructure development, trade and people-to-people exchanges.

Since the two sides signed an agreement on BRI cooperation in 2018, the two sides have witnessed a number of projects — roads, ports, railways and bridges built in Tanzania by Chinese enterprises using Chinese technologies.

Under the BRI, Tanzania was able to access world-class enterprises with top-notch technologies at an affordable cost, he said.

Kairuki also emphasized that the initiative has delivered tangible benefits to the people of Tanzania.

Farmers can now sell produce, including avocados, soybeans and cashews, to the Chinese market, while miners can export their minerals and herders can sell their livestock to Chinese buyers.

"So this in turn contributes to poverty alleviation, improving their people's well-being," he said.

According to China's Foreign Ministry, trade between China and Tanzania grew by 23.7 percent year-on-year to $8.31 billion last year.

Going forward, Kairuki said the "sky is the limit" for ties and cooperation between the two nations. "I'm very optimistic that in the coming 10 years, we're going to see more cooperation in new areas: new energy, science and technology, satellite technology and so on," he said.

Contact the writers at xuwei@chinadaily.com.cn.

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