Zambia and China reaffirm all-weather friendship

Dec 06, 2011 12:00 AM

by Mr Kapembwa Sinkamba

Zambia and China’s all-weather friendship has once again been reaffirmed following the latter’s commitment to assist the Southern African nation and its neighbour, Tanzania, to get a facelift of their jointly owned beleaguered railway liner.
According to the Chinese government, the leadership of President Mr Hu Jintao is committed to help Zambia rehabilitate the Tanzania and Zambia Railway line and link it to oil-rich Angola, a neighbour to Zambia, to foster trade between the two countries.

Mr Chen De Ming, commerce minister of China, said that the decision by China will ostensibly enable Zambia to have a direct passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indian Ocean. The decision to facelift the railway liner built in 1976 by his country at a staggering debt of $ 500 mm will be done because China considers Zambia a favourable investment destination and wants to contribute to its development.
It is the considered view of Ming that Zambia’s development, being a landlocked country, is chiefly dependent on the development of its transport infrastructure and logistics. Once completed the project will link the Eastern and Western parts of the continent and help accelerate Zambia’s industrialization process.

De Ming was speaking recently when he met Zambia’s First Republican and the country’s independence hero Mr Kenneth Kaunda at Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing. He said that the port of Dar es Salaam will also need to be overhauled as there will be an increase in Cargo going to Zambia. China has already done a feasibility study on the project which is yet to be submitted to President Mr Hu Jintao.
During the meeting, Mr Kaunda -- who is Zambia’s envoy to China -- was in that country to cement the two country’s bilateral relationship that spans more than four decades on behalf of President Mr Michael Sata, the fourth Zambian leader after him.

Mr Kaunda assured the Chinese government of a good working relationship with President Mr Sata describing him as an honest and truthful person. Mr Sata is going to work with China just as he himself did when he was President of Zambia.
The 1,870 km railway line linking Zambia from Kapiri Mposhi to Mbeya in Tanzania has in recent months been rocked by financial problems in excess of $ 700 mm which have affected its operations, despite China’s concerted efforts to keep it running afloat. Recently, Mr Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika MD of Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority known as Tazara lamented the financial crisis that had affected the liner. He was hopeful that key stakeholders, Zambia and Tanzania with assistance from China would resuscitate the liner, a major carrier of cargo and passengers between the two neighbours.

Earlier last year, China provided $ 39 mm interest free loan to Tamara to revive its operations, according to then Zambia’s Communication and Transport Minister Mr Geoffrey Lungwangwa. Part of the funds, apart from reviving operations, would be for the procurement of six new locomotive engines, four wagons and the repairing of 120 wagons.
The decision to fund was arrived at during a meeting which was held in China earlier at which Zambia and Tanzania signed the 14th protocol with the Chinese government to provide $ 39 mm interest free loan.

Mr Lungwangwa said that the funds would also be used to repair the railway line and the purchase of new equipment for the workshop aimed at bringing about efficiency in the company’s operations.
“I can confirm that the Chinese government has provided us with $ 39 mm loan and we will not pay any interest. This is good news for us and we will work towards improving the operations of the company.”

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