China writes-off half Tazara debt

China has signed a protocol with Zambia and Tanzania in Zambian capital city Lusaka, writing off 50 percent debts of Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA)

Chinese Deputy Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Zambian Minister of Finance and National Planning Situmbeko Musokotwane and Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs of Tanzania Pereira Silima signed the protocol on Wednesday evening at Lusaka’s Intercontinental Hotel.

Zhong said the decision made by the Chinese government to remit the partial debts is of the friendship between China and the African countries, and Chinese people wish to support Zambia and Tanzania in their capacity of development by seeing the railway getting off its burden of current operational difficulties.

Musokotwane praised the move by the Chinese side, saying the writing off of the partial debts will help boost trade among the three countries and revive the dream Zambia once had when the line was built.

He further said his government will, together with the Chinese and Tanzanian sides, work more effectively and efficiently to ensure the operation of the railway line.

Built with China’s financial and technical assistance in the 1970s, TAZARA served as an important alternative transport exit for the copper-rich Zambia, which was then blocked by neighboring white regimes for its support to the liberation struggle of other African countries.

The 1,860-km railway, which took over 50,000 technicians and workers seven years to complete in 1975 and was handed over to Zambia and Tanzania in 1976, was one of China’s largest foreign aid projects and is considered as the emblem of China-Africa friendship.

However TAZARA’s current annual haulage capacity is around 600, 000 tons, half of its peak 1.27 million tons record in the late 1970’s.

TAZARA Managing Director Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika said in a recent statement that the railway’s performance has been steadily improving and is expected to regain 1 million tons haulage by the end of 2012 when the current capacity building projects is due to complete.

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