What the Tanzania press is saying about the visit of Chinese president, Xi Jinping

Tanzanian newspaper front pages 26/3/2013, via mjengwablog.com and millardayo.com.

The historic visit of the new Chinese President, Xi Jinping, to Tanzania this week was a great honour for the country, only the second country to be visited by President Xi. But how did the Tanzanian papers report the visit? I took a look through the major papers’ websites to find out.

The Citizen and Mwananchi led with Xi’s words about China’s relationship with Africa as a whole. The Citizen’s headline summed up the coverage: China’s promise to Africa: We’ll give you $20bn this year, and we shan’t bully you. Lots of money and no interference was the message. Mwananchi’s Rais wa China aahidi misaada bila masharti (President of China promises aid without conditions) was much the same.

Reginald Mengi’s IPP media house took a similar tack. The Guardian led with China to pour USD20bn into Africa`s development, and Nipashe with Rais wa China atangaza neema (President of China announces grace). All positive.

Nipashe, however, also carried one of the few editorials on the visit – Mikataba mipya na China iguse wananchi (New contracts with China should touch the people), which included a note of caution:

isije kuwa kinachosukuma China kuongeza ushirikiano na Tanzania na mataifa ya Afrika kwa ujumla ni kusaka mali ghafi kwa ajili ya viwanda vyake, kwani uhusiano huo ndio uliifikisha Afrika hapo ilipo kuanzia biashara ya utumwa, mkutano wa Berlin wa 1884-85 wa kuigawa Afrika mapande mapande baina ya wakoloni na kuzaa makoloni na hata wakati huu wa ukoloni mambo leo ambao wengine wanauita utandawazi.

(It should not be that what’s driving China into greater cooperation with Tanzania and African countries as a whole is to strip resources for its industry, as it was this kind of relationship that put Africa where it is, from the slave trade, the Berlin Conference of 1884-85 to divide up Africa among colonial powers, and even in present-day neocolonialism, which some call globalisation.)

The same column put forward a vision of what Tanzania should aim to get from the relationship:

Tanzania ingependa kuona uwekezaji chanya, unaogusa viwanda, kukuza ajira na faida baina ya pande zote mbili; Tanzania ingependa kuona China ikiingilia kati suala zima la uzalishaji wa bidhaa feki na zilizo na viwango duni ambazo kimsingi zinachafua jina la taifa hilo; pia Watanzania wangependa kuona China ikisaidia mataifa ya Afrika kunufaika katika maendeleo ya tekinolojia kwa kusaidia kujenga uwezo wa Waafrika kwa kutoa fursa zaidi za elimu.

(Tanzania would like to see positive investment that reaches industry, increases employment and profits for both parties; Tanzania would like to see China intervening in the production of counterfeit goods of low quality which essentially dirty the name of the country; also Tanzanians would like to see China supporting African countries in technological development by helping build the capacity of Africans by giving opportunities for education.)

But it was the government papers – Daily News and Habari Leo – that really went to town, with extensive coverage that read like it had come straight out of the 1970’s. They also led with a different angle – focussing on President Kikwete’s response to Xi Jinping’s speech and on China-and-Tanzania (rather than Africa more broadly).

So, in the Daily News we had Kikwete: We’ve reaped from Xi tourChina offers to finance projects worth 1.28tr/-, JK, Xi pay tribute to Chinese experts buried in Tanzania, President Xi’s speech win’s many hearts and Tanzania, Beijing seal deal on ties

Tanzania and China have agreed to strengthen friendly cooperation between the two countries. The two countries applauded their traditional friendship, and agreed to build and develop and comprehensive partnership of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation.

Most remarkably, capping the coverage was an editorial titled The ‘Great Leap’ – to Tanzania – most welcome, though thankfully the column’s contents make no further mention of that former Chinese policy or its catastrophic effects.

Habari Leo was much the same: Rais wa China aacha neema (President of China leaves grace) and China yaahidi misaada zaidi Tanzania (China promises more aid to Tanzania).

Some of the other leading papers relegated the story. Mtanzania sneaked a story in at the bottom of the front page – China: Tutamwaga misaada Tanzania (China: We will pour aid to Tanzania). Tanzania Daima, which also had the story in third place, took an unlikely line, leading with President Xi’s calls for greater transparency, with no questions asked as to whether this is a genuine commitment: Rais Jinping ahimiza uwazi kwenye fedha (President Jinping calls for openness in money):

RAIS wa China, Xi Jinping jana alihitimisha ziara yake ya siku mbili nchini hapa, huku akiyapa changamoto mataifa ya Afrika kuweka uwazi katika masuala ya fedha. Jinping ambaye aliahidi kuendeleza uhusiano mkubwa uliopo kati ya taifa lake na bara la Afrika, alisisitiza kuwa uwazi katika masuala ya fedha ndiyo sera ya China ambayo haitabadilika.

(The President of China, Xi Jinping, yesterday concluded his two-day tour in this country, by challenging African countries to be transparent in money matters. Jinping, who promised to maintain strong relations between his country and the African continent, emphasised that transparency in money matters is a policy of China that will not change.)

Note: I haven’t seen a copy of the full speech, so I cannot comment on whether Tanzania Daima has reported this correctly.

Perhaps surprisingly, none of the major papers led with what seems to be the big story of the visit – President Xi’s announcement of a $10bn project to construct a major port Bagamoyo, along with related transport links. Only This Day gave this top billing, with Tanzania seals $10bn port deal (not available online). Others buried this news low down within their articles, as a minor detail rather than the big splash.

Overall, it was money and friendship / historic ties that took centre stage. China’s much-emphasised policy of “non-interference in internal matters” got it’s share of attention too – editors were clearly very willing to go along with this clear snub from Presidents Xi and Kikwete to traditional aid donors in Europe and North America.

What was surprising, however, was the almost complete lack of any mention of mining, energy and natural resources, given how controversial these topics have been in Tanzania. President Xi himself downplayed this, but it doesn’t take a genius to work out why the Chinese are willing to spend as much as $10bn on a new port and related transport links. By any standards, this is a huge amount of money.

But while the papers largely kept whatever reservations they may have to themselves, the folks on Jamii Forums, as usual, shared some more critical views. Wachambuzi kama Mwanakijiji Tusaidie Athari za Mikataba ya Wachina Afrika nk (Analysts like Mwanakijiji, help us identify the down side of these contracts of China in Africa), and Msaada wa china: Haya ni baadhi tu ya masharti (Chinese aid: These are just some of the conditions). This second post listed what it says are some of the contract terms relating to the Bagamoyo port investment, though the source is unclear:

Ili kufanikisha ujenzi wa Bandari ya Bagamoyo Serikali ya Tanzania itachukua mkopo wa fedha toka serikali ya Uchina.
(The money will be a loan from China to the Tanzanian government.)

Makampuni ya China na Injinia wao ndio watapaswa kupatiwa tenda ya ujenzi wa mradi huo.
(Chinese companies and engineers will get the construction contracts.)

Serikali ya watu wa China watatakiwa kuendesha bandari bandari hiyo kwa muda wa miaka 50 ili Kurudisha mkopo uliotolewa kwa ajili ya ujenzi wa mradi huo.
(To repay the loan, the Chinese government will run the port for 50 years.)

Itatakiwa kuwa kwa umbali wa Kilometa 200 za mraba Kusini, Mashariki, Magharibi na Kaskazini kusiwepo na na bandari ya namna hiyo wala kuendeleza bandari ya namna hiyo.
(No other similar port should be built or developed within a 200km radius of Bagamoyo – this distance would include both Dar es Salaam and Tanga within the prohibited area.)

Upanuzi wa bandari wa Gati 14 wa Bandari ya Dar es Salaam umesimamishwa au utasimamishwa ili kuipa ama kuheshimu na kulinda mkataba wa wachina kwa bandari ya Bagamoyo.
(Expansion of Dar es Salaam port will be halted.)

If that’s all true, the project could well end up working against Tanzania’s interests. But it may well not be true. It only we could see the contract, it would be a lot clearer. If only China had made some form of commitment to transparency that meant the contract will be made public. 😉

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