The new Chinese president, Xi Jinping, is expected in Tanzania on Sunday, just ten days after officially taking office. This is the second stop on a four-country tour that will begin in Russia and also take in South Africa and the Congo.
A state visit so early in the presidency of such a powerful global figure is a huge honour for Tanzania – the second country that Xi will visit as president.
So why is he visiting?
Congo has oil, plenty of it. It already makes up 92% of the country’s exports, and is expected to grow further. China is their biggest trading partner. South Africa has the BRICS summit, which Xi will attend. And Russia is a political and economic heavyweight.
But why Tanzania?
Tanzania has a long history of cooperation with China: the TAZARA railway, Kiwira coal mine, Urafiki textile mill and the new national stadium. And the Chinese business presence in Tanzania is stronger now than it has ever been. But similar things can be said of Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi and innumerable other countries.
Could it be about resources? Tanzania has oil and gas, coal, iron, gold and more, all of which China is interested in. But Nigeria, Gabon, Sudan, Angola, Libya and the DRC (as well as plenty of others) have far more mineral wealth than Tanzania.
I don’t have an answer. But it will be interesting to see what Mr Xi talks about when he’s in town.