• Short Summary

    Construction of the Tanzam railway - one of the biggest development projects Africa has seen - is expected to start in October this year.

  • Description

    Construction of the Tanzam railway - one of the biggest development projects Africa has seen - is expected to start in October this year.

    The People's Republic of China has undertaken to finance the 1180-mile link between Zambia and Tanzania, and the Chinese Prime Minister Chou En-Lai is likely to visit Africa for the ceremonies marking the beginning of work on the railway.

    It was in 1965 that the Tanzanian President Nyerere first sought aid for the project from the Chinese, after several Western nations refused help, declaring it economically unfeasible. The World Bank also refused finance.

    China then stepped in with an immediate offer 100 million Sterling(240 million US dollars) making the project the third most expensive on the African continent, behind the Aswan Soviet-financed Aswan dam on the Nile, and the Upper Volta River dam in Ghana.

    In July 1970 Peking granted Zambia an interest-free loan of 169 million Sterling (373 million US dollars), to be repayable over 30 years starting in 1973. The railway is due for completion within years, and is the largest single foreign-aid enterprise yet undertaken by the People's Republic.

    The Tanzam project will provide a railway expected to run from Kapiri Mposhi, on the existing railway running south through Rhodesia, to the Tanzanian port of Dar Es Salaam on the Indian Ocean.

    It is also hoped the railway will help develop Tanzania's south-west. Depots will be constructed next to the line for the storage of locally-grown cotton and coffee, which will be exported from Dar Es Salaam. There are also plans to use the line to move vast deposits of coal and iron ore available for exploitation in Tanzania's south-west.

    For Zambia, the line will mean secure access to the sea at all times, and will also be a way in to the 30 million populations market of the East African community, which included Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

    Nearly half Zambia's copper exports, the country's principal revenue earner, are still shipped to world markets through the Rhodesian rail system to the Portuguese-controlled port of Beira in Mozambique.

    The Benguela railway, Zambia's other existing link with the sea, to the West African coast passed through Portuguese-controlled Angola.

    Both Zambia and Tanzania are expected to gain by supplying local materials, such as timber and cement, for the railway. It has been announced that 15,000 Tanzanians and Zambians are to be recruited for work on the line.

    Hundreds of Chinese engineers, surveyors and technical experts began arriving in Tanzania in 1968 to survey the route for the railway, and since then the survey and design work has been completed. Chinese keenness to get on with the project has been demonstrated by the arrival in Dar Es Salaam of vast quantities of earth-moving and other equipment.

    It is impressively arrayed in marshalling yards behind the harbour, from which the Chinese lorries trundle down the Zambia-Tanzania highway, to unload supplies at camps along the proposed railway.

    The Chinese surveyors themselves cut the bust down, wading through swamps and living frugally in tents decorated with the sayings of Chairman Mao.

    A large variety of Chinese goods are on sale in local shops in Tanzania, including tinned foods, textiles, agricultural and gardening equipment for the railway.

    The railway will therefore bring goodwill and trade to China throughout the period of its building. But Zambia and Tanzania, taking equal shares in the repayment of the Chinese loan, stand to gain much from the new freedom it will bring from dependence on Rhodesian and Angolan communications.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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    Available on request
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