In order to promote further the bilateral relationship between China and Tanzania, the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China invited a group of Tanzanian journalists to a 10-day reporting visit to the country.
The trip was part of a series of the ‘Experience China’ programs to take place in Dar es Salaam from September 18-25.
On the first day of the China trip, the journalists, met with officials of the National Development and Reforms Commission (NDRC) in Beijing.
Cong Liang, the Deputy Director of NDRC told the journalists that through upholding the Scientific Concept of Development, China has successfully promoted sustainable social and economic development, something that has accelerated the pace of social development. As a result, the nation has made a historical progress in the area.
According to him, during the 11th Five- year Plan Period, the disposable individual income per capita in urban areas and the net individual income per capita in rural areas have been increased by annual growth rate of 9.7% and 8.9% respectively to 21,810 and 6,977 RMB in 2011. And in the meantime, the state poverty line was lifted to 2,300 RMB (1 RMB = 250 Tshs).
On education, Liang said the average year of schooling of labors has been increased to 9.5 years and the gross enrolment ration for high school reached 84% and for higher education 26.5%.
The registered unemployment rate in urban area was strictly controlled below 4.3% and the number of participants in the New Rural Pension Scheme and Urban Residents Pension Scheme totaled 330 million and nearly 70m low-income residents were included into the Urban and Rural Subsistence Allowance System.
The average life expectancy is 73 years and 95% of the population enjoys basic medical security. In 2010, the urban residential area per capita reached 31.6 square metres.
Free compulsory education in urban and rural areas has been achieved and the state education assistance has been gradually improved, the threshold and rate of the individual income tax have been adjusted according to the reality and China is on the way for the ‘social security for all’.
China has also made substantive progress in reforming healthcare and drug system and actively pushed forward the comprehensive reform in community healthcare agencies and pilot reform in public hospitals, according to Cong.
Liang said China will fully institutionalize the social security and development system to make sure their people feel more secure and the basic public service programs of the state will cover all target groups.
The NDRC official also insisted the need of strengthening cooperation between China and Tanzania and urged African countries in general to improve their own border and port inspection systems instead of accusing China of exporting fake, sub standard and counterfeit products
The commission warned African countries of what he called ‘unfaithful businessmen’ from other countries who export counterfeit products claiming they are of Chinese origin.
The call is both a challenge as well as an opportunity for the Tanzania Standard Bureau (TBS) and Fair Competition Commission (FCC) and the other bodies to improve the efficiency of their respective authorities by enlisting help from China.
The journalists also visited the Chinese Ministry of Commerce where they met Cao Jiachang, the Deputy Director General of the Department of West Asian and African Affairs and other officials.
China started its economic and technical aid to African countries as early as 1960s. From 1956 to 1970, China successively provided economic assistance to 14 African countries, including Tanzania.
After regaining its seat in the United Nations in 1971, China’s relations with foreign countries grew rapidly, and the scope and scale of China’s assistance to foreign countries expanded accordingly.
China established economic and technical cooperation with more African countries, and funded a batch of large and medium-sized productive projects and infrastructure projects, including Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA).
All those projects established with China’s help have played an active role in promoting social and economic development in the recipient countries.
According to ministry officials, trade and economic cooperation is an integral part of China-Africa relation. Since the established of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000, the Chinese government has progressively announced pragmatic measures at all ministerial conferences to enhance trade and economic with Africa.
These measures have been continuously enriched and strengthened.
Trade between China and Africa maintained a strong momentum from 2000 to 2011, growing by an average annual rate of 28% and making four historical breakthroughs.
China-Africa trade reached USD 10 billion in 2000, USD 50 billion in 2006, USD 100 billion in 2008, and a record high of USD 166.3 billion in 2011.
To encourage exports from African countries, China has granted zero-tariff treatment to some commodities from the least developed countries in Africa that have diplomatic relations with China since the second ministerial conference of FOCAC, and the preferential treatment is being extended to more goods.
At present, all 30 least developed countries in Africa that have diplomatic relations with China have been granted duty-free treatment for 60% of their goods exported to China.
Since the beginning of the 21st century China’s investments in Africa have been growing rapidly with FDI stocks increasing from nearly USD 700 million at the end of 2000 to USD 13 billion at the end of 2010, involving diverse areas such as finance, mining, manufacturing, construction, agriculture, business and trade.
One major project supported by China’s Preferential Buyer’s Credit in Tanzania is the natural gas pipeline project.
Since the Beijing Summit in 2006, Chinese companies have established trade and economic cooperation zones in five African countries under the framework of FOCAC, and Chinese financial institutions have set up the China-Africa Development Fund and special loans for the small and medium sized African businesses, which have attracted more enterprises to invest and start business in Africa.
So far, more than 2000 Chinese companies have invested in Africa.
Since the establishment of the FOCAC, the Chinese government has adopted a series of foreign aid measures towards Africa under the framework of the FOCAC, which include writing off matured interest-free debts owed by the LDCs and heavily indebted poor countries in Africa, and increasing assistance and preferential loans to Africa.
The aided projects cover agriculture, infrastructure, education, human resources development cooperation, healthcare, energy saving, environmental protection and other areas.
One of the major Chinese-aided projects in Africa since 2000 is the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam.
Completed in February 2009, the 60,000-seat stadium covers a construction area of 68,000 square metres. The stadium is another monument of friendship between China and Tanzania after TAZARA.
During the meeting, Cao insisted the need of strengthening cooperation between China and African countries.
He also urged the African countries to strength inspection of goods in their borders in their fight against fake, low quality and counterfeit products claimed to be imported from China.
Cao said if there is any problem, the African countries should contact the Chinese ministry of commerce or its embassies for advice.
While in Beijing, the journalists also visited the Institute of West Asian and African Studies (CASS), China Daily and China Daily website, China Road & Bridge Corporation and the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall.
The journalists also traveled to the west of China in the Gansu Province which has rich land resources.
The provincial capital Lanzhou is the only city in the country that the Yellow River (the second largest river in China) flows across the downtown area.
Lanzhou is the biggest newly industrialized city and one of the 50 cities with strong comprehensive strength in China. Gansu Province and Tanzania have a lot in common that could benefit both sides.
Like Tanzania, Gansu has always taken agriculture as the foundation for its economic development and has provided favorable conditions for its agricultural development and diversified rural economy.
Tanzanian grape farmers, especially from Dodoma, could also learn a lot from a small town called Yang Guan in Dunhuang.
The journalists visited the town and saw how farmers benefit from modern agriculture of grapes which has turned the town to be a tourist destination.
According to Zhu Jianguo, chief of Yang Guan, 95% of the income of the residents of the town comes from grape and they sell their products to the eastern part of China and Russia.
The annual harvests are around 200-300 tonnes which earn them an average of 12,000 Chinese yuan each. Two thirds of the farmers in the town have good houses and one third have cars.
Another area which Tanzania can learn from Gansu is the energy sector. Yumen Wind Resource generates a total capacity of 1.88 million kilowatts through the wind plant, solar energy industry and hydropower stations in the city.
When we left Gansu on the way back to Beijing and then to Dar es Salaam, one thing was clear in our minds: It was a trip to remember which means, apart from good relations between Tanzania and China, we could also benefit and learn a lot from the Gansu Province.