Tanzanian president John Magufuli addresses a news conference during an official visit to Nairobi, Kenya,on October 31 2016. File photo: REUTERS/THOMAS MUKOYA
Tanzanian president John Magufuli addresses a news conference during an official visit to Nairobi, Kenya,on October 31 2016. File photo: REUTERS/THOMAS MUKOYA

Dar es Salaam — Tanzania asked Beijing for debt relief and signed a new multibillion-dollar railway deal during Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi’s Africa tour.

President John Magufuli asked for the cancellation of old debts totalling $167.7m, according to the East African nation’s presidency. Earlier on Friday, Tanzania signed a $1.32bn rail-development contract with China Civil Engineering Construction and China Railway Construction.

Several African nations are struggling to fund the recovery of their economies after the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. China, whose financing to African governments topped $140bn over the past two decades, pledged to provide some debt relief.

Magufuli’s debt-forgiveness request includes $137m that was taken for a housing project for the police, $15.7m for an old Tanzania-Zambia railway and $15m for a textile mill.

The new rail deal will support the construction of a 341km section of Tanzania’s planned wider railway network. Magufuli will seek another loan from China to help build an additional link in the expanded rail system, the presidency said without giving details.

The Chinese foreign minister’s Africa tour covered Tanzania, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana and Seychelles. His visit partly focused on helping African countries cope with the pandemic and boosting their economic recovery plans.

In the DRC, China cancelled ¥180m in bilateral debt owed by the central African country. The DRC also signed a co-operation agreement to participate in Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, becoming the 45th African nation to do so, according to China’s foreign ministry.

China accounts for more than half of the country’s bilateral debt, with at least $645m outstanding as at end-2020, according to the DRC’s debt office. The two countries have an ongoing $6.2bn minerals-for-infrastructure arrangement that began more than a decade ago.

The DRC is Africa’s leading producer of copper and the world’s biggest source of cobalt, with China Molybdenum being a major player in the nation’s mining industry.

Bloomberg

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