Dar es Salaam: "Tanzania has benefited a lot from the Chinese assistance on infrastructure in Africa. I think the first project of the infrastructure for probably the whole of Africa, is TAZARA, the Tanzania-Zambia Railway," Tanzanian Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs Mustapha Mkulo told Xinhua on Friday.
Mkulo made the remarks while answering questions from Xinhua at the signing ceremony of two concessional loan agreements from the Exim Bank of China to finance the Tanzanian National Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Broadband infrastructure Backbone Network Project and upgrading of Zanzibar International Airport.
Mkulo said that the more than 1,860 km railway puts a link of the port of Dar es Salaam and the land-locked country of Zambia, "I'm glad that not only the Chinese helped us 30 years ago, but they are helping us even today. We even signed an agreement for more assistance in December when I went to China. We valued that assistance, and we continued to value that assistance."
He expressed appreciation to the old-generation leaders of both countries, the late Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere and Chinese leaders Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai, who initiated the TAZARA project.
"And now comes the ICT project," he added, noting that both the ICT project and the Zanzibar project are new infrastructure projects and expressing thanks to the Chinese friends' assistance on behalf of the Tanzanian government.
On Tanzania's macroeconomic performance, the Tanzanian finance minister said that Tanzania was not very much affected by the economic crisis because the economy of Tanzania is not totally connected with the international economic performance, and Tanzania did not borrow excessively from the international market.
"But, the second phase of the economic crisis affected us, because our commodity is losing market," Mkulo said, mentioning of the lower prices of cotton and flowers and the decreasing tourists.
However, the Tanzanian government decided to create a home-grown rescue package, the minister added, noting that the economy of his country was estimated to grow by six percent in 2009 thanks to the rescue package.
"That means the macro measure of the government is a sound one, and a correct one," Mkulo noted. The Tanzanian economy grew by 7.4 percent in 2008.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete unveiled a 1.7 trillion Tanzanian shilling (about 1.3 billion U.S. dollars) plan in June 2009 to help local companies and agricultural cooperatives amid the global economic slowdown.
As for the upcoming World Economic Forum on Africa to be held in Dar es Salamm on May 5 to May 7, Mkulo said, "We are going to hold for the first time the World Economic Forum on Africa here in Dar es Salaam. About 800 participants have already confirmed."
He added that the participants included a lot of finance ministers, bank governors among other high profile delegates, expecting China to send a high profile delegation to see how China can aggregate and integrate into the African economy.
The Tanzanian finance minister also concluded that his country will definitely benefit more from hosting the World Economic Forum on Africa than the meeting expense and costs.
With the theme of "Rethinking Africa's Growth Strategy", the 20th World Economic Forum on Africa would focus on how leaders are rising to the challenge and using the economic crisis as an opportunity to redesign a sustainable roadmap for Africa's future within the new global economy.