THE Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) has received four cranes and six forklifts worth more than 70 million US dollars from the People's Republic of China.
Addressing journalists shortly after accompanying the visiting Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao on a short Tazara train ride to Pugu in Dar es Salaam, the Minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, said the assistance is part of China's pledge to help improve TAZARA.
"TAZARA has received four large cranes, forklifts and other rail spare parts, which is part of the yearly assistance promised by China," Dr Mwakyembe explained.
He said Tanzania continues to appreciate assistance extended by China at present and in the 70s when Tanzania really needed a friend.
"The saying to the effect that a friend in need is a friend indeed was truly reflected in the assistance provided by China 40 years ago in building the railway line when Tanzania was working to liberate Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) and other Southern African countries," he explained.
The Transport Minister said the 500 million US-dollar TAZARA project, was the largest single foreign aid project undertaken by China 40 years ago and built in the highest standards, whose infrastructure are still in good shape 40 years later.
Dr Mwakyembe said the Chinese vice-president was impressed with the TAZARA infrastructure being in good shape since it was built 40 years ago during the ride to Pugu, which was more of an inspection of the infrastructure. The delegates, from China and Tanzania, rode in the Tazara VIP carriage.
Earlier after the short train ride to Pugu, Mr Li commended the authority and its workers for maintaining the infrastructure, including the 1,800-km long railway line from Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia in good shape despite being built four decades ago.
The Chinese leader promised to hold in-depth discussions with his counterparts when he goes back to China to find more ways to help the railway authority.
TAZARA has also been receiving various assistance packages under the 15th Protocol of Economic and Technical Cooperation signed by the governments of China, Tanzania and Zambia on March 2012, valued at 270 million Yuan, approximately 40 million US dollars.
The protocol covers procurement of 18 passenger coaches and accompanying consumables, supply of four new main line locomotives, two shunting locomotives, two rescue cranes and various lifting equipments.
Others are a track trolley, assorted spare parts, 230,000 pieces of wooden sleepers, and training of staff and attachment of Chinese Railway experts to TAZARA over a specific period.
So far, the authority has received financial support to the tune of more than interest-free 2.5 billion Yuan loan, including the construction of the railway line.
The railway line was constructed for five years -- between 1970 and 1975, work for which was done by the China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC), a subsidiary of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation, which was born as the result of TAZARA construction.
In the 1970s, Tanzania and Zambia had resolved to build the joint railway line but lacked funds. When several Western countries were first approached for assistance, they rebuffed the idea, insisting that the project was not economically viable, a view also supported by the World Bank.
However, China, under the leadership of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong, saw the wider necessity of the line and offered to finance it as a turnkey project.
The rail project, set up under the aegis of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority, connects landlocked Zambia with Tanzania and also serves as an alternative export route to destinations like Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique.
Aside from the transport links it provides, it is also an example of how Chinese investment has helped transform the lives and economies of Africans.
Meanwhile the Vice-President, Dr Mohammed Gharib Bilal, has praised China for recording improved economic growth owing to hard work and innovation of its people unlike most other developed countries that have made progress by exploiting others.
"Historically, the majority of developed countries have attained wealth by ruling and exploiting other countries. But the situation is different for China, which has managed to prosper through determination of its people," Dr Gharib remarked.
Dr Bilal made the remarks while officiating at the joint conference of Confucius Institutes in Africa held at the Mlimani City Conference Centre in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday, which drew participants from across the continent.
The vice-president challenged African countries to emulate China's path of development, noting that the Asian country has gone through the same economic hardships that African countries are currently facing.
"I, however, believe that through Confucius Institutes in Africa, we would be able to be more innovative and lead us to productivity," he observed. The VP added that Africans don't have reasons to start thinking of flying rockets to the moon. "Africa can start by producing commodities it needs for its people and export surplus," he suggested.
Dr Bilal observed that Africa can learn many things from China, which is now the second best economy in the world, since the two have long-standing historic relations which can be used to spur economic growth.
Speaking at the occasion, the visiting Chinese Vice-President, Mr Li Yuanchao, said he was confident that the Confucius Institutes in Africa would promote cultural exchange between the continent and China.
Mr Li, however, urged the institutions to support communities in areas they operate through provision of occupational and vocational training to the people.
"You should not only teach Chinese language and culture in the African continent but also support the communities to attain development just as the Chinese saying that you should not give fish to a friend but teach that friend how to fish," the Chinese VP remarked.
He also urged the young generation in the continent to continue strengthening Sino-Africa ties, describing them as "the future hope of friendship between the two."
Speaking during the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), Prof Rwekaza Mukandala, said his institution plans to start offering Chinese language courses to education students who will later teach the language in secondary schools countrywide.
"With the joint efforts of local institutions and Confucius Institutes, our people are offered the opportunity to learn Chinese language. "This is an opportunity that has made significant contributions in the business community, which is actively involved in trade with China," Prof Mukandala said.
He added that as both countries mark the 50 years of Sino-Tanzania diplomatic relations, they should take pride of the fact that efforts have been made through the Tanzanian government for successful establishment of Confucius Institutes at the University of Dar es Salaam and Dodoma."
Prof Mukandala noted that the institutions were instrumental in offering cultural exchange and Chinese language learning as an effective approach to further development of Sino-Africa ties.