Maputo — The Chinese government has pledged donations amounting to 100 million US dollars for the implementation of four projects in Mozambique, under agreements signed on Monday, during the sixth meeting of the Joint Cooperation Commission between the two countries.
One of the projects is for a new airport just outside Xai-Xai, capital of the southern province of Gaza. The Chinese grant will cover the construction of the runway, the terminal, the auxiliary installations and the access road.
Xai-Xai is the only provincial capital that has no airport. The government's justification for the airport is that it will boost the local economy, particularly in tourism. Gaza has both beach resorts, and wild life in the Limpopo and Banhine National Parks.
Sceptics have argued that, given Xai-Xai's proximity to Maputo, no new airport is needed. But the government has turned this proximity into another argument in favour of the airport, claiming that, in the event of an emergency, it could be an alternative to Maputo International Airport.
Although the release from the Joint Commission did not break down the 100 million dollars by project, last year the government stated that the Chinese grant for the airport would be 60 million dollars. It is by far the largest of the four projects.
A second project is the construction of a technical and professional institute in the town of Gorongosa, in the central province of Sofala. The design covers lecture rooms, workshops, a canteen, dormitories for the students and accommodation for the teachers. It will have a capacity for 740 students, and will teach courses on agriculture and livestock, including agro-processing.
China will also send engineers for the maintenance of the National Stadium in the outlying Maputo neighbourhood of Zimpeto. The stadium, completed in 2011, was built with 70 million dollars from the Chinese government.
Under the new agreement the Chinese engineers will provide assistance to the stadium's operations for three years, including the electrical systems, the ventilation, heating, water supply and drainage. Spare parts and equipment will also be supplied.
Finally, China will send high level agricultural specialists to Mozambique for three years. They will be involved in research, technical demonstrations and training in such areas as agronomy, agro-processing, and veterinary science. China will also supply some agricultural equipment, and there will be opportunities for Mozambique agricultural technicians to train in China.
Speaking at the close of the Commission meeting, Deputy Foreign Minister Maria Lucas said the agreements reached indicate the success of the work the two sides have been undertaking since the last meeting in 2015.
"The decisions we have just taken lead us to conclude that we have attained our goals", she said. "The proof of this is the conclusion and signing of the cooperation agreements".
Lucas hoped that cooperation with China would continue, expressed in growing volumes of trade and business, including the involvement of private Chinese businesses in areas ranging from transport and manufacturing to banking and tourism.
The head of the Chinese delegation, Deputy Trade Minister Qian Keming, said his government remains willing to offer development aid to Mozambique, aimed at priority projects that will boost the welfare of the Mozambican people.
On trade, he pledged that China will "take positive measure to increase its imports of Mozambican products, in order to improve the structure and quality of bilateral trade".