DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - China gave Tanzania $180 million in concessional loans on Friday as part of its pledge to provide $10 billion in low-cost lending to Africa over the next three years, Tanzanian Finance Minister Mustafa Mkulo said on Saturday.
The agreement was unveiled during a visit to the Tanzanian commercial capital Dar es Salaam by Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming, who arrived on Thursday for a three-day tour of east Africa’s second largest economy.
China made the $10 billion pledge — double the amount offered in 2006 — at a summit in Egypt in November as it aims to boost a relationship with the continent which goes back decades politically and is now booming economically.
Blossoming trade and business ties have attracted Western accusations that Beijing is solely interested in African resources and is ready to overlook poor governance.
Chinese commentators respond that envious Europeans still treat the continent like a colony.
“This loan is part of the fulfilment of promises made by China to provide $10 billion in concessional loans to Africa between 2010 and 2013,” Mkulo told Reuters in an interview on Saturday.
Mkulo said the loans would fund various development projects in infrastructure and information, communication and technology.
He said Tanzania was also in talks with Beijing for additional loans in agriculture, railway infrastructure, transportation and for the upgrade and rehabilitation of Dar es Salaam’s underperforming port.
“There is a lot more to come from China,” he said.
Beijing says it also plans to help Africa develop clean energy generation and cope with climate change, encourage Chinese financial institutions to lend to smaller African companies and expand market access for African products.
International donors fund a third of Tanzania’s budget, but concerns over weak governance and corruption have prompted some to put the disbursement of loans on hold.
China’s relations with Tanzania flourished in the 1960s under the east African country’s first President Julius Nyerere, an ardent socialist who visited the country numerous times.
“Tanzania and China enjoy excellent ties ... It has never been better. We have a very, very good relationship politically, economically and socially,” said the finance minister.
Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete called at the signing ceremony for the broadening of trade between the two countries and said Chinese companies were welcome to invest in Tanzania.
China is Tanzania’s third largest trade partner, with exports from the east African country to Beijing rising by 46.7 percent in the first 11 months of 2009.