Thursday, November 6, 2014
By: James Roller
Produced & Edited By: Zainab Kandeh
Earlier this year, China and Tanzania celebrated the 50th anniversary of the beginning of what has been described by Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete as, "mutual trust at bilateral and multilateral levels."
As China moves closer to economic dominance, those investments have gathered the attention of other world diplomatic powers. It may seem like suddenly China is moving in on a region that has been ignored by the West, but these diplomatic relationships have deep ties.
While China's diplomatic power in some African countries is an interesting topic, the effects that China’s investments have on the ground in African countries like Tanzania often go ignored. But how does this investment change the lives of the citizens of Tanzania? Is Chinese culture rubbing off on Tanzanians, and are the effects of these diplomatic ties reaching every Tanzanian citizen?
Chinese Infrastructure in Tanzania
Rev. Reginald Mrosso runs a Catholic mission in Manyoni District of the Singida Region. This is and isolated and, rural region of Tanzania. The mission has a hospital and Nursing school called St. Gaspar. The Hospital sits 40 kilometers off the highway near Manyoni. A new road from Manyoni reaches St. Gaspar Hospital and has allowed many more people to receive healthcare from Rev. Mrosso's mission.
"There has been a cry for over 20 years since when the hospital was opened." Mrosso said. "It was so difficult to reach the hospital especially during rainy seasons. Now with the new road, patients and relatives can easily reach the hospital."
These Chinese roads are being built all over Tanzania. China has been investing heavily in the infrastructure of Tanzania since building the Tazara railway connecting Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia in 1979.
According to AidData, an organization that specifically tracks the flow of Chinese investments into Africa, the value of the 16 infrastructure projects China is currently involved in are worth over half a million U.S. dollars, and rates offered by China make for a deal Tanzania can't refuse.
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Commerce can also offer interest-free loans and grants, which are financed directly by the Chinese government. Tanzania is expected to pay back all loans and lines of credit provided by the Chinese government, Charles Perla of AidData said.
Tanzanians Studying in China
Tanzanian business is heavily influenced by Chinese Investments. Therefore, young people who want to be a part of the Tanzanian business scene are becoming very interested in Chinese language courses, and attending Chinese Universities. Chinese language programs are being set up in Tanzania, and Chinese Universities are becoming an option many young Tanzanians are choosing including Sadam Mohammed.
"(I chose China) Because I want to do business and in Tanzania 80% of our products come from China. So, if you’re going to do business, it comes from China, so it’s better to see the place where it comes from," Sadam said. "How they live, how they do everything, how they do business. So, it was better for me that I got to see there."
There were other benefits to studying in China. For starters, Sadam was able to attend university in China at Guang Dong University using a regular visa, a luxury Tanzanians are rarely offered.
Sadam mentioned that it was not difficult to find a Chinese University. China has a large Tanzanian population, and the Chinese universities have been recruiting international students by word of mouth, so Sadam was connected to Guang Dong University through friends in China.
However, China may be beginning to get more aggressive when it comes to recruiting international students. Sadam mentioned how there now seems to be more billboards for Chinese universities than western universities in Tanzania these days.
Where there is a market there is business opportunity. Organizations like the Tanzania-China Promotion Centre is attempting to be the conduits between Tanzania and China Representative of the organization, The center is a for profit institution that focuses on placing Tanzanian student in Chinese Universities, and also does a bit of importing and exporting.
"We started at the same level which both were poor and socialism countries. After six decades developing we can see the differences between us. I think that's the reason why Tanzanian students go to China." Roy Rong Director Assistant at the Tanzania-China Promotion Centre said.
According to Harun Magosho, a Tanzanian PhD student at East China Normal University, this is not surprising news. Chinese schools lack international students and desperately want international standards, but graduating those international students has proven difficult.
"Chinese universities are trying hard to acquire the international standards, though still the issue comes to the type of courses given here, the medium of instruction Mandarin, and the resources books, which most of them are in Chinese," Magosho said.
"This has created negativity among foreign students including Tanzanians, because it is hard to learn in Chinese. For instance, you are told to learn Chinese for one year, so you take classes in Chinese, which has been an obstacle to many Tanzanian students."
Chinese Language in Tanzania
Universities in Tanzania are also embracing China's influence in Tanzania. The University of Dar es Salaam and the University of Dodoma both have Chinese language programs now.
Magosho thinks these programs will expand due to the doors they open in the Tanzanian business community and since the courses are free they will be taken advantage of.
"Besides, since the language programs are being offered freely in universities, (Confucius institutes) people learn hoping that the language could help them when communicating to Chinese trade partners bearing in mind that the movement of people to and from China has increased a great deal," Magosho said.
China's influence is now reaching Tanzania and other nations across the world, similar to how the USA's influence was spread to Japan after World War Two. That U.S. influence gave Japan capitalism and baseball. It's not yet certain what China's lasting effect on Tanzania will be.