Monday, November 3, 2008

China's assistance to Zambia, 30 years on

LUSAKA, Nov. 3 (Xinhua, by Liu Jinhai)

Setting off from the heart of the copper belt in Kapiri Mposhi, Zambia, locomotives puff out thick smoke and pound along a China-aided railway that runs 1,860 km to the east to the port of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania.

It is through this transnational railway that landlocked Zambia finds its way to the Indian Ocean.

The rail link, popularly known as the TAZARA, was one of China's biggest aid projects in the 1970s.

Soaked with Chinese sweat and blood, and millions of dollars worth of Chinese funds, the TAZARA has become a symbol of the enduring Sino-African friendship.

Since the inception of the project in 1976, China has supplied interest-free loans worth more than 900 million RMB (130 million U.S. dollars) with no strings attached, and sent nearly 3,000 engineers to help train African professionals and maintain the line.

Thirty years on, the 1,860 km railway has carried 40 million passengers and 30 million tons of cargo, providing local people not only with easy transportation but also with more opportunities for prosperity.

"The TAZARA is nothing but a silent testimony of China's altruism in Africa," said Wang You, commercial counsellor at the Chinese Embassy in the Zambian capital of Lusaka.

"But the TAZARA is just a beginning," Wang added. "Chinese assistance to Zambia has gone far beyond it."

Following TAZARA, a vast variety of projects and programs in different fields have been carried out in Zambia, he said.

According to Wang, a total of 14 medical teams have been dispatched to Zambia in the past three decades, with over 200 Chinese doctors having saved the lives of tens of thousands of Zambians.

China also plays a big part in Zambia's human resource development, as hundreds of Zambian executives and technicians have attended workshops or received training in China since 1978.

Nearly 500 Zambian students have won their academic titles from Chinese universities with the aid of Chinese government scholarships.

Stepping into the new millennium, China has fine-tuned its priorities on assistance to Africa, adding new highlights in its aid forms based on political and economic shifts on the continent.

In late 2006, Chinese leaders rolled out a road map of wide-ranging development assistance at the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, making further promises to African countries like Zambia.

Chinese grants totaling 80 million RMB (11.7 million dollars) have flowed into Zambia since the summit, together with interest-free loans worth 150 million RMB (21.9 million dollars) and 800 million RMB (117 million dollars) in preferential loans.

Months after the Beijing summit, a Chinese economic zone, the first of its kind in Africa, came into operation in northern Zambia.

The Zambia-China Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone has secured Chinese funds worth 70 million dollars for infrastructure since being established in February 2007, according to latest statistics.

The zone is expected to bring in 50 enterprises with a total investment of over 800 million dollars by 2011 and create more than 20,000 jobs for locals.

"China is helping develop Africa in Chinese way," Wang said, referring to the new aid model of investment.

One of the biggest China-funded projects hammered out at the 2006 China-Africa Summit is a stadium to be built in Ndola, Zambia's second biggest city.

The multimillion-dollar stadium is designed to have modern sports and security facilities, with 40,000 seats.

"By 2011, the Ndola stadium will have risen above the ground," said Wang. "It is bound to become a new symbol of China-sponsored projects in Africa."