Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania Dr Lu Youqing has a point we cannot ignore: the need to involve big companies operating in the country’s war against poverty.
The envoy gave the advice yesterday in Dar es Salaam during discussions with IPP Executive Chairman Dr Reginald Mengi on China-Tanzania friendship, trade cooperation and the role of processing industries in improving majority’s economy.
He said his country had since made full use of ‘big companies’ by assigning to each one of them the task of fighting poverty in a specific marginalised district — investing in human resources complemented by good policies.
The Chinese envoy further argues that the government “should not only talk” but instead increase investments in people, make prudent use of raw materials and put in place good development policies.
There’s good reason to listen to our Chinese colleague because we have had a long working relationship from the time when the Chinese were as poor as we are today; but they went out of their way to help us when we needed help most – and at a time when richer ‘development partners’ refused to listen.
Like us, millions of Chinese people are living below the poverty line, but the Chinese government projects to reduce that poverty line by at least 50 per cent in the next five years.
We are arguably the largest trading partner with China, but do the export books tell us?
The problem with trade imbalance is well known, with China exporting more than Tanzania – even though the Chinese government encourages Tanzanians to export more of their products to China – which is what true friendship is all about.
Currently, the Cinese government is encouraging more of its businesspeople to invest in Tanzania, notably in agriculture and industry, by constructing various processing and manufacturing factories to achieve a win-win situation.
But there is, indeed, room for more and, as IPP Executive Chairman put it, China could do more in building local processing industries.
The IPP chairman spoke for many people when he said there was concern with most people asking for a win-win relationship between China and Tanzania, especially in the field of agriculture.
Instead of exporting raw materials such as cotton, China should instead join hands with Tanzania by forming joint ventures that could lead to construction of small and medium industries that could add value to agricultural produce.
We cannot talk of “friendship” with China if there to it exporting our raw materials; our raw materials need to be refined within the country — if we’re to attain growth and, in the process, increase jobs and initiate technology transfer to fight poverty.
Until last June, China had made $2.15 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) at the Tanzania Investment Centre, creating more than 150,000 jobs for Tanzanians.
These figures are welcome, but there are also worrying signals that we need to improve on the way we’re doing business; most of the so-called ‘fake’ goods happen to come China or other far-eastern trading partners.
For sure, these goods will have been shipped from Chinese ports and their exit authorized by Chinese port authorities; for true friendship to hold the Tanzanian consumer must be protected.
There cannot be any shortcuts; else, we’re still talking politics – not business.