The future of East Africa’s biggest port project, Bagamoyo in Tanzania, was thrown into confusion last week after a government minister said the $11bn scheme would be suspended, only to be contradicted by his government the following day.
Minister for works, transport and communications Prof Makame Mbarawa told local media on 7 January that work on the port, backed by China and Oman, would be suspended because it was too big, complex and needed a major source of funding.
He said attention would be diverted from Bagamoyo to upgrading existing ports at Dar es Salaam (city pictured) and Mtwara Port.
But the next day the government of Tanzania issued a statement saying preparatory work begun in October 2015 would continue, and that construction of the port would begin in July upon conclusion of financing negotiations with key partners.
The statement added that a joint working team comprising technical people from Tanzania, China and Oman is preparing technical and commercial contracts for the implementation of the port, reported Tanzanian newspaper, The Citizen.
Work started in October 2015 on the megaport which was to be funded in part by China and Oman.
Set on 800 hectares, with another 1,700 hectares set aside for a new special economic zone, the port was set to handle 20 times more cargo than the old port at Dar es Salaam, now operating beyond its capacity.
Tanzania’s president at the time, Jakaya Kikwete, said the new port would help spur an "industrial revolution" in Tanzania.
It was to compete with the Kenyan port of Mombasa in handling and processing exports from landlocked neighbours Uganda, Burundi, Zambia and Rwanda.
But it became a political football in the Tanzanian election of October 2015, with opposition figures calling it a waste of money.
Tanzania is hoping to cash in on recently discovered natural gas deposits, but the global slump in commodity prices, including for oil and gas, may be putting pressure on its plans for expensive industrial schemes.
Photograph: Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s biggest city. Its capital is Dodoma. (Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia Commons)