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Tanzania restarts talks with China to build $10bn Bagamoyo megaport

Samia Suluhu Hassan, the president of Tanzania, has said talks have "begun afresh" to restart the stalled project to build a megaport at Mbegani, near the town of Bagamoyo, about 40km north of Dar es Salaam.

President Samia made her remarks on Saturday during a meeting of the National Business Council, the official forum for dialogue between the public and private sectors. 

Bagamoyo is a $10bn venture between Tanzania, China and Oman, funded by Hong Kong conglomerate China Merchants Holdings International and Oman’s State General Reserve Fund.

The project, which was announced in 2013, envisages the building of facilities able to handle 20 million containers a year by 2045 – a little above present-day Hong Kong and 25 times larger than Dar.

There would also be an industrial zone with more than 1,000 factories and a link to the Tanzanian Central Railway that would eventually connect Dar with the Great Lakes states and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Work on the scheme was halted by former president John Magufuli after disagreements between the investors and the Tanzania Port Authority over issues such as docking charges, tax exemptions and compensation for losses incurred during the project execution (see further reading).

Contracts to begin port construction were signed in October 2015 and the first phase was to have been completed in 2017. However, the project was dogged from the start by disagreements over the terms, and in June 2019 Magufuli cancelled it, accusing the Chinese of "presenting exploitative and awkward terms in exchange for financing".

As well as the port, Samia said talks were under way on restarting the Liganga Iron Ore and Mchuchuma Coal Projects, which will include the construction of a 600MW coal-fired power station.

The Liganga iron ore deposit has proven reserves of 126 million tonnes. The $3bn programme to build it and the coal mine were to be implemented by the Tanzania China International Mineral Resources in 2016, but never received final approval from the Magufuli administration.

Image: Bagamoyo has been a port town since the 13th century and was a centre of the slave trade in the 19th (Rasheedhrasheed/CC BY-SA 4.0)

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