Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan said on Saturday June 26 her government has resumed talks on a planned $10 billion port project backed by China, which was suspended by her predecessor in a disagreement over terms.
Hassan told business leaders in the commercial hub Dar es Salaam on Saturday that her government “has started talks to revive the Bagamoyo port project.”
“I would like to share with you the good news that we have started negotiations on reviving the whole Bagamoyo port project,” Hassan said during a gathering with the private sector in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.
China Merchants Holdings International, China’s largest port operator, broke ground for the port and special economic zone in October 2015, but the project hit an impasse after the inauguration of President John Magufuli a month later. The project is also financially backed by Oman’s State General Reserve Fund.
The site of the proposed port is located 75 kilometers (47 miles) north of Dar es Salaam, the country’s main port, which importers have complained is inefficient and congested.
Magufuli favoured expansion and upgrading of the Dar es Salaam facility rather than building a new port. But since coming to office after Magufuli’s death in March, Hassan has swiftly moved to fast-track several large projects that had been stalled.
China Merchants, China’s largest port operator, said in 2019 that years of negotiations with Tanzania had failed to produce an agreement.
The port project was planned to be a three-way collaboration between China Merchants Holdings, Oman’s State General Reserve Fund and the Tanzanian government.
They include a $30 billion liquefied natural gas terminal developed by Equinor ASA, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Exxon Mobil Corp. and other partners, and a $3 billion joint venture with China’s Sichuan Hongda Co. for an iron ore and coal mine.
Magufuli said in 2019 that “only a madman” would agree to the conditions of the Bagamoyo port deal. Some he publicly rejected included granting a 99-year land lease to the Chinese investors, which he said was contrary to the country’s laws. China had also requested that Tanzania not question who invests in Bagamoyo once the port was operational.
But Hassan announced that her government has decided to revive the project “for the benefit of Tanzania.” She didn’t disclose the terms of the new negotiations.
Hassan’s comments come five days after speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping by phone. “China is ready to work with Tanzania to consolidate political mutual trust, strengthen mutual support,” Xi told Hassan according to Xinhua.
The port, was to be located in Bagamoyo, about 75 km (47 miles) north of Dar es Salaam.