Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi wrapped up his annual tour to Africa on Saturday with a quick stopover in the Indian Ocean island state of Seychelles, before heading back to Asia. During his half-day visit to Victoria, Wang met with Foreign Minister Sylvestre Radegonde and later with President Wavel Ramkalawan.
For the most part, the visits to The Seychelles and to Tanzania the day before seemed to be more focused on relationship-building than anything else. In both instances, Wang didn’t make the kinds of announcements on debt relief or the BRI that marked his visits to Nigeria, DR Congo and Botswana, the other stops on his week-long tour.
He did announce a number of small aid initiatives in both countries but those alone most likely did not justify the foreign minister’s visit. Instead, both Tanzania and The Seychelles are emerging as strategically important countries for China — but for very different reasons.
The Seychelles’ strategic location in the Indian Ocean could make it an important outpost for Beijing’s growing naval ambitions as it seeks to exert itself more in that arena and at the same time challenge India’s longtime influence in the Western Indian Ocean. In Tanzania, China’s interests are much more focused on transportation and logistics and President John Magufuli’s dream to establish his country as the dominant East African trading hub with new railways and ports.
Less than 48 hours after returning to China, Wang went back out on the road for a four-nation tour of Southeast Asia, with stops in Myanmar, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.
Key Highlights From Wang Yi’s Last Two Stops of His Africa Tour in Tanzania and The Seychelles
- THE SEYCHELLES: The major announcement from Wang’s visit was an $11 million renewable energy grant. More importantly, though, the day after Wang left, on Sunday, The Seychelles became the first African country to begin inoculating its population with a Chinese vaccine. A batch of 50,000 doses of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine was donated by the United Arab Emirates and does not appear to be related to Wang’s visit, despite the coincidental timing. (SEYCHELLES NEWS AGENCY)
- TANZANIA: The highlight of Wang’s visit to Dar es Salaam on Friday occurred when he oversaw a signing ceremony for a contract to build a 341km section of Tanzania’s new standard gauge railway. The state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway Construction Limited were jointly awarded the $1.32 billion project. It’s important to note that China is not financing the construction of TZ’s SGR. The project is being entirely paid for by the government itself. Separately, President John Magufuli called on Wang to cancel some of the country’s old debts to China, dating back half a century to the construction of the famed Tazara railway, totaling $167.7 million. (BLOOMBERG)
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