Interview: Mozambique president’s China visit focuses on industrial cooperation

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Industrial cooperation, notably in natural gas exploration and manufacturing, is on top agenda as Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi begins his first state visit to China, the Chinese ambassador to Mozambique says.

Nyusi is slated to begin his six-day visit on Monday on a full-pack schedule that includes bilateral talks with Chinese leaders and separate visits to the export-oriented economic vibrant provinces of Jiangsu and Shandong, Ambassador Su Jian told Xinhua in an interview prior to the visit, calling it a “milestone” in bilateral relations and crucial for Maputo to embark on a self-reliant and sustainable development path.

It came after Western donors and financial institutions announced plans to suspend development aid to Mozambique, rated one of the poorest countries in the world, over the discovery of the government’s hidden debt of 1.4 billion U.S. dollars, allegedly used for acquiring navy fleets and defense equipment.

Sensing the difficulties ahead, Mozambican Finance Minister Adriano Maleaine said earlier this month that the government would be forced to take “austerity measures”, countering the negative impacts of donor fund withdrawal.

While not mentioning such impacts, the Chinese Ambassador emphasized the potential of advancing China-Mozambique economic cooperation to both’s interests.

Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi
Mozambican president Filipe Nyusi

The visit will mark the second time Nyusi as president since 2015 meets his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping after the two held their first bilateral meeting last December in South Africa on the sidelines of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

Su said Nyusi, who formed the friendship with the Chinese as early as in Tanzania’s African freedom fighter camps in the 60s, had revealed to him several times that the government would prioritize ties with China.

He said China had also prioritized Mozambique as one of a few “key partners” in Beijing’s push for international industrial cooperation, particularly with developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. China will transfer knowledge, management, equipment to help African countries fast-track industrialization and build up industrial chains to add value to the continent’s vast natural resources.

In February this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid a visit to Mozambique and the two sides agreed that cooperation would focus on natural gas exploration and manufacturing, to begin by laying down the infrastructure, training professionals, and providing financial support, Su said.

According to embassy estimates, there are about 80 mid-range and large Chinese enterprises registered in Mozambique, in sectors of transport infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, agriculture, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing.

More than one third of these enterprises are into construction, using Chinese soft and commercial loans to build roads, bridges, airports, and government offices in Mozambique such as the presidential palace itself and the country’s main conference venue — Joaquim Chissano International Conference Center.

At the moment, China Road and Bridge Corporation is building Maputo-Catembe Bridge, Africa’s longest suspension bridge, at the Maputo bay. The project is expected to be completed in 2017 and will replace the centuries-old ferry system and boost the economic link between the Mozambican capital and the ports and manufacturing hubs in neighboring South Africa.

In terms of investment, Su said Chinese businesses have a growing appetite for the Mozambican market, with investments channeling into a wide range of sectors from both state and private companies in China.

By the end of 2015, the stock of Chinese direct investment to Mozambique rose to 1.2 billion U.S. dollars, Chinese official figures show.

Source: XinhuaNet