Trade between Tanzania and China has taken a downturn following the coronavirus outbreak, Tanzania’s Minister of Industries and Trade, Innocent Bashungwa, confirmed this week.
Mr Bashungwa, in an interview, told The EastAfrican that the crisis in China has triggered a big drop in passenger and cargo volumes to and from the two countries.
“The impact on our bilateral trade has been significant,” he said.
Both Tanzanian authorities and Chinese embassy officials in Dar es Salaam said figures to measure the overall impact are, however, not yet computed. Embassy spokesperson Johnny Wang told The EastAfrican that imports of Chinese goods into Tanzania have dropped due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
LARGEST TRADE PARTNER
In an email response, the Chinese Embassy in Dar es Salaam said the drop is attributable to temporary closure of businesses in China.
“Since the outbreak of COVID-19, China activated a national response mechanism and has taken the most comprehensive, thorough and rigorous measures. These efforts are producing notable positive results, leading to a positive turn in the trajectory of the epidemic.”
China’s ambassador to Tanzania, Wang Ke, told a recent Tanzania-China high-level investment and business meeting that China’s total investment in Tanzania topping $7 billion in 2019, making it the largest foreign investor in the country.
Bilateral trade volumes between the two countries last year alone stood at $3.976 billion, confirming China as also being Tanzania’s largest trade partner for three consecutive years, Ms Ke said.
Unity Travel, a Tanzanian tour agency, said there has also been a drop in demand from Tanzanians for flights to China, amid fears of the virus spreading further worldwide.
“Since (information on) Coronavirus started being released, our agency has not processed a single traveller to China,” Unity Travel official Marco Dominic told The EastAfrican.
Many international airlines have suspended flights to China due to the coronavirus outbreak while Air Tanzania has shelved plans to add the Guangzhou route to its own schedule until the outbreak is contained.
Small-scale traders in the popular Kariakoo trading centre in Dar, where a wide variety of imported products from China and other Far East countries also lamented over how commodity shipments from China have dried up.