Chinese bribe in Dar, admits envoy

Tuesday July 15 2014
China envoy

China’s ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Lu Youqing, who has admitted that some Chinese nationals and companies are engaged in corruption and illegal ivory trade in the country. FILE

China’s ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Lu Youqing, has admitted that some Chinese nationals and companies are engaged in corruption and illegal ivory trade in the country.

In an interview published yesterday by the South China Morning Post, the envoy expressed his disappointment over “bad habits” that tarnish China’s image in Tanzania and across the Africa.

“Our people just cannot shake off their bad habits. When they come to Africa, they are not united and engage in infighting as usual,” Mr Lu was quoted as saying, referring to competition among Chinese companies over contracts and bribes offered to African officials to lobby on their behalf.

He also voiced his concern about “shoddy” work done by Chinese contractors in road projects in some African countries, adding that there were infrastructure projects that had been undertaken by Chinese companies at unrealistically low prices.

“When I became ambassador in 2012, each kilometre of road cost about half a million US dollars. This has increased over the past few years due to our regulatory efforts,” Mr Lu said.

However, some Chinese companies that had been banned in Tanzania were building roads in neighbouring countries for between $300,000 to $400,000 per kilometre, he said. “What will happen to these roads in three to five years’ time?” he asked.


Mr Lu also spoke about violent crime targeting Chinese nationals in Tanzania.

“Tanzania hosts ambassadors from about 70 countries, but none of them needs to constantly worry like us about consular protection issues,” he said in response to a question about alleged police harassment and robberies targeting Chinese citizens in Africa.

In an exclusive interview with The Citizen recently, Mr Lu defended the record of Chinese companies, saying they had helped the Tanzanian government to save about $2.5 billion in road construction.

He said of the 10,000 kilometres of tarmac roads constructed in Tanzania in the past few years, Chinese contractors built 6,000 kilometres at the cost of $600,000 per kilometre as opposed to $1 million charged by European companies.


He told the South China Morning Post that the Chinese embassy in Dar es Salaam became apprehensive every time Tanzania seizes ivory. “[Some Chinese here] knowingly engage in illegal activities. Of course, they’re only a minority,” Mr Lu added.

The ambassador said he had received complaints from officials and police about Chinese nationals who hide ivory under car bonnets and even under bras.

The South China Morning Post could not get a reaction from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing yesterday. Adams Bodomo, a professor of African studies at the University of Vienna, who was also interviewed by the paper, shared the envoy’s concerns.

“There are widespread business malpractices by some Chinese in Africa, including illegal mining in Ghana, poaching of endangered species in South Africa and bribing officials to deliver shoddy construction throughout the continent,” Prof Bodomo said.

But the vast majority of Chinese were “doing a good job and are building and delivering infrastructure projects faster, cheaper and far better than some Western companies in Africa”.

“Governments of Africa must put in place regulatory systems. No businessman will always do the right thing if you don’t regulate them effectively,” Prof Bodomo said.

In 2012, China invested more than $40 billion in African countries and promised $20 billion in aid during the upcoming three years.

That same year, total trade between China and Africa was $128 billion, while Africa’s trade with the US was $100 billion.