Trade between China and Tanzania, one of Africa’s fastest-growing population centres, surged by nearly a quarter last year as the two countries cemented diplomatic ties. Speaking in Hong Kong on Thursday, Tanzanian ambassador to Beijing Mbelwa Kairuki said trade volume reached US$8.31 billion last year, a 23.7 per cent year-on-year increase. Electronics, machinery and vehicles accounted for a big share of Tanzania’s imports from China, while food and copper dominated Chinese imports from the East African state. “One important thing to note is the fact that China and Tanzania have enjoyed a long-lasting friendship and comprehensive cooperation,” Kairuki said as part of a trip to the city to promote trade and investment. “I stand ready to work with all of you to take Hong Kong-Tanzania friendship and cooperation to a new height. “It is gratifying that I have been able to visit Hong Kong after almost three years of not being able to due to Covid-19 restrictions.” Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in the early 1960s. In a stopover in the Chinese capital in November, President Samia Suluhu Hassan became the first African leader to visit China since the 20th Communist Party congress. The trip was also Hassan’s first to China since taking office in 2021. During the visit, Hassan and President Xi Jinping signed 15 strategic agreements , including a commitment to upgrade the Chinese-built Tanzania-Zambia – or Tazara – railway. When the line opened in 1975, it allowed landlocked Zambia to reduce economic dependence on what was then Rhodesia and South Africa, both of which were ruled by white-minority governments. Hassan and Xi agreed to elevate China-Tanzania relations to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, generally regarded as China’s highest diplomatic level, which promises full pursuit of cooperation and development. Chinese firms on track in Tanzania with US$2.2 billion railway contract In Hong Kong on Thursday, Kairuki, who took his position in 2017 and will return to Beijing on Sunday, highlighted his country’s connectivity on the continent, the world’s “investment frontier”. “Located in Eastern Africa, Tanzania borders eight countries, six of which – namely Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, use the Dar es Salaam port and Tanzania’s railways and roads for their sea freight,” he said. He said that with two-thirds of its 62 million people aged below 23, Tanzania offered a young workforce and long-term investment opportunities for global corporations, especially those in China. “Tanzania has abundant investment and trading opportunities in different sectors including agriculture, livestock, fisheries, mining, manufacturing, tourism, pharmaceuticals, edible oil, energy, oil and gas, telecommunications, real estate and finance,” Kairuki said, adding the country was part of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the largest in the world by number of member states.