April 7th, 2024

The investment landscape of Africa has increasingly attracted global attention and ascended as a beacon of investment opportunities, with China emerging as a dominant force in shaping the continent’s economic destiny as its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become a pivotal mechanism in fostering and deepening economic ties with African countries, particularly Tanzania.  A vivid illustration of this dynamic can be seen in the relationship between China and Tanzania, spotlighted at the recent China-Tanzania Investment Forum 2024, which I attended on March 27, 2024. As a board member of the Tanzania Investment Center, I had the privilege of interacting with numerous Chinese companies eyeing the Tanzanian market with keen interest, providing me with rich insights into the ambitions and strategies underpinning China’s investment overtures in Africa. China showcased this evolving partnership with Tanzania and Africa, and uncovered trends and strategies as well as insights of its investment blueprint in Tanzania. There were approximately 60 entrepreneurs from Jinhua City, east China’s Zhejiang province. These entrepreneurs were to also discover the main investment opportunities that Sino- Tanzanian Industrial Park in Dar es Salaam offered namely pharmaceuticals, textile and clothing, agricultural machinery and hardware tools, engineering construction and construction materials, mining and environmental protection equipment. There were approximately 120 Tanzanian companies who engaged in B2B meetings with the Chinese companies.

Despite the opportunities showcased in the Sino-Tanzanian Industrial Park, many Chinese companies that I engaged with expressed a particular interest in scouting for local agents and distributors rather than establishing direct corporate presence in Tanzania. This preference underscores a cautious yet optimistic view of the market’s potential, reflecting a broader trend of Chinese investment strategies across Africa.

The Belt and Road Initiative as a Catalyst for Sino-Tanzanian Economic Ties

The BRI is a monumental global development strategy adopted by China, which aims to enhance global trade and stimulate growth across Asia, Africa and beyond through the development of trade routes and infrastructure projects. Tanzania, with its strategic location along the East African coast, emerges not just as a beneficiary but also a crucial partner in this ambitious project. The BRI has significantly enhanced the relations between China and Tanzania, laying a robust foundation for increased investment, trade and infrastructure development.

At the heart of these strengthened ties, Chinese companies at the Investment Forum were keen to explore different avenues to engage with the Tanzania market. This mirrors the essence of the BRI’s focus on connectivity and cooperation.

The Strategic Importance of Special Economic Zones in Tanzania

China’s global investment strategy, intertwined with the BRI’s objectives, has taken a distinctive turn in Tanznaia through the implementation of SEZs. These are designated areas in countries aimed to attract foreign investments by offering more liberal economic laws and incentives than those prevailing nationwide. In Tanzania, these zones offer a myriad of advantages, acting as magnets for Chinese companies looking to establish a foothold in the African market. By setting up these zones, China seeks to create a conducive environment for Chinese enterprises to invest and operate in Tanzania, therefore stimulating economic growth, technology transfer and the establishment of local industries. For Chinese companies, these zones provide a simplified business environment with incentives such as tax breaks, streamlined customs and administrative procedures, and infrastructure support. This lowers operational costs and barriers to entry for businesses to explore and expand in African markets.

The Preference for Partnerships over Incorporation

The decision by many Chinese businesses to seek local partners in Tanzania, instead of incorporating, is a strategic move that reveals much about their market assessment. Despite recognizing Tanzania’s potential, these companies consider the market too nascent for direct incorporation, pointing out market size and the current economic environment as pivotal factors in their decision-making. Interestingly, these businesses express a greater inclination towards incorporating in bigger markets within the region, such as Kenya and Uganda, which they perceive as more conducive to their expansive business models.

This cautious approach does not detract from the importance of Tanzania in their investment portfolio. Instead, it highlights a strategic entry point, leveraging partnerships with local entities to navigate the market dynamics and lay the groundwork for future expansion. This tactic allows Chinese companies to tap into the local market’s potential while mitigating the risks associated with direct investment in an emerging market. Meanwhile, ground work for future expansion in alignment with the BRI’s long term objectives is laid.

The Role of Yingke Law Firm in Facilitating Chinese Investments in Africa

One of the standout encounters at the Forum was with Yingke Law Firm, a leading Chinese legal practice that is rapidly expanding its footprint across Africa. Yingke’s mission in Africa is uniquely tailored to service Chinese companies, reflecting a growing trend of specialized service firms facilitating China’s overseas investments. Their expansion is indicative of the comprehensive ecosystem China is building to support its investment ventures

in Africa, encompassing legal, financial, and strategic advisory services.

Yingke Law Firm’s proactive approach to setting up operations in Africa to cater exclusively to Chinese businesses underscores the strategic foresight driving China’s investment strategy on the continent. This not only enhances the confidence of Chinese investors in navigating the African legal and business landscapes, but also signifies the depth of China’s commitment to forging sustainable economic partnerships in Africa.

What Are The Lessons and Takeaways in Understanding China’s Investment Blueprint in Africa?

The insights garnered from the China-Tanzania Investment Forum elucidate several pivotal lessons about China’s investment strategy in Africa.

  1. Firstly,  the preference to engage in investment in Tanzania either as supplier to government’s key infrastructure projects or as investors within the SEZ which exempts then to a number of challenges that exist in the investment climate in Tanzania as SEZ has its own administrative and legal regime. This demonstrates that while China sees the opportunities in Tanznaia, it also understands that there are challenges that are yet to be resolved.
  2. Secondly, the preference for establishing partnerships over direct incorporation reveals a nuanced understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities presented by African markets. This strategy allows Chinese companies to maintain flexibility and adaptability, essential qualities for thriving in dynamic emerging markets.
  3. The role of specialized service providers like Yingke Law Firm highlights the importance of creating a supportive ecosystem for foreign investments. By addressing the unique needs of Chinese companies, services such as those provided by Yingke play a crucial role in mitigating the risks associated with international investments, thereby enhancing the attractiveness of African markets.
  4. Lastly, the forum underscored the immense potential for mutually beneficial economic collaborations between China and Tanzania. By aligning their investment strategies with Tanzania’s development goals, Chinese companies can contribute significantly to the continent’s economic transformation while also unlocking new avenues for growth.

To learn more about Tanzania National Development Plan, click here.


The evolving investment relationships between China and African countries, exemplified by the China-Tanzania dynamic, are a testament to the complexities and opportunities of global economic interconnectivity. The strategic nuances of these relationships indicate a deep-seated commitment to fostering long-term, sustainable partnerships that promise mutual benefits. As Africa continues to ascend as a pivotal player on the global stage, the roles and strategies of investors like China will undoubtedly be critical factors in shaping the continent’s economic trajectory. There is a significant shift in the paradigms of global trade and investment. The initiatives and strategies employed by China in Tanzania under the BRI showcase a proactive approach to cultivate deep-rooted economic partnerships.

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