As a now-historic model for development, the almost 2000 kilometer TAZARA train line was planned and realized by China. Built from 1968-1975 in the spirit of post/colonial solidarity, a liberated Zambia was thus able to transport its copper inventories from the Copperbelt to the Tanzanian port city of Dar es Salam. At the time, former Northern Rhodesia was surrounded by colonies and racist regimes; since the liberation, direct access to South African (apartheid) or Angolan (Portuguese occupation) ports was blocked. The local economies only stabilized after China helped, embedded in expansive international and internationalist relationships.
Forty years later, China needs Africa’s natural resources to produce cheap goods for the rest of the world. China uses African markets to sell its products and to create new commercial infrastructures. What does this massive exchange of goods, people and cultures along a new “silk road” – by land and sea – mean for the daily lives of the people affected by it? To what extent do transport routes constructed by Chinese companies also open up intra-African markets and connect the continent to itself?