How a Chinese development project changed lives and livelihoods (AfricaFiles / allAfrica)


Title:  Tanzania: Book – How a Chinese development project changed lives and livelihoods
Author:  Jamie Monson
Category:  Eastern Region
Date:  3/16/2009
Source:  Indiana University Press, Bloomington, USA
Source Website: <;

African Charter Article# 22: All peoples shall have the right to their economic, social and cultural development within the common heritage of humanity .

Summary & Comment: Jamie Monson provides first hand information in her new book on the Tazara Railway. Shunned by Western donors, the Chinese step in to build this vital rail link between landlocked Zambia and Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salaam. DH

Africa’s Freedom Railway – How a Chinese development project changed lives and livelihoods in Tanzania

A masterful history of the construction and impact of rail power in Africa

“An extremely nuanced and textured history of negotiated interests that includes international stakeholders, local actors, and-importantly-early Chinese policies of development assistance.”
-James McCann, Boston University

“Blessedly economical and unpretentious . . . no one else is capable of writing about this region with such nuance.”
-James Giblin, University of Iowa

The TAZARA (Tanzania Zambia Railway Authority) or Freedom Railway stretches from Dar es Salaam on the Tanzanian coast to the Copperbelt region of Zambia. The railway, built during the height of the Cold War, was intended to redirect the mineral wealth of the interior away from routes through South Africa and Rhodesia. After being rebuffed by Western donors, newly independent Tanzania and Zambia accepted help from communist China to construct what would become one of Africa’s most vital transportation corridors.

Drawing on first-hand experiences of engineers and laborers together with life histories of traders who used the railway, Jamie Monson tracks the railroad from its design and construction to its daily use as a passenger train that provided an important means for moving people and goods from one village to another. This engaging history reveals how transnational interests contributed to environmental change, population movements, the rise of local and regional economic enterprise, and one of the most sweeping development transitions in post-colonial Africa.
*Jamie Monson is Professor of History at Carleton College and author of Women
as Food Producers in Developing Countries.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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