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After years of delay, the government of São Tomé and Príncipe has launched a tender for the project to build a new deepwater port in the country

De Abreu said that the project would “transform São Tomé and Príncipe into a service platform for the central and western Africa region, to give the new port a vocation for transhipment of containers and goods from various parts of the world to countries in the region.”

State-owned news agency STP Press reported that the project is likely to cost US$500-800M, a huge price tag in relation to the size of the national economy, although the cost will be determined by the results of the tender. Technical and financial bids must be submitted by 20 January.

Possessing vast maritime acreage at the heart of the Gulf of Guinea, successive governments have banked on the discovery of commercial oil reserves to power the economy, but such finds have proved elusive and may never be made. However, the country can capitalise on its strategic geographical location and its vote at the United Nations by attracting investment in the planned transhipment port.

São Tomé and Príncipe recognised Taiwan rather than China between 1997 and 2016, but switched its allegiance to Beijing three years ago, in expectation of substantial Chinese investment. In addition, Beijing has included the archipelago in its BRI to link many developing countries to China through the construction of new transport infrastructure.

The new port is almost certain to be built by Chinese companies and financed by Chinese banks. A succession of Chinese companies has been linked with the project over the past five years, including by China Harbour Engineering Company, China Road & Bridge Corporation and Macau Legend Development. The latter is the investment vehicle of Macau businessman and senior communist party member David Chow.

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