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by Ben Taylor.
As Tanzania saw the first anniversary of Samia Suluhu Hassan becoming President in March, the government and the ruling CCM party celebrated the economic and political changes her presidency has brought about.
Highlights of the year include the President’s championing of women’s rights. Nine of her cabinet ministers are women, which represents 36% of the cabinet, and she has brought a series of highly qualified women in to fill strategically important roles within State House. The government has also reversed the heavily criticised policy of banning pregnant schoolgirls from attending school.
Business environment and economic diplomacy
Just days after taking office a year earlier, President Hassan had outlined a raft of measures her government would take to stimulate economic growth, and to recover from the adverse effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic. In her maiden speech to Parliament she articulated the need for the government to regain investors’ confidence by creating a friendly business environment.
A year later, CCM Secretary-General Daniel Chongolo said the President’s efforts in this field have resulted in significant improvements in the business and investment environment. “In one year, we have seen a positive economic growth in our country as a result of increased investment in strategic projects: electricity, water, health, education, road construction, railways and airports,” he said.
Mr Chongolo noted that results that could already be seen including an increase in the circulation of cash, an increase in loans to the private sector, a reduction in bank’s bad credit, an increase in foreign currency reserves and increased tax collection to record levels.
Economists described the period as a course correction. Dr Abel Kinyondo of the University of Dar es Salaam said President Hassan was putting economic diplomacy into practice. She has done this, he explained, by undertaking crucial visits and meetings to repair ties with the outside world and influence Tanzania’s trading relationship with the rest of the globe. She has met with key players in the international economy – for example hosting visits by the former British prime minister Tony Blair, World Bank managing director Mari Pangestu and African Development Bank president Akinwumi Adesina, and by undertaking visits to Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, France, Belgium, the UK and the USA.
Prof Haji Semboja of the State University of Zanzibar’s Economics Department commended the President for understanding that Tanzania could not work as an island. “She has been believing in global connectivity and that is why she keeps on redefining policies, laws and policies to cope with this modern world,” he noted.
A second trip to the USA, in mid-April 2022, continued this strategy. President Hassan met with US Vice President Kamala Harris, holding talks that mainly centered on Tanzania’s economic growth. The trip reportedly generated close to a billion dollars in investments from various companies in the US.
“We welcome, of course the attention you are giving to that and the focus of this trip including the focus of investment opportunities in relation to the economy in the area of tourism,” said Vice President Harris.
The visit to the USA came exactly 60 years since Tanzania’s founding Father Julius Nyerere visited President John F Kennedy in 1962. In noting the anniversary, President Hassan said that “the United States and Tanzania have enjoyed relations for the last 60 years, my government would like to see the relations grow further and strengthened to greater heights.” She also expressed her government’s appreciation to the US government “for invaluable development assistance and great work the USAID has been doing in Tanzania over the years particularly on the social and economic development.”
CCM Secretary General Daniel Chongolo also remarked that President Hassan has been committed to stabilising the political environment and bringing national unity through good governance based on the rule of law. He noted that she had met with opposition leaders, listening to their concerns and consulting with them on how best to protect democracy and freedom of expression.
He said during this one year, freedom of expression has improved. This is one of the key principles in promoting and building democracy and the classes of the people in self-government in the implementation of the 2020 election manifesto.
The President herself, speaking in mid-March, signalled further reforms would be forthcoming. She issued a series of directives to a special task force formed to propose reforms that would set the stage for “clean politics” and raising democratic standards. In addition to examining the possible need for constitutional reforms, she asked the task force to make recommendations on how best to handle subsidies to political parties, a general code of conduct for political parties, ending corruption during elections and finding a way to enhance women participation in politics.
“We need concrete recommendations that will be shared with the public so that people can understand where we want to go,” she said.
Dr Phidelis Rutayunga, a political analyst and lawyer based in Dar es Salaam, said President Hassan has showed genuine commitment to improving the political environment in the country. “I saw one quote that said she was ready to pay the cost in the 2025 General Election, but she is determined to create a level playing ground when it comes to politics,” he said.
“Speaking that way in a country like the United States shows that she is ready to be held responsible not only by politicians and pro-democracy activists in Tanzania but also abroad if there is no implementation,” he added.
Early 2022 saw three moments that signal a clear change of direction on political matters: the release of one opposition leader, Freeman Mbowe [see next article], a visit to another (Tundu Lissu) in his exile in Belgium in February 2022, and a willingness to discuss possible changes to political processes in Tanzania with opposition parties [see article on the Constitution]. The government has also recently ended bans on several newspapers, signalling a positive turn in media freedom.
Opposition leaders, however, see significant room for further changes. Two leading opposition parties – Chadema and NCCR – recently refused to participate in dialogue, arguing that the process made little sense if the government would not accept the need for a new constitution.
Further, beyond formal politics, civil society groups and the media continue to find that the operating environment remains challenging. While significant changes have been made, there remain strong elements within the government that are either unsure of the extent to which civil society and the media should be allowed to operate free from government control, or unwilling to allow this.
Changes within CCM
Early April also saw the President, in her role as CCM chairperson, introduce reforms to the CCM party rulebook. “Without building a quality and resilient political party, we will fail to keep up with the changes. So we are forced to make revisions within the party’s constitution to keep pace with the changes,” she explained.
The number of National Executive Council (NEC) and Central Committee (CC) members was slashed from 388 to 154, and 34 to 24, respectively. The party also halved the frequency of its annual internal meetings from the grassroots to national levels in what was said to be a decision meant to increase efficiency, and reduce the number of inactive leaders in various positions.
“We have returned regional secretaries to the National Executive Committee (NEC), who will receive direct instructions from the party organ instead of waiting directives from other committee members,” said the President.
Some of the new revisions to CCM’s constitution reversed changes which were made in 2017 under Magufuli, and were explained as being about improving the party’s efficiency.
University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) lecturer, Dr Richard Mbunda, said the 2017 reforms were prompted by the austere philosophy of the Fifth Phase government. “Probably, the philosophy has been found to be unsustainable for the party, therefore triggering the new reforms,” he said.
A senior lecturer from the University of Iringa, Dr Stephen Kimondo, said despite references to the reforms as normal, the move to reinstate things dropped in 2017 implies that something was wrong within CCM. “It could be said that the amendments had been influenced by an individual,” he said, rather than what is best for the party.
At the same meeting of the party General Assembly, delegates unanimously voted in favour of the new party Vice Chairperson, Mr Abdulrahman Kinana. He replaces the outgoing Philip Mangula, who opted for retirement at the age of 81, after serving the party for many decades in many roles.
by Ben Taylor
In perhaps the clearest sign yet of President Hassan’s more open approach to governance, early March saw the release of Freeman Mbowe, chairperson of the opposition party Chadema, from prison and charges against him being dropped. He had spent more than eight months behind bars on terrorism charges that critics had described as politically motivated.
In February, the High Court’s Corruption and Economic Crimes Division had found that Mbowe and his three co-accused had a case to answer. However, just over two weeks later prosecutors dropped the case.
“The Court is informed that the Director of Public Prosecution on behalf of the Republic will not further prosecute Halfan Bwire Hassan, Adam Hassan Kasekwa, Mohammed Abdillahi Ling’wenya and Freeman Aikaeli Mbowe,” reads part of the Nolle Prosequi notice signed on March 4 by Senior State attorney Robert Kidando.
Mere hours after his release, Mr Mbowe was welcomed to State House for a meeting with President Samia Suluhu Hassan. Video clips released afterwards by both parties informed the public of their agreement to conduct constructive, trustful, respectful and unification politics for the interest of the country.
Mbowe said later that meeting with President Samia Suluhu Hassan shortly after being freed from remand prison was the opportunity the party had been looking for since the fifth phase government [of Presidents Magufuli and Hassan]. He said Chadema submitted three letters requesting to meet former President Magufuli, but in vain.
“Our meeting focused on building principles that would enable our people to build the nation peacefully, something on which she has really shown political will,” he said. Mr Mbowe added that both sides agreed that there was a need to build understanding and consensus by preaching sustainable justice instead of hangings, planting fake cases and shooting each other.
Mbowe’s release came a few days after a group of senior religious leaders made representations to President Hassan, calling for the appropriate authorities to use their discretion to end the case against Chadema chairman.
“We don’t want to interfere with the rule of law,” said Anglican Church of Tanzania Bishop Jackson Sosthenes, upon submitting the request to the President. “We would therefore like to ask for the government’s wisdom to see how the matter could be dealt with in order to bring more health for broad interests of the nation. Authorities should see how the matter can be concluded,” he said.
Political analyst Kasera Nick Oyoo, writing in The Citizen, described the whole case as a farce. He argued that Mbowe’s time in prison put Tanzania on the list of banana republics. “It still beggars belief that a country that always wishes to mirror itself as the paragon of civility and conviviality felt it necessary to bring terrorism charges against Mr Mbowe,” he wrote. “For some reason, at some point, someone felt that it was not enough to use police to disperse crowds, or deny Mr Mbowe and his colleagues the right enshrined in the Constitution to assemble and conduct political activities peacefully. The powers that be came up with what they must have thought was a brilliant plan – arrest Mr Mbowe and a few acolytes, and charge them with terrorism.”
However, he argued, the trial became a fiasco after it became apparent that the State had “an embarrassingly feeble case” against him and his co-accused. “It seems prosecution witnesses were hurriedly prepared, the case was incoherent, and even laymen could see that prosecution had no concrete case. Testimonies by prosecution witnesses were a complete farce, and that is putting it mildly.”
“In the process, it was not Mr Mbowe who suffered serious damage,” he concluded. “It is the reputation of the United Republic of Tanzania that was drugged through the mud, and a country’s reputation, as we know, is not easily repaired after being tarnished the way it was.”
by Ben Taylor
New Constitution briefly back on the table, then off again
Tanzanians may have to wait a little longer for constitutional changes, as a government-sanctioned task force formally proposed in its preliminary report, published in March, that the process should be postponed until after the 2025 General Election. President Samia Suluhu Hassan said she agreed with the idea of making “gradual improvements” rather than wholesale constitutional changes. “Perhaps a complete rewrite won’t be necessary, only in some areas,” she said. “And even if we do have to rewrite the whole document, much of the necessary amendment work will have already been done,” she added.
Task force chair Rwekaza Mukandala said they felt that there is not enough time to adopt a new Constitution within the current electoral cycle. “The process can start immediately after the election, and our proposals on the ways it can be achieved, when the time is right, will be part of our final report to be delivered at a later date,” he said.
Formation of the task force followed pressure from opposition parties, which began the new year by expressing their determination to press for Constitutional review process to be restarted in 2022.
Chadema vice-chairman Tundu Lissu led these calls, saying 2022 would be the start of a new movement to demand a new constitution. “The current Katiba will not solve our problems with the administrative and political system,” he noted.
Lissu explained that the party’s Central Committee met digitally on December 28, 2021 with the aim of shaping the party’s agenda. He said they evaluated the country’s history since the return of the multi-party political system in 1992 and 30 years after Judge Nyalali’s commission proposed the drafting of a new constitution. “We need a new Constitution now, not in 2025. Otherwise CCM will use this current Constitution to steal the election again just as it has always done since multiparty politics returned to Tanzania,” said Mr Lissu. He pledged to return to Tanzania from exile in the near future, so as to lead the movement in person.
Though most opposition parties agree on the need for a new constitution, they disagree on the order of the process. What should come first: A new Constitution addressing all aspects of the reforms agenda on a long-term basis, or “Tume Huru” (an independent electoral commission) ensuring a level playing field for all parties going into the 2025 poll.
Chadema say the Constitution should come first, as this will give the independent electoral commission true independence. ACT Wazalendo say a newly independent commission before 2025 is the priority, enabling better representation of different viewpoints in parliament, and thus also in the process to draft a new Constitution. “We hope that 2022 will be a year of national reconciliation that will achieve the success of finding an Independent Electoral Commission that will facilitate the achievement of a new Constitution acceptable to all,” said Zitto Kabwe, leader of ACT Wazalendo.
Tanzania started the process of writing a new constitution in 2012, after former President Jakaya Kikwete responded to strong opposition demands by appointing a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) headed by the highly respected former Prime Minister, Judge Joseph Warioba. The team was tasked to conduct extensive nationwide consultations on the new constitution.
However, the Draft Constitution tabled by Judge Warioba at the Constituent Assembly (CA) in February 2014 was radically overhauled by CCM MPs, resulting in a Proposed Constitution that lacked the support of opposition parties and many citizens. This prompted a boycott of CA sessions by the major opposition parties. The CA submitted the Proposed Constitution to the government in October 2014. However, the planned referendum to determine whether it should be formally adopted never happened. Upon coming to office in late 2015, President Magufuli showed no interest in reviving the process.
by Dr Hildebrand Shayo
Banks’ lending rates to business, and the effect on economic growth in Tanzania
The issue of banks in Tanzania being advised to reduce loaning interest rates is on the lips of politicians, government officials, the President herself, borrowers and loan seekers, whether small or large, seeking loans to run their businesses. Despite these efforts and calls, interest rates charged by lending institutions remain high, something that in-turn affects the growth of productive economic activities, business especially for SMEs and start-up businesses that offer employment on one hand but also tax base for government revenue. Why are interest rates not declining in Tanzanian market? Is the approach used to reduce rates wrong or inappropriate? Or is there a problem in the financial system and interest rates setting system in Tanzania? These are the issues that need reflection with an economic eye to assess why the situation remains the same despite countless calls to reduce the rates. This assessment described concludes with hints as to why it will be thought-provoking to bring down lending rates and what can be done.
Gain access to loans, interest rates and business lending setting panorama
As clamour to lower lending rates continues, Tanzanian borrowers, small or large should not expert reduced loans interest rates soon, notwithstanding lowered policy instrument rates and regular government officials’ reminders that include other strict measures issued by the Bank of Tanzania.
The conventional approach stems from the fact that interest is the return for the productive use of principal. Since physical capital is purchased with monetary funds, then, the rate of interest is taken to be the rate of return over capital invested in physical capital assets. Whereas the demand for investable capital draws from investment decisions of the business sector, the supply of capital results from supplies of savings derived from households. Loanable funds are the sums of money supplied and demanded at any time in the money market, where: funds available for lending are inclined by the savings of the people and the additions to the money supply (normally through credit creation by banks), while demand for loanable funds is determined by the need for investment plus desire for hoarding.
Within this theoretical background, although BOT practises different measures such as reducing statutory reserves money (SRM) lowering Repos, lending to banks, and reducing yields for debt instruments, these efforts have not yet translated into effective lowered lending rates as anticipated.
Actual lending rates remain at around 16% by most banks, except one bank that recently announced the reduction of rates for personal loans targeting farmers. This makes it harder for borrowers to access loans, and indeed the cost of finance makes it challenging to make profit.
High rates are good for the banks and their shareholders but damaging to viable economic activities that are vital for county’s economic growth. High banks rates also discourage prospective borrowers from applying loans, as others have opted to borrow from individual private lenders or family members.
Presently, there are some banks which lend up to 21% – four times of the BOT policy rate – while maximum mortgage lending rates in Tanzania is 19%. Digital lenders issuing loans through mobile money services, which are assumed to be cheaper due to lower operating costs, lend at a fixed cost between 11% and 15% of the loan among. This is repaid within a much shorter time period: up to a month. When annualised, rates charged by telecoms are a killer, though many users do not realise on how is expensive the loan through mobile phones can be.
Research on informal lending market finds loans at rates that are higher than mobile lenders or banks, as the cost of funds are ranging from 30% to 50% per month. Here risk of non-payment is the key driver.
The main drivers of high lending rates in Tanzania’s lending market are high operating costs, non-performing loans, and cost of funds. Interest income is the major earning stream for all banks.
Tanzanian banks’ operating costs are related to employee salaries and benefits, which account for an average of 44% of the banking industry operating costs and have been increasing over time. Folks familiar with banking industry supposes that maximum monthly salary of large bank CEO is TSh 60m (around USD $25,000), very roughly equivalent to a profit of a bank branch. Likewise, monthly pay for CEO of other medium and small bank ranges between TSh 15-30m.
The implications of these, is simple that efforts should be directed at improving operation efficiencies aiming at reducing banks operating costs. The key areas of attention are with respect to employees’ salaries and how to improve bank’s productivity.
Another notable cost that is not often taken seriously is the cost of premises and equipment – rent, transport fleet, equipment and utilities – which together constitute another 16% of the banking industry operating costs. In this case, ICT advancement in the country in service provision could bring these costs down somewhat.
As far as non-performing loans (NPLs) are concerned, this has become a major problem for most banks. Factors affecting NPLs comprise global financial crises, credit screening weakness, a decrease in supply of loans partly, and capital enhancement measures. In Tanzania, banks are aiming to comply with the regulator’s benchmark of at most 5% of NPLs. Some banks have gone beyond this figure due to various genuine reasons, including economic uncertainty and instability of the labour market, as well as unethical practices among loan officers. Each of these drivers nonetheless are subject to discussion as each might have its own story.
Cost of funds is another factor that keeps banks’ lending rates high, banks cannot lend money at lower rates than they themselves pay. According to BOT, in Tanzania, the overall interbank cash rates which banks uses to lend each other, up to the period of seven-day ranges between 4.4% to 4.5% while overnight was at 3.72%. Here, some banks that have good relationship with each other usually outsource expensive funds outside the country when there is liquidity shortage locally and vice versa.
Regulator’s role and financial market dynamism in Tanzania
In recent years, the BOT has announced various policy measures to ease lending rules which include lowering the statutory minimum reserves requirement, lowering the discount rates as well as providing regulatory flexibility on restructuring of loans. For instance, in 2021, the central bank lowered its benchmark lending rates from 7% to 5% to cushion banks from Covid-19 impact. This together with the policy change aimed at to provide additional space for bank to borrow at a lower cost, hopes to encourage lower rates by banks. To spur liquidity, the regulator correspondingly resolved to lower statutory minimum reserve to 6% from 7% effective June 8, 2021.
Various initiatives as stated in this analysis are now being practiced by various financiers including commercial banks. Initiatives such as cluster marketing where employees of the government established parastatals and corporate establishment are able to enjoy good, lowered lending rates may inspire many to get loans at costs that are low compared to what banks charges, but for how long? These tactics exclude important economic groups such as traders, farmers and businesspeople. And importantly they do not target help at start-ups and SMEs viewed as riskier prospects, though these could benefit from lower rates.
Attempts examined in this article to help deal with high lending rates alone on the other hand will not bear fruits without political will. As such, top government officials, including President Samia Suluhu Hassan on various occasions, have made an appeal to the banks to rethink and consider lowering lending rates telling them that they are part of the wider economy. Likewise other leaders also have from time to time have been calling for banks to reduce lending rate, but this is unworkable in real sense.
The implications of the analysis expressed in this article are that high interest rates signal banking sector inefficiency, and when that occurs it hampers not only financial development but also economic growth and potential productivity enhancement.
In June 2021, the President said, “financial institutions need to cut real interest rates in line with measures implemented by the BOT,” and suggested that rates for short term loans should be lowered to below 10%. Will banks in Tanzania heed the President’s call, or will they turn a deaf ear?
Hildebrand Shayo, BA (hons) MA, PhD, is currently a manager, responsible for Economic Research and Planning at TIB-DFI Development Bank, wholly 100% owned by the Government of Tanzania. TIB development bank is one of development financial institution responsible for financing long-term infrastructure and development projects with development impact.
by Angela Ilomo
More than 5000 girls dropout of school every year
Several stakeholders have called for more efforts to close the gap between girls’ and boys’ access to education regardless of many government efforts. This was during the one-day symposium that brought together high school students as a continuation of the Women’s Day celebrations. The event was organized by Tai Tanzania, an NGO, in collaboration with the Girl Effect and The Youth of United Nations Association of Tanzania (YUNA Tanzania).
Director and co-founder of Tai Tanzania Mr Ian Tarimo said the World Bank’s figures show 5,500 girls drop out of school each year because of early pregnancies, indicating that there is a need to step up efforts by the community and not only the government to bridge the gap created between girls and boys.
The Director of Girl Effect Ms Rahma Bajun said that part of the reasons also include cultural practices and lack of support infrastructure. She said that they are looking forward to seeing a more equitable society. (The Citizen)
Over 1,000 out of school girls in Tanzania enroll for adult learning
At least 1,200 of the 3,000 girls targeted for enrollment in this year’s academic calendar through the Secondary Education Quality Improvement Programme (Sequip) have already been enrolled with the Institute of Adult Education.
Institute of Adult Education director Michael Ng’umbi said the Sequip-AEP project aimed at reaching girls between the ages of 13 and 21 who dropped out of secondary education for various reasons including poor living conditions, early marriage and getting pregnant.
He noted that the project aims to reach 12,000 students across the country over a five-year period (2021-2026) of project life under the same institute. (The Citizen)
Leadership academy inaugurated, supported by Communist Party of China
All is set for upcoming political leaders from countries in southern Africa to start sharpening their skills from March this year, thanks to the inauguration of a newly-constructed Mwalimu Julius Nyerere Leadership School located at Kibaha. The ceremony was graced by President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
The idea was based on the Harare Resolution that involved six political parties from different countries on June 8, 2012, to serve southern Africa in honour of Tanzania’s founding President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
The TSh 100 billion institution was funded by the Communist Party of China (CPC). The involved liberation parties in attendance were ANC (South Africa), Swapo (Namibia), MPLA (Angola), Zanu-PF (Zimbabwe) and Frelimo (Mozambique).
“Establishment of the school is a strategic one that will address a number of issues, including strengthening our youth and our people who will work in our political parties and governments,” said President Hassan. She also said the presence of the academy would also train young people with a modern view of developing their countries from within their liberation parties.
Xi Jinping, the President of China and General Secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, sent a congratulatory letter for the inauguration ceremony. He said the school will provide an important platform for the six parties to enhance their governance capacity and better lead their respective countries to achieve development and benefit their people.
He added that the school is an opportunity to strengthen the exchange of state governance experience with parties in Africa, support each other in pursuing development paths that suit their own national conditions, deepen pragmatic cooperation across the board, promote the building of a high-level community with a shared future between China and Africa, and contribute more to the building of a better world.(The Citizen; China News Service)
Tanzania, World Bank sign TSh 1.5 trillion credit pacts for education and land
The government and the World Bank have signed two concessional loan agreements worth $650 million (about TSh 1.501 trillion) for the improvement of education and land administration systems. The loans agreements will boost the existing World Bank’s portfolio for national Projects in Tanzania to $6.15 billion.
$500 million will be spent on the ‘Boost Primary Student Learning Project,’ while the remaining amount will go to the Land Tenure Improvement Project (LTIP), according to permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Mr Emmanuel Tutuba.
World Bank country director Mara Warwick said that the Boost Project would help to directly address constraints in the education sector by making Tanzania primary schools safer, more inclusive and child-friendly.
Over 12 million children in mainland Tanzania were expected to benefit from it. On the other hand, she said, the LTIP would increase tenure security for at least two million land holders, users, and their families.(The Citizen)
New Curricula for nursery, primary, secondary in offing
New curricula for nursery, primary, secondary and teacher education will start being used from January 2025, the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE) has affirmed.
TIE Director-General, Dr Aneth Komba stated this yesterday in Dodoma when he made a presentation on the envisaged new curricula while receiving views from stakeholders during an annual meeting of the heads of education institutions under the Christian Social Services Commission (CSSC).
“We can’t say that the current curricula is inappropriate, but we should look at issues which could be added so that the documents can become relevant to the current 21st century and be beneficial to young people for the next 50 years by making them employable and be able to create their own jobs,” she stated.
Dr Komba said the process to improve the current curricula is expected to take at least three years, where they are now at a stage of collecting views and needs from stakeholders to incorporate in the new document.
Several teachers contributed their views including, English language subject to be taught right from the first year of Primary School, vocational education for Standard Seven leavers, social studies to be taught in secondary schools and increase of pass marks for teachers in joining teacher education. (Daily News)
National Educational system dialogue kicks off
Preparations for a national dialogue on reviewing the curricula and education system that will meet the current needs has kicked off, said Minster for Education Science and Technology Prof Adolf Mkenda during the visit of President Samia Suluhu Hassan at the Benjamin Mkapa Secondary school.
This decision was made after the recent suggestion from Religious leaders for the need for a national dialogue on education system which was aired during their meeting with President Hassan at the Dar es Salaam State House last week. The clerics noted that that education system should be reviewed for the sake of producing graduates who will be able to venture on self- employment without waiting for employment from the formal sector. (Daily News)
by Ben Taylor
Tanzania concludes review of Covid response, aims to speed up vaccine rollout
The Ministry of Health in the United Republic of Tanzania, with technical support from WHO and other development partners including UNICEF, USAID, British Council, the Jon Snow Institute (JSI) and US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has concluded a second review of the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Since the previous review, conducted in October 2021, Tanzania had intensified immunisation activities, including expansion of outreach sessions and updated the existing National Vaccine Deployment Plan (NVDP).
Vaccine Deployment Manager, Dr Florian Tinuga, said the review was critical to assess the operational capacity of the system for a robust response to the pandemic. “The main purpose was to appraise the functional capacity of the Covid-19 response system at the national and sub-national levels following the introduction of additional vaccines (Sinopharm, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines),” he said. He added that the focus is to assist the country to identify best practices and challenges to further improve the vaccination roll-out.
The WHO focal person for Immunization and Vaccine Development (IVD), Dr William Mwengee reiterated WHO’s commitment to providing needed technical leadership of the Tanzanian response. “Although Tanzania had setbacks at the beginning of her response to COVID-19 pandemic, WHO will continue to provide needed technical leadership of the overall response to ensure that Tanzanians in Mainland and Zanzibar are largely protected from Covid-19 infections,” he said.
Best practices identified include intensified outreach services in Ruvuma region, characterised by the use of contextualised local slogans “Timua vumbi” that have enabled Ruvuma to reach the highest Covid-19 coverage of 12%, more than double the national average of 4%. In Dar es Salaam, the integration of Covid-19 vaccination in routine HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment Clinics with the support of Management and Development for Health (MDH) increased the vaccination rate of People Living with HIV/AIDS from 2,000 to 5,000 per day. Engagement of vaccine champions in the communities have also helped to address misconceptions, rumours and misinformation.
Vaccination coverage in Tanzania remains significantly lower than the global and regional targets established for countries. At the time of writing (April 12, 2022), the latest official figures are that just under 4 million people in Tanzania have received one or more dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, representing 6.4% of the population. This compares to over 21% in Kenya and 32% in Uganda.
Key challenges responsible for low vaccination rates in Tanzania include delayed introduction the vaccine into the country, and low demand due to misinformation about Covid-19. Qualitative findings also indicate that many Tanzanians are unwilling to receive external Covid-19 vaccine due to uncertainties towards its effectiveness as deaths are still occurring in countries where people are vaccinated.
Going forward, the review highlighted the need for advocacy with high-level political, community and religious leaders and increased access to vaccines. In addition, a mass campaign to scale up vaccination activities with adequate resource mobilisation is needed in the coming months.
Separately, at a joint meeting of the Ministry of Health and development partnership, the WHO has called on development partners and agencies for a renewed commitment to strengthen the country’s effort to urgently interrupt ongoing transmission.
“Tanzania has an impressive routine immunization programme,” said Dr Tigest Ketsela Mengestu, the WHO Country Representative for Tanzania, “so I am confident that if partners and the government work harder together, Tanzania can surprise the world by scaling up Covid-19 vaccination coverage and be on track to achieving the targets”.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Professor Abel Makubi, reiterated the Tanzanian government’s commitment to scale up Covid-19 vaccination and ensure that her citizens are protected from the pandemic. He noted that Tanzania is still far from the national target of 60% of fully vaccinated population by June 2022. “The country is set to achieve the target but this requires the cooperation and support of the partners and donors”, he added.
Study on Covid-19 patients in Tanzania
The first study in Tanzania to examine the characteristics of Covid-19 patients and the outcomes of their treatment reveals about three-quarters of all patients were under the age of 60. Scientists studied the COVID-19 patients in the early months of the outbreak amid scarcity of data on the pandemic. Results of the study were published in IJID Regions, an official journal of the International Organization for Infectious Diseases (ISID).
Researchers tracked 112 patients at two referral hospitals in Dar es Salaam between April and May 2020. Of these, 93% were hospitalized, while 9 patients (7%) were out-patients.
According to findings of the study on characteristics of COVID-19 patients in Tanzania, the age of the studied patients reflects the number of people infected with the coronavirus in Africa. The average age of all patients was 41 years, while the average age of the patients who lost their lives was 58 years. Six out of 10 patients in the study were men. The average age is similar to that reported in South Africa but slightly lower than that reported in China, Libya, the United States (New York) and Italy in early stages of the pandemic, where the average age was higher, with patients being older compared to Tanzania and South Africa.
Headache was the commonest symptom reported among 55% of patients, followed by fever reported by 49%.
Professor Sayoki Mfinanga, a public health Specialist and researcher from the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) is the lead author of the study. He says that the symptoms found among patients during the study are similar to those reported worldwide. But he says, “…symptoms such as shortness of breath, altered consciousness, and neurological signs were significantly associated with mortality in the COVID-19 patients.”
“This is important because it is from Tanzania, the place where data was almost absent and the Covid story was only told by a political narrative,” said Mwidimi Ndosi, Associate Professor of Rheumatology Nursing at Bristol School of Health and Social Welfare in the UK.
“It calls into question all the previous government data and its interpretation that drove the policy, the implications of which are still affecting Tanzania now.” However, he adds: “This study opens the minds of some people who once believed that this is a disease that affects only the elderly,” says Ndosi.
Most Tanzanians use traditional medicines
The acting director of Healthcare Services at the Health Ministry, Dr Caroline Damiani, has said that over 60% of Tanzanians use traditional medicines to treat different diseases before or after trying ordinary health-care centres. Dr Damiani made the remark when opening a training seminar for traditional doctors. The seminar aimed at exchanging experiences among the herbalists and discussing various challenges and strategies of improving the profession of traditional and alternative medicine so that it can continue benefitting Tanzanians.
“Over 60% of Tanzanians, at one time or another, get treated by traditional medicine against various diseases before or after going to our health centres or hospitals providing modern health-care services,” said Dr Damiani. She said the main goal of the seminar was to ensure that traditional medicines were better from the stages of growing, harvesting, manufacturing, preserving to the stage of reaching the consumer so that there should not be side-effects.
According to Dr Damiani, the Health Ministry, through the Traditional and Alternative Health Practice Council, has registered 73 types of traditional medicine, out of which 20 had positive results during the period of fighting against the Covid-19 disease.
For his part, the representative of traditional and alternative medicine doctors, Mr Shaban Omary Shekilindi – who doubles as the Lushoto MP (CCM) – praised the ministry and its traditional and alternative medicine unit, for organising the seminar.
Tanzania UK Healthcare Diaspora Association (TUHEDA) making post-Covid progress
by Dr Gideon Mlawa
Tanzania UK Healthcare Diaspora Association (TUHEDA) members are continuing to carry out TUHEDA objectives which include collaboration in areas of medical education through knowledge sharing, research activities, and clinical care. Recently TUHEDA members visited Zanzibar and Tanzania Mainland.
In Zanzibar, Dr Gideon Mlawa, Dr Nasibu Mwande, Tania Leach, and Dr Daniel Leach visited the Ministry of Health, Mnazi Mmoja Hospital (Emergency Medicine department and Diabetes Unit), the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) Medical College and the Diabetes Association of Zanzibar (DAZ) headquarters. The team also visited Tumbi Hospital in Kibaha and received feedback on simulation training program set up 3 years ago as part of the TUHEDA-TUMBI(TUTU) collaboration.
TUHEDA and friends of TUHEDA were honoured to have an audience with the President of Zanzibar, Dr Hussein Mwinyi. The team had an opportunity to discuss the purpose of their visit as well as to set up the simulation training using high fidelity simulation manikin, nicknamed Rajab. Rajab’s new home will be at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) Medical College. In addition, 300 glucose meters will be donated to the Diabetes Association of Zanzibar and Mnazi Mmoja Hospital.
Dr Nasibu Mwande visited Kyela (Mbeya) to meet a community of people with albinism. This was a collaboration between TUHEDA and Kyela FM. Dr Mwande presented them with skincare lotion, sunglasses, and sun hats.
Dr Gideon Mlawa presented on Medical Management of Pituitary Tumours at the Neurosurgery-Pituitary Conference held at Muhmibili University Hospital (MOI). This is an initiative by TUHEDA team and Neurosurgery team at Muhimbili University Hospital (MOI) collaboration through the exchange of knowledge and skills and shared learning.
by James L.Laizer
A new Minister for the Tanzania Tourism Ministry
Announcing her mini-cabinet changes on Thursday 31st March 2022, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan appointed Dr Pindi Chana as the new Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, replacing Dr Damas Ndumbaro who was moved to the Ministry of Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
According to the Citizen, the transfer of Dr Chana to the new role was based on the experience that the former has in diplomacy and law: “Dr Chana is a lawyer and has experience in diplomacy. The management of natural resources and tourism it is about diplomacy, I thought she will fits more here compared to the former docket’’, said President Samia.
The appointment of Dr Chana into this influential position represents an additional female in a senior cabinet role, in the challenging tourism ministry, not seen under female leadership since the tenure of Zakia Meghji.
Rhino Rajab dies at the age of 43
One of the oldest rhinos in Tanzania, Faru Rajab, has died at the age 43 in the Serengeti National park. According to the Citizen, the Tanzania National Parks Authority reported that Faru Rajab died from natural causes in what is likely due to old age. Tanapa said in a press statement that Faru Rajab died in March 2022 leaving a line of children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
The rhino was born in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in 1979 and was transferred to the Serengeti National Park in 1993, said the statement. According to statistics from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Tanzania has about 190 rhinos. Tanzania had 10,000 rhinos in the 1970s and the number declined to 65 in the 1990s and went up again to 161 in 2018 and then to 190 in 2020. The sharp decline in the population of rhinos in recent years is attributed largely to poaching.
Tourism stakeholders rejects cable cars on Mt Kilimanjaro
A proposal to put cable cars on the highest mountain in Africa, Kilimanjaro, has been firmly rejected. According to the Citizen, a total of 558 tourism players in northern Tanzania voted resoundingly against a multi-million-dollar cable car project on Mount Kilimanjaro. However, in a clarification statement, Tanapa stated that the planned cable car project was still in its conceptual stage and that actual execution would require government leadership at various stages as well as stakeholder engagement.
The organisations whose members roundly voted against the proposed project included Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), Tanzania Tour Guides Association (TTGA), Tanzania Porters’ Organisation (TPO), Tanzania Local Tour Operators (TLTO) and the Mount Kilimanjaro Porters Society (MKPS). The representatives’ reservations regarding the planned project are on the grounds that it is a sacred place with considerable existing conservation, local and overall economic value. Representatives further stated that the likely ecological damage from the proposed project would outweigh the expected benefits.
During the 2022 Kilimanjaro Marathon on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the Tanzania Prime Minister Mr Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa made it clear that the project campaigners have a daunting task to convince the government to give the contentious plan a green light. He stated: “I’ve heard discussions about the cable cars to be installed on Mount Kilimanjaro. This majestic mountain has its own splendid glory to the adventurers who scale up to the peak on their feet, we want the natural vegetation to remain intact. Once you start digging the mountain to erect pillars of cable cars, you will obviously destroy the natural vegetation on the mountain”.
Uncertain Situation Remains Over Ngorongoro Residence
Growing fears of eviction from the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are still the subject of much debate amid a conflict that has lasted for more than two decades. Claims persist that the reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is on the verge of extinction following an increase in human population and livestock, threatening the welfare of wildlife and sense of natural beauty. In 2017, the human population had reached 98,183, compared to 8,000 when the 8,292 square kilometre conservation area was established by the colonial administration in 1959. In the same period, livestock numbers have increased from 161,000 to 805,556.
Despite these rising numbers, opinion is divided over what to do. Some say a permanent solution would be to evict the residents to protect the reserve for the national interests. Other stakeholders propose a roundtable dialogue in an attempt to reach an agreement without hurting anyone, believing that the removal of the Maasai will erode the status of a globally important heritage site that has long provided a sanctuary for people and wildlife alike.
Late in 2021, President Samia Suluhu Hassan called on officials to diligently handle the conflict so that the rights of the people were not infringed upon. Raising concerns over growing human and livestock populations, yet aware of the cultural importance of the site, she said: “I know we agreed to accommodate some pastoralists and animals in the area, but the growing numbers are not acceptable. Otherwise, we need to agree as a nation whether to preserve Ngorongoro or remove it from the list of heritage areas.”
In the same period, the then minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Damas Ndumbaro, took a harder line, suggesting plans to introduce a Bill in the National Assembly to change the law that established the reserve.
As discussions around the potential relocation of Maasai communities became increasingly heated, the residents of Ngorongoro frequently complained and directed petitions to President Hassan to reconsider the conflict between the Maasai and the conservationists. Many Maasai have sought to emphasis there is a middle way, with Maasai communities having a strong conservation legacy that predates colonial times.
The Citizen reported a resident stating: “We do not refuse to preserve this area, we know its importance for the nation, but the politics that have been clearly visible in this regard are the ones that are destructive and need to be looked at carefully.”
The issue has attracted lawmakers’ attention. Some legislators have been arguing over the removal, reduction of people and livestock within the reserve, while others argue that livestock is owned by a few rich people while leaving a majority poor and without. Subsequently, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa has promised that the government will launch a dialogue with the people of Ngorongoro Division as well as those of Loliondo to find a solution based on human rights.