Tanzania’s long-awaited ambitious plan to harness its natural gas and reduce its dependence on expensive imported fuel (which takes 60% of the foreign currency earnings each year) and hydropower (which provides 70% of the electricity) has received the go-ahead. The World Bank is providing a US$ 200 million loan for the project which will be undertaken jointly by the government and two Canadian firms in a new firm called Songas. The project will exploit an estimated 32,77 billion cubic metres of natural gas on the island of Songosongo, near Kilwa. The gas will be ferried to the mainland through a pipeline and a 100-megawatt electric power station will be built. It is hoped that some of the gas can be exported to Kenya.
Songosongo’s gas deposit was discovered 20 years ago but has remained unexploited because of lack of funds, In the last six years Tanzania’s electricity demand has been growing at 12% a year and is now estimated to amount to 800 megawatts, Between 1992 and 1993 there were serious power shortages because the prolonged drought had reduced water levels at the big Mtera Dam 400 kilometres southwest of Dar es Salaam. (An item on Tanzania’s progress in harnessing hydropower is to be found in the ‘Reviews’ section in this issue – Ed)