by Ben Taylor
New Air Tanzania plane arrives, finally!
A new Bombardier Q400 aircraft has arrived in Tanzania, after extensive legal delays in Canada, from where the 76-seater aircraft was purchased for USD $32 million. The aircraft is the third such plane to arrive in Tanzania under the efforts of President Magufuli to revive the national flag-carrier airline, Air Tanzania. Three further deliveries are scheduled for later this year, including two Bombardier CS300 planes and one Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
The new aircraft was initially scheduled to arrive in the country last year, but was seized by a court order requested by the construction firm Stirling Civil Engineering Ltd. Stirling’s claim stems from a 2010 compensation ruling by the International Court of Arbitration over a road construction contract that was terminated a number of years back, and which had not been paid by the Tanzanian government.
In August 2017, when the seizure of the plane was first reported by opposition politician Tundu Lissu, this was initially denied by the government. A spokesperson later told reporters that the delays resulted from a conflict masterminded by a few unpatriotic Tanzanians, arguing that lawyers who filed a case before seizing the government property had no legal locus standi to do so, but were pushed by a few local politicians who wished the country ill.
The government has made no statement on why the situation has now changed and the plane has been released, or whether the money demanded by Stirling Civil Engineering has been paid.
On its arrival, President John Magufuli called for unity and patriotism among Tanzanians. “Elsewhere, people are always united when advancing their countries’ development agenda. We need to put national interests first. We should not get divided because this plane which arrived today is for our own benefit,” he said.
Air Tanzania currently operates between Dar es Salaam and Kilimanjaro, Mwanza, Kigoma, Kagera, Dodoma, Mbeya, Ruvuma, Mtwara, Zanzibar and the Comoros. (The Citizen, Daily News)
President Magufuli urges rapid delivery of rail project
President Magufuli has called on the contractor to ensure timely completion of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) project, saying it will benefit the country and its people a lot, as well as help increase government revenues. He urged the Turkish firm responsible for this section of the project, Yapi Merkezi Insaat VE Sanayi, to do all it can to complete work ahead of schedule, stating that upon completion it will create at least 30,000 direct and about 60,000 indirect employment opportunities.
The President was speaking in Ihumwa, Dodoma Region, at the launch of the second phase of the project to upgrade the Central Railway – build over 100 years ago – to standard gauge, and to electrify the line. This phase will connect Morogoro to Makutupora in Dodoma Region, covering 426 kilometres, part of the overall 1,219km route from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza. The total project is expected to cost TSh 15 trillion.
Further connections are anticipated to Kigali, in neighbouring Rwanda, through a project partly financed by the government of Tanzania from its own sources. This will connect to the Dar-Mwanza line in the town of Isaka, to the south of Mwanza. Attracting Rwandan business to the SGR is thought to be key to the project’s viability, against competition from road freight and the rail route through Kenya and Uganda. Speed – and thus electrification – is seen as a key factor in this regard: Rwanda and Tanzania are targeting passenger speeds of 160kmph and cargo train speeds of 120kmph, compared to 80-110kmph on the diesel-powered Kenya route.
Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Makame Mbarawa, said the Ministry will cooperate with the contractors in trying to complete the project on time.
The Turkish ambassador to Tanzania, Mr Ali Davutoglu, assured President Magufuli of the Turkish government’s commitment to continued cooperation with Tanzania in implementing this and other development projects. He said the SGR project would act as a catalyst to Tanzania’s efforts to transform itself into a middle-income economy by 2025.
Uber establishes firm foothold in Dar es Salaam
The disruptive taxi firm, Uber, has established a firm presence in Dar es Salaam since its launch in the city in 2016. According to a statement released by the company, there are 53,000 active Uber users in Dar es Salaam, and 1,000 active drivers.
The figures show Tanzania well behind continental leaders, South Africa (around 1 million users), and indeed behind neighbouring Kenya (360,000 users). Nevertheless, the number of users in Dar has rapidly achieved the critical mass that means users can generally rely on the service to find a vehicle for them when needed, and that drivers can depend on a steady stream of income from passengers.
Uber has now innovated further in Tanzania, introducing a new partnership with the mobile phone company, Tigo. Under the new arrangements, Tigo users will be able to use the Uber app on their phones without incurring any data charges, and to make payments to Uber drivers using the Tigo Pesa mobile money service. (Daily News)