Archive for Business & the Economy

AGRICULTURE

by David Brewin

“Operation Korosho” (Cashewnuts)
Tanzania’s cashewnut industry began to face serious problems in the last four months of 2018 which is the main harvesting season.

Performance of Tanzania’s traditional exports (source: Tanzania Revenue Authority & Bank of Tanzania)

President Magufuli and the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT), the regulator and main supplier of inputs, were in dispute. The President decided to remove CBT’s main source of income – a levy on raw cashew exports – and place the funds with the government. The Treasury already owed CBT over TSh 200 billion (US $86m) earned from a levy in previous years which had not been transferred. The CBT proposed a floor price of TSh 1,550 per kilogram, but the farmers considered this too low as it was claimed to be lower than the cost of production.

There was also a dispute over Tanzania’s main and long-standing policy of processing cashews locally rather than exporting them raw. The crucial issue was the low price international buyers were offering for raw nuts, compared with the exceptionally high prices of the previous year, when farmers were paid up to TSh 4,500 per kilo.

As the situation deteriorated, President Magufuli himself went to Mtwara, the centre of the industry, when the main harvesting season began in November and took over personal control of marketing of the crop. He sacked the chairperson of CBT, the entire Cashew Board, the ministers of agriculture and trade and others.
Meanwhile, Tanzanians had become aware of the importance of the crop to the overall economy. In the 2016/17 year cashew nuts brought in a sum in foreign exchange which was greater than Tanzania’s combined earnings from coffee, cotton, tea, cloves and sisal.

Tanzania has about 700,000 hectares of cashew nut farms. According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau and Ivory Coast are Africa’s top producers. Tanzania ranks fourth. However, it has only very limited processing facilities, many of which are old and outdated, for processing the crop before it can be marketed worldwide.

After examining the situation on the ground, the President announced that the government would purchase all cashew nut stocks from farmers and insisted that all the collected crop must be moved from primary cooperative unions for storage to government warehouses. It became known as ‘Operation Korosho’.

The government, then under pressure to find foreign buyers before the nuts started to rot, hurriedly signed a memorandum of understanding in early February with a little-known Kenyan – registered firm, Indo Power Solutions Ltd – for the purchase of 100,000 tonnes. These were bought and paid for.

Cashew nut factory in Mtwara (Ama Lorenz – Euractiv, Germany)

The President then ordered the Agricultural Development Bank to buy the remaining output and sent 75 army trucks to take the nuts into government depots.

The President announced also that the government had handed over the few still functioning cashew nut factories to the Tanzania People’s Defence Forces. But virtually all the factories were found to be needing rehabilitation and so the lack of spare processing capacity forced a change in ‘Operation Korosho’. Instead of looking for markets for processed cashews, the government began to look for markets for raw nuts. However, it is understood that the President’s efforts to sort out the issues were handicapped by the difficulty in identifying which people were eligible to pay, as many farmers had already sold their cashews to local unlicensed traders.

At the end of March 2019, the new Minister of Agriculture announced that the government intended to prosecute at least 780 people for trading in cashew nuts without business licenses.

Although Tanzania produces less than 10% of the world’s total cashew output, it benefits from seasonality by being the biggest producer of the nuts during the October – January harvesting period. Other cashew producers from West Africa usually harvest their crop in February or later.

Private and public sectors
Ever since former President Nyerere in the sixties, influenced by his visits to China, introduced his version of African socialism into the agricultural sector, small scale smallholder farming has remained dominant in Tanzania’s agricultural sector.

When President Jakaya Kikwete took over power he introduced a policy called “Agriculture First” (Kilimo Kwanza) in 2009 which was designed to introduce an element of foreign venture capital investment into the private sector so that there could be the possibility of accelerated production of certain crops. It was a radical policy to continue to support smallholders while promoting, at the same time, large foreign venture capital investment. One of the first projects was supported by a US $47m matching grant fund backed by a World Bank loan of US $70m.

Another project is the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) to support smallholders while promoting foreign venture capital investment. The government insisted that any fixed assets which investors purchase would, at some future date, be transferred to local rural district councils, which would hold the property on behalf of smallholders. SAGCOT is another ambitious public-private partnership, designed to attract global agribusiness where investors develop huge segments of fertile land.

Since coming to power in 2015 the Magufuli government has taken control of fertiliser and seed inspection and bulk procurement and re-empowered cooperative unions in crop purchasing thus undermining private exporters and contract farming. The dramatic takeover of the cashew market by the army on President Magufuli’s orders, have shown the deep commitment of the party and state apparatus to maintaining public control.

Land leases
A very large Swedish investment in an integrated sugar project with an out-grower component failed to take off after years of negotiating with the government over land and water rights.

A second project – a 5,800 hectare rice and maize growing venture, which was expected to be an effective out-grower project – is now up for sale after defaulting on a US $20m loan from the US overseas Private Investment Corporation. This has also not been a success. Eventually, the government decided to ask the World Bank to discontinue the project after prolonged wrangling over how the fund should function with the result that no grants were ever made.

Tanzania is also working on a new policy that will reduce leases of land owned by foreigners from 99 years to 33 years. The policy is likely to be introduced fairly soon. Foreigners will only be allowed to acquire such land after they have registered with the Tanzania Investment Centre.

Tanzania Tea auctions
Tanzania sells between 5,000 and 8,000 tonnes of tea each year through the Mombasa auctions in Kenya. In a bid to cut costs incurred in transporting tea to Mombasa for sale the government is planning to establish an auction in Dar es Salaam. The Tea Board of Tanzania stated that local tea auctioning would reduce transport costs, raise income for farmers and boost business at the Dar es Salaam port.

Higher yielding bananas
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, in partnership with Tanzania’s national research centres have developed hybrids of the popular banana called Mchare. These hybrids were bred with disease resistant wild bananas and are high yielding, with high levels of resistance against key pests. The hybrids can increase yields by between 30% and 50%, resistance to at least three major pests and diseases. The diseases that are being addressed by the project are Fusarium Wilt, and Black Leaf Streak disease (Sigatoka), nematodes and banana weevils.

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BUSINESS & THE ECONOMY

by Ben Taylor

Audits, exchange rates and growth: economics in dispute
A series of arguments flared early in 2019 on economic and related matters, as the state of the national economy became an increasingly significant political battleground.

Average exchange rate TSh to US dollar (source oanda.com)

In addition to controversies linked to the annual audits of public sector institutions by the Controller and Auditor General (see Politics section, this issue), arguments arose around exchange rates and GDP growth figures. Tanzania’s leading English-language newspaper, The Citizen, apparently provoked official concern when it reported on a dip in the value of the Tanzanian Shilling. The government suspended the newspaper for 7 days, citing an article published on February 23rd with the front page headline: “Closely monitor fall of Shilling, experts caution.” The offending article reported that the TZS-USD exchange rate had slipped to TSh 2,415 per dollar at some forex bureaus, from 2,300 a week earlier, and stated that the shilling’s value had reached its lowest point for three and a half years. The paper then quoted the responses of Prof Honest Ngowi of Mzumbe University Economics Department and Dr Charles Sokile of Oxford Policy Management, a research and consulting firm, to the situation. Both economists argued that the situation should be monitored, that further depreciation would have economic consequences for Tanzania, and that the government should take steps to protect the Shilling. They pointed to large-scale infrastructure spending, this year’s decline in cashew nut exports and a fall in foreign investment as likely reasons for the Shillings’ reported woes.

A few days later, the government closed at least 50 foreign exchange bureaus in Dar es Salaam, citing concerns that the bureaus had been “flouting the law and regulations governing the business.” It is unclear whether this action was prompted by or linked to The Citizen’s reporting in any way. Indeed, the government carried out a similar clampdown on forex bureaus late in 2018 in Arusha. In both cases, the government argued that many forex bureaus were not properly licensed and that many were engaged in tax evasion.

The Citizen’s suspension attracted the attention of foreign diplomats. In a coordinated response, eight High Commissioners or Ambassadors – including the UK High Commissioner to Tanzania, Sarah Cooke – posted similar statements on Twitter. Their statements noted that their normal morning routine had been affected: “Usually I start my day with a fresh copy of the Citizen. Unfortunately it has been banned for a week. Is this sanction proportionate to the offence purportedly committed?”

It also drew attention from The Economist, which reported that in response to the suspension, “capital is reckoned to have fled to Kenya” and that “foreign-exchange controls are widely said to be imminent”.

The Shilling has since recovered most of its lost ground against the dollar – see chart above. The second economic row to break out focussed on the latest forecasts of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) for growth in Tanzania, and their latest report on the state of Tanzania’s economy. The IMF lowered its forecast for Tanzania’s economic growth to 4% this year and 4.2% in 2020 from a previous forecast of just under 7% in each case.

The government forecasts the economy will grow 7.3% in 2019 after an estimated 7.2% expansion last year, helped by investments in public infrastructure.

The IMF’s forecasts were first released on April 9, contained in data tables within their World Economic Outlook but without any accompanying explanatory text or commentary. This commentary was to be found in their 2019 Article IV Consultation Report on the Tanzanian economy, which had been due for publication around the same time. However, a statement posted on the IMF website noted that publication was not yet possible, as “the [Tanzanian] authorities have not consented to publication of the staff report or the related press release.”

The government said that it did not block the IMF report. Minister of Finance and Planning, Philip Mpango, told Parliament that government and the IMF were still discussing the report. “We are in talks with the IMF to sort out the problem before official publication,” he said.

Dr Mpango was responding to a question asked by opposition (Chadema) MP, Frank Mwakajoka: “The government blocked the IMF from publishing its report on the country’s economic status in violation of freedom of expression. What is the government afraid of?”

Even as the Minister gave his response, a leaked copy of the report was already freely available online. The key paragraph is worth quoting in full: “Macroeconomic conditions have remained stable in 2017–18 but there is uncertainty about the pace of economic activity. Headline inflation has been below the central bank’s medium-term target of 5% and the exchange rate has been broadly stable. Official GDP data point to about 7% annual growth, but there are serious weaknesses in the data and other high-frequency indicators point to a more subdued pace of economic activity. For instance, during the 2017/18 fiscal year (July to June), public sector wages, credit to the private sector, and imports fell by 5.3%, 2.9%, and 7.7% in real terms, respectively, while tax revenues grew by 3.1% in real terms.”

The report further distinguished between a “baseline scenario”, in which the current direction of policy is maintained, and an “alternative scenario”. The lower headline growth forecasts relate to the baseline scenario: “a weak business environment and limits to the scale of public investment (from insufficient financing), together with the implementation of projects that may not have high rates of return are likely to constrain annual GDP growth to below the 6.3% average rate recorded between 1998 and 2017.”

The IMF noted that instead, “a more ambitious set of fiscal and market-friendly reforms and appropriate public investments would lead to higher potential growth [of around 6-7% per year]”. This alternative scenario would entail improvements to tax administration and expenditure management, revisions to recently-enacted legislation including the Statistics Act and mining laws, reforms to strengthen governance and lower the cost of doing business.

Finally, the report notes that the Tanzania government was more optimistic about growth prospects: “They considered that their recent estimates of economic growth properly reflect economic activity and envisage that real GDP growth will be in the order of 7-8% per year in the short to medium-term. They believed that their policies were based on robust public investment plans and would be supported by a rationalisation of regulations affecting the business environment.” This government view was also expressed by the Finance Minister when presenting the government Budget Framework for FY2019/2020 to parliament in March. Dr Mpango painted a positive picture about the state of the national economy. Dr Mpango said the government will continue to implement both fiscal and monetary policies to continue sustaining the economy. He said GDP grew by 6.8% during the third quarter of 2018, and that the inflation rate remained “low and stable, at 3% in January this year”. The minister also said extended broad money supply (M3) also grew by an average of 6.6% in 2018 compared with an average of 5.5% in 2017, due to increased lending to private sector.

He said the local currency has continued to remain stable against global major currencies due to implementation of monetary policy, the use of gas to generate electricity, which has reduced fuel imports and improved local production of goods which were previously being imported.

2019/20 Budget
In presenting the 2019/20 budget to parliament, the Finance Minister, Dr Mpango, said the government would focus on four key areas: expanding the country’s industrial base, improving public services, investing in mega-infrastructure, and reforms to strengthen the business and tax environment.

On industry, the Minister noted that “key projects will include construction of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant, establishment and development of special economic zones, [establishment] of factories that will add value to agricultural, livestock and fisheries products as well as those that are aimed at adding value to minerals and other natural resources.” On infrastructure, he pointed to construction of the hydroelectric project at Stieglers Gorge on the Rufiji River, improving Air Tanzania Company Limited and building the standard gauge railway line linking Dar es Salaam to Dodoma, Kigoma, Mwanza and Rwanda.

The cost of the plan comes in at TSh 33.1 trillion, up slightly from 32.5 trillion in 2018/19. This increase of 1.8% is the lowest budget increase in recent years, lower than increases seen a year ago (2.5%), in 2017 (7.5%) and 2016, for President Magufuli’s first budget (31%). It reflects concern expressed by politicians and economists that ambitious plans to increase tax revenues in previous years were unrealistic.

This amount (33.1 trillion) will be raised from a combination of taxes (58%) and non-tax revenues (9%), local government taxes (2%), development partners (8%), concessional loans (7%) and non-concessional loans (15%).

Vodacom leadership
In early April, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vodacom Tanzania, Hisham Hendi, was arrested by Tanzanian authorities, along with eight others. Mr Hendi and the others were questioned by law enforcers allegedly for fraudulent use of network facilities, and some of the group, including Mr Hendi, were subsequently charged. The statement of charged mentioned a “pecuniary loss” to the Tanzania government and the Tanzanian Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) amounting to over TSh 11 billion. Other charges included importing, using and installing communication equipment as well as distributing frequency numbers without proper licences.

A week later, Mr Hendi and the others were released as part of a plea-bargain arrangement between Vodacom Tanzania and the Tanzanian authorities. “We pleaded guilty, we had a plea bargain with the Director of Public Prosecutions, and we pleaded guilty,” said Rosalynn Mworia, Vodacom Tanzania’s Director Corporate Affairs. The arrangement included making a TSh 5.28 bn (US $2.29m) payment to the government, and secured the release of all those who had been arrested.

Mr Hendi, an Egyptian citizen, had only been officially in position as CEO for a week before his arrest, though he had been acting CEO for around six months. His appointment came after Ms Sylvia Mulinge, a Kenyan citizen, failed to secure a work permit from the Tanzanian authorities. She had been appointed to succeed Mr Ian Ferrao effectively from June 2018, who had served in the role for three years.

The board of Vodacom Tanzania appointed Jacques Marais as acting managing director.

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MO DEWJI ABDUCTION DRAMA

by Ben Taylor

In the early hours of the morning of October 11, 2018, the prominent businessman and philanthropist, Mo Dewji (see TA108 and other issues), was abducted outside the Colosseum Hotel in the Oyster Bay area of Dar es Salaam. He was released in the middle of the night ten days later on the grounds of the Gymkhana Club golf course. Mr Dewji (43), reportedly Africa’s youngest dollar billionaire, had been planning to visit the gym at the Colosseum Hotel, as part of his normal routine. Police said he was dragged away by masked armed men as he arrived at the hotel.

Paul Makonda, the Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner, said: “They fired a gun and then they opened the gate. Initial information indicates he was kidnapped by whites travelling in two vehicles.”

This kicked off a police operation to identify the perpetrators and to find Dewji. However, the operation did not achieve decisive progress towards either goal, and security forces in Tanzania were left still racking their brains when Dewji was found ten days later.

The Inspector General of Police, Simon Sirro, said the kidnappers dumped Mr Dewji at the Gymkhana Golf Club grounds, close to State House, at around 2am and escaped. Footage showed a tired-looking Mo with dishevelled hair and wearing a t-shirt and jogging trousers as he thanked the police and President Magufuli for their efforts to find him.

Mr Sirro told reporters that the police found four guns including an AK47, three pistols and 35 bullets in the vehicle used in the kidnap. The abductors had tried to burn the car before they fled, he added. “All indications still show that the kidnappers were foreigners,” Mr Sirro said, adding that Mr Dewji told the police that “they were speaking English and very little Swahili.” Dewji later noted that he recognised their accents as South African.

Journalists were shown pictures of a dark blue car, a Toyota Surf, which Mr Sirro said entered the country six weeks before the abduction, from a neighbouring country that he did not name but which is widely believed to be Mozambique.

The motive of the kidnap has not been established, leaving Tanzanians with more questions than answers. The police were not forthcoming with information, fuelling rumours and direct allegations by opposition politicians that even the government was a suspect in this case.

The (UK) Times newspaper reported that some sources had “suggested that the Dewji abduction was planned not to end in his safe release, but the spontaneous national outpouring of distress prompted a change of plan. Although the government shared on social media platforms appeals for information, the president was quiet on the fate of one of his country’s most famous sons.”

A former soldier with experience of South Africa’s mercenary industry told The Times: “Complicity in the plot at a high level would have been needed for two white foreigners to enter and exit the country without detection.”

Questions have also been raised over Mo’s relationship with the government. He is believed to have been among the financial backers of the ruling CCM party in the 2015 elections, but this friendliness with the party seemed to wane after his business was hit with large fines over importation tax.

As far back as 2015, the newly-elected President Magufuli talked tough about the Dewji family’s unwillingness to hand over land they possessed to the government – land that was wanted for the liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Lindi, southern Tanzania. The land title was subsequently revoked and handed over to the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation.

The family also owns an expansive sisal farm in Korogwe, Tanga, which had been subject to a separate dispute. In December 2017 the government moved to repossess the land, but learnt that MeTL (Mo’s group of companies) had secured a loan from an international bank using the title.

Dewji was born in 1975 in rural Tanzania. His father, Gulam Dewji, transformed his mother’s shop into a thriving import-export business, which enabled Mo and his siblings to be sent to private schools and exclusive sports clubs. Mo showed a talent for golf, and his father sent him to the Arnold Palmer Golf Academy in Florida. But, when it was clear he wouldn’t make it to a professional grade, he enrolled at Georgetown University, in Washington DC, to study international business and finance.

Dewji returned to Tanzania and joined the family business as chief financial controller and quickly set about expanding the operation. MeTL is now the country’s largest home-grown business employing a reported 24,000 people and accounting for an estimated 3.5% of gross national product (GDP).

He has featured on the cover of Forbes magazine, which ranks him as Africa’s 17th-richest person with a fortune of $1.5bn. He also served as an MP for ten years from 2005, representing Singida Urban constituency for CCM.

“I thank Allah that I have returned home safely. I thank all my fellow Tanzanians, and everyone around the world for their prayers. I thank the authorities of Tanzania, including the police force for working for my safe return,” tweeted Mo in his first public words following the ordeal.

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AGRICULTURE

by David Brewin

Abnormal climate change
As countries all over the world are reeling from abnormal climatic change, Tanzania has, during recent months, been unable to escape many of the effects. Parts of the country have suffered from severe drought and the onset of the rains in March exacerbated problems in various parts of the country. Some homes, roads and farms have been destroyed but Tanzania appears to have suffered less than most of its neighbours from these problems.

Need for more sugar
Tanzania has a sugar cane deficit of 135,000 tonnes. Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa is therefore issuing import permits to private sugar manufacturers, enabling them to import while seeking investment in both cultivation and processing of sugar as a permanent solution.

The government is also setting aside approximately $300,000 to companies wishing to develop sugarcane plantations in Tanzania.

The National Social Security Fund as well as certain pension funds are contributing to sugar cane cultivation and production at Mkulazi Farm in the Morogoro Region. The Mkulazi Sugar factory, which is under construction, hopes to start production in January 2019, and produce 30,000 tonnes of sugar per year.

In Kagera Region, the Sultanate of Oman has agreed to invest new funds to increasing production at its factory from 60,000 tonnes to 300,000 tonnes per year.

Coffee
Tanzania is not a major coffee exporting country but it does produce Arabica (70% of coffee exports from Tanzania) of high quality in Moshi and other areas, and also Robusta (30%) which is the basis of cheaper instant coffee. In 2017/18, Tanzania ranked 19th in the world in terms of coffee production, exporting 48,000 metric tonnes to countries such as Germany, Japan, Italy, Belgium and France.

The Moshi Coffee Exchange is an auction which takes place every week in the Kilimanjaro Region, where licensed exporters can purchase coffee alongside unlicensed local exporters.

Other counties with significant exports of coffee are Ethiopia (33% of its exports), Rwanda (27%), Uganda (18%), with Tanzania on 5% and Kenya on 4%.

According to Tanzania Coffee Board Acting Director General Primus Kimayo, coffee production dropped to 780,000 bags in 2016/17 from 1.03 million bags in 2015/16. It was expected that there would be further reductions to 716,000 bags in 2017/18. This makes it difficult for farmers to meet the government’s target of 1.6 million bags by 2021.

Tanzanian coffee producers could produce more if farmers focused on all aspects of the production process and increased yields substantially. In Uganda, for example, in 2013 the government deployed the army to provide agricultural extension services and employed soldiers to improve production of coffee seedlings.

But the recent dramatically increased popularity of coffee in Europe and China. For example, a heading to an article published by the British Guardian newspaper read “Coffee culture is taking China by storm”. It pointed out to Tanzania that opportunities could arise to benefit by increasing its production, especially of premium Arabica coffee grown mainly in Moshi District.

Nile Perch & Human Rights
Controversy has been caused in Tanzania over dwindling stocks of Nile Perch fish in Lake Victoria caused by over-fishing. Research by the Tanzanian Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries shows that there are an estimated 1 million tonnes of fish in Lake Victoria – mostly the Nile perch – valued at between $300 and $500 million. It is estimated that in 2017 Tanzania harvested 300,000 tonnes of Nile perch. Harvests in Kenya and Uganda were about 50,000 tonnes and 350,000 tonnes respectively.

The three countries involved (Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya) are so concerned about the over-fishing that they have launched a joint operation known as “Save the Nile Perch” with fishing industries in the Lake starting to implement the plan. Each country has provided a budget of USD $600,000 each to go towards the cost. Controversy has arisen in the Tanzanian parliament as the government introduced measures to protect the Nile Perch stocks from being further reduced due to overfishing, and also to reduce corruption in the industry.

No time was lost in beginning to implement the project, but as strong measures began to take effect, MPs in parliament began to reflect on concerns about side effects. The MP for Geita, Constantine Kanyasu, spoke of high fines of up to 50 million Tanzanian Shillings ($22,000) imposed on fishermen found in possession of immature fish.

The MP for Ubungo, Saed Kubenea, described the operation as humiliating for residents, as officers were beating people, confiscating fishing gear, and soliciting bribes from the fishermen. “We want the operation halted and the Tanzanian government to review its plans and come up with another operation that would be conducted with respect for human rights,” he said.

The MPs asked the government to form a special committee to review the exercise.

Carrots
The Arumeru District Commissioner has imposed a blanket ban on the importation of Kenyan carrots in a bid to protect local producers from competition. He stated: “During the harvesting period, carrots are imported to Tanzania from Kenya but, by the powers I have been given by the President, not a single carrot will be imported into the district.” He said that he and all carrot farmers would stand along the Arusha-Moshi highway to inspect all lorries, to ensure that middlemen did not import a single carrot from Kenya. These actions have, of course, brought into question Tanzanians commitment to open its borders for cross-border trade, as required by the East African Communities Common Market Protocol.

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ENERGY & MINERALS

by Roger Nellist

Tanzania’s mining sector turmoil continues
The ban on the export of mineral concentrates that the government imposed in early 2017 is still in force and has hit the country’s major gold producer, Acacia Mining, hard. The company has been forced to stockpile its output, especially from its Bulyanhulu gold mine, and as a result this year has suffered a big drop in its revenues and cash reserves. In an effort to contain costs Acacia initiated in the summer a process of voluntary redundancies but in September, in a leaked internal memo from the company’s Managing Director, Mr Assa Mwaipopo, employees were told that it had become necessary to adopt a compulsory retrenchment scheme, beginning that month with a staff consultation process. Employees would be consulted on the staff retrenchment selection criteria, the timing of lay-offs and the terms of the severance package. It is understood that this is the second time that Acacia Mining has retrenched its Tanzanian workforce since the government’s mineral export ban came into effect.

Acacia’s parent company – the Canadian (Toronto based) Barrick Gold Corporation – owns 64% of Acacia Mining and this year has itself embarked on a massive staff reduction programme. Barrick’s Executive Chairman, John Thornton, said in September that he was seeking to achieve a leaner organisation and that, having slashed middle management by half to about 700, “we want to get it down to 300”.

In October, industry reports suggested that Barrick wished to take back full ownership and control of Acacia Mining, though it was uncertain whether that meant all three of Acacia’s Tanzanian gold mines or just Bulyanhulu. (The other two mines that Acacia operates are North Mara and Buzwagi). Estimates then put the value of the remaining 36% stake in Acacia at about $300 million. However, the potential buy-back was thought to be complicated by two big issues. First, Barrick was in merger talks with Randgold Resources, its big African gold producing rival, and needed to finalise that mega deal (rumoured to be worth more than $18 billion) before the merged group could find solutions to the Acacia Mining problem. Also, Barrick had just concluded a 50-50 deal with the Shandong Gold Corporation, a large Chinese mining company, under which each company will purchase 50% of the other’s shares. The Chinese deal is important for Tanzania because it can bring additional capital, technical expertise and importantly political connections. Thornton commented: “It’s one thing to be a Canadian company. It’s another to have China as your partner”. The second complicating issue is that Acacia is still in dispute with the Tanzanian government over its earlier concentrate exports and the bill it has been handed of $190 billion in unpaid taxes; Barrick has been trying to resolve the dispute and is unlikely to want to take back full ownership of Acacia until those major matters are settled.

But that is not the only problem Acacia Mining faces. In late October Mr Mwaipopo (the company’s Managing Director) appeared in court in Dar es Salaam charged with several serious criminal offences including money-laundering, tax evasion and forgery. The executive denied all charges but was remanded. He is one of three senior Acacia officials facing charges at the Kisutu Resident’s Magistrate Court, all of whom deny the charges. The other two are Acacia’s former Vice President for Corporate Affairs, Deo Mwanyika, and the Bulyanhulu gold mine’s Corporate Relations Manager, Alex Lugendo. The charges claim that in one transaction, $719 million was transferred into the account of a government official.

Acacia Mining issued a statement in response to these and other matters. “In light of recent developments in Tanzania,” the statement read, “the Company is now considering its position including in particular with respect to the Government actions and the charges now being brought.”

More work for the TEITI
At the end of October in Dodoma the Minister for Minerals, Ms Angella Kairuki, launched the Board of the Tanzania Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (TEITI) and commissioned it to compile a special register detailing the ownership, shareholders, revenue and income of Tanzania’s extractive companies and operations. Acknowledging that this would not be an easy task she emphasised that such a register was essential to enable Tanzanians to know who owns what and for the government to satisfy itself that the country is obtaining its rightful share of the revenues generated from mineral, gas, and perhaps eventually oil, production. The Minister announced that some regulations would be changed to ensure that the TEITI can audit the extractive operations thoroughly. The TEITI Board is chaired by the former Controller and Auditor General, Mr Ludovick Utouh.

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BUSINESS & THE ECONOMY

by Ben Taylor

Government seeks to allay investors’ concerns
The government sought to reassure investors that the private sector is seen by government as a key partner in Tanzania’s goal of becoming a semi-industrialised middle-income economy by 2025. This followed reports that a number of recent regulatory changes had been introduced that were perceived as unfriendly to business.

The government’s reassurances came at a meeting of more than 50 investors from various countries in Dar es Salaam in October, organised by the Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Academy.

“In almost every country the private sector is a catalyst for sustainable development. The government acknowledges the contribution of the private sector to the country’s economic growth,” the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Coordination and Parliamentary Affairs), Prof Faustine Kamuzora, told participants in the symposium.

Earlier, some participants had expressed concern about tax rates and a perceived lack of private sector consultation in implementation of mega development projects.

Similar debates were heard elsewhere in Dar es Salaam among a different group of investors. The Second Annual Private Equity in Tanzania Conference, arranged by the East Africa Venture Capital Association (EAVCA), discussed ways of financing the country’s industrial aspirations with the stated aim of “restoring Tanzania’s status as a preferred investment destination in this part of Africa.”

EAVCA executive director Eva Warigia said political and regulatory changes in recent years have projected a negative image of Tanzania to prospective investors. “We think that information circulated through local and international media has damaged our reputation. We therefore called the investors to show them the reality and possible opportunities for investment,” she said. “In any democratic country, political and regulatory shifts are inevitable but truth be told, the Tanzanian government is supportive of the private sector.”

An associate analyst with Control Risks Company, Ms Patricia Rodrigues, assured investors that it is less risky to invest in Tanzania than elsewhere in East Africa. She attributed this to political stability and strong economic growth.

CEO Roundtable of Tanzania chairman Sanjay Rughani, who is also chief executive of Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania, said potential areas for investment include commercial farming, digital services, oil and gas, transport and logistics and social services.

“I have been working in the private sector in the country for a long time and also attend many public-private dialogues in my capacity as CEOrt chairman and member of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation.

Tanzania falls in ease-of-doing-business survey
Tanzania has fallen to 144th position in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, from 137th a year earlier. This is the 16th in a series of annual reports investigating regulations that enhance business activity and those that constrain it across the globe. It’s stated aim is to advance both regulatory quality and efficiency.

The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Charles Mwijage, said that Tanzania’s drop in the rankings was a result of various procedural checks instituted to reduce malpractices in the business sector. He said he hopes that the measures instituted will facilitate future improvements. “These rankings don’t give me a headache because we have been dealing with some challenges, and I’m sure the measures we have taken will help to improve the business climate,” Mr Mwijage told The Citizen in an interview.

Among her East African neighbours, Tanzania ranked in fourth place. Rwanda is on top (ranked 29th globally), followed by Kenya (61st) and Uganda (127th), while South Sudan (185th) and Burundi (168th) were at the bottom.

The most challenging issues for Tanzania, according to report, were cross-border trade, protecting minority investors and resolving insolvency.

Mr Mwijage said to address these challenges, the government would continue to implement plans and policies, which include reducing fees and taxes and reducing delays in business transactions. He said Tanzania did not perform well on paying taxes due to the fact that many businesses are informal with owners who consider taxes as a nuisance and not obligation. “We are continuing to change the mindset of our business community because many were used to the ‘business as usual’ way of doing things,” he said.

On delays which have pushed Tanzania down the cross-border trade rankings, Mr Mwijage said these were caused by checks of vehicles to avoid trafficking of arms and people. He also said the government has improved export and import procedures and infrastructure as well as constructing One Stop Border Posts to ease procedures and save time.

Tanzania performed slightly better in starting business, getting electricity, getting credit, enforcing contracts, paying taxes, registering property and construction permits.

Issues raised in the report are similar to those cited in the government’s statement of commitment to increasing the ease of doing business: the Blueprint on Regulatory Reforms to Improve the Business Environment.

The blueprint mentions regulatory inconveniences caused by overlapping of functions of various regulatory authorities, as well as the duplication of registration requirements of the Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA), Business Registration and Licensing Authority (BRELA) and Tanzania Employment Services Agency (TAESA). There are also conflicting geographical restrictions regarding work permits and residence permits, the blueprint says.

Overhaul underway at Dar Port
A government initiative – the Dar es Salaam Gateway Maritime Project (DMGP) – has begun implementation, with the aim of enabling the port of Dar es Salaam to operate at world-class level. The project, delivered by the through the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), is designed to improve cargo handling at the port.

The first phase of the project will cost an estimated USD $150 million and involves deepening and strengthening existing berths numbers 1 to 11 to 14.5 metres, plus the construction of a new, multipurpose berth at Gerezani Creek. The project will also see deepening and widening of the port entrance channel and turning circle to 15.5 metres, and of the harbour basin in the port to 14.5 metres, plus improving the rail linkages and platform in the port.

TPA says it is aiming to introduce faster truck and wagons turnaround times from the port, and to auction overstayed cargo abandoned at the port, so as to get more space to serve customers and stakeholders in a more efficient manner.

Given the traffic forecast, the TPA-DMGP project follows the growing global trend of creating capacity ahead of demand. This is alongside construction of new ports at Chongoleani in Tanga Region, Bagamoyo and Mwambani Bay and KwalaRuvu Dry Port 47 miles west of Dar es Salaam. The Chongoleani Port will be dedicated to handling crude oil shipments for the upcoming Uganda-Tanzania pipeline.

Expansion of port capacities is being delivered in tandem with the development of inland road and rail networks, including upgrades to the Central Line and TAZARA railways. The completion of the DMGP project and implementation of other projects at various other ports will fast-track Tanzania’s quest for industrialisation and support the regional quest to attain fast social-economic development.

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BUSINESS & THE ECONOMY

by Ben Taylor

Budget estimates presented and disputed

Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango, presented the government budget for 2018/19 to parliament in June. He told parlia­ment that the TSh 32.5 trillion budget would focus on protecting local industries against competition from imports, and on improving agricul­ture, industries, social services and logistics.

Dr Abel Kinyondo from REPOA, a think-tank, said protecting local industries is good but should not be done in a way that would affect the productivity and competitiveness of local producers. “Protectionism should be temporary. A non-protectionist mechanism should be put forward to encourage local industries to be competitive, otherwise it will encourage smuggling of foreign goods of higher quality,” he noted.

Dr Semboja Haji from Zanzibar University cautioned against the viola­tion of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. “Increasing taxes on imports to protect local industries is all right, but the taxes imposed should not exceed limits put by the WTO,” he noted.

Other highlights of the budget include a removal of VAT on various products including sanitary towels, medicine packing materials and animal food supplements, a tax amnesty proposal (see below), and a marked increase in debt service (see below).

On the expenditure side, the main highlight of the budget is the continued large allocations to large-scale and high-profile mega-projects. This includes TSh 700 billion allocated to the Stiegler’s Gorge hydro-power project, and TSh 4.2 trillion for road and rail infrastructure projects.

In a note of caution, the government said that Tanzania’s economic growth plans could be affected by eight major factors over the coming years, calling upon stakeholders to work with them to come up with mitigation measures. These factors, according to Dr Mpango, include inadequate funds, land ownership conflicts, inadequate participation of the private sector, high rate of population growth, environmental degradation and climate change, regional and global economic and political shocks, natural calamities, and spatial politics that can breed wars and conflicts.

Opposition MP, Zitto Kabwe (ACT Wazalendo, Kigoma Urban), took issue with budget estimates, pointing to repeated failure to meet rev­enue collection targets and related under-release of funds for develop­ment. He asked whether it made sense to keep increasing the size of the budget each year when previous years budgets were never met.

Speaking in an interview with Azam TV, Kabwe said the trend over the past five years was that the government had not met any of their budget estimates. He claimed that for every planned TSh 100, the government had released an average of TSh 65. He added that in the first full financial year of the administration of President Magufuli, the budget increased by 30%, but less than half the funds for development expenditure were ever released.
“The government needs to stop putting up budgets with large numbers when it well knows it has no funds,” he argued.

Another opposition leader, Freeman Mbowe of Chadema, argued that implementation of the budget will be difficult because of the tendency by the government to redirect approved funds to new areas in contra­vention of the law. With most expenditure decisions being made out­side Parliament, said Mr Mbowe, the country finds itself in a situation where very little development funds reach some of the critical sectors while certain ministries receive much more than what was approved by Parliament.

“In 2016/17, for instance, Parliament approved TSh 100.5 billion as development budget for the Ministry of Agriculture, but only TSh 2.5 billion was disbursed,” he said. During the same financial year, the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries and the Ministry of Water and Irrigation received only 3.25% and 25% of the approved funds, respec­tively, he said.

He added that some other ministries have received more funds con­trary to what was endorsed by Parliament for 2017/18, including the Ministry of Information, Culture, Sports and Arts, the Ministry of Home Affairs, the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government, and the National Electoral Commission. Mr Mbowe claimed that all these Ministries and agencies had spent more than double their budget allocation for the year.

Tax amnesty wins support
The Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango, announced in his 2018/2019 budget speech that he would be introducing a tax amnesty, allowing firms to settle underpaid taxes from previous years without financial penalties or interest charges. The move is designed to encourage companies to comply voluntarily with resolving backlogs of unpaid or underpaid taxes from previous years.

According to the Minister, the 100% amnesty on interest and penalties will last for six months starting from 1st July 2018 up to 31st December 2018. The move is expected to improve tax compliance by 10% and to increase government revenue by TSh 500 billion.

The Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) provided further details in July, explaining that the amnesty will cover only taxes administered by TRA on behalf of the central government, including VAT, income tax, with­holding tax, PAYE, excise duty and stamp duty. It is only available to companies that are willing to commit in writing to paying the principal tax amount within the financial year 2018/19 (without penalties or inter­est charges), and that are willing to drop any objections or appeals that are pending either with TRA or with the tax courts.

The move has been praised by both economists and the business com­munity, though with some reservations. Prof Honest Ngowi of the University of Mzumbe, said that if the tax burden on companies is eased, the measure will help promote private investment. “The resulting conducive investment climate will translate into increased invest­ments, production, employment and business transactions that will lead to new sources of revenue to the treasury,” he argued.

However, Shabu Maurus of Auditax International, writing in The Citizen warned that there are several risks or disadvantages to com­panies that decide to tax advantage of the amnesty. For example, the requirement that companies must “conclude their tax liabilities without further grievance or dispute” may prevent some firms from engaging, particularly where the difference between tax liabilities claimed by TRA and those accepted by the firms is substantial.

Debt service reaches 30% of budget
For the first time in recent years, the government will spend over 30% of its annual budget for 2018/19 on debt service. This is up from 18% just five years earlier. The amount budgeted for debt service has increased from TSh 3.3 trillion in 2013/14 to TSh 10 trillion in 2018/19.
According to the Minister, Dr Mpango, by April 2018 the public debt stock had reached TSh 49.7 trillion, up from 43.8 trillion in April 2017. This has therefore now reached over 40% of Tanzania’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Grants and concessional loans which were coming with lower interest rates and long-term yields have declined, forcing the government to rely on external or internal non-concessional loans with high interest rates and short-term yields” said Economics Society of Tanzania chief executive officer Blandina Kilama. “If you are in need and you no longer obtain concessional loan, you must shift to other type of loans which are more expensive. What we are seeing now is that concessional loans have declined and countries are forced to go for non-concessional loans with short terms.”

She said having loans was not a problem but the problem was the rate of growth of loans and where the borrowed was used. “The focus must be on proportionate behaviour between the maturity of loans and maturity of the projects,” Dr Kilama said.

Dr Mpango has in the past defended the growing debt, saying it was within an acceptable limit.

Mpango – Makonda tax dispute
An unusual tax dispute has arisen pitting the Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango, against the influential Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner (RC), Paul Makonda.

Dr Mpango took issue with the efforts of Makonda, long seen as one of President John Magufuli’s closest allies in government, to import 20 containers of tables, chairs and blackboards through Dar es Salaam port without paying import duties. The Finance Minister insisted that the taxes – reportedly around Tshs 1.2 billion – must be paid, or the goods seized and sold at public auction.

Mr Makonda explained that the consignment had been imported at his own initiative to improve schools in Dar es Salaam, and that the furni­ture had been donated by Tanzanians living in the US. The furniture is valued at an estimated TSh 2 billion.

Dr Mpango insisted that the law was categorical that all furniture items imported into Tanzania must be taxed. “I took an oath to enforce tax laws and I will not waver,” declared Dr Mpango in August after inspect­ing the shipping containers being held by customs officials. “The rule of law must prevail. We will not victimise anyone nor will we fear anyone when it comes to enforcement of tax laws … We must uphold our laws – we can’t play around with taxes.”

The containers arrived at the Dar es Salaam port in January this year with Mr Makonda personally listed as owner of the goods in the ship­ping documents. The RC is understood to have written to the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to ask for a waiver, but his request was rejected. On May 12, this year, TRA gave 90 days for owners of 800 containers, including 20 belonging to Mr Makonda, to pay taxes or otherwise they would be auctioned.

President John Magufuli eventually weighed in on the dispute in August, expressing his disappointment over the saga and coming down in support of the Finance Minister. He said the recent decision by Dr Mpango to order the auctioning of the containers was the right move. “According to the laws of the land…no one has the mandate to borrow, bail out or receive donations on behalf of the government without being authorised by the Finance Minister,” said the President.

Before the public auction began at the end of August, Mr Makonda said he will make sure that all containers are not sold, and that he has asked God to block anyone attempting to buy them as the facilities were meant to be distributed to Dar es Salaam schools. “I will hold special prayers to ensure that those containers will never be sold to anyone because I imported them for poor teachers in our region,” he said. He then threatened buyers of the containers, saying their families will be cursed.

“Allow me to ask my fellow leaders in government to carefully select their words when speaking,” responded Dr Mpango. “How would one dare say that whoever buys these products would be cursed? How do we involve God in issues such as these ones?”

The first two attempts to auction the goods were unsuccessful as no bids met the minimum prices set by TRA.

Members of parliament have previously demanded disciplinary action against the Dar es Salaam RC for some of his remarks against MPs, while some opposition leaders have questioned the origin of his alleged oversized influence in government. (The Guardian, The Citizen)

Diaspora remittances
Remittances from the Tanzanian diaspora around the world averaged over TSh 1 trillion each year between 2013 and 2017 (US$2.3 billion over five years), according to the Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Mr William Ole Nasha. The Minister was speaking in parliament in April on behalf of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, in response to a question from Saada Mkuya (CCM, Welezo), herself a former Finance Minister.

The figure remains substantially lower than remittances to other East African countries. The Ugandan diaspora has transmitted over US$ 1 billion each year since 2015, and remittances from the Kenyan diaspora reached US$ 2 billion in 2017, according to figures compiled by The Citizen.

Figures released by the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in June showed that the cost of sending funds to Tanzania is higher than the cost of sending funds to Kenya, Uganda or Rwanda. Sending £120 from the UK to Tanzania costs 14% of the amount, com­pared to 13% when sending the same amount to Rwanda, 9% to Uganda and 7% to Kenya.

“It is time the government of Tanzania found ways to encourage more Tanzanians in the diaspora to use formal channels,” said Junior Davis, Chief of the Africa Section at UNCTAD. He suggested the government should do everything in its power to cut the costs for money transfers. (The Citizen)

Foreign Exchange Rate
Helped no doubt by the uncertainty over Brexit, the Tanzanian Shilling has strengthened against the pound and euro in recent months from a low of 3,230 TSh to the pound in April to around 2,950 TSh to the pound in September, which is similar to the rate in September 2017.

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BUSINESS & THE ECONOMY

by Ben Taylor

President Magufuli promises pro-business approach
President Magufuli has stated his government’s commitment to improv­ing the environment for business and addressing the challenges faced by the private sector. The President was speaking at a meeting that brought together leaders of government and business, convened by the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC).

He particularly directed the Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango, and Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) Commissioner General, Charles Kichere, to develop a strategy to reduce the burden of backlog taxes to traders. He ordered the ministry and TRA to meet with business leaders and negotiate on outstanding tax demands, to ease the tax burden that threatens many businesses in the country. “We should have a human face and avoid being too rigid because the government relies on the business community to raise revenue,’’ said the president. He argued that if, for instance, someone owes TRA money that was accumulated in 10 years, the taxman could forego five years and collect the amount accumulated for five years.

President Magufuli further directed ministers to address within one week the various hurdles that traders complained of during the meet­ing. This includes issues of taxation, bureaucracy within government, and imports that render domestically manufactured goods uncompeti­tive, and outdated laws.

The chair of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), Reginald Mengi, commended the government for proper supervision of the econ­omy, proper investment environment and adequate access to business loans. However, Mr Mengi also noted that TPSF receives many com­plaints from businesspeople over TRA’s unfair calculations of various taxes. He further argued there is a need to compel foreign contractors to team up with local counterparts to transfer skills that will help the local contractors to execute similar projects in future. (The Citizen, Daily News)

Prospects for middle income status – the World Bank view
The World Bank, in its new Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Tanzania, has said that Tanzania could achieve middle income status by 2025, but only if annual growth rates increase. The CPF, which pro­vides the framework for all World Bank activity in Tanzania between 2018 and 2022, says growth will have to increase to over 7% from an average of 6.5% in recent years. To achieve such rates, the CPF states, will require aggressive reforms to ensure sustainable management of natural resources, address climate change risks, close the infrastructure gap and build human capital, starting this year, while also maintaining macroeconomic stability.

This builds on the November 2017 Tanzania Economic Update (TEU), in which the World Bank pointed to the need to accelerate the country’s rate of economic growth if it is to fulfil the economic and development ambitions expressed in the Vision 2025 and FYDP II.

“The economy is facing two important and related challenges, specifi­cally the under-execution of the national budget and the decline in pri­vate sector sentiment,” according to the TEU. The low budget execution rate leads to “concerns regarding the credibility of the budget,” and constrains the government’s ability to achieve its targets. Further, while the Magufuli administration’s efforts to improve public administration, clamp down on corruption, and strengthen the tax administration are “well intended”, the transition has “caused uncertainty within the pri­vate sector”.

“There appears to have been an overall deterioration in business senti­ment due to the perceived risks resulting from the unpredictability of policy actions related to the Government’s intensified efforts to collect revenue and to its anticorruption drive,” says the TEU. (The Guardian)

State pension funds to merge
The National Assembly has endorsed the Public Service Social Security Fund Act, 2017, under which all pension schemes in Tanzania will be merged to form two funds, one for the civil servants and another for the private sector.

The existing social security fund schemes – including the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Parastatal Pension Fund (PPF), Public Service Pension Fund (PSPF), Local Authorities Pension Fund (LAPF) and Government Employees Provident Fund (GEPF) – will be streamlined into two funds, the Public Service Social Security Fund (PSSSF) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF). Money in previous state funds will be moved to PSSSF at the commencement of the Act.

The move followed advice from the International Labour Organisation and a recognition that some of the funds were struggling to survive. The Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jenista Mhagama, told parliament that the PSPF and GEPF were under severe financial pressure, and could be forced to cease operations imminently. Combining the funds will reduce administration costs, she explained. (The Guardian, The East African)

Online business registration
The Business Registration and Licensing Agency, BRELA, has launched a new online platform for business registration and other services. BRELA chief executive, Frank Kanyusi, said the Online Registration System would significantly reduce the time and costs associated with registering a business, adding that this would endear the country to investors and contribute positively to the government’s industrialisation drive. He said it previously took 3-5 days to complete all business registration procedures, but with the new online system, this can be completed within an hour.

Users of the service will be able to register a business name or change of particulars, pay various fees, file company related documents and annual returns, register industrial licenses, register trademarks and patents, or request information about registered businesses. It is hoped that in future users will also be able to get a taxpayer identification number (TIN), issued by the Tanzania Revenue Authority, and national identification number (NIN), issued by the National Identification Authority, through the same system “at the touch of a computer key”.

It is hoped that the platform will be of particular help to those based outside Dar es Salaam, who will no longer necessarily have to travel all the way to Dar to register a business. They will only need to have access to an internet connection. This applies similarly to those based outside Tanzania. “It is a huge stride that should have happened a long time ago,” said Mr Hussein Kamote, formerly of the Confederation of Tanzania Industries.

Tanzania is currently ranked 137th position overall in the World Bank’s Doing Business Report, which examines the ease of doing business in 190 economies across the globe. Starting a business, including registration processes, is among the key factors considered. Tanzania is even lower in the rankings on this issue: the country is ranked 162nd. (The Citizen)

National debt
President Magufuli has dismissed concerns that the national debt is becoming unmanageable, and stated his intention to continue borrowing to finance large scale infrastructure projects. “Tanzania still has room for further borrowing,” he said. “What matters are the projects into which we invest the borrowed money.” He pointed to the fact that the borrowed money was being invested in construction of mega infrastructure projects like standard gauge railway line and electricity generation like the Stiegler’s Gorge, saying such projects would boost the country’s economy and ability to repay the debts.

The President was responding to issues raised by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Prof Mussa Assad in his audit of national government accounts for the 2016/17 financial year. Prof Assad expressed concerned that if left unchecked, Tanzania’s debt could become unsustainable.

The Finance and Planning minister, Dr Philip Mpango said last November that Tanzania’s debt was USD $26 billion (31% of GDP) as of July 2017, a 17% increase from July 2016. The President argued that the debt remained sustainable and that the country still had room for further borrowing. “I know of countries which have debts of more than three times their gross domestic product (GDP),” he said, insisting that the most important thing is the management of the borrowed money and specific projects into which the money is injected.

Prof Delfin Rwegasira of the University of Dar es Salaam supported President Magufuli’s view. “The latest figures that we have from the IMF are that Tanzania’s debt is very sustainable and the President was right,” he said.

Limited sugar imports resume
The imminent threat of closure facing various sugar-intensive factors has been averted, following a government decision to speed up clear­ance of some consignments of industrial sugar at the Dar es Salaam port. The government has directed drink manufacturers to ensure that they only clear consignments of industrial sugar according to their respective production demands and said that production demands will strictly be monitored to see whether it tallies with the quantity of consignment.

This followed concerns contained in a report by the Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) report, which was tabled before the Parliamentary Committee on Industry, Trade and the Environment. The CTI Chairman, Dr Samwel Nyantahe, said the shortage of industrial sugar in the market had reached critical levels, that one drink manu­facturer had already ceased production and several others had raised alarm over possible suspension of production should they fail to obtain permit to clear the stalled sugar imports.

President John Magufuli had taken steps to restrict sugar important, designed to protect local manufacturers and consumers from adverse effects of cheap smuggled sugar being dumped in the market. (Daily News)

Chinese complaints about immigration rules
Chinese investors and authorities in Tanzania have raised concerns over tight work permit rules in Tanzania, saying the rules discourage inves­tors. According to the Chief Economic Representative at the Chinese Embassy in Tanzania, Lin Zhiying, Tanzanian immigration authorities fail to recognise that some workers who lack academic certificates are nevertheless very capable. “We fail to utilise human resources from China,” he said, “just because most of them are coming in the country without academic certificates, where the existing system denies them opportunities despite the fact that they are able.”

With estimated total investments of around USD $10 billion in the coun­try, Chinese investors need both local and foreign human resources, he argued.

Executive secretary of the Association of Tanzania Employers, Mr Aggrey Mlimuka, said that employers would like to see more relaxed labour and migration laws on foreigners working in the country. “We have prepared this workshop so that Chinese investors can meet and share their challenges with government officials and local business community, finding long standing resolutions,” he said, adding that there are some Chinese investors who have already moved their invest­ments to other countries and some were on the move to go.

For her part, the assistant commissioner for work permits in the Prime Minister’s Office, Ms Mercy Jilala, advised the Chinese business com­munity to report their challenges directly to responsible authorities.

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BUSINESS & THE ECONOMY

by Ben Taylor

Government claims ownership of Airtel Tanzania
President John Magufuli has instructed Finance and Planning Minister Philip Mpango to institute measures that would enable the government to acquire full ownership of Airtel. The government currently owns 40% of the company’s shares.

TTCL board chairman Omar Nundu and CEO Waziri Kindamba said the company had officially embarked on a “war to recover the firm’s lost shares”. “Airtel … is an asset of Tanzania Telecommunications Co.,” said President John Magufuli. “A terrible game was played. I don’t want to say more than that.”

Airtel Tanzania is now jointly owned by the government of Tanzania through TTCL (40%) and Celtel Tanzania BV, an affiliate of Zain Africa BV which was acquired by Bharti Airtel International in November 2010.

TTCL’s case is being built using records traced back to 1998, when the Cellnet Company was launched under TTCL’s full ownership. Cellnet operated until 2001 when it was rebranded to Celtel Tanzania, again under the ownership of TTCL which owned the entire operating infrastructure installed at a cost of $5 million.

The company was later sold and rebranded as Zain and thereafter as Airtel Tanzania. Subsequent decisions by the then TTCL management and board of directors, as well as, the Treasury Registrar reportedly handed control of the mobile firm to private investors in what TTCL is now arguing is free-ride ownership at its expense. The corporation claims it invested $82 million in the early stages of establishing the company.

A TTCL board meeting in 2005 is in the spotlight for approving the transfer of TTCL’s 10.25 million shares to an investor Mobile Systems International (MSI), which boosted its share to 60% against 40% of the government. Bharti Airtel acquired the 60% shareholding in 2010.

“We would like to highlight that our acquisition of the said 60% share-holding in June 2010 was in full compliance with and following all approvals from the Government of Tanzania,” said Bharti Airtel in a Business & the Economy 17 statement. (The Citizen, Bloomberg)

Reduced dependence on foreign finance
A report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Ministry of Finance and Planning shows that government revenue from foreign sources has been cut from 46% in 2003/04 to 13% in 2015/16. Foreign sources include official development assistance (ODA / aid) and other grants and loans.

The report indicates that the fall in dependency on foreign sources is largely a result of increased domestic revenue, mainly resulting from ongoing expansion of economic activities and improved efficiency in revenue collection by the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA).

Total revenue collection reached TShs 15.8 trillion in the 2015/16 financial year, up from TShs 3.39 trillion in 2003/04.

Possible land ownership by foreigners
The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development has raised the possibility of allowing land ownership by foreign nationals in Tanzania. Under the current arrangement, foreigners are not allowed to own land in Tanzania but are granted ‘durative rights’ to have access to land for investment through the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC).

A new National Land Policy is proposed, which will put in place new mechanism for land administration and management in the country. This includes enabling foreign land estate developers to have title deeds to the land after which they can sell their houses on the open market.

The Minister, Mr William Lukuvi, said it was time the policy was changed to accommodate changes in the land sector. “The government finds it appropriate to amend the policy to improve land administration and management in the country,” he explained.

The Minister explained that with the new policy the government seeks to survey and plan the entire 948,000 square kilometres in Tanzania and allocate land for industry, agriculture and residential areas. The envisaged new policy will also introduce a requirement to have land officials at village level in order to curb land conflicts and rampant selling of land.

The new policy has been developed in consultation with key stakeholders, and now awaits official endorsement from the meeting of permanent secretaries and finally the cabinet.

Disputed economic data
A disagreement flared between opposition MP, Zitto Kabwe, and the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) over official economic data. Kabwe conducted his own analysis of BoT data on inflation and the money supply, concluding that the rate of GDP growth was around 0.1%, much lower than the official estimate of 5.7%.

In making this claim, Kabwe tapped into widespread public unease at the state of the country’s economy. This view says that clampdowns on tax evasion and corruption have over-reached, leading to a shortage of cash in the economy and a slowdown in growth. Indeed, even official BoT data shows sharp declines in lending to the private sector and in the broad money supply, and smaller declines in both imports and exports, lending some credibility to Kabwe’s argument.

However, economists such as Justin Sandefur of the US-based Center for Global Development (CGD) have argued that elements of Kabwe’s analysis are flawed, though agreeing that there are grounds for concern. “Even if the official growth figures aren’t wrong, the opposition’s main critique still applies,” he wrote.

Following the publication of his analysis, Kabwe was arrested and charged both with sedition and under the Statistics Act. This latter charge represents a test case for the controversial law, which criminalises the publication of false or misleading statistics.

Meanwhile, the World Bank has cautioned against growing public debt in Tanzania. Speaking at the launch of a Tanzania Economic Update (TEU), World Bank Africa Chief Economist, Albert Zeufack, said that across Sub-Saharan African, “debt is rising very fast such that it’s almost crossing the HIPC levels which is not sustainable.”

According to the new TEU, the level of public debt in Tanzania has increased by more than 30% over the past 5 years, although this debt remains sustainable at around 40% of GDP by June 2017. The report states that increased level of public debt in recent years has been driven by increased non-concessional borrowing from both the domestic and foreign markets.

“In 2016/17, the cost of public debt service increased significantly, consuming about 14% of domestic revenues,” reads the report. The report argues that Tanzania’s public debt “appears to remain sustainable”, but adds that “additional short-term borrowing could increase liquidity vulnerabilities, especially if a significant portion of new loans is contracted on the domestic market. Thus, the debt portfolio needs to be monitored closely, as the growth of domestic debt could exacerbate tight liquidity conditions, while increased debt service costs could reduce the fiscal space for development spending.”

Observer newspaper reports contentious links between Vodacom and Tanzanian elites
An investigation by the (UK) newspaper, the Observer, into the African interests of British mobile phone company, Vodafone, has raised significant questions about the selection of local partners when the company established Vodacom in Tanzania.

The paper reported that in 1999, a company owned by Rostam Aziz acquired a 10% stake in Vodacom Tanzania and that by 2007, he had increased his shareholding to 35%. Local investors were required to lend money to Vodacom to enable the firm to expand its network, but the Observer found that Vodacom lent the money to Mr Aziz’s company so that he could meet this obligation. His share purchases were not funded by these loans.

Vodafone says that by 2012 Aziz’s company owed Vodacom and Vodacom Tanzania a total of $52.5m, though this is disputed by Mr Aziz. In 2014, he sold half his stake, netting $240m, and Vodacom is now looking to buy out the remainder of his stake. The deals have led to him appearing in Forbes as Tanzania’s first dollar billionaire.

Aziz became an MP in 1994 and later the national treasurer for the ruling party. He helped to fund and managed President Jakaya Kikwete’s campaign for the 2005 elections. In 2007, a US embassy cable noted his “extraordinary influence”, quoting a fellow politician who said: “I don’t know what magic that guy has, but he is the power behind the throne.” In 2011 he resigned as an MP amid corruption allegations that he strenuously denies.

The former chair of the UK parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Dame Margaret Hodge, questioned whether Vodafone could have done more to ensure that ordinary Africans benefited from the transactions. “Vodafone should not just hold its nose while the wealthiest in Africa get even wealthier,” she said. “They could have used their power to ensure that, where there were local ownership rules, the ordinary people of the country benefited, rather than the wealthy elite.”

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THE MINERAL SANDS EXPORT SAGA

by Roger Nellist

Tanzania’s mining sector in difficulty – the background
As reported in TA117, in March the government took the controversial step of banning the export of mineral concentrates and ores for metallic minerals such as gold, copper, nickel and silver. Later the same month, President Magufuli had intervened personally, ordering the seizure at Dar port of 277 containers of mineral sands destined for export mainly from two gold mines operated by Acacia Mining (Tanzania’s largest gold-producer), and asserted: “There is no country being robbed of its mineral wealth like Tanzania”. Samples were taken from the sands for analysis. Several foreign mining companies were immediately affected by the export ban but local miners and other entities also expressed concerns. In April, Magufuli established two expert teams to report to him quickly on different aspects of the mineral sand exports. Since then the saga has intensified, triggering an avalanche of robust follow-up actions by government – including more sackings and contentious new legislation.

Tanzania is variably listed as Africa’s third or fourth largest gold-producing country so, unsurprisingly, the saga has generated much news coverage and comment, both in Tanzania and abroad. There have been headlines like: “Industrial-scale plunder of Tanzania’s mineral wealth by multinational companies”, “Probe team unearths massive thievery in mineral sand exports”, “Tanzania has been losing trillions of shillings in revenue” and “Tanzania’s Acacia spat shows deepening battle with business”.

Two Presidential probe reports
President Magufuli received the two reports in person at State House, presented by the respective expert teams, with the presentations broadcast live on national media. The first took place on 25 May, led by Prof A. Mruma, the head of the Geological Survey of Tanzania. Their report found that the containers impounded at Dar’s port held real minerals with a value totalling up to TSh 1.4 trillion that had not been declared for tax or recorded by the Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency (TMAA). Minerals discovered in the concentrates included gold, silver, copper metal and sulphur, as well as quantities of undeclared strategic minerals like lithium. The team said it found an average of 1.4kg of gold per tonne of mineral sand in the containers, seven times as much as reported by TMAA. It also uncovered other discrepancies. Mruma’s committee recommended that the export ban on metallic mineral concentrates be maintained, effective scanners be installed at Dar’s port, containers be sealed immediately after testing, that government should ensure smelters are built in Tanzania to maximise the full value of minerals produced and that disciplinary action should be taken against officials in the Ministry of Energy & Minerals (MEM) and in the TMAA.

On 12 June Magufuli received the second report, concerning the economic impact of the mineral sands exports. This team, led by Prof N Osoro, estimated that between 44,000 and 61,000 containers of gold and copper concentrates had been exported between 1998 and March 2017, most emanating from two mines run by Acacia (formerly Barrick Gold). It estimated losses in government revenue running into trillions of shillings over the two decades – through under-declaration of both export volume and value of gold and copper concentrates. Magufuli announced: “The report says the amount of unpaid taxes between 1998 and March 2017 through illegal exports of gold and copper concentrates is between TSh 68.59 trillion and TSh 108.5 trillion”. Such sums would be enough to cover Tanzania’s national budget for three years and build about 1,000 kms of railway line between Dar and Mwanza. Describing the losses as “criminal”, Osoro’s committee made 21 far-reaching recommendations – principally that: responsible senior public officers (past and present) should be charged with complicity in tax evasion, abuse of public office, economic sabotage and fraud; all Mining Development Agreements (MDAs) and mining laws should be reviewed; all new MDAs should be approved by parliament and the terms of all MDAs should be made public; government should take a stake in all large mines; overly generous tax concessions should be removed; and there should be strengthened security at mines to reduce smuggling.

The government’s response
Inevitably, the two reports produced very strong reactions from many quarters, including demands for a major overhaul of Tanzania’s mining laws and arrangements. In a parliamentary session after the first report, MPs were close to unanimous in expressing their shock. They offered many suggestions on what should be done and called for officials in MEM “who have been telling lies” to be investigated. They also called for Energy & Minerals Minister Sospeter Muhongo and his Deputy Minister to be held to account for the mistakes of their subordinates and, since the scandal has been ongoing for years, for his predecessors to be investigated too.

President Magufuli took quick action. Immediately after publication of the first report he cancelled Muhongo’s appointment as Minister, saying “The Minister is my friend but I want him to reconsider his position …. I am advising him to step down”. State House indicated that there would be no immediate replacement for him. Magufuli also dissolved the Board of TMAA and suspended its CEO. These sackings came on top of the earlier dismissal of MEM’s Permanent Secretary, allegedly for lying to parliament about the concentrates.

The President was incensed after receiving the second report on the revenue losses. Saying he was left “utterly speechless” by its findings, in a televised response he declared: “Enough is enough. We have been given raw deals for too long and this has to end. … Even the devil is laughing at us over our own self-inflicted level of poverty amid natural wealth given to us by God.” He demanded that Acacia Mining – if it wanted to continue mining in the country – pay billions of shillings in tax due since 1998 as arrears and dared the company to sue his government. Calling on Acacia to repent, Magufuli said he would not discuss anything with the company whilst debts were pending. He ordered that all 21 recommendations made in the Osoro report be implemented immediately. In early July he went further, ordering MEM not to issue any new mining licences or to renew expiring ones.

On 14 June, with only a few dissenting voices, parliament passed a resolution praising Magufuli for his actions. One MP said “this is war…. economic war”.

Then on 3 and 4 July Parliament considered and approved three hastily-prepared bills tabled by the Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Prof P. Kabudi. The three Acts (see below) make amendments to six existing laws (including the Mining, Petroleum and Income Tax Acts) aimed at strengthening government control of Tanzania’s mineral and petroleum sectors and increasing revenues from extraction activities in those sectors.

The Natural Wealth and Resources (Permanent Sovereignty) Act 2017 asserts that all natural resources belong to Tanzania and will be used only to benefit the country. It requires all disputes between the government and investors to be settled in Tanzania (no foreign arbitration) and compels companies to process minerals within the country rather than exporting them as raw materials; mineral concentrates if not smelted by the producer will be sold to whoever is able to smelt them in Tanzania and pay taxes due. We understand that this Act also allows government to own up to 50% of mining firms, and requires all earnings from the exploitation of natural resources to be banked in Tanzania (foreign mining companies may remit dividends only).

The Natural Wealth and Resource Contracts (Review and Renegotiation of Unconscionable terms) Act, 2017 requires all natural resource contracts to be made public, that parliament must endorse them, and allows the government to revoke contracts if they have “unconscionable terms” or are otherwise prejudicial to the interests of Tanzanians.

The Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2017 dissolves the TMAA and replaces it with a Minerals Commission (with most of its nine members being serving Permanent Secretaries).

The debate on the three Bills, rushed through parliament in just two days, was heated, with many differing views expressed. CCM MPs supported their immediate consideration but opposition MPs questioned the urgency, arguing for more time for their public and parliamentary scrutiny. One CCM MP cautioned that “these are revolutionary measures. We need to understand what we are getting in to. … Multinationals may decide to pull out from our country and adversely affect our current account and the value of the Tanzanian shilling”. He added that to balance the risk of such negative outcomes from “our economic freedom fight” the government should invest more in small-scale mining.

The mining industry’s response
Acacia Mining operates three mines in Tanzania. Whilst its Mara North mine produces almost pure gold (and was not the subject of the probes) its two other gold mines (Bulyanhulu and Buzwagi) produce mixtures and were investigated. The company announced in April that the concentrate export ban was costing it about $1 million daily, and its shares fell on the FTSE 250 Exchange.

After the first probe report findings were publicised Acacia’s share values dropped by more than 15% in minutes. The company stated it had fully co-operated with the committee and maintained it fully declares everything of commercial value and pays all appropriate royalties and taxes on all payable minerals produced.

After the release of the second report’s findings Acacia called for an independent review of both Presidential committee reports, asserting that they contained inaccurate and unexplainable findings and allegations. It strongly refuted the “unfounded accusations”, insisting it is a law-abiding company, mining in full compliance with Tanzanian laws, paying all royalties and taxes due and publishes fully audited accounts. It called for a lifting of the mineral sands export ban (saying it was hurting its ability to conduct business in Tanzania and also badly affecting the lives of thousands of Tanzanians) and called for a resolution of the current situation. Over the last 20 years Acacia/Barrick has invested US$4 billion in Tanzania’s mining sector. In all, Acacia’s shares are now priced at less than half of their value of twelve months ago.

Within days of the second report being presented to the President, the Executive Chairman of Acacia’s majority shareholder, Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada, flew to Dar to hold talks with Magufuli. He said he wanted to help resolve the problems and, after the discussions, he and Magufuli announced they will establish two expert teams to begin negotiations to that end. The Chairman said he was optimistic about reaching a solution – one that will involve payment of any past dues and also arrangements for establishing a smelter in Tanzania. Acacia said it would not participate directly in the government-Barrick talks but would work to support Barrick.

On 4 July, before the new legislation had been signed into law by the President, Acacia filed arbitration notices in Tanzania in order “to protect the company”. It reiterated that “Acacia remains of the view that a negotiated resolution is the preferable outcome to the current disputes and the company will continue to work to achieve this”. It is understood that production continues at Acacia’s three mines.

All other mining companies in Tanzania will also be impacted by the government’s recent actions. The Tanzania Chamber of Minerals and Energy, representing the industry, said the implications of the new laws (which it had opposed) are “vast”, adding that “the industry is going to be affected big time” and that it will need extensive legal advice. External commentators are expressing concerns that, even though Magufuli has said the private sector is “an important ally”, his robust actions will unsettle other investors. One pointed to the US$ 19 billion of major infrastructure projects the government has in the pipeline and for which it needs private investors, reminding that other large private investment projects in Tanzania have also been jeopardised this year. Another commentator opined that Tanzania’s mining sector is deteriorating from a situation of relative stability and sense to becoming “yet another African basket case”.

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