A pdf of the issue can be downloaded here
By Ben Taylor
Are the 2019 local elections a foretaste of 2020?
Local government elections held in November 2019 resulted in overwhelming victories for candidates of the ruling party, CCM, after the leading opposition parties, Chadema and ACT-Wazalendo, boycotted the poll. In the elections – for new village and street chairpersons nationwide – CCM ended up with over 99% of all posts.
Chadema cited “mass disqualification of the party’s candidates” as their main reason. “It’s a sham exercise and the level of brazen irregularities cannot be tolerated,” said party chairman, Freeman Mbowe. Similarly, ACT-Wazalendo party leader Zitto Kabwe said his party did not agree with the grounds given by election returning officers for disqualifying their aspirants. Election officials had effectively locked out thousands of opposition candidates over reasons their parties described as flimsy and orchestrated. This include not writing full names, misspellings, blank spaces, improper forms and incorrectly written dates among others. Others could not get forms as officials were found to be unavailable. As a result, even before the boycott, many CCM candidates were standing unopposed.
The diplomatic community, including the US Embassy and UK High Commission expressed their concerns, questioning the credibility of elections without any meaningful opposition participation.
“That is their opinion, but what I know is that the elections were free and fair, and were in line with Tanzanian laws and regulations,” said the Minister of State in the President’s Office for Regional Administration and Local Government, Mr Selemani Jafo.
President Magufuli said the opposition parties exercised their democratic right through boycotting the polls.
Mr Mbowe said it was now the time for a free and independent electoral commission to be established to steer the democratic process away from partisan interests that jeopardise the wellbeing of the nation.
ACT-Wazalendo’s secretary general Dorothy Semu said: “It is time for the opposition parties to join forces to fight against this oppression.”
Dr Aikande Kwayu, an honorary research fellow at the Department of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin Madison, supported the boycott. “It is a strong political statement expressing the disillusionment with how elections are organised,” she said.
However, Dr Richard Mbunda, a political analyst from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), pointed out that no party has ever withdrawn from an electoral process and succeeded in its plans. “An election is like war and those shortcomings are unavoidable. What the opposition needs to do is to fully prepare to become a competitive side. There would be no cancellation of elections. By opting out, they lose legitimacy before the public,” he said. He added that he understood the reasons given by opposition parties but now was the time to focus on preparing for the next election.
Looking forward to 2020, Dr Kwayu is worried by the trend. “Looking at how the events have unfolded, I get some feeling that there might even be no elections in 2020,” she said.
Chadema leaders expressed similar concerns. “If the laws remain the same, what is happening in the civic elections will have disastrous consequences in the general election,” warned Mr Mrema, Chadema’s director of protocol, communications and foreign affairs.
Whether or not opposition parties repeat their boycott in 2020 remains to be seen. However, all the signs are that space for public debate and political campaigns will remain tightly controlled as the election draws nearer.
In early January, police declined permission for ACT Wazalendo to hold a rally in the constituency of party leader, Zitto Kabwe, while CCM were granted permission for a similar event. Along with most prominent leaders of both ACT Wazalendo and Chadema, Mr Kabwe remains distracted (or more) by ongoing court cases against them.
In September, for example, The Kisutu Resident Magistrate Court found nine Chadema top officials including the party’s national chairman Freeman Mbowe with a case to answer. Mr Mbowe and the eight others face thirteen charges, including sedition.
Further, ACT-Wazalendo chief party advisor and former Vice President of Zanzibar, Mr Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad was interrogated by police in Pemba in January. He was accused of holding an illegal public rally on December 9, 2019 in Michiweni, Pemba. Along with his co-accused, Mr Hamad maintains that they didn’t hold a rally rather they held an internal party meeting to collect views as the party prepares the 2020 election manifesto.
Small shifts in Chadema leadership
Mr Freeman Mbowe has retained his position as Chadema national chairman in an election held on December 18, 2019. Mr Mbowe who has led the party since 2004 scooped 886 votes (equivalent to 93.5%), while his only opponent Mr Cecil Mwambe picked up 59 votes. The last such election was held in 2014.
The same election process saw Chadema legal director Mr Tundu Lissu elected as the new party vice chairman (mainland) after the incumbent Professor Abdallah Safari stepped down. Mr Lissu was elected unopposed after his main competition for the position, the MPs Sophia Mwakagenda and Saed Kubenea both opted to withdraw their candidacies.
Mr Lissu, the former Singida East MP, has been outside the country for two years now after surviving an assassination attempt.
Following his election, Mr Mbowe appointed Kibamba MP John Mnyika as the party’s new secretary general, replacing Dr Vincent Mashinji. He also appointed Mr Benson Kigaila as the party’s new deputy secretary general (Mainland) and retained Mr Salum Mwalimu as the deputy secretary general (Zanzibar).
Further crackdowns on government critics, further criticism of the government on human rights
The list of politicians, journalists and rights activists to have disappeared or been arrested in Tanzania continues to grow. Besides the politicians mentioned above, in the past few months the most notable cases include Tito Magoti of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), and the former President of Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Fatma Karume.
Mr Magoti disappeared in suspicious circumstances shortly before Christmas. His friends and LHRC colleagues stated that a group of six people in plain clothes confronted him, handcuffed him and bundled him into a Toyota Harrier. Only later did police in Dar es Salaam confirm that they were holding Mr Magoti.
The police statement was less than forthcoming, however, not stating what Mr Magoti was accused of having done, nor where he was being held.
LHRC executive director, Anna Henga, said the laws of the country provide for suspects to be granted bail or arraigned in court within 24 hours of arrest, noting that he had already been held for over 48 hours by that point. “He was supposed to be granted bail because it is his right. We will, therefore, use legal and judicial procedures for him to be bailed,” she said. She added that LHRC had visited all the major police stations in the Kinondoni Region looking for Tito, but in vain.
“This has been a growing trend as security organs can arrest civilians secretly and hold them for a long time without information being communicated to families and relatives,” she said. Mr Magoti was eventually charged with money laundering, together with an information technology expert, Mr Theodory Faustine. Under Tanzanian law, this charge does not permit bail.
Money laundering is the same charge facing Erick Kabendera, an investigative journalist, who remains in custody since July 2019. In January, he was refused permission to attend his mother’s funeral.
Fatma Karume became a high profile and outspoken critic of President Magufuli during her term from 2018 to 2019 as President of Tanzania’s bar society, TLS. Since then she has become a regular presence in the Tanzanian media and has taken up several constitutional cases to challenge what she sees as the erosion of the rule of law under President Magufuli. She is the granddaughter for the first President of Zanzibar, Abeid Amani Karume and daughter of former Zanzibar President Amani Abeid Karume.
In September, Ms Karume was suspended from practicing as a lawyer in Tanzania by High Court Principal Judge Eliezer Feleshi. The Judge accused her of impropriety in her handling of a particular case, without specifying what exactly she had done.
The case, in which Ms Karume was representing Mr Ado Shaibu, challenged President John Magufuli’s appointment of Prof Adelardus Kilangi as Attorney General. Ms Karume, who was not in court during the ruling was accused of impropriety in her submission, and has since cried foul, saying she was condemned unheard.
She later said that suspending her license would not dampen her spirit or stop her from championing social justice, the rule of law and good governance. “You never know what this means and what lies ahead as fate works in many ways. Maybe this is telling me that I will not bring desired change to society via the route of the law in court but elsewhere. Maybe I should be in politics,” she told journalists.
More broadly, the Media Council of Tanzania (MCT), a press freedom advocacy group, raised the alarm about violations of press freedom in Tanzania. They noted an increase in threats and interference in editorial independence, including serious violations committed by government authorities, state organs, self-styled activist and non-state actors.
A surprise move by the government came when it withdrew the right of individuals and NGOs to directly file cases against it at the Arusha-based African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The Tanzanian Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, signed the notice of withdrawal of the declaration made under Article 34(6) of the African Court Protocol on November 14. Tanzania becomes the second country after Rwanda to take this step.
The decision came shortly after the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Union’s human rights body, condemned “massive human rights violations” by authorities. In its statement, the commission highlighted a reluctance to investigate serious human rights breaches like that of the disappearance of freelance journalist Azory Gwanda. It also came at a time reports indicate the country had the highest number of cases filed by individuals and NGOs as well as judgments issued against it by the African Court. Out of the 70 decisions issued by the court by September 2019, 28 decisions, or 40%, were on Tanzania.
“The many cases filed against Tanzania at the African Court speak to the abject failure by the country to provide victims of human rights violations adequate and effective remedies nationally”, said Japhet Biegon of Amnesty, a human rights group.
Finally, both Amnesty and Human Rights Watch issued scathing reports in September on the state of human rights in Tanzania. For both organisations, these were the first detailed reports on human rights in Tanzania for many years.
Government actions, noted the reports, have had a chilling effect on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, with people’s censoring actions perceived as critical of the government for fear of prosecution or other reprisals. Amnesty accused the government of President Magufuli of “disembowelling the country’s human rights framework”.
“Tanzania should show true commitment to protecting and fulfilling the rights to freedom of expression and association. The authorities need to put a stop to harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests of activists, journalists, and opposition members,” said Oryem Nyeko, Africa researcher at Human Rights Watch.
Mr Ngemela Lubinga, the CCM secretary for International Relations dismissed the reports. He denied any violation of human rights in Tanzania, stressing: “We cannot run our affairs as a nation based on how the international community perceives us. Rather, we will live by the rules and norms of our country as an independent nation. We cannot implement recommendations that are not aimed at creating peace – but aim at dividing the nation.”
The government has previously argued that democratic rights are a secondary consideration, a luxury that should only be given serious attention once more concrete improvements – such as transport infrastructure, power generation, public services and poverty reduction – have been delivered.
Tanzania ranks low for mobile phone protections
Tanzania has some of the harshest SIM card monitoring policies in the world, joining the league of Saudi Arabia and North Korea, according to recently published research. This includes use of fingerprint technology for SIM card registration and other measures that enable the government to track and monitor users and build in-depth profiles of their citizens.
The research, published by Comparitech, a UK-based firm, puts Tanzania in last place out of 150 countries, below even Saudi Arabia (149th) and North Korea (joint 147th with Uganda). The report also notes that Tanzania does not have a comprehensive data protection law.
Traces of Chief Mangi Meli of the Chagga community in Old Moshi can still be found in songs, stories and archives. But his head is missing. As chief for a little under a decade, Mangi Meli fought the German colonial occupation of territory in Kilimanjaro. He was executed for his resistance on March 2, 1900, by hanging in a public square.
His head was then cut off and said to have been shipped to Berlin, Germany at the request of the Ethnological Museum’s Head of Africa and Oceania department Felix von Luschan. Von Luschan collected thousands of skulls from all over the world for scientific testing based on Rassenlehre – racial ideology.
For the past 50 years, Isaria Meli has been campaigning through the Meli Foundation, appealing to the Tanzanian and German governments to seek the return of his grandfather’s skull.
His efforts have finally paid off – in part. Chief Mangi Meli’s story has been brought to the attention of the German government through an exhibition in Berlin. This was centred around a video installation titled Mangi Meli Remains – an innovative short film animation in Kiswahili, German and English on the life, times and death of the chief, his links with other chiefs in the resistance to German colonial rule and the events leading to his death.
After the exhibition closed in Berlin, it moved temporarily to Dar es Salaam before reaching its permanent home in Old Moshi, where it opened in March 2019 at the Old Courthouse.
Along with the video, the exhibition includes documents and photographs of the Chagga people and chief Mangi Meli taken in the late 1800s to the early 1900s by colonial German army officers, and never previously displayed in Tanzania.
The exhibition is the work of German national Konradin Kunze and the Tanzanian Sarita Mamseri. Mamseri is a heritage educator with a Masters in History of Art & Archaeology, while Kunze, a German national, is a theatre producer with Flinn Works.
The idea for the exhibition started when Kunze started researching German colonial history in Tanzania. “When I first came to Tanzania eight years ago, I was shocked to learn about my country’s colonial history. I didn’t learn it in school back in Germany, which would have been the proper way, I think. We maybe had just about one hour of it because ‘Germany had some colonies but it was for a short period.’’’
“The objective of this project is definitely to educate the public. This story should not be forgotten and on the other hand, it is giving back to the community by permanently install something in Old Moshi, although it is not the chief’s skull, which we’re still trying to find. However, at least we can bring back the information that I have gathered back in Germany,” Kunze added.
Kunze thinks the photographs he found, as well the archived material in Germany (such as http://www.deutschefotothek.de/list/freitext/hans+meyer), should be readily available in Tanzania since it is a crucial part of the country’s history too.
Mamseri concurs, saying, “The atrocities, tragedies and theft, looting, and acquisition of personal items of significance and of human remains cannot be undone or indeed forgotten when still so much is to be acknowledged and then repatriated. It also continues to amaze me how much of Tanzania’s history can be found in foreign collections, both private and state. It just reinforces my opinion that efforts to counterbalance the role of colonial archives and collections in Europeans’ understanding of Africa must be readdressed through the collecting and presenting “It is clear that the Europeans saw us as savages and were trying to prove that we aren’t real human beings,” said Cloud Chatanda, an illustrator who worked on the project. “Mangi Meli’s father, Mangi Rindi sent his best soldiers to meet the Kaiser in Berlin and gave his two best soldiers ivory, minerals and leather to present to the Kaiser and in return asked for a few weapons. The Kaiser sent the soldiers back with a music box and a sewing machine.”
Currently, Germany holds over 5,000 skulls of its former colonial subjects, including 200 from Tanzania. Among the skulls, six were as being from Moshi, dating back to the time of Mangi Meli’s death. Some of them have the inscription Dschagga/Wadschagga.
Mangi Meli Remains is a collaborative project between Flinn Works (Germany), BSS Projects (Tanzania/UK), Old Moshi Cultural Tourism, ArtEver (Tanzania) supported by the Ethnological Museum Berlin and the Humboldt University Berlin. It was funded by the Goethe-Institut Tanzania, the Berlin Senate Department of Culture and Between Bridges (non-profit exhibition space organised by Wolfgang Tillmans).
by Roger Nellist
A resolution at last – Barrick acquires Acacia Mining
The long drawn out saga of Acacia Mining in Tanzania is at last drawing to a satisfactory close. Acacia was listed in the UK but 64% of its shares were owned by the Canadian mining giant Barrick Gold Corporation. Acacia operated three gold mines in Tanzania – at Bulhanyulu, North Mara and Buzwagi – but under the government of President Magufuli the firm was accused of wide-ranging irregularities, as we reported in earlier editions of Tanzanian Affairs. Last year Acacia was told in no uncertain terms to pack its bags and leave the country.
After high-level negotiations during 2018 and 2019 between the government and Barrick (in which Acacia was excluded) a Framework Agreement was concluded to resolve the politically and commercially explosive impasse. Under the terms of that agreement Barrick would acquire all of Acacia Mining and its assets and then establish a new joint-venture company in Tanzania to run those three gold mines in which government would assume a free 16% shareholding interest and play a direct role in running the operations. Among the other key terms, the economic benefits from the venture would be shared 50/50 between Tanzania and Barrick.
Barrick then sought to buy out Acacia’s minority (36%) shareholders and so become the 100% owner and controller of the former Acacia. Those negotiations took some months but on 17 September 2019, after certain legal processes were completed in Tanzania and in the UK, Barrick officially acquired the remaining Acacia shares in a deal that reportedly valued Acacia at $1.1 billion or more (a substantial improvement on Barrick’s initial offer of $787 million). Acacia Mining shares were immediately delisted and ceased to be tradeable on the London Stock Exchange and trading of them was suspended on the secondary Dar Stock Exchange too.
Tanzania and Barrick then moved quickly to establish their new joint-venture company. It is named Twiga Minerals Corporation (TMC) and was registered in Tanzania by mid-October. Its headquarters will be in Mwanza.
Apparently, though, there might have been some last-minute hiccups since by the end of the year no other details had been made public. Declining to explain why, the Ministry of Minerals did say that the ban on the export of mineral condensates still stood but confirmed that discussions were still ongoing. Commentators have speculated that two of the important matters yet to be fully resolved and holding up the overall new arrangement are the government’s insistence that gold smelting facilities should be established in Tanzania (so that the country can derive greater value-add from TMC’s gold mining operations) as well as the treatment of the former Acacia executives who were jailed last year for alleged money laundering, tax evasion and other crimes (see TA122 and TA124).
Temporary delay in LNG Project
In November 2019 the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) announced that the government’s negotiation of a Host Government Agreement (HGA) with the foreign oil companies that will develop the large Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) project in Lindi had been temporarily suspended. The delay was to allow government to complete its ongoing review of existing Production Sharing Agreements (PSA), which was found to be necessary because some PSA issues apparently contradict or overlap with other contracts. It was not known when the review would be completed and the HGA negotiations could resume but the review was said to be at an advanced stage. However, official sources confirmed that the Ministry of Finance and Planning had already approved TSh 5.07 billion for compensating nearly 700 people who will have to move from the 2,077 hectares in Lindi Region where the LNG complex will be constructed. One of the partners in the project, Shell Tanzania, which also operates two of the offshore licences where large gas reserves have been discovered, said: “The HGA negotiations commenced in April  and are currently on pause…. We are continuing to engage with the government and are supportive of the HGA process as it is an important step in agreeing the key commercial, technical and legal principles for the next phase of this important project”. It is reported that the other project partners, Equinor and Exxon-Mobil, have already invested in excess of US$2 billion in the other gas discovery licence. Equinor Tanzania recently clarified that the LNG project will take up to five years to construct once the HGA negotiations are concluded and should operate for at least 30 years.
More optimistic news on gas
Several government Ministers and officials spoke at the Oil and Gas Congress 2019 that was convened in early October in Dar es Salaam. At it the Minister of Energy, Medard Kalemani, announced that four new licence areas with expected high gas potential were available to the industry for exploration and drilling work. Adjacent to already proven gas reserve areas, they include Ruvu, Western Songo Songo and North Mnazi Bay. According to the Minister they have a gas potential of more than 5 trillion cubic feet (tcf). If proven, the new discoveries would raise Tanzania’s total gas reserves to almost 63 tcf. At the same Congress the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Angellah Kairuki, announced that she would shortly be tabling in Parliament a new Investment Bill that would help create a more conducive business environment. Investors should also benefit from the provisions of an Action Facilitation Bill that will create a single law unit across government to implement regulatory reforms (rather than the current Ministry by Ministry differential approach to such matters).
Delegates at the Congress also heard from Charles Sangweni, the acting Director General of Tanzania’s Petroleum Upstream Regulatory Authority (PURA). He explained that the ongoing review of the 11 existing PSAs was to bring them into line with the provisions of the two new major natural resource Acts enacted in 2017. He told the oil industry delegates to expect that government would announce a fifth competitive bidding round for petroleum licenses in about two years’ time when, hopefully, global oil and gas prices would be stronger than now. He envisaged that more than 20 offshore and onshore blocks would then be open to tender from the local and international petroleum industry. The last such bidding round was in 2013. Separately, Sangweni told reporters that Tanzania’s deep offshore areas have higher potential for gas discoveries than onshore ones but that there is a big disparity in the cost of drilling a single well; offshore in deep water a well may cost $100 million whereas an onshore well would typically cost about $30 million. (For comparison, in the early 1980s when various oil consortia were drilling wells onshore Tanzania and at Songo Songo Island a single well cost in the order of $10 million). According to PURA, a total of 96 wells have been drilled in the search for oil and gas in Tanzania to date and 44 of them have made gas discoveries. The vast majority of the other 52 wells, which were dry, were located onshore.
Songas – its plans and contribution
Songas is the Tanzanian company that generates electricity from gas, primarily sourced from the Songo Songo reserves. In round percentage terms it is owned 29% by TPDC, 10% by TANESCO, 7% by TDFL and 54% by UK-based Globeleq. Songas currently generates 180 Megawatts of electricity (which is roughly one fifth of the total power supplied to Tanzania’s National Grid) but in September 2019 announced its intention, subject to regulatory approval by TANESCO, to increase its generation to 250 MW in support of the government’s industrialisation programmes.
That same month Songas paid as dividends TSh 6.6 billion to TPDC and 2.2 billion to TANESCO. The company’s Managing Director, Nigel Whittaker, announced that since 2012 Songas has paid almost TSh 122 billion as dividends to the government and its agencies as well as 139 billion in corporate tax. He added that since the start of its operations in 2004 Songas has saved Tanzania about TSh 11 trillion in displaced fossil fuel imports that would otherwise have been necessary for power generation in the country.
Other extractives news in brief
Over the last two decades Geita Gold Mines (GGM) has been mining gold using open cast surface techniques. However, to improve production and profitability it now needs to switch to tunnelling and other underground mining methods for which its workforce of about 350 people are ill-equipped. Government is insisting that GGM explain what will happen to its current workers, notwithstanding the fact that the switch to underground mining at Geita is predicted to yield some $230 million a year. GGM executives have responded telling government that, although the majority of its workers are likely to be laid off, the company has begun training about 150 in underground mining techniques.
In 2019 the Zanzibar government signed a PSA with RAK Gas, a petroleum company based in the UAE. The agreement provides for oil and gas exploration work to be undertaken in the Zanzibar-Pemba block and aerial and other pre-drilling surveys have so far been conducted. In September the Zanzibar President, Ali Mohamed Shein, visited the UAE and met with the management of the RAK Gas company to be briefed on the initial survey work. On his return to Zanzibar he was at pains to stress that his government was fully committed to the project saying that, contrary to rumours, it does not flout the Constitution.
by Ben Taylor
World Bank highlights poverty reduction
The Tanzania Mainland Poverty Assessment Report, published by the World Bank, found that the national poverty rate fell from 34.4% to 26.4% between 2007 and 2018. The report attributed the trend to gradual improvement in living conditions and human capital.
The report also noted, however, that this success is not unmitigated, as poverty was not reduced as much as the population grew. This resulted in an increase in the absolute number of poor people, with 14 million in 2018 living below the poverty line, up from 13 million people in 2007.
Nor has poverty reduction kept pace with economic growth, with the result that inequality has worsened. According to the report, this is due to the concentration of employment in slow-growing sectors and the slow transformation of the economy. Industry and services – with fewer, better educated workers – are growing faster than agriculture, driving the growth and transformation of the economy.
“Vulnerability is still high, with findings showing that for every four Tanzanians who moved out of poverty, three fell into it,” according to the report. “A large number of non-poor people living just above the poverty line are at risk of slipping below it.”
However, the report also noted that country’s strategy to diversify toward solar energy has started to pay off, particularly in rural areas, where 33 percent of households use solar energy for lighting compared to 14 percent in urban areas.
The findings prompted the World Bank to call for more attention for agriculture, which it says offers opportunities for accelerating poverty reduction.
“Since agriculture already accounts for a quarter of total GDP and two-thirds of jobs, enhanced agricultural growth must be part of the strategy to create more and better jobs and alleviate poverty,” said World Bank country director Bella Bird during the report’s unveiling.
The World Bank said Tanzania’s economy will grow by 5.8% in 2020, up from 5.6% forecast for 2019, and growth will rise to 6.1% in 2021. These forecasts are lower than the government’s official estimate of 7.1%.
International concern over national debt
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Brooking Institute have separately expressed concern at rising public debt in East Africa, including Tanzania.
The IMF, in its regional economic outlook report for sub-Saharan Africa, highlighted surging public debt-to-GDP ratios for Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. “An over-reliance on commercial public debt exposes sovereign balance sheets to greater rollover and exchange rate risks,” said the report. “An increase in debt from domestic creditors could crowd out financing for private sector projects,” the report also noted.
According to Brookings, these countries are shifting away from official multilateral creditors to non-concessional, commercial debt with relatively higher interest rates and lower maturities. The trend is raising concerns around debt sustainability given the possibility of higher refinancing risks and foreign exchange risks.
The region’s economies have fallen into a financial fix as they attempt to fund persistent budget deficits and implement mega infrastructure projects. As a result, the economies have resorted to massive borrowing from both domestic and international markets.
Tanzania’s public debt stood at $36.78 billion in February 2019, according to the Bank of Tanzania, representing 37.7% of GDP.
The country’s Finance Minister, Philip Mpango, attributed the increase to new loans secured to fund infrastructure projects such as construction of the terminal III of the Julius Nyerere International Airport, power generation projects, and the construction of roads, bridges and the standard gauge railway line.
CRDB Bank secures green finance accreditation
CRDB Bank has been accredited by the United Nations Green Climate Fund (GCF) for the implementation of green financing in Tanzania. CRDB Bank becomes the 3rd commercial bank in Africa to obtain this accreditation, after Ecobank Ghana and Attijariwafa Bank of Morocco.
The objective of the Green Climate Fund is to “support projects, programmes, policies and other activities in developing countries using thematic funding windows”. It is intended that the Green Climate Fund be the centrepiece of efforts to raise Climate Finance under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
Accreditation followed an extensive due-diligence assessment, conducted by GCF to ascertain the bank’s preparedness in managing climate change programmes. It means CRDB Bank will be able to finance multiple large-scale projects with high impact to the social and economic development of Tanzania.
Tanzanian bureaucracy drove VW to Rwanda?
A former Minister, Charles Kitwanga, told parliament in November that Volkswagon, Europe’s biggest carmaker, decided to invest in Rwanda after attempts to set up a car assembly in Tanzania failed due to ‘deeprooted bureaucracy.’
Mr Kitwanda urged the current administration to urgently address bureaucracy to attract more investors as the country gears for industrialization. “The bureaucracy we have in our system is so bad,” he said. “VWs are now made in Rwanda, they were to be assembled here.”
Last year, Rwanda’s first domestically built car rolled off the assembly line at Volkswagen’s new factory in Kigali. Mr Kitwanga says he wasn’t happy with the fact that a neighbouring country was making strides with a business that should have been put up in Tanzania.
In the latest World Bank ‘Doing Business 2020’, Rwanda maintained its position as the leading country in East Africa on the ease of doing business. Tanzania came a distant 141 out of the 190 countries in the index.
A merger between Tigo Tanzania and Zantel was recently concluded. In a joint interview with Forbes Magazine, the directors of the two companies said customers had expressed concern about the merger and its benefits but were assured that due to the strong integration of the companies the customers will enjoy services of the highest quality.
They said the merger brings together the strengths of both companies as well as providing the best of both Mainland and island, urban and rural areas.
Tigo Tanzania Executive Director, Simon Karikari, said he believes that the merger will create the best cellular telecommunications sector in Tanzania now and in the future, adding that a market with such integrated companies will drive creativity.
Plea bargains encouraged for economic crimes
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Biswalo Mganga, has announced that the government has opened a special bank account to enable those who are accused of economic sabotage and have sought amnesty to return the money to the government. According to Mr Mganga, the account has been opened at the Bank of Tanzania following a government directive.
Mr Biswalo told reporters that people accused of economic sabotage related offences, who seek to be pardoned, will have to deposit the money to the account upon approval by the court.
by Naomi Rouse
Obstacles to Tanzanian Quality Education Dream
In September 2019, The Citizen interviewed Sister Annette Farrell, a Holy Union Sister from Ireland, and Director of the Holy Union Sisters Debrabant High School in Mbagala about the state of education in Tanzania.
In the 1980s when Sister Farrell first started working in the Tanzanian education sector, a small number of elite, highly academic students qualified for secondary school, and schools were relatively well resourced to cater for these numbers. Now that access has increased, the same academic rigour is still expected of all, as if all students are expected to proceed to university. But students have different abilities and are ‘tortured’ by this system that is only designed for the most academically gifted.
“When I came to Tanzania in the 1980s the secondary section was tiny… but the academic programmes were very good. [They] suited the people who were chosen to be in secondary schools at that time. They had to have high academic ability as well as good character. Today there is only one programme for everyone. So children who have no capability in mathematics and no interest are forced to do the same exam as their counterparts brilliant in the subject. This programme could perhaps suit 10% and neglect the other 90%. This system is a disaster in the country’s quality education dream, as we are sacrificing the majority for the few.”
The system neglects other subjects and talents such as music, drama, sport, and computers. While highlighting the shortage of teachers as a major problem, she would not support an expansion of the system as it currently is, saying “it won’t make sense at all to be paying so many teachers throughout the country to produce the kind of results we are getting at Form Four.”
She highlighted lack of planning and investment, with overcrowded schools and ‘one teacher doing the work of three’. She reminded readers that ‘free education’ is paid for by citizen’s taxes but that citizens are not getting what they are paying for. She opposes the policy that prevents parents from contributing to schools to help improve them. Sister Farrell applauded the government’s initiatives to promote inclusion of students with disabilities. (The Citizen)
World Bank Report reveals reasons behind low learning levels
Reacting to the World Bank report: Ending Learning Poverty, what will it take? education stakeholders said that low budgetary allocations were the main cause of low literacy levels for 10 – 14 year olds. The report showed that 87% of 10 – 14 year olds in Sub Saharan Africa cannot comprehend a short, simple story.
Despite increasing enrolment in Tanzania, budget allocation has declined from 19 to 16% of Tanzania’s total budget. Spending per primary school pupil declined from TSh 335,891 in 2016/17 to TSh 220,566 in the current fiscal year.
Tusiime School Assistant Manager highlighted the importance of early years programmes to help develop children’s intellectual development.
The Human Capital Index shows that the productivity of the average child born in Africa today will be only 40% of what it could be if there were proper investment in health and education. (The Citizen)
Loans body tasked over boom delay
The Higher Education Students Loans Board was directed to meet with the student union to explain the delay in disbursing student loans. The University of Dar es Salaam Students Union (Daruso) had threatened a strike if the loans were not disbursed within 72 hours. However, HESLB Executive Director explained that students needed to pass their exams first, and that this was an issue of procedure. (The Citizen)
Over 50,000 students miss out on Form One selection for 2020
A total of 58,699 students who passed their Primary School Leaving Examination have not secured places at Form One due to shortage of classrooms, amounting to 7.7% of students affected. The affected pupils are from 13 regions. Kigoma was worst affected with 12,092 pupils not selected, being required to wait until classrooms are constructed. The Minister for Local Government instructed the respective regions to make sure classrooms are constructed by February 2020. (The Citizen)
CDRB bank to issue loans to students
CRDB is introducing a new service ‘Boom Advance’ to help students whose study loans have been delayed. ‘Boom’ denotes the amount allocated to students for meals and accommodation. CRDB’s Head of Consumer Banking, Mr Stephen Adili, said “For a long time we have looking at how we could find a lasting solution to this challenge which affects students academically”.
Boom Advance loans will be interest free and issued electronically through the SimBanking app. Loans of TSh 40,000 to TSh 120,000 will be available, and repayable within 45 days. Students must be registered with the Higher Education Students Loans Board to qualify. (The Citizen)
Invest more in education, Dar think-tank tells government
Executive Director of REPOA, Dr Donald Mmari, called for the government to invest more in education in order to accelerate the country’s development, learning from countries like the Netherlands which have succeeded as a result of investment in education.
He made the remarks at the relaunch of the Netherlands Alumni Association of Tanzania (NAAT) which brings together Tanzanians who have studied in the Netherlands to exchange ideas to contribute to Tanzania’s economic development. Dr Mmari said that 5,000 Tanzanians who have studied in the Netherlands are keen to be involved in the association, and he stressed that they have a responsibility to share what they have learned, for the benefit of Tanzania. He said there was much to learn from countries like the Netherlands – although geographically small, it is the 4th country in the global competitive economy after the USA, Singapore and China. He highlighted the Netherlands’ leadership in the renewable energy sector, and the support provided to Tanzania in renewable energy, agriculture, health and technology. (IPP Media)
by Paul Harrison
Tanzanian tourism continues to grow steadily
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), reported in the Daily News, the tourism industry grew by 5.6% in 2018 across Africa compared to a global average of 3.9%, making Africa the second fastest growing region after Asia-Pacific. Tanzania continues to outpace many other East African nations, with a solid product range of safaris, walking, mountaineering and beach tourism boosting the industry which accounts for 17% of Tanzania’s GDP. The Citizen reports that Tanzania was 10th in the tourism growth ranking across the continent, based on the WTTC’s 2019 Competitive Index.
However, the ease of doing business for the tourism sector is diminished by a robust bureaucracy, a forthright national revenue service and ongoing difficulties in accessing foreign exchange, for companies and tourists alike. Queues at a restricted number of dedicated forex bureaux have become commonplace. As the country looks to improve the investment climate through 2020, the government faces a challenge to align pro-investment messaging with improvements in bureaucracy. For instance, The Citizen reported the government statement that it will simplify the procedure for wildlife filming, recognising the potential for wildlife films and documentaries to attract visitors.
Ongoing investments in infrastructure include a new train operating between Dar es Salaam and Moshi, expected to encourage hikers, backpackers and those seeking a slower pace of sightseeing. Investments in the road network aid tourism growth although these sometimes risk impacting the viability of key wild animal populations such as lions, which require large undisturbed areas and the ability to migrate freely.
Lions, symbol of Tanzania’s might, at risk
In Tanzanian daily life, the lion features on currency, commercial logos, kanga designs and tourist shirts, but the economic benefits of lions to Tanzania are not widely known. There are around 8,000 lions in Tanzania, accounting for over a third of all lion populations globally. This point of pride for Tanzania is also a great responsibility. 60% of Tanzania’s lions live outside protected areas and are increasingly threatened. Lions are vital to Tanzania’s tourist industry, with tourists wanting to see lions above all else. Healthy lion populations keep herbivore populations under control which keeps diseases at bay; their habitats serve as carbon sinks. Water from lion habitats feeds rivers, supplying major cities and conserving lion habitat ensures more resilient ecosystems. Yet investments into lion conservation are limited, reflecting a lack of awareness of their plight. A campaign called #bethepride has been launched, with national and international support, to raise awareness of dwindling lion populations, increase Tanzanians pride in them and help individual Tanzanians act to protect them.
Managing links between communal lands, game reserves and national parks is important to ensure suitable space for lions. There can be unintended consequences of partitioning protected areas, as if a new national park is created, it can be tempting to build roads around it. Yet habitat connectivity and countering the ‘edge effect’ to parks and reserves is critical. A holistic approach to protected areas management is required; the links need to be safeguarded where they can.
New national parks bring new opportunities
The government continues to invest into and expand the national parks system, with 22 parks in the national park system under Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA). The largest national park in Africa, Nyerere National Park, was gazetted in November 2019. This has upgraded 30,893 square kilometres (out of 50,000) of the Selous Game Reserve. Also recently gazetted are Ugalla River National Park (3.865 km2) and Kigosi National Park (7,460 km2), both also former game reserves.
The transfer of significant, prime sections of game reserve wildlife real estate to TANAPA suggests that government sees future value to its wildlife economy increasingly in photographic tourism alongside utilisation. To safeguard against the variability of the tourism industry, the government will need to ensure a diverse tourism product and investment strategy to counter reduced returns elsewhere across the wildlife estate, including from hunting.
Investment into new destinations and effective national and international marketing of them will be critical, especially of hitherto unknown destinations in the Southern Circuit—the collection of parks across the south of the country. A new arrangement for TANAPA to be managed from four regional zonal offices (north, south, east and west) will no doubt help evolving operations, reducing pressure on Arusha headquarters. Financing will be key, both in terms of short-term support from government and donors (in place now from the USA, Germany, the United Nations and the World Bank, amongst others) as well as long-term economic sustainability.
Increasing national park numbers may also indicate a response to challenges faced in realising the potential of the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA), established in 2014. This includes the issue that wildlife utilisation, including hunting, is increasingly controversial in some consumer countries. Countries like the USA have closed elephant and lion trophy imports for significant periods and the UK is considering a total ban on wildlife trophy imports. Social media reflects an increasing global intolerance of hunting, putting pressure on governments in consumer countries. A number of major safari operators have surrendered concessions, including some in place for decades, citing a lack of demand. Wildlife utilisation remains a part of the wildlife economy picture, if diminished; the remaining area of the Selous game reserve set aside for utilisation after the creation of Nyerere national park is down to around a third of the original size.
Meanwhile, the Rufiji Hydropower project is ongoing at Stiegler’s Gorge, with ambitious plans for completion by 2022 requiring excavation of the Rufiji river dam site throughout 2020 and work on the reservoir in 2021 before construction of the power plant. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, working with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) were critical of TANESCO’s Strategic Environmental Assessment for the hydropower project in a review submitted to the government in late 2019. The question mark remains over retention of the area’s World Heritage status. The project, expected to generate 2,100 megawatts with an annual output of 6,300 GWh, is critical to the President’s industrialisation strategy.
Anti-poaching strategy yielding results with increased political will
Tanzania’s increasingly hard line on poaching, including on the involvement of foreign nationals, is reflected in the government’s 2014 national strategy to combat poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, supported by the United Nations and other partners. This responded to an international poaching crisis which saw the Selous game reserve hardest hit. After a slow start to implementation, ongoing institutional reforms and a strong focus on enforcement under the current government have seen the strategy bear fruit. Previously disparate law enforcement units that tackled poaching from different perspectives have been brought together under the national task force on anti-poaching, spearheaded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism with collaboration of other national law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
High-level cases have successfully been brought to justice. Notably, coordinated intelligence and enforcement efforts within Tanzania led to the arrest of Chinese national Yang Fenglan alongside several Tanzanian accomplices. The so-called ‘Ivory Queen’ was convicted in 2019 of smuggling around 700 elephant tusks and accused of operating an ivory smuggling ring. Her arrest and prosecution were openly supported by the Chinese government.
Poaching levels are now dropping consistently and there has been a notable increase in elephant populations over the last two years, though diligent efforts and ongoing funding are required to ensure the crisis does not return. Funding for anti-poaching and intelligence work comes through the Tanzania Wildlife Protection Fund, supported by key national protected areas agencies. Ongoing supplementary investments from international donors into implementation of the national anti-poaching strategy are expected to be necessary in the short term.
Charcoal, certified timber and tackling deforestation
The Citizen reported that the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, working with the Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network, has provided training in Morogoro to local people on sustainable harvesting of trees for charcoal. Charcoal use remains widespread and significantly contributes to deforestation. These efforts support community revenue generation, education and awareness and could be replicated widely. Meanwhile in southern Tanzania, a number of timber companies are now Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, in an effort to ensure the sustainability of the trade in valuable timber resources, from community managed forests as well as government reserves.
by David Brewin
Food reserve steps in as food prices rise sharply
The National Food Reserve Authority (NFRA) released 3,000 tonnes of maize into the market in early January, in response to a rapid rise in food prices. Prior to the release, wholesale maize prices in Dar es Salaam had reached TSh 87,000 for a 100kg sack, compared to around TSh 50,000 twelve months earlier.
NFRA chief executive, Milton Lupa, told The Citizen that the decision to release thousands of tonnes of maize into the market was aimed at stabilising prices. “CPB (the Cereals and Other Produce Board) will also release maize flour into the market in Dar es Salaam,” he added.
A number of regions – including Dodoma, Tabora, Singida, Mara and Shinyanga – will be supplied with maize from NFRA’s storage facilities, while Dar es Salaam will receive maize flour from CPB.
Opposition politician, Zitto Kabwe had earlier decried the high food prices and accused the government of failing to set aside adequate funds for buying reserve food. “In October 2015 when the fifth phase government came into office, the country’s food reserves amounted to 253,000 tonnes. However, they have since declined to 55,000 tonnes, which is equivalent to one kilogramme for every Tanzanian,” said Mr Kabwe.
Mr Lupa said an evaluation by the Agriculture ministry showed that 25,000 tonnes of maize were needed to offset any shortage up to March, this year, and 35,000 tonnes to May, adding that NFRA expects to purchase 110,000 tonnes of maize in May and June, this year. He said NFRA will this week dispatch 7,000 tonnes of maize to Zimbabwe in line with an agreement to supply the country with 20,000 tonnes of the cereal.
Two months previous, in November, Agriculture Deputy Minister, Hussein Bashe, had said the government would use the grain reserve to ease food shortages but would otherwise leave market forces to determine how much consumers would pay for the commodities. “When maize prices were low, MPs blamed the government for banning exports at the expense of farmers. This time we have opened up and we will not intervene so that farmers can also benefit from the price increase,” said Mr Bashe, answering questions in Parliament.
“The government will not control prices but will promote more production, reduce production costs and create an enabling environment for competition which will regulate the prices,” he said.
World Bank report focusses on Agriculture
The World Bank’s latest Economic Update on Tanzania – titled ‘Realizing the Potential of Agriculture for Inclusive Growth and Poverty Reduction’ – paid particular attention to the country’s agriculture sector.
The agriculture sector provides livelihoods directly to around 55% of the population (and three quarters of the poor) and indirectly to a further 15% within related value chain functions such as traders, transporters and processors. The report also found that 368,000 new medium-scale farms established in Tanzania between 2008 and 2014 created 13 million days of additional work annually for hired workers.
The authors emphasise the importance of having supportive public policies and spending which attracts private investment, in order to catalyse a transformation in agriculture. “What we are seeing for example is that medium-sized farms grew from 23% of all farm land holdings in the country in 2008 to 35% in 2014; and these are in the 5–20 hectare (ha) range, compared to the typical smallholding of 1–2 ha, whose numbers are decreasing” said Holger Kray, World Bank Agriculture Practice Manager and co-author of the report.
“The current trends in agriculture offer a tremendous opportunity to catalyse private investment, both local and foreign, and raise the incomes of the poor,” said the World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Ms Bella Bird. “For Tanzania to speed up the agricultural transformation process, it should increase the quality and pace of needed policy reforms to make a business environment for agriculture more profitable and predictable,” she noted, adding: “We congratulate the government of Tanzania for improving the environment for agribusiness, by implementing local and national fiscal reforms, including removal of over 100 agriculture fees and taxes and limiting the use of export bans; a huge step forward.” (The Citizen, Daily News)
Cashew payments for 2018/19 still incomplete as 2019/20 market is extended
The government has not quite yet completed payments to cashew nut farmers for their 2018/19 crop. “The government has paid TSh707 billion out of TSh723 billion required, therefore we are supposed to make the remaining payment of TSh16 billion,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Japhet Hasunga, in early January.
The Minister added that the government’s evaluation team was still assessing eligibility of unpaid farmers, noting that payment would be concluded after the exercise has been completed.
This followed a meeting between Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa and cashew farmers from Ruangwa, Masasi and Tandahimba districts, after which the Prime Minister directed the ministry to conclude paying cashew farmers unpaid monies.
It also emerged that Tanzania has exported almost all the raw cashew nuts that were purchased by the government last season (213,000 tonnes out of the 225,000), according to the ministry of Agriculture. This earned $251.7 million (around TSh 580 billion), considerably less than the TSh 720 billion that the government’s chief spokesperson, Dr Hassan Abbas, said the government had spent in purchasing the nuts from farmers. It is also less than half the amount ($575 million) earned from the 2017/18 harvest, largely due to fluctuating global prices.
The ministry also said that over 4,800 tonnes were given to domestic processors, out of which over 800 tonnes have already been processed for export and domestic consumption. “We are looking for buyers of the remaining 4,000 tonnes. Some will be provided to local firms to strengthen the domestic processing capacity,” said Mr Hasunga.
Meanwhile, auctions for the 2019/20 crop of cashew nuts in Mtwara, Lindi and Ruvuma was extended by nine days to ensure that the entire crop is sold.
“This means that farmers remaining with unsold cashew nuts – and buyers who are willing to buy the crop – can continue to trade,” said the Minister, adding: “The government is aware that some farmers still have unsold stocks and they should, therefore, take advantage of the extended period.” Other regions with later harvest seasons, such as Coast, Tanga and other regions were not affected by the new deadline.
At the time of writing, 209,000 tonnes of raw cashews had been sold in the auctions, out of a projected total harvest of 290,000 tonnes in the 2019/20 farming season.
The Ministry is sticking to its promise not to interfere in raw cashew nut prices this year.
by Ben Taylor
Growth and growing pains for Air Tanzania
The fleet of aircraft operated by Air Tanzania (ATCL) continues to grow, with the arrival in December of a new Bombardier Q400. This is the eighth aircraft (two Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners, two Airbus A-220-300 and four Bombardier Q400s) to be purchased under the administration of President Magufuli, who has committed to reviving the national airline, with plans (and orders) in place to expand the fleet to eleven.
The plane’s arrival took place a day after President Magufuli had announced that the aircraft, which had previously been impounded in Canada in November had been released. The President did not give details of what was done that led to the release of the aircraft.
According to Foreign Affairs Minister, Palamagamba Kabudi, the seizure was because of a dispute between Tanzania and a South African farmer, Hermanus Steyn, “seeking compensation for a farm and other properties that was nationalized in the 1980s”. Mr Steyn had filed a claim in Canada.
This was the third seizure incident of an Air Tanzania aircraft, and the second in Canada. The third took place in August, when South African authorities impounded an Airbus 220-300 leased by Air Tanzania.
In October, ATCL indefinitely suspended flights to and from South Africa. The reason for the suspension was not disclosed, though it followed on from a temporary suspension that Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Isack Kamwelwe, had described as being “due to xenophobic violence”. However, suspicions remain that the court action in South Africa may have played a role. The temporary suspension was put in place in September, the day after the impounded plane was released.
The Dar es Salaam-Johannesburg route was launched in June 2019, with ATCL operating four flights a week. The maiden flight on the route saw a delegation from the national carrier turned away at the Oliver Tambo International Airport, blamed on a “miscommunication” between the airport and immigration officials. Two Tanzanian Ministers, several ATCL officials and journalists were denied entry into the airport for a welcome ceremony.
Progress with rail revival
Tanzania Railway Corporation (TRC) started operating a new scheduled train from Dar es Salaam to Moshi via Tanga in December 2019, following successful trial trip one week earlier.
TRC is restarting the route after 25 years with trains that will have eight passenger wagons and the capacity to transport 700 passengers.
Earlier in 2019, freight services connecting Tanga and Moshi were restarted, with the hope of reducing heavy transport of cement on the trunk roads connecting Arusha and Moshi with the coast. The route was briefly suspended in October following rain damage.
At the launch event for the freight route, the Prime Minister indicated that the long-disused section of the line between Moshi and Arusha would also be restored. TRC has also reported that a feasibility study for extending the line as far as Musoma has been completed.
The upgrade of the Central Line to standard gauge (SGR) has also seen progress. TRC Director General, Mr Masanja Kadogosa, said the construction of the first SGR section from Dar es Salaam from Morogoro has reached 72% completion while the Morogoro to Dodoma section has reached 22%. TSh 2.1 billion from internal sources has financed this work.
New ship to be called “MV Mwanza Hapa Kazi Tu”
Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Isack Kamwelwe, has announced that a new ship under construction in Mwanza is to be called MV Mwanza Hapa Kazi Tu.
The new ship, costing TSh 89 billion, will be 92.6 metres long, 17 metres wide and 11.2 metres high, with a carrying capacity of 1200 passengers and 400 tonnes of cargo. Upon completion it will be owned and operated by the government, plying the waters of Lake Victoria.
‘Hapa Kazi Tu’ is a slogan President John Magufuli used during 2015 presidential campaign. The slogan translates as Just work, nothing else.
The minister explained that there is an official government committee that devises names for government projects.
While on a campaign trail in 2015, President John Magufuli promised to build a new ship to replace MV Bukoba which was involved in a tragic accident 1996.
Looks don’t matter at Air Tanzania, says Minister
Deputy Minister of Works, Transport and Communication, Atastashta Nditiye sparked laughter in Parliament by stating that the government does not use beauty as a key criterion when hiring staff for Air Tanzania. He was responding to an MP calling on the airline to emulate other carriers by hiring staff with aesthetic qualities that attract clients to improve the airline’s visibility.
Nditiye explained there is a well laid down procedure that governs the hiring of staff at ATCL including that the applicant must be fluent in both Kiswahili and English and must have a certificate in either airport ground service or in-flight service. “Above all they must be of good conduct which has to be proven,” said Mr Nditiye.
by Ben Taylor
Debate on Health Insurance scheme
The government has launched new health insurance schemes, aimed at those not in formal employment, prompting discussion of such a scheme should operate in order to serve citizens best. Known as Najali Afya (I care about health), Wekeza Afya (Invest in health) and Timiza Afya (Achieve health), the new schemes are run by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).
At the launch, the director general of NHIF, Dr Bernard Konga, said the newly introduced packages will enable more people to access healthcare products and services. Previously, he said, health insurance scheme mainly covered workers in the formal economy. Under the new packages, membership fees are pegged at between TSh 192,000 and TSh 516,000 for Tanzanians aged from 18 to 39 years.
Earlier, Mr Konga had appealed to the government to make health insurance enrolment mandatory, so the country would achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC). According to him, under the current system most people remain uncovered because it is optional to join the health insurance schemes.
“At least 65% of the population doesn’t have access to the quality health services in the country because they have not enrolled on health insurance schemes,” said Dr Konga. “This can be eliminated only if the health insurance enrolment is made mandatory just like it is in some countries.”
The Parliamentary Committee on Social Services and Community Development noted that it was “no walk in the park” for low-income families to afford the annual fees. The committee’s chairman, Mr Peter Serukamba, suggested that the fees be paid on monthly basis during the year. Other committee members pointed to the fact that many health problems are not covered by the schemes, including cancer, hypertension and diabetes.
Further, opposition party ACT-Wazalendo criticised the government over the new schemes, arguing that it sought to exploit people through turning provision of basic services into a business, and that it would create social classes in accessing health care services. They argued that nobody ever chooses to fell sick or suffer from one kind or other of disease.
The Minister for Health, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, responded in a tweet, saying “the packages are entirely voluntary. No one is forced to enrol in one form or the other. Besides, they have not replaced the Community Health Insurance (CHF) arrangement, where the annual contribution rate remains TSh 30,000 for a household consisting of up to six members.”
The NHIF itself was quick to defend the fees for the schemes, arguing that they were reasonable and reflect the high healthcare costs.
Health Insurance has expanded considerably in recent years, with coverage rising to around 30% of citizens in 2018 from 20% just four years earlier. Expansion has been led by two government initiatives, namely NHIF and the CHF. This progress, and the new schemes, will not achieve the government’s previous target of universal insurance coverage by 2020. However, household surveys suggest that those with health insurance are more likely to seek professional help when they fall ill, and that they pay considerably less for their health services when the do so.
Ebola scare flares briefly
Ebola-related panic arose in Dar es Salaam and Mwanza in early September, when two patients showed Ebola-like symptoms. One of the patients, a 34 year old Tanzania doctor studying for a post-graduate course in Kampala, Uganda, died in Dar es Salaam on September 8. She was undergoing treatment at the Temeke Hospital Ebola Treatment Unit and her burial was supervised by the authorities, according to a leaked report by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In response, some foreign embassies – including both the UK and the US – issued alerts to their citizens resident or travelling in Tanzania. The UK notice stated that “it appears probable that this is an Ebola-related death.”
The government moved quickly to allay fears. “We took samples of those two cases and I can confirm that the patients were not infected with the Ebola virus,’’ said Health Minister, Ms Ummy Mwalimu at a press conference. She added that she was the only authority mandated to announce an outbreak of diseases such as Ebola and other life-threatening epidemics, and termed reports which say six other people had developed Ebola-like symptoms as rumours.
However, several commentators reacted with some scepticism, pointing to a later WHO report that itself expressed caution: “to date [late September], clinical data, results of the investigations, possible contacts and potential laboratory tests performed for differential diagnosis of those patients have not been communicated to WHO. This information is required for WHO to be able to fully assess of the potential risk posed by this event.”
As no further cases were reported, it seems probably that these cases were not in fact Ebola. However, the government’s defensiveness and lack of transparency led to one observer of global health matters to state that “Tanzania has lost a great deal of credibility” over the matter.
There is heightened vigilance across East Africa over Ebola due to an outbreak of the viral disease in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and a reported case in Western Uganda at the border with the DRC (see TA 124).
DRC is grappling with the world’s second largest Ebola epidemic on record, with more than 2500 lives lost and 3000 confirmed infections since the outbreak was announced on August 1, 2018.
“I urge the public to take precautions. We have enhanced screening for suspected cases at key border areas with Uganda and DRC and ports,” said Ms Mwalimu.