by Ben Taylor

General election looms large
With Presidential and Parliamentary elections scheduled for 28th October 2020, the political atmosphere has been tense over recent weeks and months. President Magufuli of the ruling CCM party is seeking re­election for a second five-year term that, under the current constitution, will be his final term. He is opposed by two main opposition candidates; Tundu Lissu of Chadema and Bernard Membe of ACT Wazalendo.

Introducing the candidates
Tundu Lissu is the former president of the Tanganyika Law Society and outspoken critic of President Magufuli. He drew international headlines in September 2017 when he was shot multiple times in daylight by unknown assailants outside his home near the Parliament in Dodoma. To date, nobody has been arrested or charged in connection with the attack. Lissu was airlifted to Nairobi and later to Belgium where he spent nearly three years recovering. He returned to Tanzania in July 2020.

Since 2010, Chadema has been Tanzania’s leading opposition party, at least in mainland Tanzania (CUF has been the largest in Zanzibar), and its presidential candidates, Dr Wilbroad Slaa in 2010 and Edward Lowassa in 2015, achieved vote shares of 27% and 40% respectively. Neither Dr Slaa nor former Prime Minister Lowassa have stayed with Chadema. Lissu has been a prominent party figure since entering formal politics in 2010, acting for much of this time as the party’s legal affairs spokesman, and throughout as a prominent and vocal critic of the gov­ernment.

Bernard Membe is a former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2007-2015) under President Kikwete. He unsuccessfully sought the CCM nomi­nation for the Presidency in 2015. After losing out on that position to Magufuli, he did not seek re-election as an MP. Over the past five years he has been an occasional but largely underground critic of the President. He was expelled from the party in February 2020, either because he had “violated the party’s ethics and constitution” (according to the party’s Central Committee) or to prevent him from challenging the sitting President for the party’s nomination this year (according to Membe himself).

Shortly after this, he joined ACT Wazalendo, bringing him together with two other political heavyweights in the form of the party’s founder and leader, Zitto Kabwe, and former CUF leader and former Vice President of Zanzibar, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad.

President Magufuli will be well known to readers by now. He is no stranger to controversy, having attracted considerable international criticism for his tightening of restrictions on the media, civil society, freedom of expression and opposition political parties. He has also attracted criticism for his handling of the economy, with some respected observers recently suggesting that the economy is in a worse condition than the government claims (see Economics section, this issue).

Nevertheless, the President is thought to remain very popular with the general public. He is seen as hard working, dedicated to fighting corruption and getting a better deal for the country from foreign inves­tors. And he has delivered some high-profile projects over the first five years of his presidency, including several new aircraft for a revived Air Tanzania airline, progress on road and bridge building, rail upgrading, and power generation.

In the isles, the election dynamics will be quite different from the main­land. This has always been the case in the past, where close results, contested results and evidence of manipulated results have been the norm on Zanzibar, ever since multiparty democracy was reintroduced in 1995.

Voters will cast votes both for the President of Tanzania and the President of Zanzibar, but the focus of the campaigns will lie primarily on the latter. In this case, there will be no incumbent as the current president, Ali Mohammed Shein of CCM, is ineligible to run for a third term. Two candidates to replace him are prominent: Hussein Mwinyi of CCM and Seif Sharif Hamad of ACT Wazalendo. And there is a third candidate with little chance of winning but who could nevertheless disrupt the result: Mussa Haji Kombo of CUF.

Hussein Mwinyi is the son of former Tanzanian president, Ali Hassan Mwinyi. He has been an MP since 2000 and has held various ministerial positions over the past twenty years. Most recently, he has been Tanzania’s Minister of Defence since 2014. He won the party’s nomination easily with 79% of the vote.

Seif will contest the Zanzibar Presidency for the sixth time, but for the first time with ACT Wazalendo. His previous campaigns were all under the CUF banner, though he was forced to quit CUF in early 2019 after a power struggle with the party’s former national presidential candidate, Ibrahim Lipumba. However, although he lost the battle for control of CUF with Lipumba, he is widely seen as having won the war, as the vast majority of CUF members and elected officials joined Seif in moving to ACT Wazalendo, either at the same time or in the run up to this year’s campaign. In many cases they even took party offices and furniture with them, arguing that these belonged to individual party members who had let the party use them, rather than to the party itself. As a result, Seif will be the main challenger to CCM.

In contrast, the CUF candidate, Mussa Haji Kombo, is a relative unknown with little following across the isles, who is unlikely to attract more than a few less-engaged voters. Nevertheless, this could perhaps dilute the opposition vote. Given the tight results in previous Zanzibar elections, even a small dilution effect could be enough to affect the result. Indeed, some analysts (and many in ACT Wazalendo) see this as the main reason for the Lipumba faction’s takeover of CUF – that it represents a CCM dirty-tricks effort to divide and weaken the opposition on Zanzibar.

With the official campaigns due to start imminently at the time of writing (September 3rd), there are already signs that the election on Zanzibar will not be entirely free and fair. For example, the number of registered voters has fallen by over 10% compared to 2015. It is claimed that as many as 120,000 potential new voters who turned 18 since 2015 were unable to register due to problems getting Zanzibar identity cards. Further, many – perhaps most – ACT Wazalendo candidates on the isles have had their eligibility challenged by other candidates, including Seif Sharif Hamad himself, largely for minor administrative irregularities, such as using the party’s abbreviated name rather than the full name.

STOP PRESS: As of September 12th, the Zanzibar Electoral Commission cleared Mr Hamad’s candidacy, rejecting the objections that had been raised.

The prospect for opposition parties
Many of the same issues around candidate eligibility and voter registra­tion apply also in mainland Tanzania. Candidates have had eligibility challenged for issues as minor as entering DSM as their residence rather than spelling out Dar es Salaam in full.

Unresolved opposition concerns about the independence of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) lie at the heart of much of this. The controversial 2019 local elections and recent parliamentary and council by-elections, in which many candidates were disqualified even before the campaign began, undermined opposition confidence that NEC would act as an impartial adjudicator. In some cases, however, that experience seems to have prepared opposition parties for this campaign, with candidates going the extra mile to ensure their nomination forms are accepted and parties having legal teams on standby to deal with issues as they arise. Despite this, the CCM Secretary General announced at the end of August that in 18 constituencies, CCM candidates were elected unopposed as all opposition candidates had been disqualified.

In 2015, the major opposition parties joined forces to some extent, running a single candidate for each position so as not to split the opposition vote. That has not happened this time, and ACT and Chadema candidates are likely to draw voters away from each other, both at constituency and presidential level.

Taking a step back, the broader context is likely to make the election a difficult one for opposition party candidates, both at presidential and parliamentary levels. Many political party meetings and rallies have been disrupted or prevented from taking place over the past few years, making it hard for opposition parties to organise themselves and to build public support. Most prominent opposition figures have also spent much of the last three years fighting legal battles, and many have spent time in prison. Policing has become increasingly politicised. Clampdowns on media freedoms and freedom of expression have also created an environment in which newspaper editors and TV and radio producers know that any sign of coverage that criticises the government could lead to a suspension or ban, with potentially severe financial consequences. Even without the government making use of new powers in laws enacted since 2015, many in the media would prefer to err on the side of caution. [See previous issues for details.]

The prospects for CCM
The first previous Tanzanian president to contest re-election since the re-introduction of multiparty democracy, Benjamin Mkapa in 2000, won an increased share of the vote – from 62% to 72%. The second, Jakaya Kikwete in 2010, saw his share decline sharply – from 80% to 63%. In 2015, President Magufuli won with a lower vote share than any of his predecessors: 58%. On the face of it, this looks like he might be more vulnerable than either Mkapa in 2000 or Kikwete in 2010.

Nevertheless, while President Magufuli has drawn strong criticism from opposition politicians, pro-democracy activists both within the country and beyond, western diplomats and western media, he is thought to remain popular among the general population.

The President and CCM can point to a record of some attention-grabbing achievements. In launching his party’s campaign at a rally in Dodoma, President Magufuli said, “I have done a lot and you all are witnesses to this. I’m now asking for your vote to sustain the momentum and deliver new more.”

He listed some of the flagship projects he championed in the past five years as including the construction of standard gauge railway, the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Project at Stiegler’s Gorge that will produce up to 2,115 MW, the increased of number of students joining university and who benefit from study loans, a clampdown on corruption and waste, and the revitalisation of the national airline, ATCL. He has pointed to the country’s new status as a middle-income country (see Economics section, this issue). And he also claimed that energy access has improved from 35% to 85%. “We will keep on taking measures to reduce poverty by stressing on sectors such as agriculture, tourism and mining which employ more people,” he said.

The party’s manifesto highlights six key aims to build on these suc­cesses, namely:
i. to protect and strengthen the principles of human dignity, equality, justice and good governance in order to maintain peace, unity and solidarity in the country
ii. to develop a modern, integrated and competitive economy built on the basis of manufacturing, economic services and infrastruc­ture
iii. to revolutionize agriculture, livestock and fisheries to ensure food security and sustainable livelihoods and contribute fully to the development of our country
iv. to enhance access to quality health care, education, water, electric­ity and decent housing in both rural and urban areas
v. to encourage the use of research, science, technology and innova­tion as a tool for rapid social and economic development
vi. to create at least eight million jobs in the formal and informal sectors especially for youth.

It goes on to list an eye-catching 6,000km of roads to be constructed and surfaced with tarmac in the coming five years. For context, this is roughly the same as the total amount of paved road Tanzania had in 2013. Promised new projects include widening the Dar-Chalinze highway to eight lanes, ten new flyover junctions in Dar es Salaam similar to the one recently opened at the TAZARA junction, and widening of the road between the airport and the city centre.

Possible outcomes
There is no polling data available that can guide observers on this. Those organisations that have conducted credible polls in the past are either unwilling or unable to do so this time, after opinion surveys have become highly politicised in recent years. The head of one such organisation, Twaweza, Aidan Eyakuze, had his nationality questioned and passport seized after a survey in 2018 that showed a decline in the president’s approval rating [Full disclosure: the editor of Tanzanian Affairs and author of this article, Ben Taylor, also works as a consultant for Twaweza]. As a result, the most recent available survey dates from two and a half years before polling day – effectively useless.

The politicised policing and the tight restrictions on the media, oppo­sition parties and freedom of expression more generally may attract both international attention and the ire of the young, educated, urban-dwelling citizens who form the core support of the opposition parties. But for many citizens and voters, these things matter less than jobs, food on the table, schools and health services that function properly, a sense that a leader is on your side, and even a sense of national pride.

The state of the economy is more contentious. Official data paints a positive picture, but other sources suggest the true situation may not be so rosy [see Economics section, this issue]. Voters are more likely to vote according to their own personal economic realities – do they see job opportunities, do they feel food stress, etc. – than any official govern­ment statistics.

The Coronavirus pandemic has largely been neutralised as a factor in this election. While the true state of the outbreak in Tanzania remains unclear, media coverage within the country has almost entirely bought in to the government line that the outbreak has been defeated, and there has not been an overwhelming number of cases on a scale that cannot be dismissed as other issues – pneumonia, heart problems, diabetes, etc. [see next article]. As such, whether or not the pandemic is truly under control in Tanzania, the widespread perception among the public is that it has indeed been dealt with effectively.

Finally, the tightening of democratic space – and possible irregularities in the electoral process itself – do not bode well either for a free and fair election or for the ongoing process of establishing local democratic norms and practices. Further, irregularities and even perceived irregu­larities can both contribute significantly to heightened tensions and the kind of anger than can boil over into unrest. If the police are seen to be supporting one side over another, that could well make the situation worse.

It is not for this publication to issue any endorsements, or even to make a prediction about the results. We do, however, wish the country well as she goes to the polls. May the election be free and fair, and may it be peaceful.


By Ben Taylor

Prayers answered?
In the four months that have passed since the last issue of Tanzanian Affairs, Tanzania has defeated the Coronavirus. There have been no new infections and no deaths reported since early May – the only country in the world for which this is the case. President Magufuli has declared victory.

The President had previously called for the country to use the power of prayer against the virus, saying that the virus “could not survive in the body of Jesus”. He called for three days of national prayer and said God would protect Tanzanians against the virus.

So, did it work? Is this why Tanzania has reported no new cases?
It would be easier to answer the question – and indeed to report on the state of the outbreak in Tanzania more generally – if the government had released any new data since early May. It has not done so. On the website of the African Centres for Disease Control and the reports of the World Health Organisation, the number of positive cases in Tanzania has remained firmly stuck at 510 since May.

In a speech on May 3rd the President accused unnamed “imperialist foreign powers” of sabotaging the national response by providing ineffective testing kits or buying off laboratory employees. He said he had sent dummy samples from a pawpaw and goat for testing, with some producing positive results. Heads rolled at the national health laboratory. In the same speech, the president also suggested international media organisations – the BBC was not named, but the implication was clear – have been deliberately spreading scare stories to undermine Tanzania while ignoring the extent of the outbreak in their home countries. He called this “another form of warfare”. Reforms were instituted at the national laboratory, together with a promise that once testing facilities were working properly, regular reports on case numbers would resume. This has not happened.

Nor, however, has there been any compelling evidence to disprove the government’s claims. Hospitals have not been overwhelmed with huge numbers of patients – whether of COVID-19 or indeed of “pneumonia”. It could be possible to cover up or disguise a few hundred – or even a few thousand – COVID-19 cases, but not the 150,000-200,000 deaths suggested by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine’s epidemiological modelling for Tanzania, assuming an uncontrolled outbreak. That model projected that most of the fatalities would occur in July and August. It has clearly – and thankfully – not come to pass.

The result is two narratives on the state of the outbreak in Tanzania that exist entirely independently of each other. On the one hand, there are no new cases and victory has been declared. The absence of undeniable evidence to the contrary means that the national media has almost entirely bought in to this view, or lacks the basis on which to question it. Life has returned, for most, to something a lot like normal, and the public has largely moved on.

At the same time, it has been very easy for the international media to paint the President as dangerously naïve and misguided, and to foretell devastating consequences for the country.

The true situation may bear little relation to either picture. Indeed, looking beyond Tanzania, scientists are intrigued by the limited impact of the virus across much of Africa. In an article in early August, the journal Science looked at the numbers and found evidence of infection rates in several countries well above official case counts, but with very few people reporting symptoms.

For example, a study by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KMRI) Wellcome Trust Research Programme in June and July found that one in twenty Kenyans had COVID-19 antibodies – an indication of past infection. This would put the outbreak in Kenya on the scale of anything seen in Europe. And yet, at the time of the research, Kenyan hospitals were not reporting large numbers of patients and the official death toll stood at 100.

Similar studies in Mozambique and Malawi have reached similar conclusions. In the Malawian case, comparing findings with mortality ratios for COVID-19 elsewhere, researchers estimated that the reported number of deaths in Blantyre at the time, 17, was eight times lower than expected.

The discrepancy is unlikely to be solely due to lower testing numbers, otherwise overall mortality rates would be increasing, which does not appear to have happened. It could have more to do with the very low age profiles of African populations – the median age in Kenya is 20, in Spain it is 45. It could be that Africans have some form of genetic advantage, though higher fatality rates among ethnic minorities in western countries suggest otherwise. Or it could be that regular exposure to parasites like Malaria and to a range of COVID-like viruses has helped prime people’s immune system to respond effectively.

This all raises the question of whether the continent should try for “herd immunity” – letting the virus run its course to allow the population to become immune, perhaps while shielding the most vulnerable. But Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council, says it could be dangerous to base COVID-19 policies on antibodies. It’s not clear whether antibodies actually confer immunity, and if so, how long it lasts, she notes.

The herd immunity strategy arguably (and charitably) reflects the path that Tanzania has effectively taken. It may yet work. And yet, with no data being released, we have no way of knowing.


by Roger Nellist

Tanzania generates first wind power

In June 2020, in an important first step for Tanzania, a wind farm in Mufindi District generated 0.8 MW of electricity in test production. The wind plant has been developed by the Rift Valley Energy Group (RVEG) and consists of three large wind turbines which, when fully commis­sioned, are expected to generate 2.4 MW that will ensure affordable power to 32 villages which are currently being supplied by the 4MW Mwenga Hydro Plant. The network is the first private large-scale rural power network in Tanzania and any surplus power is sold to TANESCO under a power purchase agreement.

A spokesman for RVEG said: “The facility will ensure the continued availability of affordable power to the rapidly growing number of rural customers within the network, throughout the year, specifically in the dry season when the available water for the Mwenga Hydro Plant is low…… Additionally, it will cater for further expansion of the rural electricity distribution network into those remaining areas of villages that are located near the rural network area, and are still unconnected”. RVEG offered a discount price of TSh 25,000 (about £9) until October for new customers to get connected.

Mineral Concentrate Exports resume
In May 2020, the government at last granted an export permit allowing 277 containers of gold and copper concentrate material to be released from Dar port for sale abroad by Twiga Minerals Corporation (TMC). The containers had been seized in 2017 following an order by President Magufuli prohibiting their export until unpaid taxes by Acacia Mining and other irregularities at Acacia’s three Tanzanian gold mines had been resolved.

Resolution of those issues came in the form of the suite of agreements that government negotiated with Acacia’s parent company, Barrick Gold. Those agreements were signed in January 2020 and put an end to the acrimonious dispute between the parties that had lasted for three years and significantly disrupted production at the mines. [The protracted saga has been reported in previous editions of TA]. The negotiated settlement has resulted in a radical restructuring of Acacia’s former gold mining operations -with the demise of Acacia, with Tanzania and Barrick becoming shareholders in the new joint venture company (TMC) and with the future economic benefits from mine production being shared (in as yet an unspecified manner).

The technical investigative committee that Magufuli established in 2017 to examine the value of the concentrates estimated that the 277 containers included minerals worth TSh 829 billion. That sum was very considerably more than the amounts declared by Acacia and the Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency.

In a statement Barrick also said that the shipping of some 1,600 containers of concentrate stockpiled from the Bulyanhulu and Buzwagi gold mines resumed in April.

Tanzania receives US$100 million from Barrick
At the end of May, in accordance with the terms of the negotiated settlement between government and Barrick Gold, Barrick paid $100 million (approx. TSh 230 billion) to Tanzania. It was the first tranche of the $300 million that the giant mining company agreed to pay to settle the long-running tax dispute between the parties. When presented with a representative cheque at a ceremony in Dodoma, the Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango, said: “I congratulate Barrick for implementing our agreement and call upon other mining firms to emulate the move in ensuring a win-win situation”.

Tanzanite gemstone discoveries make latest billionaire
In June 2020, a small-scale miner Mr Saniniu Laizer from Simanjiru in Manyara Region sold two huge Tanzanite gemstones to the government and became Tanzania’s latest Shilling billionaire. With a combined weight of just over 14 kgs, they were valued at TSh 7.7 billion (about $3.4 million). Authorities confirmed that they were the biggest Tanzanites ever to be discovered. Mr Laizer was commended by both President Magufuli and Mines Minister Biteko, who signalled the importance of the small-scale mining sector in the country despite some detractors and that the discoveries proved that Tanzania did not have to be wholly dependent on foreign mining companies. Magufuli, speaking in a broadcast telephone call, said: “Laizer’s incident sends a signal that Tanzania is rich”.
Then Laizer’s luck struck for a third time. In early August, he announced he had discovered a third big Tanzanite stone weighing 6 kgs that was valued at about $2 million.

Tanzanites, which have a dark blue-violet colour, are one of the rarest gemstones on our planet. Remarkably, they are only to be found in Tanzania, where the law specifies that they must be sold to the government.

Williamson Diamond Mine sale?
The Williamson Diamond Mine at Mwadui is owned 25% by the Tanzanian government and 75% by UK-based Petra Diamonds (which also operates three diamond mines in South Africa). However, at the end of June Petra announced that it was facing mounting losses and debts because of depressed global markets, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic (that had apparently caused the price of diamonds to drop from about $246 per carat before the coronavirus outbreak to $135 by March 2020). Petra therefore wished to divest its Tanzanian and South African assets and was also offering itself up for sale – as part of a strategic review of its commercial options.

However, Petra’s announcement seems to have taken the Tanzanian authorities by surprise. Government said it was not given prior notice of the announcement and would block the sale of the Williamson mine since it has a first right of refusal. In response, Petra said it had apologised for its oversight in not first communicating its sale announcement to the government, adding that it was considering all its options to determine what will be in the best interests of the company and its shareholders. Minerals Minister Biteko said government was dissatisfied with the manner in which Petra was going about resolving its problems.


Mr David Concar, the new High Commissioner (photo FCO)

A new British High Commissioner for the UK in Tanzania, Mr David Concar, took up his post in August.

Mr Concar previously served as Director of Protocol at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), as UK Ambassador in Mogadishu, Somalia between 2016 and 2019, and as the FCO head of international organisations department and commonwealth envoy between 2014 and 2016. He also worked as the FCO’s head of climate change and energy department between 2012 and 2014 and from 2006 to 2012 as the counsellor responsible for prosperity, climate change and energy, science and innovation in Beijing, China. Before joining the FCO he was a science journalist.

Mr Concar tweeted that he was “really excited to be returning to Africa, to start work with the UK’s wonderful team at the High Commission.” He replaces Sarah Cooke, who had served as UK High Commissioner in Dar es Salaam since 2016, during a time of sometimes strained relations between the diplomatic community and the government of Tanzania. Over this period, western diplomats in Tanzania have grown increasingly concerned about declining respect for democracy and the rule of law in the country, and have on occasion spoken out publicly with their criticism of the Tanzanian government.

Ms Cooke’s departure comes shortly after she attracted some controversy in Tanzania by meeting with opposition leader Zitto Kabwe of the ACT Wazalendo party. The Registrar of Political Parties wrote to Mr Kabwe demanding assurance that the meeting did not violate Section 6C(4) of the Political Parties Act, Cap 258. The Registrar’s office says the law prohibits non-citizens from holding meetings with leaders of Tanzanian political parties. ACT General Secretary Ado Shaibu responded by saying that “they held private talks, after all, he (Kabwe) is free to meet any person and talk about anything as provided under the country’s constitution.”


by Paul Harrison

Tanzania attempts to open up to tourism: rest of the world responds cautiously

After responding quickly to a surge of the coronavirus pandemic by halting incoming flights as the virus took hold across much of the world in late March and early April 2020, Tanzania opened its airspace up again in mid-May, with the resumption of international flights. A number of conditions are being applied to try and ensure at-risk travellers are not allowed entry, however the general approach is to welcome tourists back and encourage a revival of the tourism and hospitality sector which had completely stalled, in line with the global situation. According to The Citizen, Precision Air reported an 81% drop in passenger numbers in 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

A number of tourists have now returned, taking advantage of having wild national parks, wildebeest migration spectacles and beautiful beaches much more to themselves, whilst persistent marketing by the Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) has led to a steady monthly increase in the number of sport hunters visiting the game reserves. Tanzania Tourist Board continues with advertising and marketing #TanzaniaUnforgettable and Serengeti Live on YouTube.

Overall, numbers are significantly lower than in previous years still, with many would-be tourists erring on the side of caution before travelling to Tanzania, or indeed travelling generally. Factors keeping tourists away include reduced household incomes and concern that they will have to face quarantine en route or on return, a factor which may apply to visitors to those countries that cannot confirm the severity or otherwise of the pandemic locally. With the ongoing downturn in tourism, despite some improvements from opening up, both state and private sector entities that benefit from tourism are being affected. Many companies have closed down whilst others have contracted considerably. Some lodges have closed, and many jobs have been lost. The outlook, despite ongoing efforts by government and the industry, is likely to be a few hard-going years ahead.

Keeping parks and reserves going: a shift towards centralisation, possible rationalisation
The impact of the coronavirus financially may have stimulated the ongoing rationalisation of the protected areas management system in Tanzania. The Finance Act, passed on 1st July 2020, brought about amendments whereby Tanzania National Parks and Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority, like the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority are now financially dependent on the Treasury, accountable to the Tanzania Revenue Authority. Like the counterpart authorities in fisheries (Marine Parks Reserves Unit) and forestry (Tanzania Forest Services), the wildlife authorities now fall under the control of their respective ministries with a loss of some of the independent decision making of the past. With the reduction in available funds, Government may be seeking a simplification of the management of the protected area system. With this action and the earlier shift of several game reserves over to the national parks’ authority, the stage may be set for future rationalisation. Whilst it appears that Tanzania still values the exceptional resource value of its protected area system – both marine and terrestrial – the path may be open for the future creation of a merged Tanzania Wildlife Authority.

With the drop in revenues due to the fall-out of the coronavirus pandemic, the government has had to respond pragmatically. Budgets have been tightened and have to be carefully negotiated and prioritised. As a result, operational capacity across the wildlife, forestry and fisheries sectors has shrunk. Whilst rangers and staff may still receive their salaries, their ability to patrol marine reserves, national parks, game reserves or nature reserves has inevitably been reduced. Ecological monitoring work has also decreased.

Wildlife poaching and illegal extraction: smoke signals, no significant fires – yet
The jury is out as to whether a sustained economic downturn and reduced operational budgets from wildlife management authorities will lead to a rise in wildlife poaching and illegal extraction of timber. An East African Community special public session on the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic on wildlife in East Africa, reported on in The Citizen in July 2020, suggested that wildlife agencies across the region are seeing budgets cut and a shift was being made away from international to domestic tourism markets, at least in the short term, to try and maintain some tourism revenues. The impact of poaching appears limited to date, though Uganda suggested in the session that early evidence suggested some rise in poaching as a result of the crisis.

Regarding wildlife poaching in Tanzania, the twin drivers of poaching – an enabling environment at the supply side and a thirst for wildlife products on the demand side – still appear to be somewhat sedated. The political will behind tackling poaching remains strong and so too is the operational capacity in civil and paramilitary services driven by targets and results. Police, intelligence and wildlife management authorities remain vigilant where they can. On the Asian side, from where most of the demand has come, China’s increased stance against the ivory trade, for example, coupled with a shift in consumer habits does appear to have kept demand down. However, ongoing attention will be required in a time of reduced operational capacity and slimmed down budgets to ensure poaching does not get a chance to rise again, through enduring intelligence and enforcement work, sustained and effective prosecutions and sentences and ongoing community engagement.

The situation for illegal timber extraction may be a different one. International demand for hardwoods continues, albeit at a slower pace and with lower prices than before the pandemic. Increasing government royalties and bureaucracy, unless balanced by greater efficiency, may well drive a greater proportion of timber trade underground as market conditions stall. In the last decade or so, a strong community based natural resources management policy and the use of certification models for supply chain transparency has meant more scrutiny of the forestry sector. Local people that are the eyes and ears on the ground to guard against illegal extraction are less likely to warn authorities when they have no stake in the resource – a situation that could be made possible by reduced investment in community-centred forestry.

Whether for wildlife parks, forest reserves or marine protected areas, for the last two decades a key factor in the successful conservation of Tanzania’s wildlife areas has been community members acting as a ‘social fence’ against threats to biodiversity conservation. With reduced engagement in community enterprises and governance initiatives as budgets are restricted and the policy focus shifts to top down approaches, government and private sector players working in the natural resources sector will need to think creatively to maintain the support of local people in securing fisheries, forests and wild animal populations.


by Ben Taylor

Tanzania formally attains Middle Income status

In July, the World Bank officially promoted Tanzania to the list of lower-middle income countries, recognising that the country has attained an annual per capita income of above USD $1,035. The World Bank calculation was based on economic data for 2019 and found that per capita GNI had increased from $1,020 in 2018 to $1,080 in 2019.

This is five years ahead of the official government target of achieving middle income status by 2025. According to William G. Battaile, the World Bank’s Lead Country Economist, “the upgrade is the product of the country’s strong economic performance of over 6% real gross domestic product (GDP) growth on average for the past decade”.

Tanzania joins 51 other countries on the lower-middle income list, including Kenya, Zambia, Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and India, which includes countries with GNI per capita between $1,036 and $3,995.

Graduating to middle income status does not mean Tanzania will necessarily lose access to concessional financing from the World Bank. GNI per capita informs the decision on whether or not a country is eligible for loans from the World Bank’s concessional lending arm, but it is not the only indicator. Other factors, such as a country’s macroeconomic prospects, creditworthiness, risk of debt distress, vulnerability to shocks, institutional constraints, and levels of poverty and social indicators are also used to establish a country’s eligibility.

“I congratulate all my compatriots for this historic achievement. We had envisaged to achieve this status by 2025 but, with strong determination this has been possible in 2020,” wrote President Magufuli in a tweet.

Hassan Abbasi, the chief government spokesperson, explained that “discipline in financial expenditure and the prevailing peace and tranquillity also helped the country to earn the middle-income status.”

Economic data questioned
The Economist magazine published an article in July that questioned whether Tanzania’s economic data could be relied on. “The growth numbers do not stack up. From about 2017 several other indicators, from tax revenue to lending to the private sector, have slowed sharply. The IMF raised doubts last year when it said there were ‘serious weaknesses’ in the growth data. It pointed out that public-sector wages, lending to the private sector and imports were all falling while tax revenue was growing only weakly. The authors made it clear that the official 6.8% growth figure for 2017 was not credible. Publication of the report was blocked by the Tanzanian authorities. (The Economist has seen a copy.)

The IMF did later back down. It now reports Tanzania’s growth as 6.8% in 2017, 7% in 2018 and 6.3% in 2019.

However, The Economist notes that the IMF’s concerns have not disappeared. Performing their own analysis of official Government of Tanzania data, the magazine found several grounds to question official growth rates that have remained very steady at 6-7% in recent years. According to the magazine, tax revenue has shrunk in real terms, public-sector wages “crept up” by 2% in 2019, lending to the private sector by just 4%, the amount of money circulating edged up by only 2% in 2019, foreign direct investment has almost halved since 2013, exports and imports both fell between 2012 and 2018, and imports of machinery and construction equipment fell between 2015 and 2018.

“The growth numbers are out of line with almost everything else we are seeing out of Tanzania,” says Justin Sandefur of the Centre for Global Development, a think-tank.

The government says the economy will grow by 5.5% in 2020. That would, according to The Economist, “probably make Tanzania the best-performing economy in the world”. The IMF predicts 1.9%. [See below]

With the true impact of Coronavirus on Tanzania remains impossible to verify, the likely economic impact is also uncertain. The discrepancy between the IMF and government growth projections in part reflect this uncertainty.

The African Development Bank (AfDB), lowered its growth forecasts for Tanzania as a result of the pandemic, though only from 6.4% to 5.2%. In contrast, the bank reduced growth forecasts for other east African countries by a much greater extent: from 6% to 1.4% in Kenya, from 6.5% to 2.5% in Uganda, and from 3% to -5% in Burundi.

“Real GDP growth in Tanzania will benefit from increased prices of gold, a major national export,” said an AfDB the report. Gold prices have reached above $1,900 an ounce, up 50% from May 2019, with the precious metal benefitting from its ‘safe haven’ status as the coronavirus outbreak triggered global economy fears.

The price surge partly contributed to making gold Tanzania’s leading foreign exchange earner, overtaking tourism which has been hit hard by the Covid-19 global pandemic.

According to the Bank of Tanzania, gold export earnings increased by 47% to $2.5 billion in the year to 31 May 2020. This in part relates to the long-awaited resolution of the dispute between Acacia/Barrick and the government of Tanzania that had slowed production and exports from some of Tanzania’s biggest gold mines. (See Energy and Minerals section).

The Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Philip Mpango has also argued that the government’s decision not to impose any form of lockdown in response to the Coronavirus pandemic will lessen the economic impact.

“The country’s decision to keep the economy open has offered a major relief to the private sector in terms of business resilience”, said Peter Mathuki, Executive Director of the East African Business Council.

A budget for complicated year, and for managing debt
With an election due in October and a global pandemic causing havoc to lives and livelihoods across the globe, government budget calculations have been even more complicated than ever this year.

Nevertheless, the main headline in the budget presented to parliament in June is that the government plans to spend 30% of the annual budget on debt payments – a total of TSh 10.5 trillion (approximately USD $4.5bn) over the next year. These figures represent a considerable increase over 2019, when budgeted debt payments totalled TSh 6.2 trillion, or 18.7% of the total budget.

The parliamentary budget committee acting chairman, Mr Mashimba Ndaki, said the committee’s opinion was that despite commendable efforts to service verified debts, payment should be expedited to avoid expensive penalties. “Servicing the debts will enable service providers to clear loans secured from financial institutions in order to provide services to the government. This is mostly important at these moments of Covid-19,” he said.

Beyond this headline, the budget continued to extend a package of measures aimed at promoting investment and spurring economic growth, building on a business environment improvement plan that began in FY-2019/20.

Under the theme “Stimulating the economy to safeguard livelihoods, jobs, businesses and industrial economy,” the government foresees a rise in spending and the budget will likely have a deficit of 2.6% of GDP in FY-2020/21. It is also projected that in FY-2020/21 tax revenues will account for 12.9% of GDP from 12.1% in FY-2019/20. These targets call for reforms to improve tax administration.

Reforms included in the budget include creating a business-friendly environment for taxpayers, enhancing the capacity of tax adjudication forums and improving the ability to enforce tax laws. These reforms are in part a response to a common complaint amongst businesspeople that some officials of the Tanzanian tax administration were treating businesses unfairly. They also include the abolishment or reduction of sixty (60) fees and levies that were charged by Ministries Departments, Agencies and Regulatory Authorities.

“The year 2019/20 is ending with unexpected circumstances resulting from the destruction of transport infrastructure caused by heavy rains/floods across the country as well as the Covid-19 pandemic. The government will allocate more resources to the health sector in order to fight against the Covid-19 and support other most affected sectors,” told Parliament.

Low income earners will have a reason to smile as Dr Mpango is raising the Pay-As-You-Earn threshold from TSh 170,000 to TSh 270,000 so as to give employees some disposable income. And savings groups will now only be required to pay income tax when their gross revenues exceed TSh 100 million per year, up from TSh 50 million.


Tanzania’s development challenge is how to grow the economy inclusively
Dr Kate McAlpine

These reflections emerged from a listening exercise in January 2020 instigated by the Institutions 4 Inclusive Development Programme. I4ID was designed by UKAid in 2015, as a response to the challenge why Tanzania’s decade of significant growth had left many people still in poverty. As the I4ID programme comes to an end, and after implementing several initiatives to demonstrate how actors within the system could be supported to work towards change to prioritise inclusive growth and services (with some degree of success), we decided to take a step back. The listening exercise was an opportunity to change the lens from detailed implementation challenges and consult with like-minded people about some of the bigger, structural and contextual challenges holding back inclusive development. We consulted with a range of development practitioners, political actors and businesses in Tanzania about the preconditions for Tanzania’s inclusive development and what they felt was important.

A consensus emerged that, fundamentally, Tanzania’s biggest development challenge is how to grow society and the economy inclusively. A legacy of bias towards elites, diverging visions of Tanzania’s future, and still evolving institutions, make this particularly challenging. However non-state actors also face the practical dilemma of how to navigate a complex environment in which the agenda and priorities are driven by a state in full developmental mode, with which they struggle to influence or contribute.

The following are some key take-aways from the diverse group of people who were consulted:

The country is rich, but how can it enrich its own people?
The Government faces a macroeconomic challenge of creating the conditions for economic growth that equally benefits the rural and urban poor. It must grapple with population growth in the face of limited jobs, livelihood opportunities and natural resources. The country is yet to hit ‘peak youth’, the proportion of the population under 30 years and carrying the burden of working age responsibility is already huge and growing. The national development strategy needs to do two things: invest in building skills and capacities that enable the people to be productive; and stimulate non-extractive, job creating investment that will enable the Government to increase tax revenue.

Institutional function is still sub-optimal; despite the narrative of good governance
As in most countries, vested interests still exert a great deal of influence over the system and take advantage. After Independence, the State, led by President Nyerere, aimed to re-engineer society and the economy around one language and one community. In the 1980s, President Mwinyi opened the door to capital and trust was put in the private sector. There was an explosion of micro-businesses and the State largely withdrew from the economic aspects of individuals’ lives. Many feel it did so prematurely because there were unclear boundaries. “In letting in capital, the little people were hurt.”

During the 1990’s and 2000’s, Presidents Mkapa and Kikwete opened up space for human rights discourse, civil society and economic growth. But this growth did not seem to benefit many rural Tanzanians and the market often seemed to be captured by vested interests.

Many feel the 5th phase Government, led by President Magufuli, is undertaking a necessary course correction to correct advantage taking in the past. Despite the anti-corruption narrative, the feeling is that corruption will remain embedded in the system, particularly when those with vested interests want to maintain the status quo. Anti­corruption efforts have not always improved institutional functioning, as evidenced by the divergent views of the Controller and Auditor General and Parliament in 2019.

Social progress relies on whether we can build innovative institutional capacity
We framed the challenge to participants thus: Social progress relies on building institutions that can pursue a common purpose, that embed values such as fairness, freedom and the rule of law and that combine equity of values with an efficiency of outcomes and a sense of emotional commitment (RSA Journal, Issue 3, 2019).

While the State is setting the agenda for a common purpose, it would benefit from offering more space for divergent views to meet and build consensus. However there seems to be an increasing attitude within Ministries that local government authorities are unable to deliver services better than the centre, which may undermine their sense of commitment. Furthermore, recent reforms to combat political and economic corruption and the influence of big business in political parties, have produced winners and losers which has undermined the sense of fairness.

Tanzania needs a national conversation about who Tanzanians want to be as a nation
“Nation building is a long-term endeavour with bumps, but the key thing is to define the ethic of the nation.” This sentiment was echoed strongly by many of our respondents. A nation is a joint notion that is actively created and nurtured over time. The concept of the nation is not just a functioning tax system, nor a reliable Parliament, nor just the legislation that is implemented. The nation of Tanzania also resides in more spiritual notions. For many it is a felt sense of the land; and of an individuals’ place and security in relation to their ethnic group, village, and family.

Tanzanians need an opportunity to collectively consider who they want to be as a nation. What are the civic values that motivate them? How do they want to live and develop? What is the generative vision for the future that would motivate them?

Mechanisms that could foster inclusive development
State and non-state actors can come together, with their divergent views, to effect inclusive development in this time of political, social and economic complexity by:

1. Aligning political, business and ideological interests in defining and reinforcing the ethic of the nation. Hosting and diffusing a national conversation about where Tanzania is heading; recognising that achieving the national vision requires multiple means and actors.

2. Creating space, structure and process for productive interdependence by:

a. Going where there is emerging visible energy for development

b. Getting system actors in the room and building trust

c. Co-creating a shared understanding of complex systems and aligning interests in support of connected action

d. Embracing equifinality

3. Establishing more balanced power relationships with communities and fostering a variety of citizen driven development pathways. This requires citizens and their representatives to be educated about the nexus between tax paying, democracy and accountability; and centring citizens in government planning processes by decentralising and devolving power sub-nationally.

4. Innovating in the design, delivery, scaling and impact measurement of development aid. Aid modalities should make long-term bets; and reframe the question of scale to focus less on reach and more on change in complex systems which supports inclusive growth. There should be a focus on aggregating the impact being achieved and demonstrating what the multiplicity of outputs and effects add up to as a contribution to inclusive development.

5. Finally, there should be greater constructive critique and resistance to development fads that are driven by the aid industry.


Network marketing in Tanzania turns billionaire dreams into night­mares · Global Voices

This story by GV Sub-Saharan Africa originally appeared on Global Voices on Jun 28, 2020 – see­tanzania-turns-billionaire-dreams-into-nightmares/

Everyone desires financial stability, but young people often want to quicken their path to a successful life — and this is exactly what network marketing companies promise.

Over the last five years in Tanzania, network marketing companies, also known as multi-level marketing, have mushroomed in the East African nation. These companies lure young people with “get-rich-quick” dreams that depend on person-to-person sales of products purchased upfront by the seller. Many schemes also rely on the seller’s aggressive recruitment of other independent sales associates.

While technically legal, their interactions with potential customers raise concerns about how these companies prey on vulnerable youth and their billionaire dreams.

“I can assure you, the products are very expensive, which do not reflect the lives of third-world communities,” Traves Msangule, a former network marketer in Dar es Salaam, told Global Voices by phone.

Msangule was a university student in 2013 when a close friend convinced him to join Forever Living Products, a health and wellness company, to help him make some extra money to pay for his studies. Msangule did not have a government loan to cover his school fees, so he agreed to join.

To get started, Msangule had to buy a package of products worth about $320 United States dollars that he then had to re-sell in the hopes of doubling his profit.

The gospel of network marketing schemes is that recruiting new customers will increase earnings — but this is no easy task.

“Take an example: If a toothpaste from the package is sold at $12 USD, while [in reality] there is a toothpaste sold at $1.20 USD, who is going to buy yours? Though the products are of high quality, it’s very difficult to compete,” Msangule said.

Network marketers promote smart, fake lifestyles to persuade people of their success, while in reality, very few people are “eating the cake” of network marketing.

Msangule explained his stressful ordeal in a Twitter thread: “So, when I climbed to that rank, I had to complete points (product sales) for myself and the team. There we were put on a mindset to “push up” in every way until it was understood not to give up. So, I had to start calling to borrow money that night. The deadline was midnight.”

Msangule told Global Voices: “These guys, first of all, are trained to discourage formal employment and small business [self-employment]. They will keep [asking] you: When will you get enough money? The only alternative is this part-time job, which deals with chatting with people, and you can earn millions in just a few weeks and you will be financially stable.”

Unfortunately, in 2017, Msangule had to postpone his studies for a year because this “chatting with people” business consumed his time. With over $750 invested in these products, he had to make sure to earn his profit. When he realized this was not going to happen, he quit.

Network marketing takes off in Tanzania
Network marketing companies that thrive in Tanzania, such as AIM Global, Forever Living Products, Oriflame, QNet, Avon and Edmark, are part of a $200 billion USD global industry as of 2015.

In 2017, QNet, one of the largest direct-selling companies in the world based in Hong Kong, expanded its operations in East Africa, with an agency office in Dar es Salaam, the cultural capital of Tanzania. Thousands of Tanzanian citizens “have registered to market and promote QNet online products…” according to BusinessForHome, an industry website.
AIM Global, based in the Philippines, took hold in Tanzania in 2019 and just celebrated its one-year anniversary with over 4,000 independent distributors.

Many of the companies say they offer extensive professional training, coaching and education to ensure success, including conferences and reward point systems for top sellers.

Top-selling products in Tanzania include health and wellness products, household goods and luxury products.

Naivety, greed, peer pressure
On June 21, the famous actor and comedian, Idriss Sultan, took to Twitter with a video explaining the ills of network marketing in Tanzania, detailing how these companies exploit young people toiling hard with “sweat and blood” to improve their lives.

He opens with the phrase, “Good morning future billionaire, good morning business partner!” a famous network marketing line:

“This video I’ve done in one [single] take and I haven’t cut any part out. It will educate everyone and to those who may get offended by it, fine then, I have no issue, but to say: ‘Let the citizens who earn their money by their sweat benefit from the fruits of their money and not you and your children.’”

Without naming a specific company, Sultan says the mushrooming of the network marketing model in Tanzania – with their various colourful, flashy names – is a threat to young peoples’ lives.

Youth often fail to resist these ploys because they have respect for those who pressure them to join. These companies also use famous people to promote their brands who wield a lot of influence and power.

Sultan said in his video: “…Young people are working very hard, their money is a result of very, very hard work, so it is unacceptable to allow someone from nowhere to come with this system that exploits people.”

Other netizens wrote about their own experience with network marketing: “Certain women’s groups in Dar, — they were my friends — and they bothered me a lot to join these businesses, but I did not agree to join quickly, meaning, I was not able to understand what were they doing exactly? I was afraid to invest my money and also, I calculated what they really earned…”

A lack of information and a thirst for shortcuts can be a dangerous mix for young people who hustle and work hard to improve their lives in Tanzania, where the average monthly income is about $150-$215 USD. A 2017 study by Theobald Francis Kipilimba on the effect of pyramid schemes on the economy in Tanzania revealed:

“…most Tanzanians are very naïve when it comes to pyramid schemes, with very scant knowledge about these schemes. Many do not know if they have participated in these schemes but in those instances that they had, they suffered huge financial losses. …”

“As to the reasons as to why they participated in these schemes in the first place range from pure naivety, personal greed and peer pressure.”
The Tanzanian government has allotted 10% of total revenue toward interest-free loans for youth, women and people with disabilities but these groups remain vulnerable to predatory promises posed by network marketing companies.


Edited by Donovan McGrath

Jane Goodall in isolation
(New York Times – USA) The researcher talks about animals and about being alone. Extract continues: Jane Goodall is in isolation these days, along with many other people, since a fund-raising tour was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic. She is staying at her family home in England, not in Tanzania, her primary home when not on the road. Dr Goodall changed the way the world views chimpanzees with research that began when she first went to Africa 60 years ago … a young woman without a college degree, to observe chimpanzees in the wild at what is now the Gombe Stream Research Centre in Tanzania. She later became the tireless advocate for chimps in captivity… Today, the Jane Goodall Institute supports the continuation of the research she started at the Gombe Stream Research Centre as well as programs in community involvement in conservation, and education… I [the writer James Gorman] called Dr Goodall … and spoke to her for about a half-hour about humans, animals, the coronavirus pandemic and what gives her hope… Well, I [Jane Goodall] started off being unbelievably frustrated that I was grounded. And I then thought, well, OK, that’s, that’s not helpful. So I began thinking of all the different ways that I could stay out in the public without being there, so to speak… Being isolated has made me think of what it must be like for chimpanzees who were isolated in captivity, who depend on physical closeness and touch… We are not separated from the rest of the animal kingdom, we’re part of it… (1 April 2020) – Thanks to Elsbeth Court for this item – Editor

On the road with East African truck drivers
(Mail & Guardian online – South Africa) Extract: Khamis Makaranga did not intend to cause a diplomatic incident. He just wanted to deliver the tomatoes in the back of his truck. Makaranga plies the highway between Dar es Salaam and Nairobi. Those tomatoes from Tanzania’s central Iringa region, were destined for a market in Kenya’s capital city. They never arrived. When he got to the Namanga border post, Makaranga saw hundreds of trucks waiting to cross into Kenya… Every truck driver entering the country is being tested by Kenyan authorities, adding days to their journeys. Makaranga was tested … [H]is result came back: he was positive. “I didn’t agree with the medical result from the Kenyans,” Truck drivers wait to be tested for COVID-19 on the Uganda/Kenya border in Malaba (Brian Ongoro / AFP) he tells the Mail & Guardian, as he didn’t show any symptoms. In total, 19 Tanzanian truck drivers tested positive, and Kenya would not allow them in. Makaranga and other drivers complained to the Arusha regional commissioner, Mrisho Gambo, who gave an explosive press conference on May 20. Gambo said a Tanzanian laboratory had tested the drivers, and all came back negative. He accused Kenya of deliberately falsifying the results in order to sabotage Tanzania’s tourist industry. Within hours, a furious Kenya had shut its land border, with Tanzania threatening to follow suit. It took personal interventions from President Uhuru Kenyatta and President John Magufuli to defuse the tensions – but not before Makaranga’s tomatoes had turned rotten in the back of his truck… (1 June 2020)

The smouldering pandemic Why covid-19 seems to spread more slowly in Africa
(Economist online – UK) Extract: ... John Magufuli, Tanzania’s president, does not believe his country’s results. “We only see them releasing positive, positive, positive results,” he said. He claims that the national laboratory was sent papaya, goat and sheep samples that tested positive. (The lab denies this.) No new official data has been released since April 29th. Opposition activists and NGOs say that there have been dozens of burials of covid-19 victims in Dar es Salaam … On May 12th the American embassy said that hospitals there were “overwhelmed”. “It is a cover-up”, says Zitto Kabwe, an opposition leader… (16 May 2020) – Thanks to John Rollinson for this item – Editor

Tanzanian leader accused of suppressing death statistics
(Financial Times online – UK) President blames ‘imperialists’ for the large number of positive results in tests. Extract continues: Tanzania’s government is covering up the true extent of the coronavirus pandemic with secret burials at night while hospitals overflow and three parliamentarians are thought to have died from the disease, say doctors, opposition leaders and activists. President John Magufuli, who has spent much of the crisis in his home village 750 miles west of Dar es Salaam … denies the virus is serious and has urged people to stay at work and attend religious ceremonies… [I]n a national address, Mr Magufuli accused the national laboratory of fabricating results under the influence of what he called imperialists… Zitto Kabwe, an opposition leader, said the allegation could cause people to lose faith in the health system’s response to Covid-19… Although schools have been closed since mid-March, social distancing has not been enforced strictly, making the nation of 56m people unusual in Africa where many countries have imposed lockdowns, curfews and other controls… The government said it had implemented more than 40 measures to curb the pandemic and was learning from other countries. It defended its statistics and denied it was hiding the extent of the outbreak, adding: “it takes one to be insane to insinuate that Tanzania is not taking serious measures or hiding data.” A person close to the medical profession said it was almost impossible to secure a hospital bed in several cities… (5 May 2020) – Thanks to Jerry Jones for this item – Editor

Tanzania’s digital doctor learns to speak Swahili
(Financial Times online – UK) Extract: With one doctor per 25,000 people, the Swahili speaking east African country of Tanzania struggles to serve the needs of its 59m people. Life expectancy is 62 for men and 66 for women, while just two-thirds of the population live within 5km of a health facility. “Traditional models will not fix this problem,” says Hila Azadzoy, managing director of the Global Health Initiative unit at Ada Health, a Berlin-based artificial intelligence-powered medical company. “Technology can empower users to take decisions about their own health by putting the power of AI into their hands,” she adds. Available since 2016, Ada Health’s chatbot symptom checker app has attracted 9m users worldwide, including 3m in low- and middle-income countries. The free-to-download app invites users to input symptoms and pre-existing medical conditions before using AI-based questioning to pinpoint possible diagnoses – it then recommends next steps such as resting or seeking professional help. The digital doctor now speaks Swahili – the lingua franca of 100m people in east Africa
– thanks to Ada’s Global Health Initiative… Replacing doctors is not Ada’s intention – instead it says it wants to facilitate interaction between users and healthcare experts while deterring unnecessary clinic visits by providing health information via smartphones… (16 May 2020)

‘Many girls have been cut’: how global school closures left children at risk
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: Covid-19 closures have exposed children around the world to human rights abuses such as forced genital mutilation, early marriage and sexual violence, child protection experts say. Globally, the World Bank estimates that 1.6 billion children were locked out of education by Covid-19… NGOs warn that millions of the world’s most vulnerable children may never return to the classroom, and say that after decades fighting for girls’ education the pandemic could cause gender equality in education to be set back decades. In Tanzania, girls sent home from boarding schools where they were being protected from FGM have already been cut… The Dutch charity Terre des Hommes runs a safe house for girls in Tanzania, protecting them from FGM. “The community has taken advantage of this situation of Covid-19 and where children are now back at home they are cutting their girls. They know it is against the law but they are not afraid. We had one mother who was jailed for a year after carrying out FGM but for her she is happy. She is locked up but her girl is cut… (1 June 2020)

Simba regains his pride: Tortured lion cub subjected to horrific abuse while used to lure tourists in Russia will be flown for a new life in Africa
(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: A lion cub called Simba subjected to horrific cruelty in Russia is to be flown to Africa to start a new life. The tortured animal’s legs were deliberately broken to stop it running away while being exploited on beaches as a photo prop for tourists. Holidaymakers paid to have their pictures taken with the cute little lion… The crippled cub could hardly move and was on the point of death when it was rescued. Vladimir Putin was so shocked that he personally ordered a criminal probe into the cruelty faced by Simba. Groundbreaking surgery means the cub can now walk and play … but Simba will remain deformed for life. Now though, Russians behind the beast’s rescue have arranged for the cub to fly 6,500 miles from the Ural Mountains to a big cats rehabilitation centre in Tanzania. The animal surgeon who saved Simba’s life, Karen Dallakyan, from Chelyabinsk, said: ‘The return to their spiritual homeland of wild animals of Africa rescued in Russia is taking place for the first time in our country’s his­tory.’ … He said: ‘Evil photographers break bones like this so that wild predators cannot escape and behave calmly for pictures (with tourists).’ Yulia Agaeva, who headed the operation to save Simba, said there had been 30 offers to take and care for the lion, but she was convinced Tanzania was the right place… The Tanzanian embassy is assisting with the operation to take the big cats to Africa … (8 August 2020)

Women were left to find dinner 19,000 years ago! Fossilised footprints in Tanzania show labour was divided between the sexes in ancient human communities

Engare Sero site just south of Lake Natron where the footprints were discovered

(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: Ancient footprints in Tanzania suggest that women were responsible for foraging for food and did so together in groups as early as 19,000 years ago. The find is the largest collection of footprints from the human fossil record ever found in Africa, according to the team from Chatham University. Researchers discovered 408 human footprints at Engare Sero in Tanzania after the site was found by a member of the nearby Maasai community. One group of 17 footprints were made by 14 women, two adult men and a younger boy, according to the team, who say the women were foraging for food. ‘The findings may indicate a division of labour based on sex in ancient human communities,’ said Dr Kevin Hatala, study lead author. The researchers couldn’t say what the men and boy were doing but suspect they were either providing protection or just ‘walking along with the women for a bit’. The team dated the footprints between 19,100 and 5,760 years old – this would put them during the Pleistocene period… Dr Hatala said the behaviour demonstrated by the women and men is similar to the way modern hunter-gatherer tribes such as the Ache and Hadza operate today… (15 May 2020)

The world’s first Freddie Mercury museum is on an African island
(CNN online – USA) Extract: … Down a small, narrow alley in the historic Stone Town neighbourhood of Zanzibar, an old building beckons to visitors. Faded photographs are pinned outside the door while inside, a gallery of glossy pictures and old newspaper clippings lead the way to the room’s centrepiece: a black piano with an interesting history. A young Zanzibari boy once played that piano. His name was Farrokh Bulsara, but you probably know him better as Freddie Mercury. The flamboyant frontman of British rock band Queen, Mercury was born in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island off the coast of Tanzania. This museum is dedicated to his memory… Zanzibari businessman Javed Jafferji is co-owner of the Freddie Mercury Museum. Jafferji was a college student in London in the mid-1980s when he first became a fan. “At the time, not many people knew (Mercury) was from Zanzibar,” he says. Even today, many people don’t know about Mercury’s Zanzibari roots, says Jafferji. His goal is to put Stone Town on the rock history map… Mercury spent most of his childhood in Zanzibar and attended boarding school in India. In the early 1960s, his family moved to the UK. Less than a decade later, Mercury formed Queen – and went on to attain rock legend status. He never returned to his birthplace… “We really want to create awareness of Freddie Mercury in Zanzibar and in Tanzania overall,” says Anam Adnan, general manager of the museum. “We want people to celebrate him and love him.” But celebrating Freddie Mercury in Zanzibar is complicated. Had Mercury returned there later in life, he would have likely struggled to gain acceptance in a predominantly Muslim community where homosexuality is illegal. “We haven’t put much attention to this personal life because that’s a controversial topic for Zanzibaris,” says Adnan. Instead, she says, the museum focuses on Mercury’s music and his art. “It’s the biggest tribute that we, as Zanzibaris, can do for him.” (10 June 2020)

Burundi refugees in Tanzania face new pressure to go home
(Washington Post online – USA) Extract: Burundian refugees in Tanzania say they fear being forced to return to their country now that a new president has taken power and invited them home. Hundreds of thousands of Burundians fled during the bloody political turmoil that followed former President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in 2015. Nkurunziza decided not to run again in May’s elections and died days later in what the government called a heart attack. New President Evariste Ndayishimiye is now being watched closely for any breaks with his predecessor, whose rule slid into repression in its final years… He invited all those in exile to return and build a new nation… Tanzania’s director of the department of refugees visited camps for Burundians in western Tanzania where close to 200,000 remain, refugees told The Associated Press. “He carried one message: Go back to your country, there is peace now,” refugees said… A coalition of refugees’ human rights defenders denounced the Tanzanian official’s position… Leopold Sharangabo, the coalition’s vice president… noted the new appointment in Burundi of a prime minister, Alain Guillaume Bunyoni, who is under U.S. sanctions for his alleged role in rights abuses. He called the appointment an insult to refugees. “These people harassed us, killed us, tortured us and forced us into exile. How can we be asked to go back under their regime?” he asked… (7 July 2020)