by Ben Taylor

Universal Health Insurance bill delayed
In November, Parliament postponed the tabling of the Universal Health Coverage Bill for and moved it the Standing Committee for Social Services and Community Development for further consultations. This followed concerns raised by members of parliament and stakeholders that the bill had several significant shortcomings.

The government initially brought the bill before the house in September. At this point, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Health stated that the bill will “answer the call to provide equitable and decent healthcare for all.” She added that “the process started in 2016, we’ve not only learned from challenges by the National health Insurance Fund (NHIF), but also from other countries that have established sustainable universal health insurance.”

Health minister Ummy Mwalimu said the government aimed, through the bill, to make health insurance both compulsory and affordable to all. To make it affordable, she explained that contributions to insurance schemes would be made four times a year rather than in one annual lump sum, that the elderly and most vulnerable would be identified using existing methods and would be enrolled in health insurance at no cost, and that the government would set a standard benefit package and reasonable contribution rates so that nobody would be excluded. “We will come up with standard benefit packages,” said the minister. The contribution to be unveiled later on, will be reasonable. The govern­ment’s goal is to cut the burden on citizens,” she insisted.

Ms Mwalimu also allayed fears over rumours that force would be applied to make Tanzanians comply with the UHI. “No one will be fined or jailed for not having health insurance,” she said.

Instead, according to the bill, it will be compulsory for citizens to have health insurance whenever other public services. This includes seek­ing a driving licence, motor vehicle insurance, admitting children for advanced secondary education or colleges, provision of a passport, Taxpayers Identification Number (TIN), business licence, visa, sim card registration and provision of a national identification card. “The lesson that we have drawn from Ghana, Rwanda and Ethiopia is that for citizens to join the Universal Health Insurance, we must attach it to social services,” explained the minister.

The minister said it would not be compulsory for Tanzanians to register with the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), but could decide to join private insurance companies if they preferred. Employees in the public and private sector will be enrolled in health insurance by their employers no more than 30 days after commencing their employment contract. For the basic benefits bundle, employers will be required to remit six percent of each employees’ salary, of which employers will contribute half or more with the remaining amount to be continued by the employee.

Those who are self-employed or work in the informal sector, includ­ing small-scale agriculture, will be required to register themselves for health insurance, either under the state-owned National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) or a private provider.

The bill also affirms the Tanzania Insurance Regulatory Authority (TIRA) as the sole regulatory body mandated to regulate insurance activities in the country. According to the bill, “the authority will have three obligations: registration of health insurance schemes, monitoring the quality of services provided by contracted services providers and ensuring health insurances provide basic benefits bundles as provided by the act.”

The bill drew both praise and criticism from stakeholders. Executive Director of the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), Anna Henga, said they “commend the government for coming up with the bill which aims at ensuring that all citizens have access to health services, thus reducing the burden and costs of treatment incurred by people who have no health insurance.” However, she also pointed out that “there are sections of the bill which deny some people their rights.” She said the law targets poor people but it has not specified the criteria for a poor person, and noted that in denying people access to other services if they have not joined the health insurance, the law would deprive them of their rights.

At present, according to official data, around 15% of Tanzanian citizens are members of a health insurance scheme, dominated by the govern­ment-run NHIF and supplemented by a handful of private providers who largely serve those in formal employment. This leaves the vast majority of citizens lacking health insurance and vulnerable to serious financial shocks in case of illness or injury.

Earlier in 2022, a study by the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) found that 73% of Tanzanians expressed their willingness to pay for health insurance. “They say each Tanzanian is capable of contributing TSh 65,000 per year for the purpose and in return, they will access health services at all health facilities in the country including the Muhimbili National Hospital and Bugando Zonal Referral Hospital among others,” said the minister at the report’s launch in May.

Later, in August, alarms were raised that the NHIF was vulnerable to collapse, particularly in view of the ongoing increase in non-commu­nicable disease in Tanzania. “Our health insurance [NHIF] could soon collapse as it is overwhelmed by a rise in claims which are related to non-communicable disease (NCD),” warned the minister.

Insurance and social security experts told The Citizen newspaper that as a short-term measure, the government should bailout the fund. They also said that its benefits and price level should also be restructured while health insurance must be made compulsory for all Tanzanians.

In explaining the delay to the bill, the Minister said the bill would return with some major changes, including removal of conditions that were made mandatory for someone to have health insurance in order to access services such as travel documents, Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), sim card registration and national ID.

The changes will include introduction of two levels of insurance cover­age: one that will enable beneficiaries to receive treatment at public and private hospitals all over the country, and a second that will comprise a low cost basic bundle that will enable beneficiaries to be treated at dispensaries, health centres and district hospitals, with contributions expected to be in the range of TSh 50,000-60,000.

The Minister added that a further change would be to allow more family members to be included on one family member’s insurance.

Tanzania praised for work combatting HIV/AIDS, re-doubles efforts
In launching a new report in Dar es Salaam in November, the Executive Director of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Winnie Byanyima, commended Tanzania for its achievement in reduc­ing HIV infections. Between 2010 and 2021, she noted, the number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths in Tanzania had fallen by 50%.

“The country’s new generation has no idea what AIDS looks like because Tanzania has managed to get 80% of HIV patients on treat­ment,” she said.

Tanzania’s Health Deputy Minister Godwin Mollel said, “Tanzania is estimated to have 1.7 million people living with HIV, 1.5 million have been reached [with anti-retroviral therapy]. By 2026, the ministry aims to have attained the “three 95s,” meaning “identifying 95% of people living with HIV, dispensing medicines to 95% of them, and curbing infections by 95%.”

President Samia Suluhu Hassan was similarly ambitious. In launching Tanzania’s fifth multisectoral strategic framework for HIV and AIDS in December, she announced that Tanzania seeks to achieve “three zeros”: zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-Related deaths, by 2026. The global target is to achieve the three zeros by 2030.

She added that studies have shown that despite overall progress, new infections among those aged 15-24 years are on the rise. She emphasised that more effort should be made to reduce this, otherwise it would be virtually impossible to end HIV/AIDS. “If these young people are affected now, they will be provided with all the medical attention they need, which includes prescribing them with antiretrovirals, but our quest to end HIV/AIDS will be tougher.”

“We need to put in more effort by creating awareness. Let’s campaign by providing them with skills to reduce new infections. Let’s work together as we have been doing and make some notable achievements,” the President said.

Ms Byanyima pointed out another weak spot, noting that girls and women are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys and men of the same age. “In fact, out of four people who are infected, three are girls or women,” she said. “In Tanzania, we estimated that 54,000 were infected last year. Those aged 14-24 made up about 30%, with 74% of those being girls or young women. We have a problem there, but we know the solution – educa­tion, which is a powerful equalizer.”


by Ben Taylor

Fatal air crash raises tough questions

Rescue operations underway some time after the crash.

At 8.53am on Sunday November 6, 2022, a Precision Air passenger flight crashed into Lake Victoria while approaching Bukoba Airport in bad weather. The flight from Dar es Salaam to Bukoba had 39 passengers and four crew members on board, of whom 24 survived and 19 died.

Fishermen in canoes were the first to arrive on the scene and were reportedly crucial in rescuing those who survived the crash. One in particular, Jackson Majaliwa, 20, was celebrated for his heroic role in rushing to the scene and opening the rear door by smashing it with a rowing oar, thus helping passengers seated in the rear of the plane to be rescued.

Speaking the following day, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said President Samia Suluhu Hassan was happy to hear of the efforts made by the fisherman to save lives and ordered that he be recruited to the fire and rescue brigade. He said the fisherman will be trained so that he can participate in various rescue operations.

Kagera regional commissioner Albert Chalamila awarded him with TSh 1 million. “I congratulate this young fisherman who bravely used a paddle to open the door of the plane and managed to save the 24 passengers inside the plane,” said Chalamila.

A report issued three weeks later by the Air Accident Investigation Branch criticised emergency services, describing them as unprepared, ill-equipped and slow to respond.

According to the report, the fire station in Bukoba was equipped with one fire engine and manned by ten firemen who were trained only to carry out rescue operations on land. The firemen were not equipped for offshore operations which were required after the plane crashed into the lake.

The police marine unit was notified 15 minutes after the crash, but only arrived at the scene some hours later as its sole rescue boat was elsewhere on patrol when the accident occurred. When it arrived, divers were unable immediately launch a search and rescue operation because they lacked oxygen, and the vessel did not have enough fuel.

The government said it has heard the concerns regarding emergency services and that it would work on them. “The government, under President Samia Suluhu Hassan, is taking these suggestions and we are going to work on them,” the Minister for Defence and National Service, Mr Innocent Bashungwa, said.

He said the government, through the Disaster Management Department and the Ministry of Defence and National Service, as well as other securities agencies, would come up with ways of working with the private sector to improve rescue operations.

“We are going to make sure we have a database of rescue equipment in government as well as those available in the private sector so that when a disaster occurs, we have the ability and readiness to handle it,” said Mr Bashungwa.


by Philip Richards

“Serengeti Girls” under 17 national team record historic victory

Christer Bahera in the Tanzanian U17 football team “Serengeti Girls” during their win over France (Photo @FIFAWWC).

Tanzania’s under-17 women’s national football team, known as the “Serengeti Girls”, shocked the football World in October when they beat France 2-1 at the U17 World Cup finals in India. The match was played at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao, Goa.

Serengeti Girls’ goals were scored by Diana Mnally in the 16th minute and Christer Bahera who scored second from the spot in 56th minute.

Marking the first appearance by any team representing Tanzania at a FIFA tournament, Serengeti Girls lost their opening match 4-0 to Japan. Then followed their victory over France and a 1-1 draw with Canada in the final group game. This was enough to see them qualify for the quarter-finals, where they were overpowered 3-0 by a strong Colombia side, with two Tanzanian players shown red cards during the game.

The players received a heroic reception when they landed back in Tanzania after the tournament.

Their coach Bakari Shime believes their success in India could be a turning point in a country where the female game is yet to be widely accepted. “Reaching the quarter-finals is a huge achievement in our history and in our country,” he told BBC Sport. “We hope that this tournament will increase support in Tanzania.”

In 2021, Tanzania’s first female President Samia Suluhu Hassan drew criticism after saying the country’s female footballers had “flat chests” and were unattractive for marriage.


by Donovan McGrath

What the price of Zanzibari coconuts says about African development
(Economist online – UK) Islanders are chopping down trees as cities expand. Extract continues: Musa Haidar holds a coconut to his ear and shakes it from side to side. Its sloshing pleases the market trader, who puts the large brown ovoid back atop the pile at his stall on the outskirts of Zanzibar City, the main one on the east African island. His customers are less happy, however. A coconut going for 500 Tanzanian shillings ($0.20) a few years ago today sells for 1,500 shillings. That makes it more expensive to whip up curries or other dishes using coconut milk. “The prices you see,” says Mr Haidar, “they’re not normal. Coconuts have become expensive for local people.” Why have prices gone nuts? “People are chopping, chopping,” explains Omar Yusuf Juma, another coconut seller, swinging his machete for effect. A count in 2013-14 found just 3.4m coconut trees, down from 5.7m in the late 1990s. Since hungry Zanzibaris still demand creamy fish curries and beans in coconut milk, falling supply has led to higher prices. Nuts from the mainland are pricier because of high transport costs. The felling of coconut trees reflects how Zanzibar and the rest of Africa are urbanizing… As Zanzibar City has spread farther into erstwhile countryside, when people move to their new plots they chop down the coconut trees to make space for their new homes. Moreover, some houses, as well as many island hotels, have furniture made from coconut wood. Emmanuel Elias, a carpenter, explains that it is cheaper than imported alternatives. By law farmers cannot chop down fruit-bearing trees for furniture; in practice it is hard to stop them… (20 December 2022)

What Tanzania tells us about Africa’s population explosion as the world hits 8bn people
(Guardian online – UK) Dar es Salaam, which is heading for megacity status, typifies a region growing three times faster than the global average. Extract continues: As the global population reaches 8 billion … the effects of Tanzania’s rapid growth are evident. The population has increased by 37% over the past decade to almost 63 million according to the latest UN figures, and, projections suggest, is expected to grow between 2% and 3% a year until 2050. Tanzania will be one of eight countries responsible for more than half of the increase in global population over the next three decades: five of those countries will be in Africa… Dar es Salaam, the former Tanzanian capital, is one of the world’s fastest growing cities, and the number of people in the economic hub is expected to double by 2050 to more than 10 million, ranking it alongside such megacities as Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lagos in Nigeria and Cairo in Egypt. The country’s leaders have raised alarm at the numbers… [President] Samia Suluhu Hassan, called for better family planning, saying the high number of births will put pressure on education, healthcare and food… Hassan’s predecessor, John Magufuli, who died in 2021, had discouraged the use of contraceptives, saying Tanzania needed more people… For years, Magufuli suspended significant donor funding for family planning. “Family planning was not appreciated for that period of time,” said Suzana Mkanzabi, executive director of Umati, a sexual and reproductive health rights organization, adding that support for family planning has improved significantly under the new administration. But Magufuli’s policies will have a long-term impact… Tanzanian women have an average of four or five children – the global average is two. Larger families are culturally valued, and among poorer families, children provide security in old age in a country with few social protections. But with nearly half of the population under 15 or above 65, Tanzania is grappling with high dependency rates. It has fewer tax-paying citizens … The UN cites rapid population growth as a “cause” and “consequence” of slow progress development… As Tanzania grapples with its population spike, family planning will probably become a higher priority for the government. It currently spends only about 14bn shillings (£5m) on birth control each year, relying on dwindling donor resources to fill the gap. The government has pledged to increase that amount by 10% a year by 2030. Rights groups say that much more needs to be done. (15 November 2022)

‘Means of survival’: Tanzania’s booming charcoal trade drives unchecked deforestation

Cleared forest on the edge of Ruhoi reserve in eastern Tanzania. Photograph: Imani Nsamila/the Guardian

(Guardian online – UK) Extract: Large swathes of Ruhoi forest reserve in eastern Tanzania now lay bare … The forest is being cut down at an alarming rate to meet the growing demand for charcoal in the nearby city of Dar es Salaam. As a result of high gas prices, about 90% of Tanzanian households now use charcoal or firewood to cook, which is fueling rapid deforestation across the country. Between 2015 and 2020, the country lost almost 470,000 hectares (1.16. acres) of forest a year, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. The situation mirrors what is happening across much of Africa, where wood collection and charcoal production account for nearly half of the continent’s forest degradation. Deforestation is contributing to the climate crisis, says Saidi Mayoga, an army reserve officer who patrols Ruhoi’s 79,000-hectare reserve. “We’ve had a real problem with the heat and there’s very little rain.” For many loggers, however, environmental concerns take a back seat to more immediate economic needs. Almost 45% of Tanzanians live on about $2 (1.70) a day. “If I clear all the trees over here,” says Muharram Bakari, an illegal logger, pointing to the edges of the reserve, “I’ll just have to find another forest where I can harvest [them].” … Loggers can earn about 8,500 Tanzanian Shillings (£3) for a large bag of charcoal from brokers, who then sell it to wholesalers at a profit. But it’s the wholesalers who make the most money. They can sell the bag for up to 82,000 shillings in Dar es Salaam: almost 10 times the price it was bought for. As well as supporting families, the charcoal trade provides the government with a significant income stream. Local leaders say this is one of the biggest barriers to conservation efforts. According to government sources, the Tanzania Forest Services Agency makes about 11,300 shillings from the sale of a bag of charcoal. In 2019, earnings from the forestry sector – which includes trade in charcoal, firewood, logs, poles, honey, seeds and seedlings – contributed about 3% to GDP, with charcoal accounting for 44% of that figure. As such, the government gives out permits to loggers and has set targets on the number of bags each area of the country needs to produce each year. “We are being told on the one hand, that we need to meet certain thresholds of charcoal production, and on the other, to protect the forests,” says Mayoga. There are few checks by local or central government on how many trees are felled… Sixbert Mwanga, the executive director of Climate Action Network Tanzania, says: “If someone has a permit to harvest five tonnes, there is no mechanism to crosscheck whether that person has harvested five tonnes or 25, especially at the source.” The government attempted to ban charcoal production and trade in 2006, in an effort to reduce deforestation, but failed… However, the country’s leaders are now exploring ways to address the issue at its roots, by reducing the country’s dependency on biomass fuels… (13 December 2022)

Tanzania drops murder charges against 24 Maasai leaders
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: The officer died in June during protests against government plans to evict them from their ancestral land in Loliondo, in Ngorongoro District, to make way for conservation and a luxury hunting reserve… [C]harges for trespassing were dropped against 62 Maasai involved in the protests. The men’s lawyer, Paul Kisabo, said their detention was “politically motivated” and that there was “no legal justification” for it. “The charges and detainment were a misuse of the public system,” he said, adding that the director of public prosecutions gave no explanation for the decision to drop the charges. Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s regional director for east and southern Africa, said: “They should never have been arrested in the first place. Their only ‘crime’ was exercising their right to protest while security forces tried to seize land from them in the name of ‘conservation’.” Reports from the Tanzania Human Rights Defenders coalition said the Maasai leaders were taken into custody under false pretences, interrogated and then detained in an Arusha prison… The land in Loliondo has been subjected to a long dispute between the Maasai and the Tanzanian government. The government says that it falls within the boundaries of the Serengeti national park, and that the Maasai’s growing population is encroaching on its wildlife habitat. The Maasai dispute both claims… (25 November 2022)

Tanzania’s president calls for better birth control in country
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: Samia Suluhu Hassan, the president of Tanzania, has called for better birth control in the east African country in a dramatic reversal of the stance of her authoritarian predecessor, John Magufuli… Magufuli had described users of contraceptive as “lazy” and said that birth control was unnecessary because “education is now free” and food cheap. A committed Roman Catholic, the former president also banned young women from returning to school after pregnancy. Samia’s call for more birth control came after a visit to the west of Tanzania, where she learned that more than 1,000 children had been born in a single clinic in one month… Low levels of contraceptive use is one reason for high birth rates in Tanzania, where women have almost five children each on average, according to the World Bank. The number has dropped dramatically over recent years, down from nearly six 20 years ago and seven in 1980, but is still considered far too high… (19 October 2022)

‘Monstrous’ east African oil project will emit vast amounts of carbon, data shows
(Guardian online – UK) Extract: An oil pipeline under construction in east Africa will produce vast amounts of carbon dioxide, according to new analysis. The project will result in 379m tonnes of climate-heating pollution, according to an expert assessment, more than 25 times the combined annual emissions of Uganda and Tanzania, the host nations. The East African crude oil pipeline (EACOP) will transport oil drilled in a biodiverse national park in Uganda more than 870 miles to a port in Tanzania for export. The main backers of the multibillion dollar project are the French oil company TotalEnergies and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)… Richard Heede, at [the Climate Accountability Institute], said: “It is time for TotalEnergies to abandon the monstrous EACOP that promises to worsen the climate crisis, waste billions of dollars that could be used for good, bring mayhem to human settlements and wildlife along the pipeline’s path.” Heede described EACOP as a “mid-sized carbon bomb”… [T]he Guardian revealed that world’s biggest fossil fuel firms were quietly planning scores of carbon bomb oil and gas projects that would drive the climate past internationally agreed temperature limits, with catastrophic global impacts. Omar Elmavi, coordinator of the Stop EACOP campaign, said: “EACOP and the associated oilfields in Uganda are a climate bomb that is being camouflaged … as an economic enabler to Uganda and Tanzania. It is for the benefit of people, nature and climate to stop this project.” … Some African countries argue they have the right to use fossil fuels to grow their economies, as rich western nations have done… EU lawmakers called for EACOP to be stopped … (27 October 2022)

Kate Ritchie awards Ramadhani brothers the Golden Buzzer after breath taking acrobatic act on Australia’s Got Talent leaves judges stunned
(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: On … Australia’s Got Talent, two acrobats left the judges stunned and saw them awarded the Golden Buzzer. Tanzanian-based performers Ibrahim and Fadi Ramadhani, known as the Ramadhani Brothers, wowed the audience with a death-defying acrobatic act. The judges were visibly shocked by their feats, with Kate Ritchie grabbing her face in amazement… Kate was unable to keep her excitement to herself, slamming the Golden Buzzer and pushing the acrobats through to the Semi Final. ‘I can’t even string a sentence together because I’ve never seen anything like it ever in my life,’ Kate said to the pair… Ibrahim, 36, and Fadi, 26, have previously said they hope to win AGT and help children in their community. The pair are also aiming for a Guinness World Record for the most consecutive stairs climbed while balancing a person on the head… (16 October 2022)

State Department BLOCKED arrest of Peace Corps worker in Tanzania over drunk driving spree that left woman dead after he spent night with prostitute: US officials ‘thought he had diplomatic immunity’
(Daily Mail online – UK) Extract: Bombshell documents have revealed how the State Department blocked the arrest of a Peace Corps worker who left one woman dead and another seriously injured after a drunk driving spree – by claiming he had diplomatic immunity when he didn’t. John Peterson was ushered back to the US hours after fatally slamming his Toyota Rav4 into street-food seller Rabia Issa on the morning of August 24 2019, avoiding arrest by authorities in Dar es Salaam. He had spent the night before with a prostitute before embarking on the drink-driving spree, which also saw Peterson strike and injure a second woman. Now hundreds of pages of documents seen by USA Today give the clearest picture yet of the carnage Peterson caused and how the State Department falsely claimed he had diplomatic immunity from a breathalyser test after the drunken rampage. Peace Corps workers are not automatically granted diplomatic immunity while working abroad, unlike State Department workers. The US State Department claims its officials were confused about a diplomatic identification card he was issued by the Tanzanian government… Peterson was driving a sex worker he had paid $50 in exchange for oral sex from his US government-rented home back to her neighbourhood shortly after 5am when he claims a woman suddenly jumped in front of the car. Tanzanian authorities claim the unnamed victim was left ‘crushed and severely injured’ by the impact. That unidentified woman was not killed, with the woman Peterson did kill struck shortly afterwards. Escaping an angry crowd around his car after the first impact, Peterson claims he was heading for the nearby US embassy when he barrelled off the street and fatally struck another woman. That victim was Rabia Issa, a married mom-of-three who was setting up her food stall for the day. Her body was thrown over the hood of Peterson’s car, which continued to smash through a fence and other roadside stands. Despite the multiple collisions, Peterson carried on about half a mile further before his vehicle slammed into a light pole and came to a final stop. Furious bystanders gathered around the car and a tow truck repeatedly lifted and dropped the mangled Toyota Rav4 while a blood-soaked Peterson was still inside. Issa’s devastated brother even reached through the window and punched Peterson in the face. At the police station, Tanzanian police prepared a breathalyser test and shoved the tube into Peterson’s mouth while he resisted. However the US embassy staffers that joined Peterson at the station insisted he was a diplomat who did not have to comply, sensational records obtained by USA Today show. Peterson was told he was free to go as long as he returned to the station two days later. But Peterson was quickly flown back to America on the grounds that he needed surgery to his injured hand. This was despite one embassy worker noticing Peterson did not have immunity before his flight and raising it as a ‘point of clarification’ with an agency worker. He faced a grilling from federal state department investigators. But they could not charge him over lack of evidence, because other state department colleagues had allowed Peterson to leave the country before Tanzanian police could complete their investigation…. Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman, blamed the confusion over Peterson’s immunity on a diplomatic identification card Peterson had been issued by the Tanzanian government… Peterson even continued to collect pay checks from Peace Corps for 18 months. His salary, unused vacation time and bonuses totalled more than $258,000. His victims – who signed settlements with Peace Corps to receive pay-outs for not making legal claims against the company of Peterson – received a lot less. Rabia Issa’s family were paid just $13,000. Her death certificate recorded just one word for her cause of death – ‘unnatural’. The first woman Peterson hit was paid roughly $6,500. The sex worker received about $2,200. (25 October 2022)

Tanzania scraps independence celebration, diverts funds to kids
(Al Jazeera online – UAE) Extract: Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan has cancelled Independence Day celebrations … and directed that the budget instead be used to build dormitories for children with special needs. The 61st Independence Day event was to cost $445,000, money that will be used to build eight dormitories in primary schools around the country. Tanzania’s Minister of State, George Simbachawene … said that instead of having parades and other national celebrations, the East African country will commemorate Independence Day by having public dialogues on development… This is not, however, the first time Tanzania has cancelled the celebrations. In 2015, then-President John Magufuli cancelled celebrations and diverted funds towards the building of a road in the commercial capital, Dar es Salaam. In 2020, he did the same and directed that the budget be used to buy medical facilities… (6 December 2022)


by Martin Walsh
PROSPERITY IN RURAL AFRICA? INSIGHTS INTO WEALTH, ASSETS, AND POVERTY FROM LONGITUDINAL STUDIES IN TANZANIA. Dan Brockington and Christine Noe (editors). Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2021. xxiv + 436 pp. (hardback). ISBN 9780198865872. £90.00 (pdf free to download from


This book challenges views of rural development that are conventional in Tanzania, as well as in many institutions in Africa and elsewhere, that poverty in the rural areas is increasing while productivity is static or declining. It does so by taking a view of income and expenditure which, unlike the country’s Household Budget Surveys, takes into consideration improvements in the assets controlled by small farmers, and challenges the ways in which their incomes and contributions to growth are included in GDP and growth statistics. One way of doing this is through ‘panel studies’ which track the experiences of a group of people from birth onwards; but it is only recently that such panels have been created in Tanzania. Instead, Dan Brockington and Christine Noe found 16 researchers who had worked in Tanzanian villages 20 to 25 years ago, and who had kept the data from their interviews. The researchers reinterviewed those they had interviewed years before, or their direct successors, in 37 villages and let them explain how their households, and their villages, had changed. They tested and refined the resulting conclusions through focus groups and elite interviews. These ‘longitudinal studies’ approximate to panel studies – one researcher, Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, has been back to the same village every other year since 1995, so that her work can almost be seen as a panel study.

The enthusiasm of the researchers shines through what they have written, especially in an epilogue where they explain how their original research took place. For most, the experiences were life-changing. Several were shocked when, as part of this research, they went back to villages which 20 years ago had been sleepy, inaccessible and very poor, and were now connected with the wider world by better roads, minibuses, mobile phones, and TV, and able to sell crops that were not previously grown for good prices in a range of markets.

At one level, the results are not a surprise. Improvements in the standards of rural housing, rural roads, transport along those roads by minibuses and away from them by bodabodas (motorbike taxis), a wide range of local businesses and shops, new schools, and activities related to the coming of mobile phones are apparent even from casual visits. Some of the changes were forced by shortages, such as the increased use of iron sheets for roofing and burnt brick walls in villages in the Uporoto Highlands – caused by decline in production of the bamboo poles traditionally used.

An agricultural revolution had been reported much earlier in parts of the Southern Highlands by Torben Rasmussen (1986). The researchers in this collection report similar innovations in many different places – new crops, more tractors and ox-ploughs, small-scale irrigation using plastic pipes, use of chemical fertilisers, leading to higher yields. Not everywhere: one village, 16 km east of Moshi, has not moved forward; but this too provides interesting insights related to declines in agriculture on and near Mount Kilimanjaro, with less rain and lower fertility.

These changes have not been reflected in official reports and plans because two main sources of data ignore or underplay the importance of assets. Thus, if a family reduces its living standards in order to build a better house, or pay school fees, or even to purchase cattle, then in the Household Budget Surveys this family is recorded as getting poorer. It is only if the assets lead to higher production in subsequent years that they are reflected in GDP figures – but these are often little more than informed guesses, and do not take account of the higher values of crops stored till shortly before the next harvest, or sold unofficially (or, conversely, of crops that are successfully grown but not sold at all because markets are over-supplied), or short-term fluctuations such as the very high prices achieved for sesame in one village, until the crop was destroyed by diseases. The use of administrative data, such as the costs of civil service salaries, as proxies for the contributions of health facilities or schools to growth, has always been a limitation of GDP (and hence growth) statistics.

The book’s contributors are anthropologists or geographers with an interest in rural development – none are agricultural economists (readers of this book are spared regression equations!) and few are political scientists. But their work needs to be taken seriously, as the starting point for an informed debate about change in rural Tanzania.

The book is not without problems. The coverage of Tanzania is uneven – none of the villages are in the coastal cashew-growing areas, or the cotton-growing lands near Lake Victoria, and none appear to have lost banana plantations, and the associated culture, to diseases, as in many parts of western Tanzania and further north in Uganda. Pastoralism is only considered in passing, and only one of the villages has been subject to a land grab (to extend a national park), and there are no indications of disputes with central government or other villages, for example about access to water for small-scale irrigation. It was not possible to standardise the approaches to the different villages, so the studies cannot be directly compared.

It remains to be seen if the innovations are sustainable. Rainfall in Tanzania has been remarkably kind in the last 20 years or so, with only minor famines, and no signs of the cycles, first identified in the colonial period, where maize production increased for about 10 years till there was a famine, after which the importance of more drought-resistant crops was recognised. Who would have guessed that the areas around Kongwa, notorious as the main site of the failed Groundnut Scheme of 1946-47, should become one of Tanzania’s main producing areas for maize and sunflower? But it is also possible that it could all be lost very quickly through severe soil erosion, as happened in the Ismani area east of Iringa in the 1970s. And from a methodological perspective, it is just conceivable that the villages in these studies prospered more than other villages precisely because of the insights and ideas of the researchers who lived there more than 20 years ago.

But as a whole, this is a path-breaking book – an effective counter to the conventional wisdom that small-scale agriculture has no long-term future, and that inequality is only reducing slowly if at all, and a challenge to all future researchers in Tanzania.

[This is an edited and abridged version of a review article, ‘Improvement and change in rural Tanzania’, that was originally published in 2022 in the Review of African Political Economy Vol. 49, No. 172, pp. 361-364.]
Andrew Coulson

Andrew Coulson worked in the Planning Unit of the Ministry of Agriculture in Dar es Salaam 1967-1971 and taught agricultural economics at the University of Dar es Salaam 1972-76. His edited book African Socialism in Practice: The Tanzanian Experience was published in 1979. Tanzania: A Political Economy followed in 1982, with a second edition in 2013. His most recent book, with Antony Ellman and Emmanuel Mbiha, is Increasing Production from the Land: A Sourcebook on Agriculture for Teachers and Students in Africa (Muki na Nyota, 2018). He was Chair of the Britain Tanzania Society 2015-18.

DIWANI YA TUZO YA USHAIRI YA EBRAHIM HUSSEIN – 2014-2020 – ANTHOLOGY OF THE EBRAHIM HUSSEIN POETRY PRIZE. JUZUU LA TATU / VOLUME 3. M.M. Mulokozi (editor). Tanzania Growth Trust (TGT), Dar es Salaam, 2022. 262 pp. (paperback). ISBN 978-9912-40-180-8.
(Price and availability to be confirmed.)

This is the third volume of the poetry prize in honour of the acclaimed Tanzanian writer Ebrahim Hussein, a dramatist and academic whose research focused on the development of theatre in East Africa. The award was established by the family of the late Gerald Belkin (1940-2020), a pioneering video filmmaker of culture and community. Hussein worked with Belkin to record life in various Tanzanian villages, and they became good friends as Belkin learnt Swahili and fell in love with its poetry.

Hussein, who was one of Belkin’s Swahili teachers, told him about the long tradition of Swahili poetry. Belkin recognised that Tanzania had many creative poets whose artistic skills needed to be shared with a wider audience, and so he created a fund for that purpose. Gerald Belkin wanted to honour Ebrahim Hussein as an intellectual, a playwright and a poet, and proposed that the fund should be named after him.

This volume is divided into the years of the competition (2014-15, 2016, 2017, etc.) rather than specific themes as with many similar anthologies. It is also bilingual, which gives it a much wider readership, and can be an asset to those interested in learning Swahili and those interested in Swahili literature.

Competitors are allowed to submit poems in a variety of forms, such as traditional metre (16 syllables in a line), free verse (mtiririko or blank verse), or in kemo (bongofleva, hip hop) verses. The best poems from the competition have been selected for the anthology. The competition is open to Tanzanian nationals residing in Tanzania. A cash prize and certificates are awarded.

Each poem is preceded by the name of the poet and the translator and a brief background of the poet. The poems have a wide range of content around the issues love, marriage and family, politics, economics, culture, gender oppression, poverty, superstition, the persecution of albinos, pandemics such as HIV-AIDS and Covid-19, and even ICT (information and communications technology) and social media.

Here are the first three verses of a poem by Richard Menard, from the 2016 competition, entitled: Vilio vya Maua / Flowers’ Plea (what category would you place this poem in terms of its content?):

Maisha huwa matamu, mazuri tukifanyiwa Life becomes sweet when good things are done to us
Palizi kwetu muhimu, na mbolea kutiliwa Weeding and manuring is important for us
Hatutishiwi na hamu, maji tukimwagiliwa, Watering wets our appetite for more
Tukiwa bustanini, maua tuthaminini. Please do value us when we are in this garden

Tuna maadui sugu, wengi sana kuhesabu, We do have stubborn enemies, too many to count
Maarufu ni magugu, twaishi hapa karibu, Most famous are the weeds, we live near them
Hayaishiwi na gubu, kutujazia taabu, They never tire of vexing us to compound our misery
Tukiwa bustanini, maua tuthaminini. Please do value us when we are in this garden

Waganga wa kienyeji, sisi nao haziivi, The traditional healers are our avowed enemies
Hujifanya ni majaji, hasa wawapo na mvi, They pretend to be our judges, especially when they are grey haired
Huchochea mauaji, kwa kuizidisha chumvi, They incite our slaughter by their exaggerated tales about us
Tukiwa bustanini, maua tuthaminini. Please do value us when we are in this garden

The Chair of Judges, Professor Mugyabuso M. Mulokozi, informs us that the 2020 competition had only 15 participants, and that there were no winners because all the poems were only of average quality. This information shows that entries to the competition must reach an acceptable standard in terms of style and content.
Donovan McGrath
Donovan McGrath studied Swahili poetry, the Swahili novel, and Advanced Swahili Usage at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, as part of his African Language and Culture degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the University of London. He is co-author of Colloquial Swahili published by Routledge in 2003 and 2015 (second edition). He currently teaches Swahili at the SOAS Language Centre.

Also noticed: AFRICAN ISLANDS: A COMPARATIVE ARCHAEOLOGY. Peter Mitchell. Routledge, 2022. 338 pp., 195 colour illustrations (different formats). ISBN 9781032156910. £96.00 (hardback), £27.99 (paperback and e-book).

According to its publisher, “African Islands provides the first geographically and chronologically comprehensive overview of the archaeology of African islands.” As such Peter Mitchell’s book may be of particular interest to readers interested in the history of Tanzania’s islands – the Zanzibar and Mafia archipelagos included – and their role in the wider Indian Ocean region.

The publisher’s description continues: “This book draws archaeologically informed histories of African islands into a single synthesis, focused on multiple issues of common interest, among them human impacts on previously uninhabited ecologies, the role of islands in the growth of long-distance maritime trade networks, and the functioning of plantation economies based on the exploitation of unfree labour. Addressing and repairing the longstanding neglect of Africa in general studies of island colonization, settlement, and connectivity, it makes a distinctively African contribution to studies of island archaeology. The availability of this much-needed synthesis also opens up a better understanding of the significance of African islands in the continent’s past as a whole. After contextualizing chapters on island archaeology as a field and an introduction to the variety of Africa’s islands and the archaeological research undertaken on them, the book focuses on four themes: arriving, altering, being, and colonising and resisting. An interdisciplinary approach is taken to these themes, drawing on a broad range of evidence that goes beyond material remains to include genetics, comparative studies of the languages, textual evidence and oral histories, island ecologies, and more.” MW


by Ben Taylor
Tanzania’s most decorated public servant and diplomat, Paul Rupia, has died at the age of 84.
Ambassador Rupia was born in July 1938 in Shinyanga region, the son of John Rupia, a prominent independence activist, politician and businessman. His journey in public service began in 1963 when he joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He served as Tanzania’s envoy to various countries including the United Kingdom 1968-1970, permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), Tanzanian representative in Council of Ministers and summit meetings of Organization of African Unity, and Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Between 1986 and 1995, Rupia served as Tanzania’s fifth Chief Secretary – the most senior role in the civil service – serving under President Ali Hassan Mwinyi. Speaking at his funeral, Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa said that the government recognises the great contribution made by the late ambassador Paul Rupia during his service and even after his retirement.

Retired Prime Minister Judge Joseph Warioba said that the late Ambassador Rupia had contributed significantly to the economic reform in the country during his time in office, and that he had started the process of political reform that led to adoption of the multi-party system in the country.

Professor Kim Monroe Howell, a distinguished Professor of Zoology at the University of Dar es Salaam, has died at the age of 77. Born in the United States in 1945, he moved to Tanzania in 1970 after a brief time in Zambia, becoming a prominent zoologist and conservationist.

Prof Howell’s research, consultancy, teaching and supervision of students at the University spanned almost 50 years. He joined the Department of Zoology and Marine Biology at the University in 1970, earned his PhD in 1976, and remained a prominent figure even after his official retirement in 2016. Among his significant academic contributions was the discovery of several amphibians, including the Kihansi Spray Toad Nectophrynoides asperginis, the bat Rhinolophus maendeleo, and many other mammal species new to science. At least three species were given his name – the gecko Lygodactylus kimhowelli, as well as a bird and a shrew. His major field of research was biodiversity inventory, ecology and conservation of mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles of eastern Africa.

Prof Howell’s publications include A Field Guide to East African Reptiles and Pocket Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of East Africa, as well as over 90 scientific papers, 7 books and 18 book chapters. Howell’s big find came in 1996 when he discovered a small toad at the base of a waterfall in the Udzungwa Mountains above Kilombero valley. The Kihansi spray toad, believed to inhabit the smallest native habitat of any vertebrate on earth – a two-hectare spray zone around that specific waterfall – became the focus of a highly controversial conservation effort, a clash between biodiversity conservation and Tanzania’s need for economic development.

“I’ve often said I wish I had never discovered the toad,” reflected Howell. “I felt it had to be a species new to science because I knew all the other ones in Tanzania,” he said. The consequences of a planned new hydropower project were immediately clear, he noted: it would become extinct. What followed was a lengthy dispute involving the World Bank and other financiers of the planned hydropower dam at the site, Friends of the Earth and other conservation groups and the Government of Tanzania. Efforts to protect the toad on site were unsuccessful, and a captive breeding programme was controversial and expensive. Are these toads really more important than providing electricity to our people, asked the politicians.

Leading researcher on hunter-gatherer and egalitarian societies, James Woodburn (1934-2022), has died.

Having first studied History at Cambridge University in the 1950s, Woodburn returned to the university after his national service to study for a BA in Archaeology and Anthropology. He conducted fieldwork in (then) Tanganyika, graduating in 1964 with a thesis entitled Social organisation of the Hadza of North Tanganyika.

The Hadza remained his long-term field project. In the late 1960s he collected Hadza material culture for the Horniman Museum in London and in 1970 he published Hunters and Gatherers: The Material Culture of the nomadic Hadza.

He taught at the London School of Economics for many years, remained a keen participant in the scholarly enterprise long after retirement, and was an honorary member of the International Society of Hunter-Gatherer Research.

Daudi Peterson, an expert in Tanzanian hunter-gatherer societies said that Woodburn “almost certainly knew the Hadza and their society better than any other non-Hadza. More importantly, he cared deeply about them as individuals and as a group… When the Hadza were informed of his death,” he explained, “they collectively gathered honey and brought it on a two-day journey to Arusha as a tribute to a man they considered one of them.”