by Paul Harrison

Rising hope for the tourism sector as Tanzania receives COVID-19 vaccines
In July 2021, mainland Tanzania received its first consignment of over one million doses of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines from the United States as part of the COVAX arrangement. Unlike her predeces­sor, Tanzania’s President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, has received a COVID­19 vaccine in public, kicking off a nationwide inoculation campaign in the fight against the disease, with Zanzibari citizens receiving the Russian Sputnik vaccination amongst others. A significant step toward protecting Tanzanian citizens, the vaccination programme also repre­sents a major confidence builder to tourists who are currently visiting the country and indeed those who are planning to visit in the future. The greater the rollout, the more likely that Tanzania will be removed from amber and red lists of EU countries, the UK and the USA.

Tanzania’s tourism sector is gradually recovering from the effects of the pandemic. Signs of growth are emerging in many parts of the country as hotel visits, game viewing and other tourist activities are starting to pick up. Traditionally, Tanzania has received the bulk of tourist arrivals from the USA, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Canada, Australia, Ireland and the Netherlands, but recently Russia is emerging as a new market, amongst others. Notably, Tanzania was expected to receive over 650 tourists from Israel during August 2021, according to the Citizen.

Selous ecosystem seems set to maintain UNESCO World Heritage status
Over the last five years, the Selous Game Reserve (now split between Nyerere national park and the reserve) was under increasing threat of being delisted as a UNESCO world heritage site. The threat of removal came from the decision made under the previous administration to construct a hydropower dam on the Rufiji river, which also led to sub­stantial logging to clear the site.

However, due to an on-going dialogue with UNESCO and conservation efforts within the Selous ecosystem, Tanzania has been allowed, in principle, to maintain the status of the Selous as a UNESCO world heritage site, subject to proof of conservation efforts.

According to The Citizen, during the extended 44th session of the World Heritage Committee meeting, held online from Fuzhou, China from 16-31 July 2021, Tanzania has been directed to address the concerns raised and report by December 1st 2021. This is a promising indication that the Selous ecosystem may maintain its current label as a prestigious World Heritage site and continue to benefit from tourism opportuni­ties there. This assumes Tanzania can continue to protect cultural and environmental treasures of the Selous as well as mitigating issues of degradation around the dam and to tackle human wildlife conflict in the wider landscape.

In Zanzibar, new investment is sought into high-end tourism
According to The East African, in late August the Zanzibar government, through the Zanzibar Investment Promotion Authority (ZIPA), issued an invitation to investors to bid for high-end tourism investments in key small islands. This is intended to boost revenues, part of the wider blue economy drive. Would be-investors were given until 16th September 2021 to submit proposals. Several small islands were offered for pre­mium environmentally and culturally sensitive development projects, including Changuu, Bawe, Pamunda and Kwale islands off Unguja and Njao, Misali and Matumbini islands off Pemba.

In the same period, the BBC reported plans by the government of Zanzibar to build sub-Saharan Africa’s highest skyscraper, with a linked marina development, at a cost of likely upwards of £950 million, assuming investment can be found.

Generally, mainstream tourism numbers have been rising steadily in Zanzibar over the northern hemisphere summer months, though yet to reach pre-pandemic levels. A flood of Russian tourists earlier in the year now appears to have subsided though the trends suggest a shift towards countries like Russia away from traditional beach tourism mar­kets, though that trend may settle back in time. Italian tourists, typically the mainstay of the Zanzibari beach tourism industry, have yet to return in any significant numbers.


by Paul Harrison

Red lights remain. Shifting to green from June?
Like so many countries, Tanzania continued to suffer the impacts of the global near-standstill of tourism traffic in the first quarter of 2021, as tourists from traditional markets were unable to travel due to second and third waves of COVID and resultant lockdowns. Tanzanian tourism operators have forecasted contractions in tourism of over 80%, according to a World Bank economic update on the country. An uncertain stance on the pandemic and fear of variants has led to Tanzania’s inclusion on red lists and travel warnings. However, as many countries progress vaccination programmes and the northern hemisphere summer approaches, the Tanzanian tourism industry has high expectations for a boost in numbers from June 2021. Many hotels and camps are already fully booked for the forthcoming high season; however tour operators are also experiencing last minute cancellations or delayed arrivals as pandemic-related restrictions change plans.

Red lists, regulations and repeat business
Despite rising bookings, the expected boost is not without risk. Whilst (at the time of publication) countries like the UK continue to red list Tanzania and the Centre for Disease Control in the USA ranks the country at the highest possible risk (advising against all travel), Tanzania seeks to highlight steps that it is taking to ensure that it is a safe destination. For some countries and their tourists, that will be more important than others. Continued focus lies on emerging markets like China and Russia which may be less affected by risk-averse government advisories.

Lodges and camps from beaches to the bush have had refits and refurbishments during the lockdown and companies are readying themselves for the return of business. Wildlife populations have noticed the relative quiet and are thriving in many parks, whilst the approaching migration-watching and mountain climbing seasons present a strong and timely offer. Newly-packaged destinations like Mafia Island, Nyerere National Park and Mpanga Kipengere Game Reserve (featuring Kimani Falls) are becoming better prepared to entice international and domestic tourists alike. However, for many tour companies, the spectre of regulations and taxes, seen as an increasing challenge in recent years, still looms. The industry will be watching carefully for any positive shifts in the investment climate.

Tourism industry players fear that raising park and concession fees in the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Tarangire (effective from 1st July 2021) is a risky approach to take, especially as some neighbouring nations have cut park entrance prices and Tanzania is already seen as more expensive to visit than Kenya or South Africa. The opposing view is that for these high ticket value destinations in the prized Northern Circuit, relative to the full costs paid per tourist, the price rise is negligible. Either way, Tanzania will want to find a way to build up repeat business after The Citizen reported on findings that only twenty percent of tourists return to the country. Reasons given include high costs relative to services provided, infrastructure challenges and inconsistent quality and professionalism.

Pressures on Ngorongoro
In Ngorongoro, a public relations challenge, and potential human rights debate, is emerging. Some Maasai community members are concerned about eviction of communities from the conservation area as concern rises in other quarters that the human population living within the area has become too large. A debate ensues over which is the more impactful: the Maasai residents and their homes and livestock or the many camps, lodges, vehicles, tourists and support staff?

Keeping eyes peeled for poaching
The Tanzanian Government continues to pursue its antipoaching strategy, aware that as tourism numbers increase and the economy (global and national) rebounds, so too does the risk of a rise of poaching and trafficking. Enforcement, intelligence and ongoing support to community engagement, tackling human wildlife conflict and benefit sharing remain critical mitigation factors against an otherwise likely rise. Boosting tourism revenues again—and ensuring a proportion get back out to communities who had become dependent on them— will be critical, lest they don’t become disenfranchised as wildlife custodians.

Zanzibari misfortunes: Beit Al Ajab’s partial collapse and a major fire

Beit Al Ajab following the partial collapse in December. Emergency stabilisation works are now complete.

On Christmas Day 2020, Zanzibari residents and Omani and UNESCO partners were shocked by the partial collapse of the Beit Al Ajab, or House of Wonders, in Stone Town. An investigation followed as the building, which was completed in 1883, was undergoing rehabilitation and restoration work. The building is a significant draw to Zanzibar for tourism and authorities are keen to ensure that a thorough restoration takes place to bring the house back to its former glory. A severe fire that engulfed two five-star hotels in mid-January 2021 fortunately led to no fatalities. 338 tourists were confirmed safe after a fire in the Kiwengwa beach area, severely damaging both the Ocean Paradise and Tui Blue hotels. Nonetheless, Zanzibar has taken these misfortunes on its shoulders as it continues to seek new opportunities in different forms of tourism and linked marine conservation activities through a new blue economy policy.


by Paul Harrison

Tanzanian tourist industry cautiously optimistic after the shock of Covid pandemic
Tanzania has not escaped the global downturn in the tourism and travel sector, with visitor numbers dropping considerably. Tourist numbers have at least halved compared to pre pandemic projections, with indications of up to 900,000 visitors in 2020 compared to the two million tourists planned for: a loss of over a billion dollars of revenue to the country.

The country was not able to take advantage of the usual peaks in demand during the northern hemisphere summer or winter seasons as would-be international travellers stayed put or closer to home. Despite ongoing efforts to diversify international markets and expand domestic and regional markets, the majority of tourists still come from north America and western Europe, notably countries which have faced repeated Covid-related lockdowns and travel restrictions. Rising numbers of Russian, Chinese and Middle Eastern tourists have helped boost numbers, but there has, overall, been a damaging loss to the tourism sector. Retrenchments have been common in the larger tour operator businesses whilst many small-scale operators have gone out of business. Camps have remained closed, aircraft in hangers and safari vehicles parked up.

With the northern hemisphere summer season is in sight, industry confidence is picking up, cautiously. Just prior to Christmas, the Citizen reported a wary optimism to recovering tourism prospects from the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators given the ongoing pandemic, travel restrictions and tightened purse strings. The Hotel Association of Tanzania is cautiously optimistic, noting many operators are at reduced capacity or closed, according to the Citizen. There is a hope that pandemic-weary travellers will look for tropical summer holidays, bolstered by the likely roll-out of vaccination programmes before summer. This offers some confidence that numbers will soon move back towards previous levels – and potentially beyond. In the meantime, the industry is biding its time.

The government is looking at how new markets and potentially direct flights will attract greater numbers post pandemic restrictions. There are also calls for lowering costs, though it is not clear whether this would entail the government giving way in terms of reduced taxes or an already-weakened industry would take the burden. In the meantime, foreign levies for entrance into national parks will rise from 1st July 2021, with a new fee structure that includes entrance and concession fees. The Serengeti will cost USD $70 per day.

In Zanzibar, diversifying tourism in Unguja helps maintain numbers after a lull
In Zanzibar, a new Ministry of Blue Economy and Fisheries separates fisheries from livestock and illustrates an increasing recognition by the Zanzibar government of the wealth of the sea – including from tourism. According to the Daily News, tourist numbers to Zanzibar doubled from September to October 2020 to around 12,000 visitors. This was a welcome signal of renewed interest in visiting the archipelago after the slump caused by the Covid pandemic. Whilst western Europe remains the primary source for tourist visitors, the Zanzibar administration have concentrated on diversifying their markets, with a particular focus on Russia. Thrice-weekly Russian charters bring beach tourists for short stays on Unguja Island and Russian tourists accounted for at least 15% of all international visitors in late 2020. On Pemba Island, tourism remains focused on high end, low volume and the diving markets, with operators largely waiting out the pandemic storm.

President Nyerere’s former home to be opened for tourists
In October 2020, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism announced that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s former home in Dar es Salaam – where he lived during the run up to independence in the 1950s – would open for visitors. Following refurbishment by Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA), the house will be marketed as part of Tanzania’s increasing effort to boost cultural tourism from both domestic and international markets. The site will allow visitors to get a sense of the context of Mwalimu’s life and thinking – keeping the late President Nyerere’s legacy alive physically.

Boost to promote domestic tourism and jobs
Efforts to counter the loss of revenue from international tourist receipts by focusing on domestic tourism have continued. In December, the Daily News reported a new memorandum of understanding between the Tanzania Tourism Board and CI Group, a service provider promoting local tourism through a ‘Mama Africa’ circus exhibition. The campaign is expected to include engagement of Tanzanian celebrities, companies, colleges and schools. Promotion of domestic tourism remains a challenge due to the pricing structure of the tourism sector as well as the products available. Whilst city-dwellers are often happy to return to rural homes and origins, the domestic market has interests that are not currently served to the same extent, especially in parks and reserves. Wildlife areas that are developed to include infrastructure like boardwalks or visitor centres may have more local appeal. However, they risk putting off international tourists seeking the simplicity of wild nature. The country must achieve a sensitive balance in meeting needs of both the domestic and international tourist markets in its diversification of the tourism sector.

Successes and challenges ahead for conservation
In terms of conservation, parks are well protected with poaching appearing to decrease overall. TANAPA’s shift towards a paramilitary approach appears to be paying off in the national park estate. Conservation has become a serious matter. Unofficial reports of poaching that surface outside of the parks suggest a possible poaching revival in the Ruvuma area potentially linked to the Mozambican insurgency across the border which may also be linked to reports of increased illegal logging in the south of the country. The decrease in tourism, and associated decreases in income for tourist-dependent communities, presents latent risks for a resurgence in the illegal wildlife trade, particularly when economies revive in consumer countries. Close attention to mitigate these risks is needed. However, at the same time, donor investment into conservation has slumped, in part due to the inability of donors to programme and the squeeze on finances at home due to the coronavirus pandemic but exacerbated by sometimes strained relationships between government and development partners.

A WWF report in November flagged ongoing concerns on how illegal fishing, farming, deforestation and resource extraction business, have led to significant depletion of freshwater fish and crustaceans in the Mara River. This exacerbates ongoing concerns of conservationists that the Mara Basin will less effectively sustain the ecosystem on which so many depend for life and livelihoods.

Rangers and volunteers help put out fires on Mt Kilimanjaro (AP photo)

In October 2020, there was a brief panic as fire broke out on Kilimanjaro with risks to communities and hikers alike. TANAPA and stakeholders reacted quickly to quench the fire.


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 Paul Harrison

Green Mile Safaris loses hunting concession
In January 2020, after several years of disputes which peaked in late 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT) revoked the hunting concession of Abu Dhabi ba sed Green Mile Safaris and closed down the camp. The company had previously lost the licence to hunt in August 2019, having been accused of both violating hunting practices as well as not paying revenues to local communities. According to the Citizen, reports from Longido District at the time suggest that four company employees were arrested for allegedly failing to leave the camp. The hunting block then fell under the management of Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority. The move reflects an increasingly no-nonsense approach to the sport hunting industry in Tanzania, with ongoing attempts to clean up irregularities. It also reflects momentum to reduce hunting areas and convert reserves to national parks that can support increased photographic tourism.

Tanzania national parks taking regionalisation seriously

Map showing the latest game reserves to be upgraded to national parks in black – Nyerere (occupying part of the Selous Game Reserve), Ugalla River and Kigosi. (TANAPA

A boost in the portfolio of Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) to 22 parks has led management to take their position seriously and seize the opportunity, resources permitting. Whilst the area known as the northern circuit (Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Manyara, Arusha, Meru, Kilimanjaro) has been receiving the bulk of the benefit of tourism numbers and revenue, the newly developed ‘western circuit’ (the new parks of the north-west of the country, alongside places like Mahale, and Gombe Stream parks), the ‘eastern circuit’ (Usambara Mountains and Saadani parks in particular) and the ‘southern circuit’ (Katavi, Ruaha, Udzungwa parks, plus Selous game reserve/Nyerere national park) still lack funding and investment.

The national parks estate is thus divided in terms of investment between the wealthier north and everywhere else. TANAPA have worked with the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) and wider Ministry to try and attract tourism to these lesser known sites. The new focus on regionalisation should start a rebalancing, but it will take time. With the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, such plans will likely go on the backburner, yet remain important in the longer term.

After a strong start for tourism in 2020, Covid-19 brings the industry to a standstill
The Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB) have rebranded Tanzania as ‘Unforgettable.’ Several short promotional films were launched around February time. However, as momentum for #TanzaniaUnforgettable started to grow, boosting an already solid performance from the tourism sector, the global lockdown against the Covid-19 pandemic began. The TTB quickly relaunched their main film short at the beginning of April, changing the voiceover message from one of ‘welcome now’, to one of ‘stay safe—and we shall see you later’. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the global economy in unprecedented ways. The tourism sector in Tanzania has not been spared, with tourism now at a complete standstill.

In early March, as reported in The Citizen, the Government of Zanzibar banned visitors from Italy to the archipelago, despite the considerable importance of the Italian market to Zanzibar’s predominantly beach tourism. Tanzania decided to halt tourism promotional work and provisional bookings began to be cancelled. By the end of March, the Serengeti was all but closed. Bookings were cancelled, vehicles grounded, camps and hotels shut, staff were sent home. Zanzibar’s hotels were almost all closed. Mount Kilimanjaro’s constant stream of hikers had stopped. Conference centres like the Arusha International and the Julius Nyerere International in Dar es Salaam, amongst other businesses affected by tourism and business travel, have also shut for the time being. Parks are receiving zero visitors and therefore have no income. This is a major setback in several sectors including park management, air transport, hotels and hospitality, and for tour companies.

The effects to the industry are considerable and will become more pronounced over time as companies need to decide whether to keep staff or indeed to keep going at all. The government’s flexibility towards the private sector in these pressing times will be important, though is not as yet a given.

Growing risk of threats to wildlife from poaching as tourism oversight drops.
Inevitably, this will have a negative impact on conserving Tanzania’s biodiversity. Tanzanian authorities and conservationists fear that a that whilst tourism drops, there will be no such operational pause for poaching and wildlife trafficking. Indeed, the lack of eyes on the ground (tourists and guides as well as fewer guards) may well open up new opportunities for poaching and trafficking. The increase of unemployment in the formal and informal sectors can also fuel the problem of illegal offtake of natural resources as an alternative means of livelihood.

Monitoring on the ground has reduced yet ports remain open and smuggling modes will continue, with some adaptations. A key question is whether demand will continue with slumped economies, reduced buying power and greater pressure on countries like China, internally and externally, to crack down on illegal wildlife trade. Given the well-publicised apparent links between the rise of Covid-19 and some unregulated, unsafe ‘wet markets’ that have been selling wildlife, there may be a crackdown on illegal and unregulated wildlife trade. The government of Tanzania will want to keep a close eye on the potential rise in poaching, especially given recent successes to counter it.


by Paul Harrison

Tanzanian tourism continues to grow steadily

According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), reported in the Daily News, the tourism industry grew by 5.6% in 2018 across Africa compared to a global average of 3.9%, making Africa the second fastest growing region after Asia-Pacific. Tanzania continues to outpace many other East African nations, with a solid product range of safaris, walking, mountaineering and beach tourism boosting the industry which accounts for 17% of Tanzania’s GDP. The Citizen reports that Tanzania was 10th in the tourism growth ranking across the continent, based on the WTTC’s 2019 Competitive Index.

However, the ease of doing business for the tourism sector is diminished by a robust bureaucracy, a forthright national revenue service and ongoing difficulties in accessing foreign exchange, for companies and tourists alike. Queues at a restricted number of dedicated forex bureaux have become commonplace. As the country looks to improve the investment climate through 2020, the government faces a challenge to align pro-investment messaging with improvements in bureaucracy. For instance, The Citizen reported the government statement that it will simplify the procedure for wildlife filming, recognising the potential for wildlife films and documentaries to attract visitors.

Ongoing investments in infrastructure include a new train operating between Dar es Salaam and Moshi, expected to encourage hikers, backpackers and those seeking a slower pace of sightseeing. Investments in the road network aid tourism growth although these sometimes risk impacting the viability of key wild animal populations such as lions, which require large undisturbed areas and the ability to migrate freely.

Lions, symbol of Tanzania’s might, at risk
In Tanzanian daily life, the lion features on currency, commercial logos, kanga designs and tourist shirts, but the economic benefits of lions to Tanzania are not widely known. There are around 8,000 lions in Tanzania, accounting for over a third of all lion populations globally. This point of pride for Tanzania is also a great responsibility. 60% of Tanzania’s lions live outside protected areas and are increasingly threatened. Lions are vital to Tanzania’s tourist industry, with tourists wanting to see lions above all else. Healthy lion populations keep herbivore populations under control which keeps diseases at bay; their habitats serve as carbon sinks. Water from lion habitats feeds rivers, supplying major cities and conserving lion habitat ensures more resilient ecosystems. Yet investments into lion conservation are limited, reflecting a lack of awareness of their plight. A campaign called #bethepride has been launched, with national and international support, to raise awareness of dwindling lion populations, increase Tanzanians pride in them and help individual Tanzanians act to protect them.

Managing links between communal lands, game reserves and national parks is important to ensure suitable space for lions. There can be unintended consequences of partitioning protected areas, as if a new national park is created, it can be tempting to build roads around it. Yet habitat connectivity and countering the ‘edge effect’ to parks and reserves is critical. A holistic approach to protected areas management is required; the links need to be safeguarded where they can.

New national parks bring new opportunities
The government continues to invest into and expand the national parks system, with 22 parks in the national park system under Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA). The largest national park in Africa, Nyerere National Park, was gazetted in November 2019. This has upgraded 30,893 square kilometres (out of 50,000) of the Selous Game Reserve. Also recently gazetted are Ugalla River National Park (3.865 km2) and Kigosi National Park (7,460 km2), both also former game reserves.

The transfer of significant, prime sections of game reserve wildlife real estate to TANAPA suggests that government sees future value to its wildlife economy increasingly in photographic tourism alongside utilisation. To safeguard against the variability of the tourism industry, the government will need to ensure a diverse tourism product and investment strategy to counter reduced returns elsewhere across the wildlife estate, including from hunting.

Investment into new destinations and effective national and international marketing of them will be critical, especially of hitherto unknown destinations in the Southern Circuit—the collection of parks across the south of the country. A new arrangement for TANAPA to be managed from four regional zonal offices (north, south, east and west) will no doubt help evolving operations, reducing pressure on Arusha headquarters. Financing will be key, both in terms of short-term support from government and donors (in place now from the USA, Germany, the United Nations and the World Bank, amongst others) as well as long-term economic sustainability.

Increasing national park numbers may also indicate a response to challenges faced in realising the potential of the Tanzania Wildlife Management Authority (TAWA), established in 2014. This includes the issue that wildlife utilisation, including hunting, is increasingly controversial in some consumer countries. Countries like the USA have closed elephant and lion trophy imports for significant periods and the UK is considering a total ban on wildlife trophy imports. Social media reflects an increasing global intolerance of hunting, putting pressure on governments in consumer countries. A number of major safari operators have surrendered concessions, including some in place for decades, citing a lack of demand. Wildlife utilisation remains a part of the wildlife economy picture, if diminished; the remaining area of the Selous game reserve set aside for utilisation after the creation of Nyerere national park is down to around a third of the original size.

Meanwhile, the Rufiji Hydropower project is ongoing at Stiegler’s Gorge, with ambitious plans for completion by 2022 requiring excavation of the Rufiji river dam site throughout 2020 and work on the reservoir in 2021 before construction of the power plant. UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, working with the World Conservation Union (IUCN) were critical of TANESCO’s Strategic Environmental Assessment for the hydropower project in a review submitted to the government in late 2019. The question mark remains over retention of the area’s World Heritage status. The project, expected to generate 2,100 megawatts with an annual output of 6,300 GWh, is critical to the President’s industrialisation strategy.

Anti-poaching strategy yielding results with increased political will
Tanzania’s increasingly hard line on poaching, including on the involvement of foreign nationals, is reflected in the government’s 2014 national strategy to combat poaching and the illegal wildlife trade, supported by the United Nations and other partners. This responded to an international poaching crisis which saw the Selous game reserve hardest hit. After a slow start to implementation, ongoing institutional reforms and a strong focus on enforcement under the current government have seen the strategy bear fruit. Previously disparate law enforcement units that tackled poaching from different perspectives have been brought together under the national task force on anti-poaching, spearheaded by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism with collaboration of other national law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

High-level cases have successfully been brought to justice. Notably, coordinated intelligence and enforcement efforts within Tanzania led to the arrest of Chinese national Yang Fenglan alongside several Tanzanian accomplices. The so-called ‘Ivory Queen’ was convicted in 2019 of smuggling around 700 elephant tusks and accused of operating an ivory smuggling ring. Her arrest and prosecution were openly supported by the Chinese government.

Poaching levels are now dropping consistently and there has been a notable increase in elephant populations over the last two years, though diligent efforts and ongoing funding are required to ensure the crisis does not return. Funding for anti-poaching and intelligence work comes through the Tanzania Wildlife Protection Fund, supported by key national protected areas agencies. Ongoing supplementary investments from international donors into implementation of the national anti-poaching strategy are expected to be necessary in the short term.

Charcoal, certified timber and tackling deforestation
The Citizen reported that the Tanzania Forest Conservation Group, working with the Tanzania Community Forest Conservation Network, has provided training in Morogoro to local people on sustainable harvesting of trees for charcoal. Charcoal use remains widespread and significantly contributes to deforestation. These efforts support community revenue generation, education and awareness and could be replicated widely. Meanwhile in southern Tanzania, a number of timber companies are now Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified, in an effort to ensure the sustainability of the trade in valuable timber resources, from community managed forests as well as government reserves.


by Paul Harrison

Tourism renewal throughout 2018
Tourism is the main contributor to foreign exchange receipts for Tanzania, making up over 15% of GDP. According to the Bank of Tanzania, tourism brought in $1.22 billion of revenues in 2018, making it the second largest earner for Tanzania in GDP terms. The government is well aware of the significance of the industry and has been taking steps to diversify the product and the demand.

Indeed, Tanzania’s efforts to attract more tourism revenues have yielded fruit over the last eighteen months or so. According to reporting by the Bank of Tanzania, visitor numbers rose to 688,252 in mid-2018, up from 567,761 in mid-2017, a rise of 21%, as reported in the Guardian newspaper.

Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr. Hamisi Kigwangalla is pushing for two million visitors to Tanzania by 2020 by increasing the number of tourism products but also the number of nationalities visit­ing. The Minister has, according to press reports, described Russia as a “new frontier”. The Chinese market is also being actively sought. For the time being, the United States and the UK are the two main markets for Tanzania, alongside Kenya if you include volumes of entries across the Namanga border. The Tanzanian Investment Centre is actively engaged in attracting new tourism industry investment from emerging markets like China to provide sufficient products for emerging Asian demand.

According to the Citizen newspaper, the minister disbanded the Tanzania Tourism Board (TTB) in late January 2019 for being slow and ineffective. It was subsequently reinstated under a new management team. The Minister has been pushing for digitising the system, which has been slow in development and the TTB is under pressure to update itself and its offer.

Diversification of the tourism product will require a boost for the south, which though long-talked about, has yet to come about at the pace the country would like to see. ‘Southern Circuit’ destinations being promoted include Ruaha, Katavi, Mahale and Gombe Stream national parks. Efforts to reinvigorate the southern protected area estate need to continue to avoid reliance on the northern circuit and greater efforts at bringing tourism dollars into the lesser known game reserves. Currently only northern circuit national parks like the Serengeti and Kilimanjaro are profitable, the rest being, in effect, subsidised.

The government is aware that the southern circuit needs considerable promotion, and Tanzania and the TTB will likely want to move away from the tagline of “Tanzania: Land of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar and the Serengeti” to show case the remaining parks and associated landscapes. Many great southern circuit destinations are being missed by this approach of marketing only the north, rather than taking a more holistic approach such as the “Incredible India” marketing campaign.

Tanzania has had to rise above numerous criticisms in the international media and from certain bilateral partners over its handling of the Selous hydropower scheme, to prove that the majority of the Selous as a protected area will be able to continue to be protected. Criticism has been put that the new hydroelectric dam will lead to significant envi­ronmental damage in the existing game reserve through logging and disturbance to wildlife populations, and downstream, such as through various impacts on the drainage system of the Rufiji basin and associ­ated riverine ecosystems.

Nonetheless, clearing of the miombo woodland for the new hydro­power site in the Selous game reserve has taken place, with prepara­tions underway now for initiating the dam development, the project having been formally inaugurated in July.

President John Magufuli has been keen to emphasise that the majority of the Selous as a protected system, remains and will remain protected. Indeed, the President has gone further through announcing that the most popular part of the Selous, the northern section, will be upgraded, likely to be called “Nyerere National Park”. The south will remain as a game reserve and hunting licences are in the process of being reissued with new bidding rounds for some concessions underway.

The subject of hydropower has not been limited to Selous and Stiegler’s Gorge alone, as Tanzania has been negotiating with Kenya about halt­ing the proposed construction of a set of dams along the Mara river. This has been an ongoing discussion and it is not clear how serious the Kenyan proposals are.

In the Selous area, the proposed Nyerere national park falls in line with a spate of upgrades to the protected area system as part of the tour­ism drive. The national park system has risen from 16 to 21 parks of late with the addition of new game reserves in the north west, namely Ibanda, Rumanyika, Birigi, Biharamulo and Kimisi. If the tourism prod­ucts can be developed in the new sites and well marketed, they will offer significant new potential for further growth of the sector, though there is a risk in the short term of the new parks weighing down the system further.

The rise of interest in tourism by the government is also extending to cultural sights, with new government investments in the Olduvai gorge visitor experience. More investments are needed in other sights, however, such as Kolo, Kondoa, and Kilwa Kisiwani, to continue to diversify the cultural tourism portfolio.

Meanwhile, according to the Citizen, a nine-year-old boy, Advait Bhartia, known fondly by locals as simba mtoto, or little lion, has recently climbed Kilimanjaro, summiting on 31st July 2019. He is perhaps sur­prisingly not the youngest, that prize going to a seven-year-old.

Taking nature conservation more seriously
Perhaps in recognition, at least in part, of the tourism potential of Tanzania’s natural resources, government attention on the security of natural resources has been on the rise. Wildlife enforcement efforts have been on the rise with a joint task force between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and law enforcement agencies getting results from intelligence operations and some significant arrests.

There is, as a result, positive news in the world of elephant conser­vation, with numbers rising again in the country after their brutal persecution in recent years, particularly in the Selous. However, with rising elephant numbers, as the animals start to feel more relaxed away from wilderness areas and head to park boundaries and into public lands, the incidence of human elephant conflict is now a significant problem across many parts of the country, from the Selous to the west­ern Serengeti, amongst other places. Tanzania can be expected to seek financial support to engage with local people to effectively tackle this.

The government is aware of the difficultly of community engagement in conservation, with different forms of participation possible through marine, forest and wildlife management. There may be cause for further simplification of the policy structure to make it easier for communities to manage and benefit from the wild flora and fauna around them. The conservancy model is one option that may be considered, which has been utilised in Namibia and Kenya with some success.

Some positive news is arising in the world of forestry too, with Chome nature reserve reporting a growth in canopy cover following donor investments and new community forests set up to take advantage of sus­tainable trade of selected hard wood species using Forest Stewardship Council certification.


by Ben Taylor

A busy first few months for Minister Kigwangalla
The Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism, Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla, has stirred up the sector since his appointment in late 2017. In a little over six months in office, he has accused several hunting companies of grave acts of misconduct, including announcing that the managing director of Otterlo Business Corporation (OBC) was under investiga­tion for corruption; revoked and then extended tourist hunting licenses issued between 2013 and 2017; accused Ministry staff of collusion with poachers; fired the head of Wildlife Conservation, Emmanuel Barabara; and directed the police to arrest certain individuals he suspects of involvement either in poaching or in the death of conservationist Wayne Lotter.

These moves have prompted both support and criticism.

Leaders of the Tanzania Professional Hunters Association (TPHA) accused the Minister of “disrespect for natural justice.” TPHA linked the minister’s remarks against some of the association’s members with his attempt to cancel validly-granted hunting blocks to operators, claim­ing that this is a dangerous precedent that is not based on law and “not in the best interests of the tourism industry”.

Conservation activist, Susannah Nordlund, said local activists’ hopes had been raised by the Minister’s early stance against OBC – including a promise that they would be “gone by January” – but that their hopes had been dashed by his more recent actions. “Now they feel sorry that he has had to bow to pressure from his superiors,” she wrote in a blog­post after Kigwangalla expressed support for OBC following a visit by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, to OBC hunting blocks in March.

The Minister stated in April that not a single wild animal has been reported killed by poachers in the past 6 months.

Selous elephant collaring project launched
The government, with support from WWF, has launched the country’s largest ever elephant collaring effort. 60 elephants will be collared in and around the Selous. This will support reserve management and gov­ernment rangers, enabling them to track elephant movements, identify and act against threats in real-time.

“In a landscape as vast as Selous where poaching continues, better information on the whereabouts of elephants is critical to anticipate the risks they may encounter, including fatal attacks by poachers,” said Asukile Kajuni of WWF-Tanzania. “The collars mark an important first step in the zero-poaching approach we are taking by enabling wildlife protection teams to be on the front foot against poaching attacks,” he added.

In 2014, UNESCO placed Selous on its List of World Heritage in Danger due to the severity of elephant poaching. In the past 40 years, widespread poaching of elephants for ivory has seen the population in Selous decimated, with numbers plunging from 110,000 to an estimated 15,000.
To collar an elephant, the animal is first sedated by an immobilisation dart. A team then moves in to gather health data about the elephant and attach the collar. This takes a total of up to 30 minutes, following which the elephant is given an antidote to revive and join its herd. (Daily News)

Parliament endorses Paris Climate Agreement
The National Assembly in early April formally endorsed the Paris Climate Change agreement. The Minister of State in the Vice President Office (Union Affairs and the Environment), January Makamba, tabled the motion, which was unanimously supported.

Makamba said endorsing the agreement would have a positive impact on the country’s economy. “It will strengthen Tanzania’s multinational cooperation in matters pertaining to climate change,” he said, add­ing that the pact would help increase opportunities in clean energy technology through the use of natural gas for domestic purposes, thus accelerating progress towards industrialisation and the use of afford­able energy.

After parliament’s endorsement, the next step is for Tanzania to formally ratify the treaty. Tanzania will become the 176th country to do so.

The Paris Agreement deals with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance starting in the year 2020. The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by con­sensus on 12 December 2015. US President, Donald Trump, announced in July 2017 his intention to withdraw from the agreement. Under the agreement, the earliest possible date for a US withdrawal to take effect is November 2020, shortly before the end of President Trump’s current term.


by Mark Gillies

Action in Maasai land dispute
Newly appointed Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism, Hamis Kigwangalla, has terminated a 25-year-old hunting concession with a company owned by the United Arab Emirates royal family and launched investigations into the dealings of the company and former tourism ministers.

The Minister ordered the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to arrest and investigate Isaac Mollel, executive director of the Ortelo Business Corporation (OBC), for trying to bribe him and his predecessors. Dr Kigwangalla also called for the investigation of former ministers. This includes Lazaro Nyalandu, who was recently lambasted by the Minister after having defected from CCM to Chadema citing concerns at the government’s direction under President Magufuli.

Dr Kigwangalla said OBC will never be awarded another hunting licence, and suspended director of wildlife Alexander Songorwa for allegedly creating a syndicate of government officials in the ministry who have been compromised.

Prior to Kigwangalla’s appointed, long-running tensions between the Maasai community and government authorities in Loliondo and the Serengeti flared up in August 2017. An estimated 185 homes were burned in an act of forced eviction, according to a Danish NGO, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA).

“We must speak out about the land issue,” said Lilian Looloitai of Cords Limited, an Arusha-based rights group. “The government has not taken the proper measures to educate and communicate what their intentions are for the land. They are told, ‘You can’t cross this land, it belongs to the government, you can’t cross this land it belongs to investors’. We are not certain, we are not stable – as a community, as a society – and it is affecting our future.”

In 2012, there were claims that the government wanted to force Maasai pastoralists off their land to allow hunting activities on land bordering the Serengeti National Park. In response, the government shelved plans to create a “wildlife corridor” of 579 square miles. President Kikwete promised in 2014 that evictions would not take place.

Shortly after his appointment, the new Minister gave an interview to The Citizen newspaper that offered rights and conservation activists hope. “I heard about the violation of human rights that occurred in that area including houses of residents being torched and women being raped,” he said. “So, I have said as the minister I will not promote the dispute further as it only serves to entrench hatred of the people we seek to serve against their government.”

“Some livestock were seized on the villages’ land during an operation of establishing the buffer zone,” he added. “I said you seized these livestock in the game controlled area of Loliondo and you have not seized them according to the law. So, get them (livestock) back to the residents and I suspended that operation. The animals seized within the Serengeti National Park would be fined according to the law.”

Just days later, the OBC concession was terminated, Songorwa suspended and PCCB called in.

Bids invited for Steigler’s Gorge hydropower dam project
The Ministry of Energy and Minerals has invited bids for the construction of a hydropower project at Stiegler’s Gorge in the Selous Game Reserve, despite opposition from conservationists.

The government considers the project on the Rufiji river in the UNESCO-designated reserve as vital in its bid to diversify its energy mix and end chronic electricity shortages.

The project would more than double the country’s power generation capacity. With an installed capacity of at least 2,100MW, the new dam will dwarf other hydropower dams in Tanzania, including Kidatu (204MW), Kihansi (180MW), Mtera (80MW) and Pangani (68MW).

The conservation group, WWF, called on potential investors, banks and
construction companies not to participate in the project, at least until a full Strategic Environmental Assessment has been carried out. “WWF wants the true impacts of the dam to first be assessed and the World Heritage Committee to give its approval. The proposed dam would endanger the livelihoods of 200,000 local people and the reserve’s rare wildlife, such as elephants and black rhinos, would be placed under even greater threat.” “Companies who become involved in the project run the risk of significant reputational damage,” said WWF campaign manager. “We are asking investors, banks and those in the construction industry that work on dams to add Stiegler’s Gorge to their risk register.”

President Magufuli’s office said in July that the long-delayed hydroelectric plant would be built “to speed up the development of the country”.


by Mark Gillies

The past few months have been a quiet time for Tanzanian tourism and conservation with no new crises to face, but plenty of on-going struggles.

Perhaps with an eye to the potential damage done to the Tanzanian tourism industry by cost increases of 2016, the Tanzanian Tourism Board was reported by ATC News on 14 March as being very busy at this year’s annual ITB trade show in Berlin, signing marketing representation agreements with companies in the three key source markets of the US, UK and Germany.

The job of these companies will be to promote the tourist destinations of Tanzania & Zanzibar whilst also liaising with tour operators and travel media in those source markets. Up until this point, hotel owners and tour operators have been forced to shoulder this burden privately with little support from the TTB. No details are yet known because the companies are only due to submit their business plans to the Tourism Board in the middle of the year, but it will be interesting to see if Tanzania’s story begins to be told in a more professional and comprehensive manner.

Although Tanzania’s appeal as a tourist destination remains strong, significant negative news stories remain available for the consumer to digest.

The widespread failure of the short rains last year and the subsequent drought across parts of East Africa has brought famine to Sudan, conflict to Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau and tension to Tanzania. Interestingly, echoes of Laikipia can be found in the 3 January Citizen report by Lilian Lucas that described the lake of rain in Morogoro Region and the reported death of almost 4,000 cattle. Responding to the deaths, Regional Commissioner, Dr Kebwe Steven Kebwe, consoled pastoralists who had lost cattle but ordered police in the region to co-operate with local militias in removing pastoralists cattle from farms. He also ‘turned down’ a request from local pastoralists to graze cattle in Mikumi National Park, advising instead that the applicants tend their pasture better next year.

Readers of TA and the wider media are now sadly familiar with the threat to the sustainable management of Tanzania’s natural resources posed by poaching. Elephant, lion and giraffe have all featured in the headlines of late, so it is with a certain glum weariness that we add the grumbling hippo to this tragic list.

IPP Media reported how in December, National Geographic released a report entitled ‘Fighting the Underground Trade in Hippo Teeth’ which detailed how poaching gangs in Tanzania, and other African countries, are killing hippo for their teeth, which are then carved into intricate patterns and sold to yes, you guessed it, the Chinese market.

The last census of the Tanzanian hippo population was conducted in 2001, so very little is known about current numbers and any losses from either poaching or reduction of habitat due to human expansion. When asked about the threat, the Director of Wildlife in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, Prof. Alexander Songorwa, stated that no hippo teeth can currently be exported legally from the country, except those acquired as a result of licenced sport hunting, but that the Department was soliciting funds and working on methodologies to combat any problem.

If the news of a new victim is always down-heartening, then reports of new initiatives in the protection of Tanzania’s natural heritage are always good to receive. This is particularly so when the news puts Tanzania on the cutting edge of technological development.

For the past few years, drones have been an increasing menace when deployed above the herds of the Great Migration, to use but one example. However, Bathawk Recon ( are proving that a much more sophisticated version can definitely be a force for good.

Bathawk Recon is a new private initiative based in northern Tanzanian established with the aim of using drone technology and surveillance techniques to oppose poaching operations across Tanzania and other African nations. Capable of flying during the day or the night, the drones can cover vast areas, protecting the wildlife below by spotting poaching teams and directing law enforcement teams into the affected area with pin-point accuracy. Furthermore, when contact is made with the poachers, the eye-in-the sky makes sure that no poachers are able to escape; all the while remaining unseen itself.

Have a look at the company’s videos; the potential is very exciting. One just hopes that should Bathawk Recon prove to be successful, their use will be supported wholeheartedly by the governments of Africa.