opinionBy Leonard Mwakalebela
BUT what is in store for residents of Mtwara and Lindi regions due to the availability of reliable power and discovery of gas.Mtwara Regional Tanesco Acting Manager, Christopher Semindu, noted that demands and supply of power would automatically increase as many huge projects are in the offing.
"There are so many huge projects coming; there's Dangote cement industry which will be using 30MW alone and will create many jobs and boost regional and national economy. "There's expansion of Mtwara port; huge multi-billion water project from Newala popularly known as Makonde water project and cashewnut factories. All these will demand power and we're prepared to tackle this emerging demand," added Mr Semindu.
His statements have been echoed by many people in the two regions who said the regions should prepare for 'gas economy.' A prominent businessman, who owns a chain of hotels and bars in Mtwara town, Mr Nelson Msengi said life has changed drastically and those who had left their houses and relocated to Dar es Salaam, are moving back, after noting all the positive changes taking place in Mtwara Region.
He explained that even prices for pieces of land have gone up due to lucrative business of hotels and guest houses and massive construction projects due to availability of reliable power and discovery of natural gas. "I own a chain of hotels and guest houses and if someone come here without prior booking, he will not find a room.
Guests are coming in droves to Mtwara Region every day, because they know there are glaring opportunities for investments, especially now that there is electricity," he noted. He added "I've been here since the 1980s when Mtwara was in the era of darkness, but natural gas and power have changed everything. Mtwara now is very expensive due to presence of colleges, oil and gas companies and other investors.
Natives have taken the advantages and hiked prices of goods and services. According to him, price of a beach plot has soared up to 100m/-. A teacher from Uwanjani Primary School in Lindi, Mr Abdallah Mnali said there are many visitors coming to Lindi every day than it was in previous years, seeking for investment opportunities.
"It was difficult to see business people from other regions coming to Lindi to invest, but now there is a big difference since electricity become available in the region, even when it goes off, it's just back within five minutes," he explained. Ms Moza Jusa, a waitress in one of the many bars in Mtwara Region said electricity from natural gas has rescued women in the region who now engage in income generating activities.
She mentioned some self employment opportunities that emerged due to availability of reliable power as kiosks for selling cold drinks, voucher charging business, barber shops and studios. For Fikiri Musa, a Bodaboda rider, the transformation of Mtwara to 'city' due to availability of power and natural gas has also transformed his life. "Power and natural gas have created huge demand of houses, hotels, lodges, foodstuff, almost everything including transport.
We (riders) are making good money due to demand in transport as there're many people (visitors, investors, students) while the number of vehicles are insufficient," he commented. He was, however, in opinion that more benefits of availability of power and discovery of natural gas would be seen in few years to come.
The government has already announced that it will sponsor 45 students from Lindi and Mtwara regions to higher learning institutions every year as part of benefits of natural gas. According to the Minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, once complete, a 532km gas pipeline from Mtwara to Dar es Salaam will yield Sh1.6 trillion annually in reduced costs of power generation.
The minister defends the project, saying after 18 months, the government would start saving 1.7m US Dollars, which it pays annually to companies generating electricity by using oil. Another 202m US Dollars would be saved once natural gas becomes a major source of energy for domestic use and that for motor vehicles. It's also possible to have outlets jutting out of the main pipeline to facilitate other economic activities along the way.
At a time when rainfall patterns were unpredictable, gas would be the most economically viable way to go. The government currently buys one unit of oil-produced electricity for 0.30 dollars - 0.43 dollars and gas-produced power for 0.6- 0.8 dollars. According to Tanzania's 2010 - 2015 strategic plan, the country expects its power production to reach 2,780MW. In order to prepare Mtwara for 'gas economy, the government has allocated areas for establishment of industrial parks in the southern regions and has planned to turn Mtwara port into free port.
The industries include fertilizer factories, liquefied natural gas and petrochemical industries. The government will also construct two natural gas processing plants, which will be built in Madimba (Mtwara) and in Songosongo (Lindi), that will require a lot of labour force mainly from the young generation. So far Tanzania has discovered about 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas .The total gas deposits found in Mtwara so far amount to only 14 per cent of the total deposits; Lindi seven per cent; Coast one per cent.
The remaining 78 per cent is found in Tanzania's deep seas - the EEZ. Believe it or not, Mtwarafew years, become another city and probably the most expensive region in the country, beating Dar es Salaam and Arusha. It's high time now for Mtwara and Lindi regions to be prepared for 'gas economy' as recommended by President Jakaya Kikwete. The antidotal economy for residents of the two regions will definitely spill over benefits throughout the country.