Dar es Salaam — A total of Sh340 billion will be spent on boosting Tanzania's southern tourist circuit in a bid to shake up economic growth in the area.
This comes after the government signed a loan agreement with the World Bank in a move that will see the southern regions contributing more to the national economy.
The project is targeting Iringa Region as the hub for tourism in southern circuit and will involve the improvement of infrastructure, promotion of tourist attractions and creation of related economic activities.
Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Dotto James signed on behalf of the government while World Bank Country director Bella Bird did so on behalf of the lender. Speaking after the signing of agreement, Mr James explained that the southern circuit is rich with tourist attractions, but receives a small share of tourists arriving in the country mainly due to poor infrastructure.
"The signed loan will open up national parks in the southern circuit, starting with the Ruaha, which is the second largest in Africa," he said.
He added, "The project will also involve the construction of bridges and air strips in the Ruaha National Park and Selous Game Reserve. This will also benefit the surrounding communities."
The permanent secretary revealed that the project will involve the construction of tarmac roads linking Iringa to Ruaha National Park, a move that will simplify transport for tourists.
World Bank boss Bird, for her part, said the protection of the environment and natural resources during the implementation of the projects remain the lender's priority. "From the World Bank, we see the southern circuit as an excellent choice to promote tourism diversification, and fully support the vision of positioning it as an engine for economic growth and job creation," she said. Through the implementation of much needed infrastructure inside the protected areas, strong community involvement and livelihood activities, tourism promotion, marketing and private sector engagement, REGROW project, which is financed by the credit sets the vision for poverty reduction through a conservation lens that will turn into a world-class example on how to sustainably manage natural resources.
"I want to reiterate my pride and satisfaction to participate in the signing ceremony for the REGROW project, for $150 million, today," she said. Ms Bird said signing ceremony of the credit bears witness to the bank's commitment of supporting the government of Tanzania in bridging the gap between conservation and economic benefits for the country, and becomes an important milestone for a great partnership
"Tourism has done many things to the Tanzanian economy which include job creation, environmental and ecological protections," she said. She furthermore said the prospective infrastructure project should enable improving people's welfare and must be people-centred.
The southern circuit and its large protected areas are subject to a range of pressures, including water shortages, poaching, human-wildlife conflicts, and others.
The REGROW project, to be financed by the loan will strengthen the government's ability to manage the pressures and better protect the resources.
"In Tanzania, perhaps more evidently than in most countries, to talk about tourism equals talking about biodiversity. They are two inextricable sides of the same coin, and they are both mutually dependent. By promoting the development of tourism in the south, the government is ensuring much needed flows of income, which in turn are fundamental to be reinvested in protection of the resource base," she said in her speech.