Tanzania: Are Minerals in Tanzania a Blessing or a Curse?


The United Republic of Tanzania possesses tremendous amount of natural resources, including land, minerals, forests, wildlife, fisheries, marine waters, biodiversity, and people. Sometime ago, I attended the dialogue organised by the African Union and attended by senior policy makers from across Africa and hosted at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (Uneca).

The dialogue focused on enhancing African's development through sustainable utilisation of natural resources. I participated in my capacity as a senior technical expert. However; it was annoying when the topic about minerals' development was tabled. Why?

Because the majority of speakers said: "Minerals in Africa are not a blessing but a curse". The concerns raised were related to how the mineral industry was operated: pin-pointing on contracts favouring foreign investors; the business engulfed with corruptive practices and lack of integrity.

They called upon African countries to re-examine their extractive sector policies in the context of having focused strategies and priorities to pave way for Africa's effective socio-economic development.

The decision makers were compelled to, apart from adopting strategic priorities for the betterment of the extractive industry to Africa's development, also adopt a common mining vision.

Thus, the African Mining Vision (AMV) was prepared and adopted by the African Union in 2009.

Early May 2019, the Uongozi Institute in collaboration with UNDP organised a regional dialogue on 'Enhancing National Ownership in the Mining Sector: Domesticating the African Mining Vision'. The dialogue was conducted at the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere International Conference Centre, Dar es Salaam. Participants were mainly experts in the extractive industry from Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania. The dialogue was officiated by Minerals minister Dotto Biteko, and facilitated by Prof Ammon Mbelle from the University of Dar es Salaam.

Professor Joseph Semboja, CEO-Uongozi Institute, mentioned that the government mining policies and regulatory regimes are firmly meant to extract minerals for the benefits of all.

UNDP Resident Representative Natalie Boucly said that for many years the contribution of extractive sector in the country has been low.

She further added that existing political will, including government efforts to revamp the extractive sector will lead to outcomes that will be vividly noticed through poverty reduction and enhanced sustainable economic growth across the Mainland.

The Minerals permanent secretary, Prof Simon Msanjilla, mentioned that it is the opportune time for the extractive industries to know exactly what we want to achieve and how it could benefit the country within the short, medium and long term based on what should be considered as good or bad.

The Minister told participants that successes are enabled through focused policies and regulatory regimes that can be effectively enforced leading to undoubted compliance at all times

. It was also pointed out that without strategic priorities on value addition and marketing mechanisms, the nation may not benefit from its rich mineral deposits as anticipated.

Other presentations included case-studies from Ghana, Nigeria and the Sadc region. Overall analysis showed that steps taken by Tanzania provide firm ground for domesticating AMV within the ambit of the local content, regional integration and capacity building.

The dialogue also stressed that through focused local content regulations including tools like "social licence to operate"; there should be strong manufacturing base whose benefits, over time, go beyond the mining industry and develop linkages into other industries within national economy.

This is what Tanzania is trying to achieve now and in the future through implementation of industrial economic policy. Through strategic priorities it will be possible in Tanzania to proclaim that minerals are a 'blessing' and not a 'curse'.

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