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Tanzania: Tourism and Telecoms mark changes. (Country Focus).

The old, socialist Tanzania is disappearing by the day. Buoyed by a substantial debt cancellation and an upsurge in mining, Tanzania is eagerly embracing free-market policies and modernising its infrastructure. Tourism is expected to be the prime engine of growth as the country races to make for lost time.

For decades, Tanzania seemed fast asleep as far as modern economic development was concerned. It was locked in ideological navel-gazing and one of the most stifling bureaucracies in the world. Things either did not work or when they did, the pace was excruciatingly slow.

But Tanzania has now woken up and it is becoming the most exciting economic entity in the East African region. A World Bank and IMF initiative to cancel up to 90% ($2.2bn) of Tanzania s external debt has finally untied the government's hands and allowed it to allocate more resources into desperately needed infrastructural projects.

A series of reforms in the mining, financial, tourism and state sectors -- unthinkable during Julius Nyerere's socialist era -- has rekindled interest among investors.

Mining boosts economy

The country wants to become the third biggest gold producer in the world by 2004. Output is expected to reach 1.4m ounces when the four new western region projects of Geita Gold, Nzega, Golden Pride and Bulyanhula become fully operational in some three years time. An additional 23 mines have been opened this year.

There are commercial deposits of diamonds, rubies, iron ore, phosphate, tin, salt, uranium nickel, cobalt, copper, coal gas and petroleum. The exquisite 'blue diamond', Tanzanite, found only in this country is in enormous demand by jewellers all over the world.

The country's new mining code, which has done away with export levies, has opened the door to foreign investors who are taking a serious look at the broader mining picture. In 1998, Tanzania was the world's prime destination for mineral exploration, beating both South Africa and Ghana. 1999 saw a four-fold increase in mineral production, from $22.6m to $80.4m. Mining is expected to account for 5% of the country's GDP by 2005.

New sense of efficiency

The upsurge in mining activity has kick-started the economy and seems to have shaken the public sector and administration out of its former lethargy. Tax collection for one, has improved vastly. Government revenue from taxation rose from Tshs299.9bn in 1994-5 to Tshs694bn in fiscal 1999 -- an increase of 131%.

Some 300 out of 400 parastatals earmarked for privarisation have already been divested and the big one, Tanesco -- Tanzania's power monopoly -- is expected to get the treatment soon. The Dares Salaam Stock Exchange (DSE) plans to open up the secondary market to foreign investors sometime next year. It is also considering letting foreigners in at the IPO stage as one means of solving the chronic liquidity shortage.

Once languishing in the wake of the technology revolution, Tanzania is now making a determined effort to catch up with its neighbours, particularly in the south. Although the use of computers is still well below par, mobile phone use has sky-rocketed. Some 160,000 Tanzanians have discovered the freedom that comes with owning a handset. In a country where teledensity is knocking the bottom of the world league table, and obtaining lines is akin to winning a lottery jackpot, the mobile handset must seem a blessing from heaven.

Dar reinvents itself

Evidence of the new business-like attitude is plentiful. Dar es Salaam, the capital, has shaken off its former somnambulistic, decrepit character and is reinventing itself as a thoroughly modern African city. There is a one-stop investment centre, several new banks offering ATM services and a host of smart new hotels have taken over from decaying state-run establishments.

Perhaps the best of the new breed hotels is the Sea Cliff on the Msasani peninsular -- away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. It offers first-class modern accommodation without losing the old-world charm of the coast. A well stocked shopping centre rakes care of the traveller's day to day requirements and three romantically designed restaurants provide both Western type menus and fabulous Swahili dishes. A casino rounds off the day's entertainment.

Both the Dar es Salaam and the Kilimanjaro international airports have been upgraded. The runway at Kilimanjaro International, near the town of Arusha, is capable of landing Boeing 747s. It was privatised two years ago and is the only fully privatisated airport in Africa.

The new free-market competitive spirit which is gradually replacing the old socialist mindset has been infusing even into state-run organisations. Faced with competition from the private sector, the state-run Tanzania Posts Corporation introduced an efficient new overnight parcel mailing service. The response has been "tremendous", says the company.

Tourism is the key

If mining has kick-started the economy, it is tourism which will grow it. Accounting for 14% of GDP, second only to the 34% generated by agriculture, tourism earned $733.28m in 1999. The 777,219 visitors in 1999 reflected an increase of 20% over the previous year. Industry analysts believe this is still only a drop in the ocean and that the sector can be expanded almost infinitely.

Few countries in Africa, if not in the world, have been blessed with such an abundance of tourist delights. The coast, with its ribbons of beautiful white beaches, is crammed with cultural and historic sites. Zanzibar, over the water, has lost none of its mystique and romance. A hydrofoil service provides a relatively cheap and quick connection to the island.

Professional deep-sea anglers say that the Pemba channel cannot be beaten for the quality of sport fishing opportunities it contains. World-record size sailfish, marlin, yellow-fin tuna and tiger shark abound.

The northern circuit

But it is the hinterland of this vast country, with the awe-inspiring Rift Valley running down its spine, that takes away ones breath. From the massive, snow-headed cone of Mt Kilimanjaro in the north east to the biggest game reserve in Africa, Selous, in the south, Tanzania is a treasure trove of natural wonders.

Kilimanjaro International Airport serves the northern tourist circuit. Here you will find five of Tanzania's 12 national parks: Arusha National Park, Mt Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater. The annual migration of millions of animals from the crater as they follow the rains is one of the greatest natural experiences the world has to offer.

Selous Game Reserve

Selous Game Reserve dominates the southern circuit. Its size is staggering -- 45,000 sq km or 50% of Tanzania's land mass. It is bigger than Switzerland or Denmark.

Selous, little touched by human interference, is possibly the most pristine wilderness left in Africa. It has some of the largest mammal populations in the world. Some, 400 species of birds make it a bird-watchers' paradise. Its unique system of rivers and lakes allow the visitor to make boat safaris through spectacular wildlife concentrations. Enthusiasts from all over the world come to hunt for the rare Tiger Fish and Vandu in the rivers of the Kilobero Game Controlled Area to the west of the reserve.

Only some 5,000 tourists visit the area each year, contributing to its pristine character. Getting there is usually by light aircraft -- all lodges and camps have landing strips. The Rufigi River Camp, situated along the area's most important river of the same name, is a wonderful starting point for the adventure of a lifetime. The Vuma Hill Tented Camp in the Mikumi National Park, which adjoins to the north of the Selous Reserve, has spectacular views, and even provides conference facilities.
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Article Details
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Author:Versi, Anver
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6TANZ
Date:May 1, 2001
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