SEVENTY-four-year-old Juma Kazembe, a resident of Shinyanga, is one of the oldest persons in the region whose memories can serve as history. Having seen the region’s past face since the 1950s, Mzee Kazembe acknowledges that a lot of development has happened in recent years that gave Shinyanga a new look.
“Over 50 years back, a large part of the Shinyanga urban was covered by forests, with poor houses dotting the area, but now the real estate is flourishing here,” Kazembe says as he offers time off his joint where he sells coffee near the bus station to give a snapshot of the region’s history.
He says in those days the main economic activities were petty trades and agriculture. Recently, the region frequently features prominently in the media when eyes and ears turn to what is happening in the mineral industry.
One, it was when President John Magufuli formed the two probe teams of experts to investigate Bulyanhulu and Buzwagi gold mines in the region. The experts were tasked to analyse gold and copper concentrate containers stock-piled at the mines.
Two, the region featured in nearly every media outlet after the Speaker’s Committee formed to probe diamond mining and trade in the country submitted its report to the Speaker Job Ndugai who handed it over to the Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa before reaching President Magufuli.
Like gold and copper concentrates, this report, too, unearthed shocking details on how the government lost billions of shillings from the gemstone mining due to cheatings and mismanagement.
Shinyanga Region is where the major mining of gold and diamond takes place, and the region has been attracting a large flow of Foreign Direct Investment for this business.
Large scale diamond mining company, Williamson Diamonds Limited operates in Mwadui area while large scale gold mining companies, Pangea Minerals Ltd and Kahama Mining Corporation Ltd are observed in Buzwagi and Bulyanhulu also in Kahama District.
Shinyanga region play a significant role in minerals production in the country, though the sector has yet to contribute significantly to the region’s economy. Although the region came on the spotlight over mineral mining and trade, many people perhaps could be asking what other economic activities the region has apart from the minerals.
Shinyanga is traditionally an agricultural and livestock development region. Agriculture has continued to dominate the livelihood and economic performance of the region. The sector contributes about 75 percent to the district’s economy and employs more than 90 percent of the working population.
Farming is predominantly subsistence, and main cash crops are cotton and tobacco, while the main food crops are maize, sorghum, paddy, sweet potatoes, millet and cassava. Besides farming, livestock keeping is a major activity.
This means that in terms of productive sectors, agriculture is the leading sector in the region. Despite its dominance to the regional economy, this sector is not well developed because of the poor farming methods which include the use of the hoe and reliance on traditional rain-fed agriculture and animal husbandry.
There is a need for joint efforts between the government and the private sector – a Public Private Partnership initiative. Livestock keeping is the second most important economic activity for the majority of Shinyanga residents.
However, to a large extent, livestock keeping is traditional and involves mostly indigenous cattle. Livestock population in the region in 2012 was estimated to be 3,287,950. The region’s population stands at 1,534,808 people according to the 2012 national Census.
The regions is a hub for commerce, transport, regional cooperation and economic development in the Lake Zone. It is situated on Lake Victoria, one of the biggest fresh-water lakes in the world, at the crossroads of trade between Tanzania and neighbouring countries of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi.
Shinyanga has every reason to be a prosperous commercial center and due to rapid growth in economy especially in industrial development and tourist attractions, massive migration of people from all over the country searching for employment opportunities and better life options in Shinyanga.
Fish breeding is practised at two fish breeding stations covering an area of eight hectares. Over 100,000 fingerlings, mainly Tilapia species, are produced annually for onward stocking into reservoirs and ponds for domestic fish farming.
Fresh water fishes are obtained from dams, seasonal rivers and Lake Kitangiri. Nevertheless, fish is comparatively scarce in Shinyanga Region compared to other Lake Zone regions. This is evident when you visit several food vendors here.
You may walk in a number of restaurants without seeing fish on the menu, but lots of domestic chicken meat and beef being sold cheaply. As one of the visitors from Dar es Salaam, it was a rare experience to buy chicken meat at a cheap price compared to which food sellers in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam demand.
“In terms of food, life is so cheap here in Shinyanga,” says Chiku Kuhenga. The geographical location of the region creates a better chance for growth and development of tourism sector. The region is close to the northern tourist circuits, the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti National Park.
Furthermore, the neighbouring Maswa, Moyowosi and Kigosi game reserves also make the region a better destination for tourists. Being at the north western part of the country, Shinyanga has the privilege of having frontier to six regions of Geita, Simiyu, Singida, Tabora, Kigoma, and Mwanza.
Land-locked countries of DR Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and even Uganda also depend to some extent on the efficiency of Shinyanga roads as well as Isaka dry port.