Are minerals in Tanzania a blessing or curse?

THANKS to the Almighty God for this valuable chance to present my ideas through this esteemed newspaper.

Indeed, it is a golden chance and thanks to the editor for publishing this article. The United Republic of Tanzania possesses tremendous amount of natural resources including land, minerals, forests, wildlife, fisheries, fresh and marine/marine waters, biodiversity, and people.

Sometime ago, I attended the dialogue organised by the African Union and attended by senior decision/policy makers from all African Countries 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 concern raised was related to how the mineral sector was operated: pointing an accusing figure at contracts favouring foreign investors, the business engulfed in corruptive practices and lack of integrity.

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

Policy/decision-makers were compelled, apart from adopting strategic priorities for the betterment of the extractive industry to Africa’s development, called upon to adopt a common mining vision.

Thus, the African Mining Vision (AMV) was prepared and adopted by the African Union in 2009. The vision provides a firm basis for member states to attain effective and beneficial mining policies and strategies for sustainable development.

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 in 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 Minister for Minerals Dotto Biteko and was facilitated by Prof Ammon Mbelle from the Department of Economics, University of Dar es Salaam. Uongozi Institute Chief Executive Officer, Prof Joseph Semboja, in his welcoming remarks appreciated the presence of Mr Biteko and regarded his presence as a commitment to greatly advancing the extractive industry in the country.

Furthermore, he mentioned that government mining policies and regulatory regimes were firmly meant to extract minerals for the benefit of all Tanzanians.

UNDP Resident Representative Natalie Boucly in her introductory noted that for many years the contribution of the extractive industry in the country had been low.

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

Furthermore, she said it would be useful if increased use of natural gas for cooking purposes would be enabled to significantly reduce charcoal demand, hence preserve natural forest and woodland resources were vital to climate change mitigation.

The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Minerals, Prof Simon Msanjilla, on the occasion of welcoming the minister to officially open dialogue, said it was an opportune time for the extractive industry to know exactly what was it that we wanted to achieve and how it could benefit the country in a short, medium and long-term based on what should be considered as good or bad.

The minister before declaring the dialogue open told participants that the government was keen on seeing the extractive industry, paving the way for sustainable development through well-managed extractive investments and within win-win public and private sector engagements.

The minister further explained that successes were enabled through focused policies and regulatory regimes that could 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 might not benefit from its rich mineral deposits as anticipated.

Presentations and discussions followed where Dr Paul Jourdan, from Mintek South Africa, provided a detailed overview on Africa’s Mining Vision (AMV).

He emphasised the importance of the extractive industry for Tanzania’s sustainable economic development with linkages to key infrastructure and local content.

Dr Jourdan further mentioned that in most cases we did not know well of what we had, adding that minerals’ run-out and without well-thought priorities, the country could find itself left with holes and devastating environmental conditions contributing to persistent and extensively spread poverty conditions.

He stressed the importance of linking the extractive industry and infrastructural development. It was highlighted that whatever comwas realised from minerals must be carefully invested in projects that would lead to future sustainable development.

For instance, fertiliser or cement production factories or other infrastructure like irrigation facilities, hydro-electricity generation, road/bridge construction, ship building, education and health facilities, all aimed at enhancing socioeconomic development.

This implies that as we consider today’s development based on the outcomes of the extractive industry at the same time we should consider the future bearing in mind that with minerals there is “no second chance”.

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

Furthermore, it was emphasised that Tanzania was on the right truck in the context of extractive industry policies and regulatory mechanisms.

The dialogue also stressed that through focused local content regulations, including tools like “social licence to operate”, there should be a strong manufacturing base, whose impacts/benefits will go beyond the mining sector and develop linkages to other sectors of the national economy.

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

  • • The author is a retired director of Forestry and Beekeeping at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism.
  • Currently, he is chairman, advisory board, African Forestry.
  • fkilahama@gmail.com; +255756007400; +255714250050

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