One of the main points of discussion around the various responses to the COVID-19 pandemic is governance. Different countries have reacted to the pandemic in different ways. These differences are informed by varying styles of leadership and governance around the globe.
Countries with open and transparent governing styles have taken a more hands-on approach by engaging diverse stakeholders. Scholars who examined the COVID-19 responses in China, Japan and South Korea, for example, found that there was systematic evidence that different governance decisions led to different results.
In the case of Tanzania, I argue that COVID-19 has revealed, rather than informed, the governance style under the current administration.
tackling a social calamity is not like fighting a war, which works best when a leader can use top-down power to order everyone to do what the leader wants — with no need for consultation.
In line with this thinking, being transparent and engaging diverse groups, including both loyalists and critics, is crucial for governments in the fight against the virus.
In Tanzania, President John Magufuli has taken the opposite view. He has framed COVID-19 as a war and not a health calamity requiring scientific consultation. As a result the handling of the pandemic has been at the whim of the president.
Since Magufuli expressed his doubts on the professionalism of the national laboratory, no more updates on COVID-19 have been made. It’s no longer easy to tell if data being released by the government is grounded in science, or whether it is simply that the president wants lower figures reported.
Magufuli’s COVID-19 response is typical. He is a president who has always taken an idiosyncratic view of leadership. Since his election in 2015, he has acted unilaterally. This has divided the country, while consolidating power in the presidency. Even his own ruling party has become a casualty of his autocratic style of leadership.
Idiosyncratic response to COVID-19
Magufuli has downplayed the pandemic’s threat and encouraged the use of local and home remedies such as drinking ginger and lemon tea, and steam therapy as a way to prevent infection.
This statement marked the end of the health minister’s daily updates on the country’s COVID-19 response. It was followed by a presidential proclamation that that God was answering the prayers of Tanzanians against the pandemic.
The president then appointed a new deputy health minister, probably because the previous one had questioned the use of steaming therapy to manage the virus.
Two weeks earlier, the president had appointed a new Constitutional and Legal Affairs minister, following the sudden death of his predecessor. The new minister was given the unusual task of investigating the activities of the national laboratory and its handling of COVID-19 testing.
These appointments give the real impression that loyalty to the president is very important in Tanzania. Dissenters are not tolerated. It’s no surprise that the official leader of opposition in parliament was rebuffed when he extended an offer to work with the government to fight the virus.
Civil society organisations have also been sidelined. But faith-based organisations have been won over by the government’s decision to keep places of worship open. Religion has been framed as a more appropriate response to COVID-19 than science.
History of intransigence and excesses
In 2017, Magufuli banned pregnant school girls from continuing school despite calls to the contrary. As a result the World Bank delayed the release of a $500 million education loan.
Eventually, Magufuli bowed to the pressure and lifted the ban.
Another example of Magufuli’s intransigence was his reaction to a planned countrywide protest organised by the opposition Chadema party. The police threatened to use force to stop citizens from participating. Eventually, the opposition called off the demonstration after faith leaders and civil society called for dialogue.
To date, there has not been any dialogue between the government and Chadema.
The absence of dialogue, and discrimination against Chadema and other opposition parties, has led to further polarisation between the Magufuli administration and dissenters.
The state response to COVID-19 is well within Magufuli’s playbook. He acts unilaterally, while polarising the nation and consolidating power in the presidency. This is often to the detriment of the Chama cha Mapinduzi ruling party. Power is centralised in the executive. Party organs and members do not have the agency to hold the president to account.
The executive’s autocracy has forced the opposition party to strengthen its institutions from the ground up. It now appears that Chadema is becoming a stronger party institutionally. In response, the ruling party has resorted to using force to maintain its grip on power.
To understand how Magufuli centralised power, one structural move he took in the beginning of his administration is illustrative. He removed the Regional Administration and Local Governments office from the office of the prime minister and put it in the office of the president.
The office is responsible for administering education, health, and development projects within local districts across the country.
Thus, local government matters are reported directly to the president’s office and are managed from the very core of the executive branch. This structural change has diverted revenue collection to the central government. The president has also used local government political appointees to silence dissenters.
It is apparent, therefore, that he will decide whether cases of COVID-19 in Tanzania have declined or increased, no matter what the science says.
The real fate of the country, however, is in the hands of Tanzanians. Only they can take their power back.
Big Brother Africa winner, Idris Sultan is facing cyberbullying charges for laughing at an old picture of President John Magufuli.
His lawyer Benedict Ishabakaki told BBC that the 2014 Big Brother Africa winner is accused of contravening the Cybercrimes Act 2015 against cyberbullying.
The law states: “A person shall not initiate or send any electronic communication using a computer system to another person with intent to coerce, intimidate, harass or cause emotional damage.”
If convicted of the charges levelled against him, Idris faces paying a fine of not less than Tsh5 million($2,161.21) or imprisonment for a term of not less than three years or both.
According to Ishabaki, the charges facing Idris stem from a video he recently shared laughing at an old photo of Magufuli.
“In short, the police claim Idris used the internet to harass the president,” he said.
Idris who also doubles as a comedian was arrested on May 19 after heeding summons from the police but is yet to be arraigned in court.
According to Idris’ lawyer, their request for bail was denied as police said they needed him in custody while they follow up on leads.
Avocados have become Tanzania's latest green gold, bringing in at least $12 million (Sh27.6 billion) annually, up from zero five years ago, a new report reveals.
Less than ten years ago, avocado exports never existed.
But, data from Tanzania's private sector horticultural apex body, the Tanzania Horticultural Association (Taha), as well as the Avocado Catalogue 2020 report, show that avocado exports jumped from 1,877 tonnes in 2014 to 9,000 tonnes in 2019, fetching the country $12 million last year.
Taha's chief development man-ager, Mr Anthony Chamanga, said that farm-gate prices also rose from Sh450($0.19) per kilogramme in 2014 to Sh1,500($0.65) in 2020 courtesy of Taha's painstaking efforts to develop the avocado value chain in the country.
It is understood that the government and Taha jointly worked to establish a state-of-the-art facility in Njombe where farmers can store their fresh produce and is also a hub to connect with buyers.
"Again, driven by dynamics in a global surge in prices and demand, the cultivation and trading of avocados is rapidly gaining traction among the local farmers, replacing coffee production in some areas," the report says.
Taha data shows that over 10,000 farmers in the country are involved in avocado production, triggering its export surge by 380 percent in a span of five years.
The majority are exported to Europe as its consumption of avocados reached one million tonnes a year - with the World Avocado Organisation (WAO) predicting a growth rate of 50 percent: between 500,000 and 700,000 tonnes for Europe in the next ten years.
The EU market represented 85 percent of Tanzanian avocado exports in 2018, whereby France imported 3,133MT; the Netherlands: 2,304MT, and UK: 1,193MT.
Based on 2018 data, Tanzania is the second largest producer of avocado fruit in Africa after Kenya. The latter produces about 190,000 tonnes per year of which between 5,000 and 10,000MT are exported.
Recently, Agriculture minister Japhet Hasunga vowed to fast-track protocol with China to pave the way for local avocado exporters to access Beijing's niche market.
Data from China Customs indicates that China's avocado imports are value at $105 million per annum, presenting a huge poten-tial market for Tanzanian growers.
However - given the stringent phytosanitary issues that restrict imports of local avocados into China - exporters have never been able to access that lucrative market, basically for lack of bilateral arrangements between the two countries.
The process requires the Tanzania government to declare quarantine pests for the China authority's assessment before that country opens up the market to Tanzanian avocados.
The same information should also be presented to AQSIQ: the relevant authority in China where the Beijing market access applications are processed.
The harvest periods for avocados in Tanzania are from January to March, and May to August. The fruit is mainly grown in Kilimanjaro, Mbeya, Njombe, Songwe, Iringa Kigoma, Tanga, Kagera and Morogoro Regions.
Avocado plantations are set at altitudes ranging from 1,100 to 1,900 metres ordinance datum, with an annual rainfall of around 800 to 1,200 mm. Surface areas are also on the up in this part of the country, - especially in zones enabling earlier harvests.
The majority of growers of avo-cados are small and medium scale farmers.
The main varieties produced are Hass and Fuerte and local varieties.
The first two varieties are mostly for foreign markets.
Global production of avocados has increased by 178 per cent, rising from 891,000 tonnes in 2011 to 2.5 million tonnes in 2018 - mostly driven by high demand in the US and Europe.
Credit: Citizen Tanzania
The fifth Phase Government's efforts to open up remote areas of tourism attractions in terms of investment is now being augmented heavily by the private sector, with transformed investment of 3m US dollars.
In a move that would tangibly contribute to the growth of Tanzania's economy by initial support to local people and the 'Friedkin Conservation Fund', Mwiba Holdings have invested over that amount in Tanzania by building three new camps to operate in the north and west of the Serengeti National Park as well as Maswa Game Reserve.
That will see a new age of sustainable development in remote regions of northern Tanzania with investment from Legendary Expeditions, with Mila Camp opening its doors today, followed by two new mobile camps that will be moving with the footsteps of The Great Migration.
The Managing Director of Mwiba Group and Friedkin Group, Mr Jean Claude, reveled on Friday that the substantial investment has been focused within Tanzania, employing over 120 local craftsmen to create new fabrics, tents, furniture, décor and structures to allow the camps to welcome international guests and boost tourism in the remote areas.
Mwiba Holdings is a conservation company driving sustainable tourism in important ecological areas within northern Tanzania.
The camps will add more than 50 beds to the Tanzanian tourism industry and through conservation and community fees give much needed support to the region as well as utilize the vast wilderness areas that are protected through the Friedkin Conservation Fund.
"Building new camps such as Mila while expanding our experiences that now include various helicopter charters and tours in northern Tanzania, shows our continued commitment to Tanzania as well as its people," said Mr Claude.
He noted that Mwiba Holdings is a proud partner of Tanzania; would continue drive awareness on a global stage for tourism and bring renewed growth to the regions in which it operates.
He said the company has a responsibility to the people of Tanzania as well as the wildlife and land to make the tourism venture viable, hence maintain integrity and transparency.
Credit: Daily News
In the past few weeks there have been unofficial reports that some people in Tanzania, including one in Dar es Salaam, had died of what was suspected to be Ebola virus disease. As we know, there is an ongoing outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in which thousands have died.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has criticised Tanzania for failing to provide details about suspected cases of Ebola in the country. While Tanzania insisted it had no confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, it did not directly address the case of the woman mentioned by the WHO and provided no further information.
The reports are a cause for concern because they followed earlier cross-border Ebola cases and fatalities in neighbouring Uganda which were clearly linked to the DRC outbreak. The ongoing concern is that the disease might spread in the region, and potentially even globally.
The DRC outbreak was declared a global public health emergency in July and regional countries were advised to proactively monitor the situation and report any suspected cases of Ebola.
The cases in Tanzania, if confirmed, are also highly likely to be related to the ongoing outbreak in the DRC.
What is different and a departure from international norms in Tanzania’s case is the lack of transparency, and information sharing. No clinical data, investigation results, contact tracing and laboratory tests performed have been shared by the government.
Why the government has taken this route is unclear and some observers are alleging a cover-up in which for whatever reason, the authorities in Tanzania seem deliberate about not providing the information that have been requested for by WHO. Fear and concerns among international travellers are spreading fast.
One possible explanation might be that the government is reluctant to give out details for fear of alarming the public and the international community. Providing information could spread panic while also affecting international travel, tourism and business.
The problem with this thinking is that it means missing the opportunity to contain the outbreak before more people are exposed. When this happens, a much better response is needed. And panic, as well as travel and business disruptions, may end up being even greater.
Why information matters
The importance of sharing information cannot be over-estimated. Ebola can spread at a phenomenal speed – as was shown in the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa. The only way to ensure this doesn’t happen is to provide information to the public, stakeholders, put service providers on high alert, provide necessary suppliers, and ensure a functional laboratory capacity is in place. Those who have come in contact with people who have contracted the virus need to be isolated while the infected need supportive care.
Getting all stakeholders on board lessens the burden of containing an outbreak. For example, in Ebola outbreak situations we have seen before, the WHO is often willing and ready to provide technical capacity where these are lacking. These include personnel, laboratory and supplies. No such requests have been made in this case.
The WHO provides extensive guidance on a range of issues. These include definitions of suspected Ebola virus disease cases, setting up surveillance systems, contact tracing, infection prevention among health care providers and handling deaths. Under the International Health Regulations, Ebola is classified as a notifiable disease. This means that countries are obligated to report suspected and confirmed Ebola cases.
The first action on any suspected case of Ebola is to isolate the person and to provide supportive treatment. At this stage, samples are taken to a reference laboratory for testing. The next step is to trace all the people with whom the person had contact with and to try and establish whether they are showing symptoms or not.
Most of the outbreaks that have caused lots of infections and deaths have been as a result of a poor response in identifying and isolated early cases. For example in Guinea it took about three months to establish Ebola as the cause of the epidemic. This usually happens where health systems are weak, as was the case with the west Africa outbreak and in the DRC. Insecurity is an additional layer to the challenges of containing the outbreak in the DRC.
The Ebola virus is transmitted through body fluids. Risk of exposure is high in particular settings. These include health facilities such as laboratories, during burial rituals involving the washing of corpses, and other intimate acts such having sex with an infected person. The web or network of exposed people can grow quickly from one case if steps aren’t taken early on to avoid further onward transmission.
Research has shown that the number of new cases generated from a single case in the absence of control measures can be as high as two. Given the relatively short incubation period of two to 21 days, several new cases can develop and a full blown outbreak may manifest.
In the event that Ebola cases are confirmed in Tanzania, the logical thing to do is to act fast to stem further spread. Isolation of infected people and their contacts is critical.
New vaccines are being tried in the DRC and Uganda especially among front line health workers who are more likely exposed to virus through attending to patients. This could also be considered to protect those at the highest risk of exposure.
The WHO and other UN agencies discourage countries from imposing travel bans. The WHO argues that travel bans are detrimental and ineffective in the control of Ebola outbreaks. Nevertheless, there is usually nervousness among potential travellers which ultimately affects businesses and normal life.
Tanzania expects to raise cashew nuts production by 33.5% in the year to September 2020, helped by favourable weather conditions and increased plantings, its agriculture minister said on Saturday.
Output in 2019/2020(October-September) is seen reaching 300,000 tonnes, up from the 225,000 tonnes produced in the 2018/2019 season.
"We expect to get a bigger harvest in the coming season, with our cashew nut production likely to rise to more than 300,000 tonnes," the minister, Japhet Hasunga, told Reuters.
"This forecast of increased output is attributed to good weather, widespread availability of farming inputs and increased plantings."
Last year, the government blocked traders from buying the crop from farmers after they could not meet the minimum indicative prices set by the president, and bought the entire crop itself.
President John Magufuli had ordered a 94 percent hike in prices, arguing that farmers were receiving too little for the most valuable of Tanzania's crop exports.
He then deployed the army to collect the entire crop of over 200,000 tonnes of cashew nuts from farmers.
But in November he sacked two ministers, saying they had failed to secure buyers.
Hasunga told Reuters that the government had eventually sold the 2018/2019 crop to a Vietnamese firm, but would allow private traders to resume buying in 2019/2020.
Tanzania has signed a contract with Airbus for the European planemaker to supply two passenger jets for the country’s national airline to help expand its small fleet and extend its network of destinations, a government official said on Friday.
Benjamin Ndimila, the Chief Executive Officer of Tanzania Government Flight Agency (TGFA), told Reuters that under the contract Airbus would supply two A220-300 aircraft.
President John Magufuli has been personally championing the revival of Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), joining other regional governments that are launching or revamping national carriers to share in Africa’s growing aviation business.
Last month, neighbouring Uganda also relaunched its national carrier.
TGFA, under the president’s office, leases aircraft to Air Tanzania. Air Tanzania’s existing fleet includes one Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, two Airbus A220-300 jets and three DHC Dash 8-400 aircraft, formerly known as the Bombardier Q400 turboprop.
Ndimila said the new Airbus planes would have a more luxurious interior than in the existing aircraft.
“The new planes will have an improved entertainment system including screens in each seat,” he said.
Airbus, he said, had told Tanzania the planes would be ready in about a year. He declined to say how much they would cost. Magufuli’s government reckons a more efficient national airline will help tourism, a mainstay of Tanzania’s economy.
On Monday, he said the airline carried 75% of domestic air traffic, up from 3% three years ago.
“So far the business is doing very well. We are overwhelmed by the demand ... we wish these planes could be delivered even tomorrow,” Ndimila said.
Tanzania is starting the process of building the fourth largest hydro dam in Africa and the ninth largest in the world.
Tanzanian President John Magufuli is to lay the foundation stone for the construction of Stiegler’s Gorge hydroelectric power project.
The project according to government officials will cost $3 billion. The 2,115 megawatts hydroelectric dam when completed will produce 5,920GWh of power annually.
The project was an original idea of Tanzania’s founding President Julius Nyerere. It was abandoned due to financial and environmental concerns but the project is back on. Current president, Magufuli is however committed to industrializing his country with such projects.
The project is part of Tanzania’s power master plan, to interconnect the grids of Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia. The government’s plan is to execute such industrial projects to alleviate constant power outages hampering the manufacturing sector.
But there are concerns from environmentalists who say the dam is situated in middle of Selous Game Reserve. The reserve is the main elephant sanctuary in Tanzania and a World Heritage Site.
There are fears the dam will destroy wildlife habitat. Tanzania is part of some East African countries trying to ensure that they have enough power generation capacities. Kenya is now home to Africa’s biggest wind power plant. The plant in the Marsabit County is to provide nearly a fifth of the country’s energy needs.
The project is to support the Kenyan government’s commitment to increase electricity generation to 5,000W.
Tanzania’s economy expanded 5.2% in 2018, the World Bank said, the second major report this year from a multilateral financial institution contradicting rosier government figures.
Tanzania’s finance minister had told parliament last month that growth was 7% last year
In a report, the World Bank, which makes its calculations based on state data, also forecast 2019 growth at 5.4% – again lower than the government’s estimate of 7.1%.
Last year’s growth was affected by a decline in investment, exports and private lending, the report said.
“Data related to consumption, investment and net trade suggest that growth softened in 2018,” it said.
President John Magufuli embarked on an ambitious programme of industrialisation after coming to power in 2015, investing billions of dollars into infrastructure, including a new rail line, reviving the national carrier and a hydropower plant.
But government interventions in mining and agriculture have led to declining investment in east Africa’s third largest economy. Foreign direct investment has more than halved since 2013, while private sector lending growth plummeted to less than 4% in 2018, far below the 20% average between 2013-16.
The World Bank report follows an unpublished International Monetary Fund (IMF) report in April that also raised questions over Magufuli’s handling of the economy.
A leaked version of the report, seen by Reuters, accused the government of undermining the economy with “unpredictable and interventionist” policies, saying medium-term growth would be around 4-5 percent, again below official forecasts.
In its report, the World Bank said investment growth was subdued partly because of government struggles to meet spending targets in development projects. The economy could grow to 6% by 2021 “with a modest improvement of the business climate and a pick-up in [foreign direct investment] and other private investment,” the bank said.
Other economic indicators also point to a slowing economy.
The current account deficit widened to 5.2% percent of GDP in the year ending January 2019, up from 3.2% a year earlier, the bank said. The value of exports dropped nearly 4% last year, partly because the government banned cashew exports, a major foreign exchange earner, due to low prices.
On the other hand, the construction of the standard gauge railway and expansion of Dar es Salaam port helped drive up the value of imports by 7.8%, the World Bank said. The government should minimise economic risk by improving the business environment and fiscal management, it recommended.
Globally, Tanzania is also vulnerable to weaker demand, tighter financing conditions, and higher international energy prices, it said.
Eleven people were killed in an attack last week by an Islamist militant armed group in northern Mozambique near its border with Tanzania, Mozambican police said on Wednesday.
Several of the attackers from the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama (ASWJ) group were later arrested, police added, referring to a militia operating in the gas-rich northern province of Cabo Delgado province since at least 2014.
Six people were wounded in the raid, said Orlando Mudumane, spokesman for Mozambique Police's General Command, adding that the arrested gunmen included both Mozambicans and foreigners.
"On 26 of June, 2019, a group of bandits perpetrated an attack in the village of Itole, in Palma District, killing 11 civilians; 9 Tanzanians and 2 Mozambicans," he said.
He dismissed reports the that deaths were by beheading, a method of killing used by the group in some previous attacks.
"All of them died of gunshot wounds, no beheadings. The defense forces combed the area and have already detained some elements of the group, foreigners and nationals."
Information about the attack has been scarce, with conflicting accounts from local and international media on the number of deaths and nature of the attack in the Muslim-majority region of the southern African nation.
Last week's ambush was the latest in a spate of execution-style attacks in the area since 2017 that have so far killed more than 100 people, while forcing hundreds to flee into the interior. Tanzanian security officials on Saturday also confirmed the attack and number of deaths, but were unsure of the identity of the suspects.
"The attack took place on June 26 in Mozambique where the Tanzanians had gone to work in paddy fields," Tanzania's police chief Simon Sirro said at a weekend briefing near the border.
"According to eyewitness accounts, unidentified gunmen raided the paddy farmers and carried out the attack."
Sirro said Tanzanian and Mozambique police had launched a joint investigation into the incident.
Impoverished Cabo Delgado, surrounded by dense forests and isolated villages, houses a growing clutch of multinational companies developing one of the biggest offshore gas finds in a decade - estimated to be worth at least $30 billion.
Whilst the attacks have mostly targeted civilians and government buildings, in February U.S. energy giant Anadarko said one worker was killed and several others injured in two attacks near the construction site for its massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Cabo Delgado.
The attacks by the Ahlu Sunnah Wa-Jama, or "followers of the prophetic tradition", have drawn comparisons to Islamist groups in Tanzania, Somalia, Kenya and the Great Lakes region.
In common with Boko Haram in Nigeria, it touts a radical form of Islam as an antidote to what it regards as corrupt, elitist rule that has broadened gaping inequality.