Saturday, Jan 28
President John Magufuli secures a second term, growth to slide but still positive

President John Magufuli secures a second term, growth to slide but still positive

Tanzania, the third-largest economy in East Africa is an agrarian and markedly diversified economy, characterized by robust private consumption, substantial public spending, strong investment growth, and an upturn in exports underpinned the positive outlook.

Tanzania’s agriculture sector is among the most diverse in East Africa. The country’s primary exports include coffee, cotton, tobacco, cashew nut, and tea. It also produces significant quantities of fruits and vegetables, pyrethrum, and sisal.

Tourism, mining, services, construction, agriculture, and manufacturing are notable sectors. Growth was projected to be broadly stable at 6.4% in 2020 and 6.6% in 2021, subject to favorable weather, prudent fiscal management, mitigation of financial sector vulnerabilities, and implementation of reforms to improve the business environment.

The fiscal deficit, financed mainly by concessional external debt, stood at 2.0% of GDP in 2019, up from 1.3% in 2018, and is projected to stabilize at 1.9% in 2020 and 2.2% in 2021. External public debt, 63% of it concessional, constituted 70.4% of total public debt in 2019. The current account deficit slightly widened to 3.4% of GDP in 2019 from 3.3% in 2018.

African Development Fund (ADF) approves $50.7m Covid-19 crisis response budget support

The Board of Directors of the ADF on October 19, 2020, approved a loan of UA 36 million ($50.7 million) to Tanzania, to finance the nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The loan, from the African Development Bank Group’s COVID-19 Response Facility (CRF), will support the Government of Tanzania’s $109 million national COVID-19 response plan, which is jointly supported by the country’s other development partners. The plan is aimed at building economic resilience, while mitigating the socio-economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on local businesses, vulnerable households, and the country’s health system.

The pandemic has put increased pressure on Tanzania’s health facilities, social protection systems and has dampened the country’s projected growth of over 6.2%, the average over the last five years, and which had made it one of the best performers in Eastern Africa. Growth is now projected to decline from the pre-COVID projections of 6.4% to between 3.6% and 2.6%.

Commenting on the operation, Nnenna Nwabufo, the Acting Director-General of the Bank’s East Africa regional office, said it was part of a larger, more comprehensive support package for the Bank’s regional member countries, including Tanzania.

“The evolution of COVID-19 and changing containment measures remain dynamic and unpredictable; the medium and longer-term impacts of the crisis are yet to be fully understood. The African Development Bank Group is stepping up its coordination with governments, as well as with other development partners to adapt and strengthen its monitoring and response to the pandemic,” Nwabufo said.

 Rebound in Tourism

AT least 1,180 tourists from Eastern Europe landed at Zanzibar's Abeid Amani Karume International Airport on Saturday, October 31, recording an increase of visitors in the Isles since the outbreak of Covid-19.

"We should be happy with the increasing number of tourists after the ease of covid-19 in our country. We expect more tourists to arrive in the country as days’ pass. I can assure the public that the business is getting back to normal," said Tourism Commission of Zanzibar (TCZ) Director Dr. Abdalla Mohamed.

The TCZ chairman attributed the improvement to the ongoing global advertisements on tourism attractions in Tanzania considering the measures taken by the country in combating Covid-19.

"We are a free Covid-19 nation, this is well explained and understood by tourists across the World," he noted.

He said since the resume of tourist business in June, this year, the government came up with workable strategies with tourist operators, and also wrote to Tanzania ambassadors to various countries to implement a special work plan for promoting the sector.

"We also had an Italian ambassador to Tanzania to confirm that all is good in the country. Over 60 percent of tourists' visiting Zanzibar are from Italy," he said.

The Deputy Chairman of Tourism Commission of Zanzibar, Mr. Khamis Mbeto Khamis told the 'Daily News' that on October 24, a total of 180 tourists arrived from Poland, followed by 250 tourists from Ukraine two days later, on October 28 a total of 400 tourists and 350 others arrived from Russia and Ukraine respectively.

"Everyone in Zanzibar must be happy with this development. Tour operators, taxi drivers, suppliers of commodities, Hoteliers, and their staff are getting back to work. Also, our local flights are busy flying tourists to Tanzania mainland's National Parks," said Mr. Khamis.

Mr. Khamis said that the target is to record 800,000 tourists' arrival by 2025 as it appears in the Chama Cha Mapiduzi (CCM) manifesto, but if all goes well, he said the target will be met within one year.

On average tourists spend five to eight days in the country, and in addition to spending, they pay 50 US dollars on arrival. He said this week, about 350 tourists are expected to arrive in the country from South Africa followed by 550 others from Russia.

The outgoing Minister for Information, Tourism, and Heritage Mr. Mahmoud Thabit said tourism is one of the most important industries, employing 60,000 people, supporting economic growth, and building the country's image.

President John Magufuli secures a second term in office

Tanzania’s populist President John Magufuli has been sworn into office for a second five-year term amid tight security by the police and the army.

The swearing-in on Thursday, November 5 came off despite the opposition calling for a fresh election, the disbandment of the electoral commission, and an “endless peaceful demonstration” over the October 28 elections.

Magufuli said the weekend before he was sworn into office that he would not pursue another term amid concerns that the governing party, which won nearly all parliament seats, might try to extend the presidency’s two-term limit.

Magufuli received 12.5 million votes which represent 85 percent of total votes cast while his main challenger, Tundu Lissu of the Chadema party, got 1.9 million votes, or 13 percent, the electoral commission said.

“The commission declares John Magufuli of Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) who garnered the majority of votes as the winner in the presidential seat,” said commission chairman Semistocles Kaijage.

The turnout was roughly 50 percent with only a few international observers allowed to observe the vote. The governing party also secured nearly every seat in parliament, giving it the power to change the country’s constitution.

Widespread Election Irregularities

The opposition however, described the elections as a “travesty” because of widespread irregularities.

The vote “marked the most significant backsliding in Tanzania’s democratic credentials”, Tanzania Elections Watch, a group of regional experts, said in an assessment released on Friday, October 30. It noted a heavy deployment of military and police whose conduct created a “climate of fear”.

“The electoral process, so far, falls way below the acceptable international standards” for holding free and fair elections, the group said. However, the national electoral commission, in its announcement late on 30th October, called all votes legitimate.

The US embassy in the East African country said on 29th October that there had been “credible allegations of significant election-related fraud and intimidation” in Wednesday’s vote for a president and politicians.

The election was marred by allegations of arrests of candidates and protesters, restrictions on agents of political parties to access polling stations, multiple voting, pre-ticking of ballots, rejection of thousands of election observers, and widespread blocking of social media.

Observers say Tanzania’s reputation for democratic ideals are crumbling, with Magufuli accused of severely stifling dissenting voices in his first five-year term. Opposition political gatherings were banned in 2016, the year after he took office. Media outlets have been targeted.

Zitto Kabwe, leader of the main opposition party in Zanzibar, ACT-Wazalendo, and Chadema’s leader in parliament Freeman Mbowe were among dozens of opposition candidates who lost their seats to the ruling party.

 “What happened on October 28 was not an election but a butchering of democracy,” CHADEMA chairman Freeman Mbowe told reporters, asserting that more than 20 people were killed during the election.

“We demand the election repeated with immediate effect and the dissolving of the national electoral commission”, Mbowe said.

In the run-up to the October 28 polls, opposition parties have complained of threats and repression, and rights groups have accused the government of curtailing free expression and press freedom. The government has previously rejected such accusations.


Tanzania to experience 2% growth in 2020 despite COVID-19

Tanzania is one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, with annual GDP growth averaging 7% since 2000, according to the World Bank. Tanzania has been enjoying steady economic growth in recent years, and large natural gas reserves along the southeastern coast plus significant mineral resources in the north and west hold the potential for transforming its economy over the coming decades. Economic expansion is also being driven by mining and energy, given Tanzania’s deposits of gold and natural gas.

According to Oxford Business Group, agriculture occupies a central role in the economy, accounting for around 29% of GDP and employing some two fifths of the population. Corn, rice, sorghum and bananas are among the country’s main cultivated crops, and agricultural exports form a key source of foreign revenue, primarily from coffee, cotton and cashew nuts. That said, tourism remains the biggest generator of foreign exchange, bringing in $2bn in 2014.

The IMF predicts that growth is set to slow from 6.3% in 2019 to 2% in 2020. The government projected the economy to expand by 5.5 percent in 2020, less than an earlier projection of 6.9 percent due to the Covid-19. The World Bank lowered it even further to 2.5 percent this year as a result of the effects of Covid-19 which has disrupted economic activities. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), however, projected economic growth to slow to 2.7% this year.

According to “theafricareport”, Tanzania had a fiscal deficit of only 2.9% of GDP in 2019, compared with an average of 6% for the East Africa Community. However, Moody’s projects a moderate deterioration in the fiscal balance to 4.2% of GDP in the fiscal year 2020/2021 as compared to an estimated 0.8% for the 2019/2020 fiscal year. this projection has downgraded the ratings of the government of Tanzania from B1 to B2 and changed the outlook from negative to stable.

The Bureau of National Statistics (BNS) said that the Annual Headline Inflation Rate for the month of July, 2020 has slightly increased to 3.3% from 3.2% recorded in June, 2020. The increase of the headline inflation explains that, the speed of price change for commodities for the year ended July, 2020 has increased compared to the speed recorded for the year ended June, 2020. The overall index went up to 120.50 in July, 2020 from 116.61 recorded in July, 2019.

Unemployment averages about 10% and underemployment is widespread. Short-term austerity measures by the government plus greatly stiffened revenue collection and regulatory measures mean that many Tanzanians are feeling an economic pinch.

The NBS classified Economic activities into three main categories; primary, secondary and tertiary. The largest contributor to GDP in the first quarter of 2020 was Tertiary activities which accounted for 42.0 percent, followed by Primary activities by 33.2 percent and Secondary activities had the least share of 24.7 percent.

The authorities target a modest overall fiscal deficit of 2.3% of GDP in 2019/20, which will expand to 3-4% of GDP over the medium term. The planned deficit will be financed largely by non-concessional loans. The current account deficit is expected to widen (6-7% of GDP) largely due to increased imports of capital goods to support public infrastructure projects.

 Growth in first quarter of 2020.

According to the quarterly economic highlights report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Tanzania's economy grew by 5.7 percent during the first quarter of 2020. The growth is lower than the 6.3 percent recorded in the first three months of 2019. The country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at constant prices stood at Sh31.6 trillion during the period from January to March 2020, up from Sh29.9 trillion in the corresponding period in 2019.

The report further stated that, mining and quarrying recorded the highest growth rate, 15.3 percent, followed by human health and social work (10.2 percent) and professional, scientific and technical services (8.9 percent).

Transport and storage came fourth (8.3 percent), followed by information and communication (8.3 percent), construction (8.0 percent), administrative and support services (8.0 percent), and 'other' services, which grew at 7.8 percent.

Crop production and fishing industries slowed to 3.8 percent and 0.7 percent respectively during the quarter, compared to 4.3 percent and 19.4 percent registered in the corresponding quarter of 2019.

Manufacturing and construction activities recorded a growth of 4.7 percent and 8.0 percent, compared to 4.9 percent and 13.4 percent in the similar quarter of 2019.

Electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supplies growth rates dropped to 3.3 percent, from 11.3 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2019.

Gold beats tourism to become Tanzania's leading foreign exchange earner. This is because of the significant impact of the coronavirus on the hospitality sector across the globe. The measures put in place by various governments especially, the closure of borders and ban on international travels has crippled once leading foreign exchange sector in the economy.

Fish Industry takes a new turn

The government has enacted the Deep-Sea Fishing Management and Development Act 2020, replacing the Deep-Sea Fishing Authority Act of 1998. The aim of the new Act, according to the minister Luhaga Mpina, is to attract more public and private sector investors in the sector. The government has also reformed the Fisheries Act (No 22 of 2003) with the aim of separating fishing activities from water species issues.

Rebound of tourism sector

Tourism is one of the cornerstones of Tanzania’s economy, contributing about 17.2% to the country’s gross domestic product and 25% of all foreign exchange revenues. The sector, which provides direct employment for more than 600,000 people, generated approximately $2.4 billion in 2018, according to Umaizi.

According to the Tanzanian ministry of tourism, the number of tourists arriving in Tanzania rose from 1.3 million in 2017 to 1.5 million in 2018, whereas this increment made the sector to garner $2.4 billion (7.2 percent increase) compared to 2.3 billion in 2017. Tourism is geographically concentrated in the Arusha and Kilimanjaro regions, which account for just over 9% of GDP.

But due to the outbreak of the coronavirus in mid-March this year, the country’s tourism sector has incurred huge losses due to travel restrictions imposed by governments worldwide to quell the menacing virus.

The government earlier this year issued a statement that at about 477,000 jobs could be lost, while revenue will shrink by 77 percent if the virus outbreak endures hurting people past October this year.

In June, the minister of tourism and natural resources, Hamisi Kigwangalla told parliament that the number of tourists who visited the country had sharply declined by 76% from 1.9 million last year to approximately 437,000.

However, the tourism sector has started to rebound as the fears of the coronavirus began to fade away.  International airlines including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Swiss Air and Emirates, which halted flights in mid-March, are now flying to and from Tanzania, according AA.

Thomas Mihayo, chairman of the Tanzania Tourist Board, a government agency tasked with overseeing the tourism sector, said he is upbeat about the sector’s recovery, adding the government has adopted strategies to make the industry more sustainable in the future.

 October Elections

Tanzania's Election Commission (EC) has set October 28 as the date for the country's highly anticipated presidential election. The election campaign run from August 26 to October 27.

President John Magufuli is seeking re-election after being chosen earlier in August as the candidate of the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. The president, who took office in 2015 promising to crack down on corruption and expand the country's road and railway network, has been accused of narrowing freedom of speech and increasing authoritarianism.

During his first term, newspapers have been shut down, and the work of non-governmental organizations has been severely restricted, with rights groups and opposition parties accusing Magufuli's government of curbing human rights.

Chadema, the main opposition party, has chosen Tundu Lissu as their flagbearer to take on President John Magufuli in October’s general elections. Lissu returned to Tanzania from Belgium in August for the first time since 2017, when the Magufuli critic was shot 16 times by unknown gunmen in Dodoma.

Lissu says that since Magufuli came to power in 2015, there has been an open war against the multiparty system and some attempts to turn the country back to the dark years. The current president has received backlashes from the supporters of the opposition party who accused him of oppressing democracy since voted into power.

Ibrahim Chawe, a member of the Chadema Party and a communication officer for the Chadema youth organization, says the performance of the current government will help Lissu win. The economic policies of the government have hurt many Tanzanians, he says, and benefit only a few.

Tanzanians will also vote on the same day to elect members of parliament and local councillors. The opposition has called for the formation of an independent electoral commission, expressing fears the elections will take place in a climate of violence and intimidation. President John Magufuli has, however, pledged peaceful and credible elections, and has said he is ready to continue for a second term in order to fulfil his journey of serving Tanzanians and boosting the country’s economy, according to VOA news.

Speaking to the VOA news, a Political analyst, Abdul Karimu Atiki says the new roads, railways and power plants that have sprung up under Magufuli give the president a chance to win another term. Magufuli has boosted government revenue and initiated reforms of the mining industry since coming to power in 2015.  However, the candidate for the opposition will look to capitalize in his long involvement in Tanzanian politics to rally the people around him to win power come October.

Retrospection of John Magufuli’s Tanzania in 2019

Throughout 2019, Tanzania President John Magufuli has been accused of repressing political freedom and human rights in the country. This continues a worrying trend in Tanzania, following a string of measures in 2018 affecting the rights of political opposition, journalists, children, women and members of the LGBT community.

Summarizing Tanzania under John Magufuli’s rule, Human Rights Watch has said:

Since the election of President John Magufuli in December 2015, Tanzania has witnessed a marked decline in respect for free expression, association and assembly. Rhetorical Attacks on rights by authorities are increasingly accompanied by implementation of repressive laws and the harassment and arrest of journalists, opposition members and critics. Self-censorship and fear of reprisals have stifled criticism. Women and girls, particularly young mothers seeking to study, continue to face discriminatory policies.

For Magufuli’s critics, 2019 has brought more of the same while his supporters point to his successes in tackling corruption. To remind us of what has taken place under his rule over the past twelve months, let’s review some few activities of John Magufuli’s Tanzania in 2019.


Early 2019: Spying, gold reserves and a de facto one-party state

January marked a busy start to the year for John Magufuli’s government with the president calling upon the central bank to start buying the country’s gold, in a bid to curb smuggling and build a national gold reserve to stabilize the currency. It was a typical example of Magufuli’s bold approach to economic matters and dealing with financial crimes.

Perhaps even more Magufulian was the president’s admission on 9 January that he monitors the phone conversations of his ministers. After moving Dr. Zainab Chaula to the Ministry of Health as permanent secretary from the Local Government ministry, he admitted that he had noticed a “strain” in her working relationships with health minister Ummy Mwalimu while monitoring their messages.

“I decided to place them under the same ministry,” the president said at the time.

Sadly, it wasn’t long until the policies of Magufuli’s government took a more sinister turn. By the end of January, parliament passed amendments to legislation that give sweeping powers to a government-appointed registrar over the registration of political parties.

The amendments give a government-appointed official the power to reject the formation of new political parties – a move that opposition lawmakers said creates a de facto one-party state.



Q2 2019: Economic decline, prisoners pardoned

In early April, Tanzania’s government was accused of refusing to authorize the publication of the International Monetary Fund’s report on the state of the country’s economy. A leaked version of the report suggested the IMF saw GDP growth slowing to 4 percent in 2019 from 6.6 percent in 2018.

The government allegedly refused to authorize the report over fears it would impact the foreign investment potential of Tanzania. The government denied refusing to authorize the report, insisting it was still consulting with IMF over the figures. The government’s own figures projected that the economy will grow by 7.3 percent in 2019 after an estimated 7.2 percent expansion last year.

On Friday 26 April, Tanzania celebrated its 55th Union Day, which commemorates the union of Zanzibar and Tanganyika on 26 April 1964. To mark the occasion, President Magufuli pardoned 3,530 prisoners, 722 of whom were released immediately while the rest were released after completing their terms.

In early May, young activist and government critic, Mdude Nyagali, was kidnapped by masked gunmen. Nyagali is a fierce critic of John Magufuli and his colleagues insisted his disappearance was politically motivated. The activist was found days later, dumped in a bush, showing signs of having been tortured. The opposition Chadema party accused police of kidnapping and torturing the young activist but Tanzanian authorities denied any involvement.

Rights groups picked up on the story, using it to condemn John Magufuil once again as a politically repressive leader.

On a more positive, towards the end of May, Tanzania implemented a ban on plastic bags, promising to impose heavy fines on anyone found guilty of breaking new laws against single-use plastic bags. The ban would prove to be one of Africa’s most ambitious schemes to tackle single-use plastics and become one of the world’s most successful.

In late June, Tanzania’s government passed a law to restrict foreign film production in the country. The legislation means foreign film companies must give the government the right to vet any footage, prompting concerns over media freedom. The law also means any footage recorded by foreign film companies can be used by the government in promotional material.

The move was widely criticized by members of the film industry who said it would make Tanzania a less desirable location.

Q3 2019: Crackdown on political and media freedoms

In July, Magufuli added to his collection of baffling public comments when he urged women in Tanzania to “set your ovaries free,” in an attempt to inspire population growth and spur economic growth. Unsurprisingly, rights groups condemned the president’s choice of words, arguing they will worsen inequality and poverty in the country.

Towards the end of the month, alarm bells were ringing once again over Magufili’s crackdown on political and media freedoms. Prominent journalist Erick Kabendera was arrested over questions regarding his citizenship. Rights groups and international media organizations condemned Kabendera’s arrest, insisting the move was politically motivated and the latest in a long line of attacks against independent journalists, including the detention of Muthoki Mumo in 2018.

Further questions were raised over Tanzania’s economy with the World Bank contradicting Tanzania’s growth claims. With the government maintaining its projected GDP growth of 7.1 percent, the World Bank refuted those figures with its own 5.4 percent projection. In a leaked version of the report, the World Bank pointed towards Magufuli’s unpredictable and interventionist policies as a direct contributor to slower economic growth.

In August, detained journalist Erick Kabendera was charged with tax evasion, money laundering and assisting a criminal racket. After initially being detained on the grounds of questions regarding his citizenship, Kabendera was charged with a string of financial offences for which he can’t be granted bail. The charges allow authorities to effectively detain Kabendera indefinitely with financial crimes cases in Tanzania being notorious for tying defendants up in legal proceedings that can last for years.

Rights groups accused the government of fabricating charges against the journalist to manipulate its repressive legal system.

In late August, Tanzania announced a deal struck with Burundi’s government to send back 200,000 Burundian refugees to their home country. The announcement prompted concerns from rights groups that refugees would be pressured to return to the country they fled to escape deadly violence – concerns that would be realized, according to recent reports from Human Rights Watch.

In September, the World Health Organization (WHO) accused Tanzania of failing to provide information about Ebola infections in the country. The neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is battling the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history but WHO said Tanzania falsely claimed to have no suspected cases, despite three separate cases being confirmed through other sources.

Q4 2019: Censorship mounting, anti-gay clampdown

By October, the accusations from rights groups were intensifying once again. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) both published reports in the final days of October citing a “climate of fear, censorship as repression mounts”.

The rights groups interviewed journalists, bloggers, lawyers, NGO representatives and members of opposition parties to report on the deterioration of rights under Magufuli’s regime.

“Both reports found that President John Magufuli’s government has adopted or enforced a raft of repressive laws that stifle independent journalism and severely restrict the activities of non-governmental organizations and the political opposition,” HRW said in its account.

While Magufuli’s attacks on media and political freedom are becoming so common they risk losing their shock factor, the start of an anti-gay crackdown in Dar es Salaam ensured Tanzania’s right degradation remained firmly in the spotlight until the end of the year.

Paul Makonda, governor of the economic capital Dar es Salaam and a close ally of President Magufuli, announced the creation of a surveillance squad dedicated to hunting down gay people. The team was tasked with scouring social media to find content that might reveal the sexual orientation of users in a country where homosexual acts are illegal. Makonda told reporters that round-ups would begin during the first week of November.

Within days, hundreds of people were reported to be in hiding as a result of the crackdown.

President Magufuli kicked off the final month of the year by pardoning another group of prisoners, this time marketing the 58th anniversary of the independence of Tanganyika. He ordered the gradual release of 5,533 prisoners, most of whom he said were serving sentences for minor offences, such as stealing chickens or using abusive language.

On 16 December, the president once again vowed to step down after the end of his second term in 2025. This isn’t the first time Magufuil has promised he will step down instead of seeking a third term in power but these promises come before he has even stood to be re-elected for a second term in charge.

The sense of inevitability that he will secure a second term with little resistance provides a glimpse of what’s to come for Tanzania in the near future.

For imprisoned journalist, Erick Kabendera, the immediate looks even more bleak. As rights groups publicly suggested at the time, the financial charges placed against Kabendera have been used to keep him in detention without trial. In mid-December, his case was postponed for the tenth time, ensuring he will remain in prison over the Christmas period, until 2 January at the earliest when his next hearing is scheduled.

For those in Tanzania campaigning for improved rights, the New Year brings little reason to celebrate. With the suppressive nature of Magufuli’s regime intensifying on a monthly basis, the rights situation by this time next year doesn’t bear thinking about.

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