|Written by Eric Tirabassi|
|Monday, 07 August 2006|
TANZANIAINVEST has been interviewing Mr. Israel Sekirasa, Director General of the Surface and marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA), to learn about the Tanzania transport sector and about the role of its institution within such framework.
TI: The key mission of the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA) is to ensure a competitive, quality and safe transport service in Tanzania. The Authority oversees both land transportation services as well as marine transportation. What was the rationale for establishing SUMATRA?
Israel Sekirasa - SUMATRA: With the increased role of the private sector in economic development in a liberalized environment, profit motives are likely to override policy objectives in ensuring affordable services.
Similarly, safety requirements are likely to be compromised by economic interests.
In such a situation, you require an independent body to monitor performance and set standards, rules and guidelines in service delivery.
SUMATRA was established with the foregoing considerations.
TI: SUMATRA was set up to oversee and regulate over a wide spectrum within the transportation sector namely the railways, roads and ports. Why is air transportation not included?
IS: Initially, the idea was to merge together all transportation and telecommunication sources under a multi-sector regulatory agency.
However, it emerged that this would be too extensive to manage.
Air transport traditionally has an independent global regulatory framework in terms of sector administration and, therefore, it was left out of the scheme, but was given the requisite autonomy so as to operate within the already established global framework.
Tanzania Surface Transport Overview
TI: How would you assess the level of surface transport infrastructure in this country? Would you consider it to be adequate enough to accommodate prospective investors?
IS: There is a lot to be done to ensure economic and efficient surface transport.
Whereas there is tremendous improvement in road infrastructure development, the state of our railways is pathetic.
Substantial resources are required to invest in the railways in order to tap the great economic potential of Great Lakes region traffic.
Land transport, namely rail and roads transport systems, still have enormous problems and there is still room for improvement in creating better road and rail networks.
Hence, we need more efficient land transport systems.
Successful development of the two modes will facilitate the reduction of transport costs and make it easier for investors to undertake their investment in Tanzania.
TI: Roads remain the prmary means of transportation in most countries. This is why, in Tanzania, the bulk of the donor aid for transportation improvement that has been sought and is being geared towards road development. At the same, time you are also advocating for the enhancement of the rail systems. Why?
IS: I agree with you entirely that more resources are being spent on the development of roads.
However, if we are going to explore coal and iron, those commodities cannot be feasibly moved on the road transportation systems.
They should ideally be transported on the railroad system.
After completion of the inter-regional road network, we will advise the government to shift its priority to strengthen the railway infrastructure operations.
Under the proposed TRC concession arrangement, the Government will continue to own the railway infrastructure and will have a stake in the train operations so as to ensure the railroads perform.
TI: What are the challenges you face in developing and improving the transport systems that SUMATRA oversees?
IS: One of the main challenges, which we are already tackling, is to change the mindset of our people and of the operators.
For this we have established a forum whereby we bring together the main players within the transportation industry.
We call it “The Transport and Shipping Forum.”
It brings together Policy makers, business individuals, ports operators, railway operators and road transporters so that, for each segment, efficiency is the key target.
Efficiency can be achieved by automating the system that is cutting down the level of human intervention in addressing cargo documentation and clearance.
This will raise the level of efficiency in our ports.
We need to oversee the processes in a way that is more efficient.
We need to encourage and advocate for the creation of innovative ideas that will promote efficiency in light of the global market competition.
Efficiency and quality service, rather than non-tariff barriers, will earn more business through our corridors.
When we have the right infrastructure in place, motivated employees and enhanced working environments, there is no doubt that Tanzania can stand out as the fast growing economy.
Tanzania Transport Private Investment
TI: In your opinion, do you think that the transport networks in Tanzania can be developed using private capital rather than with international donors’ aid?
I think we still lack the proper policy framework to bring on board private capital in the development process of the Tanzanian transportation systems.
For the time being, we are still dependent on Development partners.
Private capital can do a lot and we should advocate for it.
We could encourage private investors to put up infrastructure utilising their own capital and charge fees for the road service by putting up tolls stations under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement.
This scheme can also be extended to road maintenance.
TI: Transportation is one of the key sectors targeted in the Tanzania economic development agenda. Do you think it is possible for Tanzania to achieve the improved country economic status set for the year 2025? What are the key issues that need to be addressed in order for that to be accomplished?
IS: I think it is possible. The government is committed to the development of the transportation sector.
There are also deliberate measures on sustainable cost efficient energy sources [and the] development of alternative energy sources will set the platform for industrialization.
TI: In your opinion, why is Tanzania attracting more and more investors every year in spite of insufficient energy supply and inadequate transportation networks?
IS: Tanzania is a safe investment harbour.
Tanzania is one of the most stable states in Africa.
It is a country where democracy has flourished in its true sense.
Tanzania has the right legal framework in almost every sector, whereby private investments are protected by Law.
The people of Tanzania are friendly.
We have professionally trained people [who are] very well conversant in a number of fields.
Although admittedly capacity building is still required, foreign investors need not worry so much because there is reasonable local capacity available.
Tanzania is privileged to have appealing geographical attractions such as the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.
Tanzania also has the largest game reserve, the Serengeti national park and the Ngorongoro crater, just to mention a few.
Tanzania has a lot of mining potential, too.
What is needed is for the investors to come forward with an investment package that will benefit both the investors as well as Tanzania.