ONOMO Hotel Dar es Salaam

Interview with Hon. Shukuru Kawambwa Minister of Infrastructure Development of Tanzania

TANZANIAINVEST has been interviewing Hon. Shukuru Kawabwa, former Minister of Infrastructure Development of Tanzania, to learn about Tanzania’s transport sector and the country’s development strategy, as well as the role of China within such framework.

Hon. Shukuru Kawabwa, Minister of Infrastructure Development of Tanzania

TanzaniaInvest.com: What is the role of infrastructure within the country’s development strategy?

Shukuru Kawambwa: We understand it is a key sector that plays a critical role in the growth of the national economy.

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It facilitates trade, contributes to the national integration and provides access to jobs, health, education and other facilities.  

We take it as central since the independence of Tanzania, and we are very focused on the sector.

Accordingly we budget much more than for other sectors of Tanzania’s economy, particularly in transportation: roads, ports, airways, and railways, these are paramount to make the county accessible and to allow for cost-effective movement of good and services.  

The current government’s drive towards improving the transport infrastructure is evidenced by the implementation of the Ten Year Transport Sector Development Program (TSIP) which is our road map towards achieving the national strategic goals.  The TSIP is planned to be implemented in two phases of 5 years each from financial year 2007/08 to 2016/17.

The government has made a notable progress in the transport sector institutional reforms in order to bring about efficiency and sustain economic growth by establishing semi-autonomous agencies and authorities to oversee the different transport sub-sectors.  

The reforms also include increasing private sector participation through concessions, management contracts and/or outright sales of parastatals.

TI: As you mentioned transportation is at the core of Tanzania’s infrastructure development. Could you provide an overview of the current situation of each transport sub-sector?

SK: {xtypo_quote_right}Over the last 3 years , we have upgraded to bitumen standards about 1,000 km of trunk roads and we plan to do a similar job or more for the next 3 years {/xtypo_quote_right} Over the last 3 years, we have upgraded to bitumen standards about 1,000 km of trunk roads and we plan to do a similar job or more for the next 3 years by upgrading about 1,350km.  

Accordingly the road maintenance fund has progressively increased to TZS 284 billion in 2009/2010. However the funds only 59% of road maintenance needs.

SK: Generally speaking the railways sub-sector has been performing very badly during the last ten years.  

Tanzania has two main railway systems namely Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC) and Tanzania Zambia Railways Authority (TAZARA).  

The infrastructure is dilapidated and the services rendered are below standards due to outdated equipment and shortages of locomotives and wagons, as well as increased competition from other transport modes and alternative routes.

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In 2007 TRC was concessioned to Tanzania Railways Limited (TRL) but the performances of the rail company continue to decline mainly due to the aforementioned problem.  Discussions for the concessioning of TAZRA are ongoing.

SK: The government through the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) has implemented a number of development projects designed to modernize our ports by providing additional cargo handling equipment and improving and upgrading the facilities, also because they are the way in to seven landlocked countries we serve via our main ports.

Nevertheless our ports are still facing several challenges to be efficient as we would like them to be, such as lack of space to increase the capacity such as the port of Dar es Salaam and inadequate transport services from other modes such as railways and roads.

SK: During the last five years the government through the Tanzania Airport Authority (TAA) and the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) implemented a number of development projects aimed at modernizing our airports and expanding the air transport infrastructure.

As a result the number of registered air operators in the country has been increasing and the aviation industry has been steadily growing with an average growth rate of 9% annually.  

Notwithstanding these achievements the air transport sub-sector has not been able to reach its desired goals, mainly because of still-inadequate airport facilities and navigation services.

This is why the government is committed to ensuring that more resources are mobilized for the infrastructure development from the private sector through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in accordance with the National Public-Private partnership policy.

TI: You mentioned that “It is because of the participation of the Chinese companies that the Tanzanian government has saved a lot of funds on infrastructure”. Why is China’s contribution so important to the infrastructure development of Tanzania?

SK: China has been traditionally a very important partner for Tanzania and as far as infrastructure development is concerned it dates back to the very first independent government of the country with the TAZARA rail line linking Tanzanian ports to Zambia.  

This was a milestone. No countries wanted to fund the project because they could not see the benefits of it, apart from China.

This is why China is so important to Tanzania. And we look at China as a friend that has always continued to be supportive since then.

Every 3 years we have borrowed money for China under technical cooperation protocols so since 1975 we have borrowed about 143 million USD to continuously maintain the rail.  

Last December we signed a loan of 49 million USD so we look at China as a partner.

TAZARA was deigned to transport 5 million tons of cargo per year with and is currently doing only 600,000.  So there are a number of constraints that we need to overcome as

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Zambia alone is exporting all its fertilizer via the Dar Es Salaam port and with the additional Chinese investment in Zambia this country is expected to export more copper.   

So certainly we have a job to do: ensure that TAZARA does best.  

This could allow not only for cargo activities but also to increase the number of passengers and expand tourism through this rail line and China is committed to that.

TI: What is your view on this alternative South-to-South development cooperation with China?

SK: We certainly think that enhanced cooperation with China will make up for the failure to invest of other traditional donors that have been affected by the recent global financial crisis.

In fact a small portion of our budget is foreign funded as development partners are not ready and able to disburse as much as we would wish.

TI: What role would you like Tanzania to have within China’s strategy for Africa?

SK: We would like to improve our trade relations with China by being a gateway for China’s trade not only with Tanzania but other African countries.  

Tanzania is part of the EAC and we are going trough various stages in cooperation with the final aim of an East Africa federation and a single state.

We have reached a custom union and a common market with free movement of people, goods capitals.
We are a very peaceful country with a stable government, we experience good security and work to improve good governance and transparency.

We combine these facts with having  long time friendship historical ties with China as opposed to other African countries, while at the same time we are part of EAC and we can open doors to the other countries{xtypo_quote_right} we are part of EAC and through us we can open doors to the other countries {/xtypo_quote_right}.  

So we aim to be the China’s gateway to East and South Africa.

TI: What is you personal message to China’s government officials and businessmen?

SK: Tanzania is an old friend and partner of China and this special relationship will continue. We have developed over more than 40 years of collaboration and friendship.

Tanzania admires the development of Chinese people over the years which has brought change in the lives of the people of China.

Consequently we are very keen to work with Chinese government official and companies so that we also benefit from that experience, from the knowledge that they have and from investment from China.  

Tanzania is very open to work with China.

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