A section of Arusha City. Arusha Region, which is Tanzania’s tourism hub, is seventh in contributing to the national economy, according to the Bank of Tanzania.
Dar es Salaam. A firm agro-based economy seems to have done Mbeya Region wonders as shown by the latest Bank of Tanzania’s report on regional total net worth beating Arusha whose economy runs on mining and tourism.
The recent data by the BoT indicates that Dar es Salaam is the richest region with a total income of Sh7.5 trillion, followed by Mwanza (Sh4.09 trillion) and Mbeya (Sh3.2 trillion). But, with all tourist attractions, Arusha ranks number seven on the economic ladder of the country behind Mbeya, Shinyanga, Iringa and Morogoro regions. Lindi Region still lags behind as it holds second position among the poorest regions after Coast Region, even though it produces natural gas for power generation.
Stakeholders who spoke to The Citizen yesterday, said Mbeya Region was in control of income from both within and outside its market which is powered by its agricultural produce, thus enhancing money circulation in the region.
This is contrary to the Arusha situation, which sees a big part of its earnings from tourism and mining being taken outside its boundaries.
University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) senior economics lecturer, Prof Amon Mbele, said Mbeya’s agro-economy captures almost the entire country’s market. “The tourism industry is largely dominated by foreign-based firms, so part of the income remains in their mother countries. The same logic works for large mining firms,” said Prof Mbele.
He advised that the country should not abandon agriculture for gas, because it is still the former that would provide the basis for growth.
Mr Zitto Kabwe, Kigoma North MP (Chadema), who is also an economist, said Mbeya has the potential to overtake even Mwanza because of its emerging mining sector, which includes gold and coal mining at Lupa and Kiwira, respectively.
Lindi lags behind because of lack of economic activities, generally. Natural gas was an enclave sector and even if it started, still it would not benefit the local people, Mr Kabwe argued. “It is shocking for Arusha to fall to seventh place. But Mbeya’s agriculture has given it a firm ground on which to pin itself,” he said. Above all, Arusha largely remains a service region, tanzanite comes from Manyara Region whereas almost all manufacturing factories were sold while no new ones have been established.
Legislator for Arumeru East, Mr Joshua Nassari (Chadema) and his Karatu counterpart, Rev Israel Natse (Chadema), blamed the situation on uncontrolled income flow to neighbouring Kenya for products produced in Arusha. “There is no formal market for various products in Arusha, hence revenues go unrecorded; for instance, flowers are transported to Kenya where they are processed and branded as Kenyan products,”Mr Nassari said.
Speaking on Mbeya’s success, Special Seats MP from the region, Ms Naomi Kaihula (Chadema), said it was obvious for the region to have a big total income because its agriculture is commercialised, thus enabling the region to earn more. “Agriculture has transformed incomes of many households in Mbeya Region, all because of commercialising farming,” she asserted.
However, Lindi regional commissioner Thomas Sowani, said the region remained poor because its natural gas was being taken away to other regions.
“The gas obtained here benefits industries based in other regions,” he lamented.