MONDAY April 17, 2023
By Patty Magubira
The Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania
The Tanzania government has entered into eight contracts aimed at improving access to tourist attractions and invigorating the economy south of the country.
It will also sign one additional contract towards the end of this month, the Tanzania National Parks Conservation Commission, Mr William Mwakilema, said over the weekend.
Mr Mwakilema said implementation of the over $150 million worth contracts would see six airstrips constructed at Mikumi, Ruaha and Nyerere national parks at over $48 million.
Also, to be implemented in the contracts is the construction of peremises for staff and tourism service provision at Ruaha, Mikumi, Udzungwa, Nyerere national parks as well as at Kilombero natural forests at over $18 million.
“The $6.8 worth additional contract for Mikumi National Park will be signed towards the end of this month,” the Head of the state-owned conservation and tourism agency said.
Consultants, who will oversee implementation of all infrastructure falling under the Resilience Natural Resource Management for Tourism Growth (REGROW) project, will pocket $1.8 million.
The government has through its Natural Resources and Tourism Ministry received loan from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank wing, to implement the first phase of the initiative.
The overarching goal of REGROW is to strengthen tourism service provision and to raise income among members of communities surrounding the parks as well as to increase the contribution of the tourism industry to national economy.
Mr Mwakilema was optimistic the project would resolve challenges facing TANAPA, including poaching, poor roads and airstrips.
He said the project, which had so far been implemented by 43 per cent, already had procured 45 vehicles, 44 trucks and 18 plants, among other equipment, for beefing up patrol and tourism and ecological activities at Ruaha, Nyerere, Mikumi and Udzungwa national parks as well as at Kilombero natural forests.
A one-kilometre canopy walkaway, the longest in East Africa, if not southern Africa, will also be constructed at Udzungwa National Park.
“With these contracts, REGROW will be implemented by over 70 per cent,” said the TANAPA Conservation Commissioner, vowing that the agency would closely follow up on construction of the infrastructure to ensure the government’s goal is met.
“I thank the government under the President, Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan, for according the natural resources and tourism sector due priority for it to effectively contribute to the national economy,” he said.
The Natural Resources and Tourism Minister, Mr Mohamed Mchengerwa, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Dr Hassan Abbas, and the Deputy Permanent Secretary also in the ministry, Mr Anderson Mutatembwa, witnessed the signing of the contracts.
TANAPA and the Tanzania Forest Agency signed the contracts into which both agencies entered on behalf of the government with different contractors and consultants.
Mr Mchengerwa and Dr Abbas lashed out, in turn, at procurement officials in the ministry for delaying the signing of the contracts for over three years ‘for their own selfish interests’.
“This is not healthy at all to our nation, members of parliament from the southern constituencies have been blaming the government for not doing enough in their respective regions as the President pledged,” said the minister, stressing that only interests of the nation could be tolerated to delay such projects.
Dr Abbas said officials from the World Bank were supposed to participate in the ceremony, but they had apparently given up for he termed as lack of seriousness on the government’s side.
“We’ll look for the right place for any official who will delay a project to go, this sector is all about pace and quality,” retorted Dr Abbas, warning the contractors that owing to the delay, neither an addendum nor extension of time for implementing the project would be entertained.
Mr Mchengerwa said tourism though greatly contributed to the national economy, the receipts did not reflect abundant attractions the country was endowed with.
As a result, the majority of tourists ended up staying for few days sampling the godsend in the northern circuit alone and that most of them never returned.
“It is now the turn of promoting tourist attractions in the southern regions through this project for them to be known globally,” the minister told TANAPA, urging officials involved in implementing the project to be creative and accountable.
Mr Mchengerwa called on conservation commissioners to strengthen their departments, gauge the performance of each of their subordinates and reward them accordingly.
“With the political will in place, we cannot have better time for promoting tourism in the country than now,” he said.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19 early in 2019, tourism receipts stood at $2.6 billion, let alone 1.5 direct and indirect jobs the industry used to create.
Tourism also used to contribute 17.2 per cent to gross domestic product and 25 per cent to the national foreign exchange reserve.
In 2017, the Tanzania government came up with the belated REGROW project to open up attractions in the southern regions in a bid to diversify tourism products and to promote the industry in those regions.
According to Mr Saanya Aenea, the REGROW Project Coordinator, the project operates in 61 villages surrounding the national parks in the southern circuit.
The project has provided over 50 groups identified in 15 villages with over $608,000 seed money for community conservation banks.
“Also, we provided sponsorship to 522 students in various colleges within the ministry, including the College of African Wildlife Management Mweka, Pasiansi Wildlife Training Institute and Likuyu Sekamaganga Community-Based Conservation Training Centre, among others,” Mr Aenea said.
The project, which has also paid for school fees and subsistence allowances amounting to over $695,650, expects to sponsor 1,000 students from the villages upon completion of the second phase.
REGROW has also sponsored 120 other students out of 400 students planned to pursue studies on resolution of human-wildlife conflicts in vulnerable villages at over $114,780. “We’re also constructing 10 posts for the would-be village game scouts,” he saidΩ