Geita has big ideas on industry, but lacks a policy script

06Dec 2018
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Geita has big ideas on industry, but lacks a policy script

REGIONAL administrators all over the country are sorting out different ideas on how to achieve goals set by the central government that each region ought to make own preparations to implement the country’s industrialization drive.

Whether one talks about a hundred industries for each region or merely ten new industries annually, there is work to be done to realize that objective, and ideas may differ as to how to go about it, partners to be found, financing to be assured, etc. Geita is privileged in many ways as it makes plans for industries, but it also faces drawbacks that a number of other regions would appear better off.

A recent write up in our sister newspaper showed the parameters that top regional and district officials in the zone are mapping out, for instance the collaboration they are picking up with the Open University of Tanzania (OUT            ) which has operating centres in various regions. This element is one aspect of how regions can go about mapping their own process towards industrialization, as the country is vast, with uneven distribution of resources, in which case the methods, industrial mix, will be different in each case. The question is whether any position agreed on such initiatives is workable, or wider policy is essential.

Planning has different meanings for different sociopolitical systems, and in Tanzania at present there is something clearly experimental as to what ought to be done. There is a first phase legacy of centrally planned industries where the government took initiative and sourced the financing, which a good number of academics and even parliamentarians still think is the best approach. Then there is the market-led way that has been in the vogue for the past 30 years but doesn’t appear to have achieved plenty, and the crisis of unemployment compelled the fifth phase to rethink it. So it isn’t just a matter of market forces alone.

Two problems stand out for industrial take off as well as regional initiatives to that effect, namely how far they can initiate own strategies and expect that they will be sustainable. The best way to ensure that they are sustainable is not to expect financial assistance from public sources, and to the best extent possible, anchor such initiatives in competition with other goods, especially imports. Despite that initiatives can be taken by regional and district authorities, they can only mobilize and harness private sector resources.

The bigger issue is growing the market, as many initiatives especially in the agricultural sector (direct crop produce and soon, agro-processing) continually faces a problem of reliable markets, on account of limited purchasing power.  This is the big policy snag, that hasn’t been sufficiently worked out yet, namely that each industrialist will do better for the country’s economy by being allowed or directed to purchase land from farmers or buy existing industries so as to start, and be assured long lease. Such cash adds to purchasing power and prepares the economy to absorb the new products, while merely allocating land is acceptable for export processing zones. Investors come here to seek rising markets, not to export.