Investments in the zone would focus on agro-processing industries so as to tap into unprocessed agricultural products that will also facilitate creation of employment to boost economic growth.
Industry and Trade Minister Charles Mwijage confirmed to The Guardian by phone yesterday when reacting to a news item published by Singapore’s Business Times newspaper about its country’s trade delegation set to visit Tanzania.
The information named Singapore’s Minister of State for National Development, Trade and Industry Koh Poh Koon as leader of the delegation expected in the country from April 27 to 30, this month. The objective of the mission is to strengthen trade and investment ties between the two countries.
Mwijage said he and his Singapore counterpart will officiate at the launch of the economic processing zone on April 29, adding that the area had all the facilities for investment including electricity, water and good roads.
“Singapore will significantly support agro-processing industries, which will play a major role in adding value to agricultural products before being exported,” he said.
The South Asian nation is also interested in investing in hospitality, engineering and water treatment industries, the minister added.
He explained that the coming of Singaporean delegation was in response to the country’s drive to promote its earmarked economic processing zones.
“This is only one of many economic zones which have already been given an enabling environment. With necessary facilities already in place, it will hardly take a month for an investor to commence production,” Mwijage noted.
According to him, the country had already earmarked several areas intended to turn them into economic processing zones, but some lacked requisite facilities such as water, roads and power.
Areas earmarked as economic processing zones, according to the minister, include Bagamoyo, Kigoma, Manyara and Bunda.
Economic processing zones are developed and run by the Economic Processing Zones Authority (EPZA) and they are designed to play a critical role in making the country attain its industrialized nation status come 2030.
EPZs are also intended to help reduce the country’s reliance on exports of raw materials and stimulate its gross domestic product (GDP), thus attaining the government’s industrialization goal.
According to sources from Singapore, a recent appointment of businessman Tan Puay Hiang as a non-resident ambassador to Tanzania symbolized the beginning of a strategic relationship between the two countries.
Tan is quoted as saying that Tanzania, with growing business interest from Singaporean investors, stood to be the gateway for East Africa.
"Tanzania is one of the safest countries in Africa with a very stable government and a friendly, efficient civil service. So, there are plenty of opportunities for Singapore businesspeople there," Tan is quoted by the Singaporean paper as saying.
Currently, Singapore's main investors in Tanzania are Temasek Holdings subsidiaries Pavilion Energy and Olam International. Others include energy player Intrasia and listed hospitality companies Bonvest Holdings and Hotel Properties.
Pavilion Energy, in its quest to be a leading LNG (liquid natural gas) player and to bolster Singapore's position as an LNG hub, made Singapore's single biggest investment in Africa by injecting a whopping S$1.8 billion for a 20 per cent stake in three gas blocks in Tanzania.
To aid Tanzania's urbanisation efforts, Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (IE Singapore's commercial arm) and Surbana International Consultants are helping draw up master plans for Arusha and Mwanza townships.
Tanzania has also sought help from the Singapore Supreme Court which is now assisting the country in the area of e-filing.
Tan also points out enormous opportunities in the hospitality business as Tanzania is home to seven Unesco heritage sites including Africa's highest mountain, Mt Kilimanjaro; its deepest crater, Ngorongoro; its deepest lake, Lake Tanganyika, and the Serengeti National Park, which is believed to be a leading global safari destination.
He also feels that with a long coastline and a land area of nearly 950,000 sq km and with its strategic location within the Indian Ocean Basin, the country provides easy access for trade and investments to African countries for Asia.
"The main city Dar es Salaam is a promising port and a logistics hub that can be substantially developed as the main outlet for the East African region. Singapore can in time look to developing industrial parks in Tanzania as we did in Suzhou and Chennai," Tan says.