Tanzania aims to become a semi-industrialised nation by 2025. The expectation is that industrialisation will boost economic growth and job creation. Currently, the Export Processing Zone (EPZ) and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) schemes, managed by the Export Processing Zones Authority (EPZA), promote industrialisation. The former offers incentives and a barrier-free environment to promote economic growth by attracting foreign investment for export-oriented production. The latter, which is broader and more inclusive, stimulates sector-specific investments with an emphasis on agriculture, trade, tourism, mining and forestry.
About 170 licensed companies operate under SEZs across the country, with 45% of them being local and 55% of them being foreign. These companies have the potential to bring about positive economic transformation in the country. They employ over 44,000 people and are in an advantageous position to accelerate domestic and foreign direct investments; acquire new technology and skills; increase government revenue; and boost intra-regional trade. There are, however, insufficient business linkages between these investments and the wider domestic economy. The host local government authorities (LGAs) play a vital role in fostering these linkages. But how can they promote the interconnections to leverage the full potential of these investments?
As an attempt to seek answers to this question, we convened a national dialogue on 19 June 2021 in collaboration with the EPZA and UNU-WIDER. Officiated by the Minister for Industry and Trade, Hon. Prof. Kitila Mkumbo (MP), the dialogue involved key stakeholders and leaders from select LGAs. It featured discussions as well as a site visit to Dar es Salaam’s Benjamin William Mkapa Special Economic Zone to demonstrate ways to support the infrastructure for these investments and structures that can benefit both the LGAs and SEZ investors.
Minister Mkumbo considered this important dialogue as ‘beneficial’ to both public and private stakeholders. On the role of LGAs in SEZ investments, he said that the government has plans to perform an assessment to see what has been accomplished and determine where more efforts are needed. He maintained that the aim is to have more areas managed by the LGAs rather than the central government. ‘We want the local government authorities to be at the centre in driving economic growth of our nation,’ stated the Minister.