Privatization of Electricity in Tanzania

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  • Topic: Tanzania, East Africa, Arab slave trade
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  • Published : May 11, 2005
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Privatization of Electricity in Tanzania

The story of Tanzania, from pre-colonialist period to present

Tanzania, located in East Africa, is one of the least developed countries in the world. According to the UNDP Human Development Index, Tanzania ranked 162 out of 177 countries in the 2004 survey (UNDP:2004, HDI), with one being the most developed. According to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) prepared by Tanzanian officials for the World Bank, half of Tanzanians 36.6 million people are characterized as "poor" and one-third live in "abject poverty"(WB: PRSP p.1). Tanzanians have a life expectancy of 43.5 years, a fertility rate of 5.1 births per woman, an HIV prevalence of 8.8%, and a population growth rate of 1.95% (UNDP: 2004). Agriculture makes up half of the country's GDP, 85% of the exports, and 80% of the labor force (CIA: 2004). Culturally, Tanzanians are made up of 130 different tribes, each speaking their own mother tongue. The official languages of Tanzania are Kiswahili and English, with English being the main language in commerce, administration, and higher education (CIA: 2004). Kiswahili is a mix of Bantu languages, English, and Arabic, and is indicative of the millennia old history of trade with the outside world. Records of trade routes with the Middle East date back to the 1st century AD (govt web: early history). Zanzibar and the coastal town of Bagamoya were the hubs of the East African slave trade, active for well over a thousand years (pilot). While the early slave trade with the Middle East existed only on a small scale, transporting around 100 slaves at a time, the appearance of Europeans in the 17th century ratcheted up the trade to a much larger scale and level of organization, at its height moving 15,000 slaves a year out of East Africa (pilot). Serious efforts to end the slave trade began in the 19th century, though the trade continued through the German occupation of then German East Africa in the latter part of the century. In 1919 after World War I, Britain took over German East Africa, renaming it Tanganyika, and permanently put an end to the slave trade (govt web: colonial period ). Tanganyika attained independence from British rule in 1961 and Zanzibar followed soon after in 1963, ending the existence of the British mandated territory. Tanzania was formed in 1964 by uniting the mainland, Tanganyika, and the islands of Zanzibar. An excerpt from the Tanzanian National Website displays an interesting official interpretation of the lingering effects of centuries of occupation by foreigners (my emphasis): During the domination of Tanzania by Germans, British and Arabs, the indigenous people were decimated, lost their destiny and cultural identity, were economically exploited and their technology disrupted. However, the worst evil of all committed by colonialists has been their wishful intent to discourage individual initiative to venture, discover, make attempts and to fabricate. The outcome is the current dependency status! (govt web, social organization)

This quote reveals an interesting viewpoint to keep in mind as we enter the discussion of the political climate and the push for privatization and foreign investment in modern day Tanzania.

Politics and Privatization
After independence was established in the sixties, Tanzania entered a long period of socialism where the economy, and hence all private investor-owned property, was nationalized (AETC: 2000, history). In subsequent decades, many of the public enterprises suffered from bad management and a lack of financial viability leading to a failing Tanzanian economy. In 1992 the government finally reformed its political system, allowing the formation of political parties (ibid). The same year the Tanzanian government announced the establishment of the Parastatal Sector Reform Commission (PSRC) signaling its intention to privatize all of the 390 state-owned enterprises in an effort to rejuvenate the economy, making...
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