The Mtwara Rockefellers
The scale of the coming gas bonanza bears no comparison with anything in the past. Tanzania’s gasfields abut even richer ones in the waters of neighbouring Mozambique. Britain’s BG and Norway’s Statoil have won licences to exploit the bulk of the gas found so far. Tanzania’s government wants the companies to put some of the gas to use in Tanzania and to invest in local infrastructure. Exporting the rest will mean constructing a liquefied-natural-gas plant that will be the biggest project in Tanzanian history. The government has also signed up a Nigerian company, Dangote, to build a cement factory near Mtwara. A new railway will have to be laid to carry material from the port to the factory. Within a few years coal, ores, timber and food should be shipped out of Mtwara in greater quantities than before.However I liked the Regional Governors statement
Joseph Simbakalia, who is in effect the region’s governor, sees the coming railway as a further opportunity for local development. Why not, he wonders, insist that spur lines are built to serve the people of Mtwara, where the population is expected to grow tenfold, to 1.3m, by 2025. Despite laws making it hard for foreigners to buy land, property prices in the Shengani area of Mtwara have tripled in the past year. As a former army engineer and a loyalist in the ruling party, Mr Simbakalia is adamant that New Mtwara must be well laid out. He says he is unrattled by festering protests, the rise of Islamists or the prevalence of witchcraft. “I am juju-proof,” he says.