When Minnesotans think of Tanzania, if they’ve heard of it, they probably envision the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro or the Serengeti National Park, the world’s best-known wildlife sanctuary.
While we want you to visit those places and bring your friends, there is another Tanzania we want you to know about. It is a place with a population of 45 million, a third of whom are between 15 and 35 years old and constitute a growing and capable workforce. The country has an economic growth rate of 7 percent and is among the 20 fastest-growing economies in the world. Tanzania is twice the size of California.
It is also the fastest-growing market in East Africa. Exports to the United States were $420 million in 2013, up 71 percent over 2012. Exports from Minnesota grew nearly 50 percent to $5.6 million in the same period. Like many countries in Africa, Tanzania is establishing a stable democracy along with its economic stability.
President Obama visited Tanzania last summer in part to enhance U.S.-Tanzania business and trade relationships. His visit was timely as China, India and other countries are making important business investments, particularly in natural resource extraction, which help fund local development projects.
Minnesota already has some strong connections to Tanzania. Cargill and Thomson Reuters do business there, and General Mills is involved in a number of food projects.
And on the educational front, St. Paul-based Books for Africa last year shipped 220,000 books to Tanzania, the fourth-highest total of any country. Since its founding in 1988, Books for Africa has shipped 3.4 million books to Tanzania, the fourth highest. In all, Books for Africa has shipped more than 30 million books to 49 African countries.
Books for students are essential tools of education, which contribute to an educated and effective workforce and to the development of the rule of law, which is essential for building both democracy and a strong, independent economy.
Americans are the leading source of tourism in Tanzania, and U.S. companies are involved in tourism and the hospitality industry. But there are also many opportunities in agriculture, energy, mining and infrastructure development. Construction and infrastructure development have become even more important after the discovery of large supplies of natural gas.
Tanzania and its East African neighbors (Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda) are urbanizing faster than the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), which has created an even greater need for infrastructure development. Telecommunications technology and the increased use of cellphones are making the use of land lines unnecessary.
Another area that needs investment and some assistance is electricity access. The U.S. Congress is considering the Electrify Africa Act of 2013, a bipartisan effort to establish a policy that would assist sub-Saharan Africa to develop a mix of power solutions to broadly distribute electricity access in order to reduce poverty and drive economic growth.
At present, only 24 percent of the people in Tanzania have access to electricity, a major obstacle to growth. With increased access, however, double-digit economic growth could be achieved.
Tanzania and the rest of East Africa represent the next frontiers of economic development. We need Minnesota and U.S. partners. Like any investment, there may be some risks. But where there are risks, there are always opportunities.
Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti await you, and so do the people of Tanzania.
About the authors: Liberata Mulamula is the Tanzanian ambassador to the United States. Patrick Plonski is the executive director of St. Paul-based Books for Africa.