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This article first appeared on Udadisi Blog under the same title on April 1, 2020.
The government of Tanzania under the leadership of the President of Dr. John Joseph Pombe Magufuli has done a lot of changes in the mineral regulations. The aim is to have a more redistributive extractive sector in the country. One of the sectoral sections has been in the limelight, is the Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) Sector.
To show that the government is serious about improving the ASM sector, on 22nd January 2019, Dr. John Pombe Magufuli occasioned the sectoral meeting. This meeting brought stakeholders in the ASM sector to share their experiences and inform the government of the challenges facing the sector. Such challenges, the gathering reminisced, makes it difficult for the government to optimize benefits tax-wise from the sector, while miners remain strangled in the vicious cycle of poverty.
Knowing that the 5th phase government has the interest of the people at heart, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr. John Joseph Pombe Magufuli has shown a keen interest in improving working conditions in the ASM sector environments in Tanzania. In the aforementioned meeting, the President directed relevant authorities and the Ministry of Minerals to lessen the burden of taxation on the Artisanal and Small-scale Miners.
While the meeting that was held on the 22nd January 2019 focused on the litany of taxation regime requirements, one thing seem to have been forgotten, the road networks in the ASM operations areas.
Visiting most of the ASM activity active areas in Tanzania, especially in the Lake region, one is faced by a restrictive infrastructure. Businesspeople looking for investment opportunities are not attracted by the availability of mineral commodities only. Infrastructure factors in heavily on the decisions they make. Lack of good road networks brings is a shadow of insecurity. Road networks will be one of the ways to ensure local and international investors in this economic subsector to have that sense of security.
Experiences from other countries suggests that proper road networks play an important role in the economic development. Well maintained roads “reduces the cost of transportation, both in terms of money and time, but also helps in the integration of various regions in a country”, (Aldagheiri 2009).
Tanzania is a vast country that covers, 947,303 square kilometres and a population of over 55 million (some records place Tanzania’s population at 57.31 million!). About 6 million of these are said to be involved one way or the other in Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) activities. This is a huge number.
Now thinking about the road infrastructure and looking at the population that is suggested to engage in ASM activities, one would imagine that ASM activities are not taking place in one area. It would preposterous to think so.
But let us reason a little more on this. Most of mining activities are happening in remote areas. Even the multinationals in the extractive industry operate in rural settings where there are no proper road networks. The latter are forced in many ways to make their own roads leading to their operation areas.
One would now query, if the moneyed multinationals must make their own roads, how can the ‘just surviving’ Artisanal and Small-scale Miners have well maintained roads going to their operation areas? The answer to this is obvious. Roads used to access the ASM active operation areas are more of tracks made by continuous use. As such, neither as effective nor encouraging.
Experiences from other countries shows that better road infrastructure improves movements and beneficial interaction between communities towards an improved socio-economic stability. Proper infrastructure that enhances mobility has an important role in “increasing production, reducing travel times, increasing employment, and improving” accessibility of important services.
Another aspect of the ASM sector that must be looked at when talking about better road access to the mining areas is to do with the ripple effects of road development in a local context. In most cases, ASM mining localities do not have the vibrancy that goes with the kind of wealth produced in such area. Perhaps this is changing but there is still a lot to be desired. A lot of wealth that is extracted from rural settings are used to develop other economic satellite towns.
A couple of examples would do. In Tanzania we see a huge difference between the physical and even economic development between Mwanza and Geita. This can also be said about Mirerani and Arusha. Now, one would assume that if there were better road infrastructures as a result of a proper local development planning from relevant authorities or agencies, these scenarios would be different. The mining activity resource “rush towns” that bloomed when there was mineral boom would not have the look of soon-to-be ghost towns. Or seen as isolated areas where people only go to extract and leave holes behind.
Some people would argue that proper land development plan would influence road development. What this means is, if relevant authorities: be it traditional leadership, local government authorities had a well disaggregated land use plan, roads would be part of this. But this school of thinking is challenged. There would be no accessibility to those areas!
In reality, “road development influences land development by changing the spatial pattern of accessibility, [in other words, road development] changes in accessibility [and has the potential in changing] land development”, (Angela L. Cuthbert et al 2005). Road development, therefore, brings with it a sense of investment, job and livelihood safeguards. Furthermore, it adds attractiveness to potential investors.
Sreelekha et al (2015) puts it this way, “Road transport network is primarily designed to connect local resources and people to distant markets and population centres. Thus, it provides support to urban system development. An efficient transport network is essential for maintaining and improving the quality of life within cities and ensuring sustainable development”.
Rural road network development is, therefore, an integral part of the economic infrastructure. As can be seen, with an impact on national economic development and other socioeconomic connections. In Tanzania, we have the Rural and Urban Roads Agency (TARURA) that is doing an excellent job improving road networks. However, in the effort to improve the urban infrastructure, there seem to be an oversight – a neglect on the rural road networks in such important economic potential points that could contribute greatly to the national economic grid. In this case, the artisanal and Small-scale mining sector operation areas.
Given the economic situation, Artisanal and Small-scale Miners are not able to contribute fully to the development of road networks in the areas of their operations. Even when it comes with attraction to external investments in the sector, it would not be possible when there is no proper road network to ensure safe transfer of gold commodities from the processing grounds to the now developed MinGem houses in the regions.
Proper and reliable road network “plays an important role in reducing regional disparities”, even within national context. It improves and contributes to competitiveness between regions, by facilitating trade, the movement of labour, and economies of scale”.
Apart from offering security, solid road networks, even if they be well-maintained gravel roads, the activities in the ASM activity intense areas would gain a measure of efficiency. A study conducted by Highways England (2016) suggests that well-kept road networks, improves productivity, increases trade, facilitates investment, and reduces unemployment rates by increasing timely labour supply.
In Kenya, a research conducted in 2003 by John Ole Moyaki attests to the fact that each dime “spent on road infrastructure by the government GDP per capita increases by Kshs. 572.753 holding other factors constant”.
The Tanzanian government under the leadership of Dr. John Pombe Magufuli is doing a lot already. But there is a need for introspection. Whether the activity areas with potential to contribute to the national economic stability are attended. The January 22, 2019 meeting highlighted the need to enhance ASM economic contribution through taxation. Before this is realised, the enabling infrastructure must be in place before the “Tanzania ya Viwanda” becomes a reality.