By Mfonobong Nsehe *
Over the past several months, Tanzania, the 5th fastest growing economy in Africa, has garnered regional and global acclaim with the arrival of the new government headed by President John Pombe Magufuli. Since assuming office in November last year, President Magufuli has implemented sweeping reforms across various public institutions with a new vision and political ethos emphasizing anti-corruption, efficient use of public funds and a renewed commitment to rapid large-scale industrialization.
Last week in Dar es Salaam, President Magufuli hosted the President’s Manufacturer of the Year Awards (PMAYA) – an annual event designed to honor the most outstanding manufacturers in the country. At the event, the president assured guests that his government is rallying behind the manufacturing sector to ensure that the sector contributes over 15 percent of Tanzania’s GDP and accounts for 40 percent of all new jobs by 2020.
Tanzania’s richest man, Mohammed Dewji, who carted away several prizes at the ceremony, and received accolades from the President for being the country’s largest private employer of labor, promised the President that he’ll create thousands of new jobs for Tanzanians within the next few years.
“I am going to invest more than $500 million over the next 4 years to employ over 100,000 people across Africa by 2021 with a significant majority of those jobs coming to Tanzanians,” Dewji said in a conversation with this writer.
Dewji, 41, continues to be one of the key players in private sector-led development in the country, well known for being a leader in local employment and manufacturing in East and Central Africa. His conglomerate, the METL Group, now operates in over 35 industries as diverse as trading, agriculture, manufacturing, energy and petroleum, financial services, mobile telephony, infrastructure and real estate, transport, logistics and distribution.
To date, MeTL Group currently employs 28,000 people, translating to approximately 2% of formal private sector employment in the country, from MeTL Group alone. This makes Dewji the second biggest employer in the country after the Government of Tanzania.
In an effort to expand its core business activities and increase employment across the countries it operates in, MeTL group is currently undertaking several growth and expansion projects, all of which fall into three broad categories: capital expansion, efficiency and value chain, and regional expansion.
“In the space of capital expansion, MeTL will be upgrading machinery, facilities and overall structures in their edible oils, milling, sisal processing, soap manufacturing and match-box making industries. Similarly, we will be undertaking efficiency and value chain projects aimed at improving the overall cost and yield in several industries,” Dewji said.
One of the key projects that will be undertaken is the transformation of their tea for export business into creating consumer packs for domestic consumption. Similarly, they will be taking their milling of wheat flour to the next level by venturing into final consumer products such as pasta for domestic and eventually regional consumption.
Another notable project that MeTL will be venturing into is sugar production through a new cane-processing factory that Dewji is setting up. The plant will not only produce sugar for domestic use but will also generate electricity and ethanol. With over US$ 280,000 committed to this project, the Group aims to employ, at peak production, over 5000 staff alone for this sugar and captive cogen plant in Tanzania.
“This project will not only change the livelihoods of the future employees and surrounding communities, but will significantly change the competitive landscape for sugar in the country, with the aim of making local sugar affordable and accessible to Tanzanians,” the billionaire says.
Lastly, MeTL’s regional expansion plans will be focused primarily in expanding its core business activities to it’s neighboring countries: Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Uganda. Projects in the pipeline include milling of cereals, edible oils and soap manufacturing, and fuel trading. These regional expansions projects are in line with President Magufuli’s recent charge to Tanzanian entrepreneurs to fully utilize the local market and expand their presence to other East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
“Naturally, Tanzania’s favorable economic climate and stable political climate will attract international large-scale strategic investments across all sectors. But what is remarkable here is that there are home-grown companies at the fore-front of manufacturing – champions like Mohammed Dewji, who will continue to be instrumental in the future of local private sector led development in country and in-turn become critical players in large-scale job-creation across the region,” a Tanzanian Member of Parliament said to this writer in an email.
On his part, Mohammed Dewji says that President Magufuli’s commitment towards manufacturing and job creation will ensure that Tanzania becomes East Africa’s economic giant in a few years.
“We continue to applaud Magufuli’s strategic vision and commitment to support the rapid industrialization of Tanzania. His vision coupled with continuous investment and financial commitments from companies like MeTL Group are instrumental in helping Tanzania achieve its Vision 2025 dream of becoming a middle-income country. Only through home-grown development can countries achieve sustainable prosperity and economic growth,” Dewji says.