Dar es Salaam: Mbeya Region, which is situated in the South-Western part of the country, is one of the regions best for investing. The regional authorities under the leadership of the Mbeya Regional Commissioner, John Mwakangale have implored both local and foreign investors to exploit the abundant investment opportunities in a report made available to this reporter recently, our correspondent reports.
It is indisputable that all regional authorities in the country are striving to lure reputable investors to come and invest in various social and economic sectors in order to push ahead the national economic growth and improve the people's socio-economic status. One of the region, which is on its toes eying to exploit fully its investment opportunities is Mbeya, that boasts of having all the values for investments.
Speaking with this reporter recently in Mbeya City, Mwakangale says the economy of his region is to a large extent dependent on agriculture that counts for 85 per cent of the total population. Small scale farming occupies the largest portion while there are few plantations for tea and coffee. In addition, he says, the economy of the region depends on other sources such as mining, trade and business, service sector, just to mention a few.
"The per capita income for Mbeya Region was 471,698/= in year 2005, 486,437/= in the year 2006 and increased to 560,773/= in the year 2007. GDP growth rate was 7.11 per cent, 7.01 per cent and 7.1 per cent respectively," says the regional commissioner.
Responding to a question as why investors should go to Mbeya to invest, the RC listed down a number of reasons that include favourable location and competitive advantages in business investments that make Mbeya Region an optimal choice for investments in Tanzania.
Mwakipesile mentioned a well-established economic infrastructure as the other factor that can lure investors to invest in the region, which is classified under the low elevation of the western Rift Valley encompassing Lake Rukwa and Nyasa, the Eastern Rift Valley where the Usangu plains are dominant and areas between these zones there is Rungwe - Poroto highlands.
Generally, the altitude ranges between 475 metres at Lake Nyasa to above 2,000m around Rungwe Peak (2,981m). The Mbeya RC also hints that Mbeya Region enjoys a favourable transport network system and transport services for both short and long distance.
"The region enjoys quick connection to East, Central and Southern African countries by road, railway, water and later by air following planned completion of the Mbeya International Airport at Songwe in a near future," observes the RC.
At the moment the Songwe International airport is under construction and upon its completion it will have capacity to cater for large planes such as Boeing 737 scheduled to carry passengers and cargo to Europe, Asia, the Far East and USA.
It is expected that upon commissioning, this airport will open up the region to more tourists and harness the existing horticulture and floriculture business potentials in the Southern Highlands. It is will be a hurb as it will hasten business operations in the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region and cut down transport costs and time spend, the RC says.
The favourable transportation network is contributed by the all-weather trans-national road joining, Dar es Salaam and Mbeya region as well as landlocked neighbouring countries of Malawi and Zambia Railway Authority (TAZARA) joining Mbeya region with Dar es Salaam and Zambia; lake transport system and services which caters for the Mtwara Development Corridor and Malawi; and small but reliable airports for non-scheduled air transport services for both national and interregional flights.
The RC notes that in addition to a well-established transport network system, Mbeya region enjoys high competitive transport services and operators. This, he says, can make investment in Mbeya less expensive than in other regions due to competitive prices.
With reference to road transport, he adds, there are bus services throughout the region and to outside the region. Citing an example, he mentions a number of bus companies that include Summry, Hood Limited, Sabco, Hekima Royal, Abood bus services and many others.
With regard to transportation of goods-by road, there are several companies involved namely Dhandoo, Khanji Lalji and Banji Trucking which are mainly for major transporters. On the side of rail transport the region is serviced by TAZARA that link Tanzania and Zambia, namely Malawi Cargo Centre.
Favourable business investment environment is something that also exist in Mbeya Region. The region enjoys an assured investment services environment. Most of the investment support services are available both at the regional headquarters and at district levels. This makes the activities of the investors more easily and smoothly undertaken.
Among key investment services are: Availability of Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), which is Tanzania's Investment Promotion Agency in Mbeya City and the facilitator of Investment promotion in Tanzania. Presence of Business Information Centre (BIC) of TCCIA is another pointer to an assured good future for investors.
The RC also asserted that there was no problem with research, training and development institutions and facilities, Immigration- clear immigration terms for investors, Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and Business Registration and Operations facilities undertaken with the assistance of TIC and TCCIA. All these institutions are in a position to offer services to investors.
The other factor is favourable climatic conditions that Mbeya enjoys. Given the physical features of Mbeya Region, the region has favourable climatic conditions for the various investment opportunities in agriculture and tourism. The region gets ample amount of rainfall and suitable temperatures for various activities throughout the year.
Mbeya Region is also endowed with a large amount of natural stock which can be transformed easily into resources. The large stock has not been explored and exploited fully for various uses.
There are rock types, plants and animals which need to be explored and later exploited for human uses. The available large stock is an opportunity which is attractive to investors in the Region than other regions.
The RC mentions the presence of national and international financial institutions as another catalyst that makes Mbeya qualify to be a haven for investments. Mbeya Region is among the regions which have branches of the Bank of Tanzania. Other branches are in Arusha and Mwanza.
The Bank of Tanzania has contributed to the overall development of Mbeya Region through provision of different monetary, economic and financial services to stakeholders in the region and other parts of Southern Highlands.
The B.o.T ensures the existence of a financial system that provides smooth, efficient and effective financial services to the economy. The Bank guarantees small and Medium Enterprises performance through Export Credit Guarantee Scheme (ECGS).
Besides Bank of Tanzania, Mbeya has reputable commercial banks and financial institutions which assure the availability of financial resources for investment. The commercial banks include CRDB, NBC, NMB, Barclays, Stanbic, Postal Bank, Exim Bank and others. These banks are operating internationally with much reputation and experience to handle all financial operation and experience to handle all financial operations worldwide. The developed network of these banks enables the investors to get any information on the financial position worldwide.
"As an investor in Mbeya region, you will never get bored due to the availability of leisure activities and opportunities. While in Mbeya City there is an opportunity to visit areas nearby; such as Ngozi Crater Lake, Mount Mbeya in Mbeya district. Other attractive areas include the famous Matema Beach, rich in white fine sand on Lake Nyasa in Kyela district, Usangu National Park in Mbarali district, Livingstone Mountains on lake Nyasa in Kyela district to mention just a few," he says.
For any investor, human resource is considered an asset. Mbeya with a total population of 2.5 million forms a base for investment in terms of labour force. In addition to that, higher learning institutions in the region are capable of delivering skilled manpower in various disciplines such as accounting, engineering, law and management.
To sum up, for future-oriented investor, the human resource acts as the foundation for innovations therefore cannot be ignored. The human resource potential of the region is a guarantee for qualitative and quantitative products and services in all investment aspects.
With a population of 2 million people,in 2002, which was projected to reach 2,5 million in 2008, Mbeya is a large market for investment. On top of that, the market can be extended to Mbeya's neighbours such as Iringa, Ruvuma and Rukwa Regions. The investors can also find markets beyond Tanzania's borders. These include the three regional markets of east, central and Southern Africa. As the population in these countries is high, the investors can be assured lf large market.
Given the existence of improved transport infrastructure and its location, Mwakipesile says Mbeya Region will be an effective entry and gateway for trade and business into Eastern, Central and Southern Africa. The region, he says, has a location advantage in terms of its centrality to other countries. In this case Mbeya becomes accessible hence easy to make an investment venture.
Also the RC bosts of the fertile soils the region has. The region covers an area of 63,717 sq km of which 5,700,000 hectares are arable land and 1,259,400 hectares are forests.
The availability of ample suitable land for diverse use means that the investors have a wide spectrum of choices on what to invest and where. The available land can be used for agriculture, forest plantation, real estates construction of up-to-date modern universities or hospitals, agro-processing industries and the like.
To sum it up, the RC says given the favourable climate, ample suitable land, and large natural stock means that the production is diverse. Most of the products found in Mbeya are widely demanded.
"This can be either in terms of mining extraction or production of flowers. In this case the market is assured and guaranteed," he says, adding that Mbeya is lucky to have products that cannot be found in other regions, such as the rare monkey type found in Rungwe Mountains in Rungwe District.