A Tour of the New Tanzania

In March, Tanzania inaugurated its first female president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, who is more popularly known as “Mama Samia”. Last week I spent 8 days driving the heartland of this country: Kilimanjaro to Morogoro to Iringa and past Mbeya down to Lake Malawi. I was with my business partner, Jan Harm. We set forth to learn about the state of the agricultural sector, as we run a tissue culture seedling company out of Moshi, called Maua Mazuri.

Jan Harm and I have each built our lives and careers as foreign investors in Tanzania. For over 30 years, jointly, we’ve been pursuing the potential we see here. And I’m happy to report that we both returned with a sense that we may have, finally, at long lost, positioned ourselves fortuitously in this great nation. That it is now Tanzania’s turn for a significant economic leap.

Along the way we toured massive investments in land, infrastructure and industry. The investors we spoke with all shared our sentiment: Agriculture industrialization is on the rise. Tanzania is fast becoming a worldwide player in avocado and macadamia. And if Jan Harm and I have our way, bananas will soon be on that list soon as well.

Despite, being among the lowest per hectare in terms of yields, (due to traditional planting methods and poor plant genetics) Tanzania is still a top ten banana producer worldwide. However, most of the other top producing nations export the vast majority of their harvests, while 99% of Tanzania’s production is consumed domestically. It’s a massive market, poised to boom.

Big opportunity to bridge the production gap with tissue culture seedlings

Maua Mazuri primarily supplies seedlings to the big commercial farms in Tanzania and Kenya. That is the segment that can understand the numbers, see the opportunity and invest accordingly. And in that regard our trip was a great success, as we brought numerous new large commercial farms into Tanzania’s banana sector. But we are also intent on reaching the small and midsize farmers with the superior planting materials and the know-how to maximize their farm’s yield.

Banana farmers in Tukuyu were enthusiastic to modernize their planting methods

The entire trip we were met by the continuance of what makes Tanzania so beloved in the first place: it’s Karibu culture. So much welcoming, hospitality, decency and generosity were shown to us in every village along the way. We were welcomed to celebrate Iftar, Eid and the Ramadan traditions that occurred during our travels. Very thirsty Muslim farmers offered us cokes and waters as we toured their farms, while they fasted and stepped out to pray, impressing me deeply with their faith.

Mmmmmm… Iftar

The Tanzania that anyone who’s visited knows and loves is shining brighter than ever. The possibilities of this land and its people are brimming. The people are enthusiastic to build a strong and powerful nation, to turn it from one of dependence to independence- and all the pieces are here to make it so. Karibu sana.

Dawn at Matema Beach, Tanzania

CEO of @NINAYOcom, East Africa's online trading platform for agriculture. Dedicated to building great technology in emerging markets.