Political patronage can be seen from space, according to a recent academic study. And elsewhere, the light given off at night by cities shows sharp discrepancies between neighbouring countries – South and North Korea and China, for example.
So what about Tanzania?
Next, the same image, overlaid with a more tradition map, so you can see what you’re looking at:
Google Maps has some anomalies – roads that I’m pretty sure don’t exist, and a new island just off the coast of Dar es Salaam – but you can at least see how patches of light match up with the bigger towns and cities.
There is one thing that’s very unclear, however. There’s a whole group of light sources in a wide area to the north-east of Songea / south-east of Iringa. It covers parts of Kilolo and Mufindi Districts in Iringa Region, Kilombero and Ulanga Districts in Morogoro, and Namtumbo and Tunduru Districts in Ruvuma. These are all predominantly rural districts containing only a few small towns.
So why the light sources? It can’t be either political patronage or economic activity – the scale is far too big. My guess is that it’s a problem with NASA’s satellite photos – that they have picked up some clouds (or something similar). I wonder whether that affected (clouded?) the academic research cited earlier?
Finally, one last map, this time comparing Tanzania’s night light sources in 2003 with 2012:
I can’t be sure that the comparison with 2012 is fair – maybe someone changed the satellite’s settings during those nine years? But it does look like Tanzania was emitting a lot more light by 2012 than it was in 2003. In 2003, only Dar es Salaam stood out clearly; by 2012 places like Arusha, Mwanza, Dodoma, Morogoro and Mbeya are also pretty strong sources. Of course, that assumes that they are not just clouds.
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