Tag Archives: democracy

Has Zitto revealed fake news on Tz economic growth?

The Citizen, 2/11/2017

Zitto Kabwe was arrested last week. He must be getting used to this by now, as he’s been held and questioned by the police on several occasions over the past couple of years.

What’s new this time, however, is that along with the by-now commonplace charge of “sedition”, he has been charged under the Statistics Act – the first such charges brought since the Act became law in 2015. Specifically, he and his party, ACT Wazalendo, published their own analysis of official economic data from the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), suggesting that the official GDP growth figures had been manipulated, and that actual growth was 0.1% rather than the BoT figure of 5.7%. And somebody decided that these are sufficient grounds to have him arrested.

I am not an economist and cannot either confirm or reject Zitto’s claim. I hope others will try to do so. But I can put forward some related data on the state of Tanzania’s economy that might help shed some light on the situation.

Let’s start with Zitto’s figures, however. His argument is essentially that up to now, GDP growth in Tanzania has stuck fairly close to the rate calculated using inflation and money supply figures. The most recent data, however, show a marked diversion, led by a sharp drop in money supply. In other words, the two blue lines on this graph stayed fairly close until this year. So something must be wrong with the latest figures, in his view.

Whether or not this argument holds water, however, we can also examine other data that can tell us something about the state of the economy. I have four more charts for you, starting with the money supply (the amount of money held in Tanzania, either in cash or in bank accounts):

It’s up and down a bit, but it shows one thing pretty clear: that growth in money supply in Tanzania has dropped considerably since early 2016. Before that, the amount of money circulating in Tanzania had been growing at around 15% each year. But that has now dropped to around 5% this year.

Next up, let’s look at another important proxy for a nation’s economic health: imports and exports. If the economy is doing well, demand for imported goods and services and production of exports should be on the increase.

When it comes to exports, the figures are up and down, showing no clear trend. But imports of goods and services into Tanzania are down considerable since January 2015: down by roughly 35% in just over two years.

We can also look at credit to the private sector. Again, this can be a good measure of economic health: if the economy is strong, banks will be happy to lend money.

As with imports, so there has been a decline here: prior to 2016, lending to the private sector had grown at a rate of around 20% a year. This has now dropped to just 1% in the latest available figures, for July 2017.

Finally, an indicator that perhaps affects most Tanzanians lives more immediately than any of those presented above: food prices. This is a complex area, as higher prices can be good for producers just as they are bad for consumers. But price increases would suggest demand is outstripping supply. And if prices go very high, it would suggest there might be a serious food shortage.

It’s good to see that prices have come down considerably since the start of the year – when reports and evidence of food shortages were widespread, despite initial government denials. But it’s noticeable that prices are still well above where they were at this time in the season in 2015 and 2016.

I want to end with two questions:

First: Bank of Tanzania figures tell us that money supply growth is down, imports are down, credit to the private sector is sharply down, and food prices remain high. What does this tell us about the state of the Tanzanian economy?

And second: an opposition politician is arrested and charged for pointing to what he describes as significant anomalies in official data. What does this tell us about the state of Tanzanian democracy?


This post originally appeared on mtega.com.

Yesterday was Access to Information Day 2017. Meanwhile, in Tanzania …

Mwananchi, 29/9/17

As we marked Access to Information Day, 2017 …

… the communications regulator – TCRA – held a consultation on proposed new online content regulations. Among other things, the regulations would require all bloggers and online forums to register with TCRA, to identify any readers or users who post comments or other content, and to pre-moderate all user-submitted content. The implications for blogs and other platforms for public debate and whistle-blowing, including the hugely popular Jamii Forums, would be devastating. Continue reading

How many registered voters does Tanzania need for the elections to have legitimacy?

voter registration East Africa since 1995Tanzania’s Biometric Voter Registration process is now proceeding at full pace. It had previously been delayed for several months while waiting for voter registration kits, which meant it was impossible to conduct the constitutional referendum as scheduled at the end of April (as predicted here). Now, there are concerns that the process is happening too fast, not giving people enough time for everyone to register:

“The machines are just too few,” complained one resident of Geita. “This situation will cause more chaos because there are very many people remaining yet there are only two days left.” And according to the Daily News, people in Arusha “have now resorted to spending nights at the registration centres in order to beat the jam”.

This led me to think: what proportion of the voting age population needs to be registered in order for an election to be considered legitimate? Continue reading

Chart of the week #22: Trying to explain the low turnout

Last week, I drew attention to the extremely low turnout figures recorded at the Tanzanian 2010 presidential election. This week, I thought I would look at whether these turnout figures vary between different sections of society.

For this, I have turned again to the 2012 Afrobarometer survey, which asked respondents whether or not they voted in 2010, and if not, why not.

Overall, 81% said they voted. This is much higher than the actual turnout as reported by the National Electoral Commission, which was 43%. And the Afrobarometer methodology explains that the survey included respondents from the age of 15 upwards. Given that only those aged 20 and above in 2012 would have been eligible to vote in 2010, that means a considerable portion of the Afrobarometer sample were not eligible in 2010. Continue reading

Chart of the week #11: Who supports CCM and Chadema, by age?

Source: Afrobarometer.org, data from 2012

Source: Afrobarometer.org, data from 2012

The trend is clear:

  • Chadema’s support is much stronger among younger Tanzanians (33%) than older Tanzanians (14%)
  • CCM’s support goes the other way: much stronger among over 50s (71%) than under 30s (47%)

Continue reading

CCM Hoyee! Zitto and Chadema in a mess. As usual, it’s all about 2015

Cartoon from wavuti.com

Cartoon from wavuti.com

We all saw it coming, and yet we were surprised when it came. Zitto Kabwe was sacked by his party late last week.

No longer will Zitto be Chadema’s deputy secretary, nor deputy leader of the opposition in parliament. There’s even a suggestion that he will be stripped of his party membership, with uncertain consequences for his status as an MP – Tanzania doesn’t allow independent MPs, and “crossing the floor” to join another party mid-term is unheard of.

I will come to the implications in a moment. But first, some background is essential.

Zitto has long been a difficult character, both for the government and his own party leaders. He is quite possibly the most popular political figure in the country (though no data exists to confirm this) and has been a huge asset to his party. At only 37 years old, he has an appeal to the youth vote that no other politician can match. But there have always been suspicions that his energy and drive owed more to his personal ambition (he had already indicated his intention to run for the presidency in 2015) than his party allegiance.  Continue reading