Tanzania responds to claims of ‘invasion’ by foreign traders

Kigahe pic

Industry and Trade deputy minister Exaud Kigahe. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Tanzanian traders have pointed accusing fingers at some government institutions and regulators, which they say should have done something to ensure that foreign businesspeople do not subject locals to unfair competition

Dar es Salaam. When traders in Kariakoo, Dar es Salaam, began complaining about increasing numbers of foreigners operating retail businesses in Tanzania’s busiest shopping district, the question that came to the fore was: who is to blame?

Most foreign traders in Kariakoo display at their outlets valid registration certificates, licences and other permits issued by the relevant authorities.

They have nevertheless come under mounting pressure from local traders, who accuse the foreigners of hijacking a segment of business they think is supposed to be left to Tanzanians.

The traders have pointed accusing fingers at some government institutions and regulators, which they say should have done something to ensure that foreign businesspeople do not subject locals to unfair competition.

Institutions that stand accused include the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC), which registers foreign and local investors; the Immigration Department, which issues residence permits; the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which regulates trade, and the Prime Minister’s Office (Labour, Youth, Employment and People with Disability), which handles the aspect of work permits.

However, some of the institutions have distanced themselves from foreign traders operating in Kariakoo.

TIC disowns “foreign” traders

Contacted by The Citizen, TIC said it has nothing to do with the traders in question because they do not fall under its mandate. The agency was established in 1997 to coordinate, encourage, promote and facilitate investments in Tanzania and advise the government on investment policy and related matters in order to create a competitive, attractive and sustainable investment climate.

The Tanzania Investment Act of 2022 mandates TIC, in consultation with other government institutions and agencies, to identify investment sites, estates and land, together with associated facilities, for investors and investment in general.

TIC is also required to attend to all investors, including those who are not bound by the provisions of the Act, and assist them to obtain all the necessary permits, licences, approvals, consents, authorisations and registrations before they can set up and operate an investment project.

The law also authorises TIC to register businesses with a minimum of investment capital equivalent to $500,000 for businesses that are wholly owned by foreigners or joint ventures and $50,000 for those owned by Tanzanian nationals.

“The foreign traders who are said to be operating in Kariakoo don’t fall in the category of investors we register. However, the law doesn’t prohibit foreigners from conducting retail business in the country,” TIC executive director Gilead Teri told The Citizen.

Immigration spokesperson Paul Mselle told The Citizen’s stablemate, Mwananchi, recently that the department issues residence permits to foreign nationals who have already been granted work permits.

He said it is important to verify the presence of foreign retail traders in Kariakoo and ascertain whether they are operating legally or not.

“When foreigners come to Tanzanian to be engaged in employment, they are required to apply for work permits through their employers. We, on the other hand, grant them residence permits and also make follow-ups to see whether there are any violations and take appropriate action,” Mr Mselle said.

Promise for action

Reached for comment, Industry and Trade deputy minister Exaud Kigahe said no formal complaint has been lodged by traders operating in Kariakoo.

“However, we will work on the matter and see how we can address it because there are some aspects that need to be considered. There are procedures that foreign nationals are required to follow before they can set up businesses in Tanzania. These include securing work permits. We need to sit together with our colleagues who are responsible for issuing permits and see if there are any violations,” he told The Citizen.

The Industry and Trade ministry is responsible of growing businesses and ensure fair competition in the country, among other functions.

Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (Labour, Youth, Employment and People with Disability) Deogratious Ndejembi said he was still new in the docket and could not immediately comment on the matter.

  • “As you may be aware, I joined the ministry just the other day and I need to go through some orientation. That means that I cannot immediately comment on the matter. However, what I can say is that the government of Her Excellency President Samia Suluhu Hassan always puts Tanzanians first,” he said.