Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Natural Gas debate: An initial critical look at Tanzania's options

I will be the first to admit that I lack a qualified background to make recommendations on the strategy that Tanzania should pursue with regards to development of its natural gas reserves. This together with a lack of details of proposed deals from the government make it exceptionally difficult to compare the two main strategies being considered by the Tanzanian government. But a critical examination of the two main strategies needs to be conducted to determine which is the best one to pursue.

The two main strategies are:

1. Build a 300 MW natural gas electricity generation plant in Mtwara and transport the electricity by 1,100 km of high voltage power lines to connect to national grid in Singida. (Source: Press release, President's office, October 2011)

2. Build 990 MW electricity generation capacity and 530 km natural gas pipeline to transport natural gas under high pressure from source in Mtwara to Dar es salaam. (Source: Daily News)

The two strategies are compared in the table below:

(For the physicists in the house; correct me if I am wrong: Power losses = I^2 X R where I = current R = Resistance. 300MW at 300kV gives us operating current of 1000A. Lets assume (a very low figure) of 0.1ohms per km of wire. With 1100km this gives us 110 ohms resistance. Power loss= 1000^2 X 110= 110MW or 30% of total capacity. Natural gas pipelines leakage rate about 5%, US reported figures about 2% Source: SourceWatch)

Uhuru Blogs recommendations are as follows:

The proposal to build the natural gas pipeline to Dar es salaam appears to be more economically viable because of increased power generation capacity, lower capital costs per MW generated, generation of power in close proximity to where demand is highest.

Additionally, with stronger regional ties within the EAC, transport and sale of excess natural gas capacity will benefit Tanzania with increased revenue. On the other hand, transporting of excess natural gas capacity from Mtwara will require additional capital expenditure in improved roads, storage facilities etc to send the natural gas to the major markets in the North.

The major concern is that Mtwara will lose out on the benefits of natural gas, which can be solved in the following ways:

1. Set aside a percentage of natural gas receipts to be used solely for development in the Mnazi Bay and Mtwara region to increase employment and economic activity in the region.

2. Build smaller generator plants (e.g 50MW plant) in the South which will be more than enough to provide electricity for that region and stimulate growth of industry.

Ultimately, we have to understand that natural gas capacity in the South of Tanzania is far greater than local demand and current electricity generation required  We need to think of what is the most cost-effective and useful means to utilize natural gas for electricity generation and exporting additional capacity. And that way is to transport excess natural gas for electricity generation and sale in the Dar es salaam region.

Comments and criticisms welcome.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

How can Tanzania Prosper in 2013

As we approach the inevitable end of year 2012 and the fresh promise that a new year brings, we at Uhuru Blog reflect on what needs to be accomplished in 2013 so that Tanzania can embark on a path to prosperity:

1. 2013 is potentially a huge year for fans of transparency and accountability as the Tanzanian Minister for Information has promised to introduce a Freedom of Information Bill in parliament after a long 7 year wait (News story from The Citizen). This Bill will ensure citizens with a right to access public, government held information. We need our Members of Parliament to support this initiative and to hold the Ministry of Information to task if they don't deliver. Do our MPs have what it takes to put aside political pressures and do the right thing? We urge all our readers and citizens of Tanzania to follow this issue closely, and lets prove the government wrong when they said that such a bill is not needed as citizens dont demand information (News story from The Citizen).

2. Another important document that will be approved in 2013 is the Natural Gas Policy which will determine how lucrative gas contracts will be awarded and how revenue raised will be used. Uhuru Blog has published an in-depth post on how to improve transparency of this process to ensure that we don't leave any opportunity for the corrupt to take advantage!

We here, in Tanzania are at a critical turning point where the old status-quo of government not being accountable to its citizens is at an end. The ordinary citizens of Tanzania are more aware and interested in dealings of the government thanks in part to hard work of civil society organizations as well as power of the internet to disseminate ideas.

UHURU BLOG PROMISE: We at Uhuru Blog will work tirelessly in 2013 to bring you unbiased and well-researched opinion pieces on the state of Tanzania's affairs. What part are you going to play in making a better Tanzania in 2013?

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Open Government Partnership Commitment Review #5

After a long break, Uhuru Blog brings you a further review of 2 of Tanzania's OGP commitments.

Click on the commitments for a more detailed analysis:

#3.2 Develop and/or review Clients Service Charters  of Health, Education and Water sectors for both national and facility level services, and make them accessible to citizens. - PROMISE COMPROMISED

We have also reviewed our first commitment from the section on Technology and Innovation

#4.4 Study global good practice on data disclosure for establishment of website that reflects high global standards to contain a substantial number of Government held data sets. - PROMISE BROKEN

The current tally stands at:




with 13 more commitments still to be reviewed.

As always we are looking forward to hearing comments from our readers!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Recommendations for Transparency and Accountability of Tanzania's Natural Gas Policy Draft

by Alykhan

Tanzania has recently seen an impressive increase in oil and natural gas reserves both land and offshore, which has the potential to significantly boost the economy. However, to ensure that this resource is exploited in the most sustainable and beneficial manner for all stakeholders, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals has released a draft policy document (found here).

The document on the whole also contains informative policy direction on issues of environmental conservation, management of revenue and public-private partnerships in the natural gas extraction process and should be read by all stakeholders.

Given our interest in freedom of information and transparency, Uhuru Blog will review the current policy statement on Transparency and Accountability (Section 3.2.2 pg 15) and make our recommendations based on global best practices.

Objective: To ensure transparent and accountable system in the management of the natural gas industry. 

The Government shall:
(i) Promote transparency and accountability in the natural gas industry; and
(ii) Facilitate collection and dissemination of information related to natural gas industry to stakeholders.
(Tanzania Natural Gas Policy Draft October 2012)

We believe Transparency and Accountability is an important, probably the most important, pillar that will ensure natural gas contracts are awarded in the most competitive manner and that the citizens of Tanzania receive their fair share of the proceeds from this industry. Any information that will be kept secret has the potential to be exploited for corrupt practices and therefore the Natural gas Policy should promote complete access to all information regarding terms and conditions of the contracts signed as well as details of the revenue received. 

Our criticisms are as follows:
1. The policy recommendations are too broad and lack any specific measures on how the government aims to promote transparency and accountability. 
2. It is also weak in identifying key specific ways in which the government will collect and disseminate information to stakeholders. 

In the introduction, the policy paper mentions Tanzania's membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as a signal of the intent of the government to ensure transparency. However, we believe EITI is not sufficient as the reports released are outdated (the most recent one is from 2010, 2 years too late!) and mining companies voluntary divulge information and are not compelled to share information. Citizens need the most recent information updated atleast monthly, on the status of incoming revenue and what those funds are earmarked for to be effective. 

Here are our recommendations (some of which are derived from Transparency and Accountability Initiative's report on Opening Governments: 9. Extractive industries pg 33 found here)

Policy #1. Ensure a competitive bidding process for oil and natural gas contracts and concessions by making all rules and regulations available in a public database, with clear definitions and explanations.

Policy #2. Make public the terms of each concession and contract awarded by the state to exploit oil and natural gas. This will enable stakeholders such as ordinary citizens, civil society organizations as well as other companies bidding for the contracts to determine whether the government has accepted the best deal.

Policy #3. Publish regular and detailed reports (ideally monthly or quarterly) of revenue received from various concessions of oil and natural gas. This has to be disaggregated by revenue received by individual companies and concessions awarded. Reports should also detail how all the revenue revenue is earmarked and used for various development activities.

Our recommendations cover all stages from pre-award of concession to the transparent use of revenue received and will ensure that corruption is completely eliminated from the entire process. We hope the Ministry of Energy and Minerals take our recommendations seriously and amend the natural gas policy to make it truly transparent and accountable.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Guest Post: HUDUMABONGO 1st Round Service Provider Complaints Report

HudumaBongo is a democratic movement on social network platforms Twitter and Facebook, to gather complaints as votes on Tanzanian service providers covering major business sectors such as telecom companies, utility companies, airlines and so on. Follow them on @HudumaMbayaTz or Like their Page on Facebook.

TANESCO emerges 1st Round Winner

By HudumaBongo

The utility company Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) has emerged the winner of the 1st round of customer annoyance survey conducted on Facebook and Twitter by HudumaBongo, a citizen initiative in Tanzania. Second and third place were filled by the telecommunication companies Tigo and Vodacom respectively.

In the first round 29 companies were vying to be the best worst service providers as voted by Tanzanians themselves. A total of 119 individual votes were received through both social network sites. Here are the winners in other categories:





TELECOMS: TIGO (28 votes)


We on behalf of the citizen's of Tanzania call upon the leaders of these companies to take effective measures to ensure their customers get the best services. The 2nd Round of vote collection has commenced, and all complaints can be registered on Twitter with @HudumaMbayaTZ or on HudumaBongo page on Facebook. Let your voice be heard!

Understanding Oil Contracts - Special Guest Post

Uhuru Blog is pleased to bring you a special guest post by Zara Rahman, a research associate at OpenOil, an energy consultancy and publishing house based in Berlin founded on the values that creative, practical and socially progressive policy making in the oil and gas industry is vital to our collective future. They have published a freely available book compiled together with leading oil experts and professional, available here. As Tanzania emerges as an important future source of oil and gas, understanding contracts signed with the government becomes increasingly crucial.

Oil contracts – why so important? 

By Zara Rahman

The problem

Think of the oil industry, and you think of secrecy, corruption, spills and environmental problems. But transparency, even in this secretive industry, is increasing. Hard to believe perhaps given the industry's poor record in this area, but the tide is turning, and more and more data is being put online. There are many initiatives doing great work on making machine-readable data accessible and allowing people to really understand it, but until now, there has been one data stream which has remained incredibly elitist.

Oil contracts. There is an emerging norm of governments publishing, or putting online, the contracts that they sign with international oil companies, and this is a great success for the transparency movement globally. No longer will there be secretive, closed door negotiating sessions which leave citizens (and even many in the government) wondering what exactly was agreed to, how much money their government is getting, what the oil company should or should not be doing, and whether or not they got a 'good deal'. There are now 7 jurisdictions around the world who publish their oil contracts, and there are more to come, with transparency of oil contracts being written into constitutions and emerging as a best practice globally.

Publishing the contracts is the first step towards allowing citizens to know what is happening, but there is one key problem. An oil contract is typically over 100 pages long and written in complicated legal jargon. It is not the kind of document that someone without a law degree, or years of specialisation in the topic, can pick up and really understand.

Tools to help people understand these contracts have, until now, been overwhelmingly aimed at industry employees or those with elite levels of education– private courses costing £2,000 per person for two days, held in London or Abu Dhabi, or expensive law text books aimed at the postgraduate law student. Clearly, neither of these is going to help a civil society activist in the Niger Delta make sense of the contracts governing their oil industry.

The solution – bringing open thinking to the oil industry

At the beginning of November 2012, OpenOil convened a group of 10 world-renowned experts to come together for a week and collaboratively write a book on how to read and understand oil contracts, in what is known as a 'booksprint.' The method was developed in the open source technology world, and has been developed by Adam Hyde of and involves no pre-production, and very little post-production.

To many, the idea of writing a book on a topic as complex and involved as oil contracts seemed crazy, especially considering the fact that no preparation was done beforehand; no planning chapter titles, or organising who was going to write what. All work began at 9am on the Monday, and involved having a lot of faith in the facilitator of the method, who has now used the booksprint method to produce over 50 books.

The result was “Oil Contracts – How to Read and Understand them”, released under the Creative Commons license, free for download from

How does a guidebook help?

The terms decided in contracts can have long reaching effects, and be valid for anything up to 20 or even 30 years. The environmental standards that companies have to abide by, clauses relating to the affect of the project upon the local economy, and most importantly for many, the amount of money that the government is going to get, are all decided upon in the contract.

Unfortunately however, there is no one fixed number that we can read and then know for sure how much money the government is getting. Profit or production splits are complicated calculations, typically outlined in a number of different clauses (and there are many more variants depending upon the type of contract used). This means that in order to have a real understanding of governance of the industry in a particular country, it is essential to have a real handle on all of the issues outlined in the contract.

The book runs through all of the salient issues addressed in contracts, and uses actual excerpts from contracts around the world to compare ways of dealing with certain issues. 8 different public domain contracts are referred to and quoted extensively throughout. Half of the 'family' of contracts are actual signed contracts, and half are 'model' contracts, which have been released by their respective governments. Contract excerpts, though a little intimidating to begin with, are explained in detail to allow the reader to get a handle on the language used in the contracts, so that after reading they can pick up a contract and, firstly, feel some sense of familiarity in the contract terms used, as well as know where to look to answer their particular question.

What now?

OpenOil are now looking for partners to work with on evolution of the book, and already there has been strong interest in translating the book into various languages to increase its accessibility across the world. A training curriculum will be developed out of the book, and training courses – the low cost equivalent to the expensive courses mentioned above – will be organised for civil society, parliamentarians, media, and interested members of the parliament.

These courses will take place in locations where these issues really matter – Kampala, Nairobi, Dar-es-Salaam, to name just a few. For now though, the book has been downloaded hundreds of times and, it is  hoped, is already a crucial tool to those wanting to know how to understand their oil industry. 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Using the Internet to correct Politics

I came across an interesting piece of data analysis done by the communications consultancy firm Portland, where they tracked the number of geo-tagged tweets originating in Africa over a 3 month period (view the pdf file here). The top 5 countries in terms of volume of tweets were South Africa, Kenya. Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco.

One may ask "So what?" Can social media such as Twitter and Facebook bring about any meaningful change? Or is it just another outlet for spreading funny cat videos and empowering celebrities? This issue was thrust into the limelight with the recent uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, starting with Iran but quickly followed by Tunisia, Egypt and the Arab uprisings. The use of Twitter and Facebook to organize and spread the protests has been well documented from the use of Twitter to ignite the protests in Iran to Wael Ghonim's Facebook group calling for mass protests in Egypt. Public intellectuals, however, have argued over whether social media has played a central role in these uprisings or not. Malcolm Gladwell, the well-known writer for The New Yorker, penned an interesting piece down-playing the social media effect. He cites among other things, the many revolutions which have succesfully taken place before the introduction of Twitter and Facebook. Many others have placed a varying importance on social media and the internet in kickstarting revolutions (Read this piece for a summary of positions).

I argue that the internet and social media play a far greater role in bringing about regime change then people like Gladwell give it credit for. The internet, without a doubt, has revolutionized the way we share information. The speed with which we can send messages, share photos and watch videos has increased tremendously (when is the last time you sent a "snail mail" at the Post Office?). This immediate exchange of ideas and information makes it very easy for campaigns to synchronize their message and to reach out to the disaffected masses who also feel the same way about the political situations. The fact that 30 years of Hosni Mubarak's rule was brought down in a matter of months is testament to the ability of the internet to channel and coordinate people's frustration.

To prove this I did some data analysis of my own. I compared two variables, political freedom in different countries which I derived from an annual report called Freedom In the World published by Freedom House which assesses political rights in 195 countries, assigning to each country a score ranging from 0-40 (where 40 indicates that citizens enjoy all their political rights, a country such as Norway or 0 in the case of North Korea, where the people have no say). I compared this to internet connectivity obtained from World Bank's figures on Number of internet users per 100 people. This gives us an indication of whether there is any correlation between internet connectivity, political repression/freedom to the likelihood of protests and political uprising.

We turn our focus to the countries within the box above, which have political scores below 20 (a state of mild political repression to total dictatorship) but an internet connectivity of greater than 20% (that is over 20 people have internet connectivity out of a 100). The people in these countries have the most incentive for action as political freedom goes hand in hand with other basic human rights. At the same time, they also have  internet as a tool with which to connect with other citizens to bring about the desired changes in political institutions.

Syria  Nigeria Tunisia Nigeria Jordan Oman
Vietnam Kenya Belarus Kenya Armenia United Arab Emirates
China Russia Egypt  Russia Malaysia Kuwait
Saudi Arabia Morocco Kazakhstan Morocco Singapore Azerbaijan
Brunei Bahrain Thailand Bahrain Qatar Malaysia

This list contains notable countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Russia, all of which have been in the media recently for protests, some having successfully replaced a dictator. Other countries such as Azerbaijan  and Georgia also have a largely disaffected population who are demanding more political freedom.
This analysis therefore may prove to be a powerful indicator of what countries are capable of pulling off well planned and well coordinated protests that are ultimately successful in achieving their desired goals which in most cases is regime change. Based on our predictions the countries listed above may all be host to considerable protests over the next year or two. The internet may literally be a revolution waiting to happen!