MANY of us in Tanzania have a habit of taking things for granted, but take note: You cannot cross the same river twice, as the Swedes you will, so eagerly, volunteer to tell you. One of those habits may soon become obsolete.
That ‘Serengeti Shall Never Die’ is true – what with the spectacular annual pilgrimage of the wildebeest that has earned its pride in the world book of records. But wait a minute.
This country of Kilimanjaro and Zanzibar isn’t short of wonders – some from the least expected quarters. The south of this country, once derided as the Cinderella, now stands proud and beckons all discerning tourist to its attractions.
And, it’s not in vain. The International Development Agency (IDA) is doling out a cool $150 million in credit – through Resilient Natural Resource Management for Tourism Project, or REGROW for short, specifically to improve conservation and management of unique protected areas in southern Tanzania.
This should have come yesterday; but then, the southern parts of this country weren’t that ‘attractive’ to anyone, including many of us who looked upon transfers to the ‘south’ as a form of punishment.
That’s no longer the cliché it used to be; the south now pulls tourists as well as funding agencies. REGROW, for instance, brings several national parks into its ambit, namely: Katavi, Kitulo, Mhale, Udzungwa Mountains, among many others.
In particular, the Mikumi and Ruaha Game Reserves – with the Selous standing out as the largest – join the Lakes Nyasa and Tanganyika as areas of cultural interest and access to historic towns such as Iringa.
We’re not talking just about starry-eyed tourists. REGROW will also promote investments within the four protected areas. Tourism is a key element of this country’s economy, contributing to roughly ten per cent of GDP in 2015 alone, according to Bella Bird, the World Bank Director for Tanzania, Mlawi, Somalia and Burundi.
That the Bretton Woods institution is interested is, in itself, a mark of recognition – long relegated to the dustbin by us – of the southern regions of Tanzania as engines of development for the rest of the United Republic, which is now home to massive gas reserves, among other attributes.
So our interest in southern Tanzania isn’t just cursory; it’s based on an informed awakening that we didn’t know that we were neglecting the south at great cost – like sitting on the River Nile and calling for fresh water in the mistaken belief that we’re on high seas.
Long live REGROW.