Privatisation of industries in Tanzania has had an adverse effect on operations within the sector.
In the past, industries were owned by the state. Privatisation of the industries began in the 1990s and the state retracted from direct involvement. Soon to follow was less focus in regional meetings and less discussion among regional technocrats. Inevitably, several industries have since collapsed leaving the once vibrant industrial hub synonymous with Arusha, a mere shadow of itself
The regional National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) office lists 69 entities as operational. The operational establishments range from distilling plants, quarrying facilities and printing presses to sawmills, textiles, grain mills and different types of manufacturing and fabrication plants. Most officials admit that they are unaware of the status of the status of some industries that made Arusha famous.
Some of the industries in operation are run by the Small Industries Development Organisation (Sido) and other small and medium operators. Few others are big industries operated by multinationals such as the Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL) Plant, A to Z factory which makes mosquito nets and TANFOAM for making mattresses.
Most residents and former governments concur that perhaps the era where Arusha was a veritable industrial town is over. The factory chimneys emitting smoke that once characterised the skyline of the city have now been replaced by towering buildings for hotels, office blocs and residential flats, meaning the economy of the town has shifted from manufacturing to services.
One of the unique plants that dotted the town was Tanganyika Meerschaum (Kiko). It produced the smoking pipes mainly for export from a raw material called meerschaum. Since its shutdown, Turkey now enjoys the monopoly of meerschaum pipes production in the world. This despite Tanzania being one of the sources of the raw material for the pipes.
Other industrial plants that existed were Alfi East Africa (toiletries, cosmetic and toothpastes), Oshwal and Laxman (shoes), Tanzania Foods (pasta and cookies) and many other medium and small processing plants which nearly made the city an industrial hub in East Africa. Another generation of industries cropped up from the late 1970s. It saw entrants such as Sunflag Textile Mill, Fibreboards, Minjingu Phosphates Mines (for the manufacture of fertiliser), Northern Dairies Limited, Tanzania Pharmaceutical Industries (TPI), Tanelec and a host of others.
Total industries that have since shut down total to more than 60 per cent.
The former glory of Arusha paints a picture of possibility as the current government shifts its focus to industrialisation to spur economic growth.