On Sunday, October 22nd, Tanzania signed a contentious port management deal with Dubai-based DP World, a move that has sparked protests and political debate within the country. This $250 million agreement, which grants DP World the management of two-thirds of the Dar es Salaam port for the next 30 years, represents a significant shift in Tanzania’s approach to foreign investment and port management.
The deal, first reported in July, has been met with criticism from opposition parties and activists who argue that it violates Tanzania’s constitution and endangers national sovereignty. Despite these concerns, the Tanzanian High Court in Mbeya dismissed a petition to halt the agreement, clearing the way for its finalization.
Tanzania’s Transport Minister, Makame Mbarawa, assured that the deal would not result in job losses and that Tanzania would retain 60% of the earnings. DP World, on its part, has projected that the agreement will triple revenue within a decade and significantly reduce the time for vessel clearance from an average of 12 hours to just 60 minutes.
The decision to sign the deal with DP World was influenced by several factors, including chronic inefficiency, allegations of corruption, and competition in freight management from neighboring Kenya. Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan, addressing public concerns, emphasized the government’s responsibility to act in a democratic society.
This agreement is part of a broader trend of increasing United Arab Emirates investment in Africa, with DP World already operating ports in Angola, Djibouti, Egypt, Morocco, Mozambique, Senegal, and Somalia. The UAE, as the fourth-largest investor in Africa, has invested nearly $60 billion in the continent’s infrastructure and energy sectors over the last decade.
The deal has raised questions about local rights and management, with some perceiving DP World’s operations as undermining Tanzanian sovereignty. However, President Suluhu Hassan, who took office in 2021, has been seeking various partnerships with the UAE as a means to address challenges and seize opportunities.
The agreement with DP World is seen as a strategic move by Tanzania to improve its port efficiency and boost its economy. However, it also reflects the growing geopolitical influence of the UAE in Africa and the intensifying competition for infrastructural development on the continent.