Dar es Salaam. “Tanzania could benefit much and improve its economic growth if it chooses to invest heavily on agriculture,” says a young entrepreneur, Elifuraha Semdolo, adding that any country with fertile land and good weather stands to be a winner.
But Tanzania is unlikely to achieve economic development as the country has neglected the agriculture sector despite being the biggest employer the sector has been contributing little to the country’s economic growth.
“Agriculture in my opinion, is one of the best sectors that if well facilitated, there is no doubt that it will transform Tanzania economy,” said the young entrepreneur.
The 26 year old man is an agriculturalist and a businessman, who dries fruits, vegetables and spices for sell.
He depends mostly on local market to sell his products because he has limited finance to expand his business.
“I real wish I could manage to get enough fund to expand my business but the problem is that there is no reliable financing in the country,” says Mr Semdolo.
He said that financial institutions available in the country offer high interest rates something which restrict young entrepreneurs to access loans.
“If the government could minimize bank risks by providing cash cover it is obvious that commercial banks will lower their interest rates which in turn will enable young entrepreneurs to improve their businesses hence boost development in the country,” he said.
Mr Semdolo said that unlike Tanzania, Kenya young entrepreneurs have access to low interest loans something which makes Kenyans more competitive when comes to commodity production.
In 2011 Semdolo asked for a Sh290 million loan from one of the biggest commercial banks but only to be granted Sh20 million the following year, with 20 per cent interest rate.
Before he was given a loan, the young man started to sell fruit Juice so as to earn a living.
“With little money I had served when I was at the university, I managed to buy one blender and started to make and sell fruit juice, I was selling it to cafeteria at Sokoine University of Agriculture, the business was very successful as I earned a lot from it,” said Semdolo.
He said that after acquiring the loan in 2012, he only spent less than half of it to expand his business.
He bought vegetable and rosella seeds and started to cultivate them, under the supervision of Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO).
“I now make enough money and I have employed six permanent employees and about 60 labourers, I pay the labourers at least Sh2500 each per day,” he said.
He however explains lack of land as another biggest challenge that may affect his business plans.
“Personally I don’t own any land I am currently using SUGECO land which I will have to hand it back next year as my time to stay here will be over,” said Semdolo.
He urged the government to create enabling environment for all entrepreneurs regardless of their financial capacities.
“For years the government have been using any means to attract foreign investors, including allocating productive land and provide all necessary support so that they can work under conducive environment,” he said adding that
“But the same environment is not created for local entrepreneurs something which hinders the growth of our businesses.”
He urged the government to do the same to local entrepreneurs, as if well supported, local entrepreneurs can contribute much toward economic development.
In his 2013 May Day speech, Former President, Jakaya Kikwete commended the SUA programme in partnership with CRDB Bank as key to helping youth entrepreneurs to attain their goals.
“In this programme, before they are given loans, youth are trained on entrepreneurship skills so that they can effectively do their businesses,” said President Kikwete.
He said that the government is finalizing procedures that will see more fund injected in the citizens empowerment fund (commonly known as Mabilioni ya JK).
“We will put more effective means to ensure that the empowerment fund becomes progressive and benefit more people,” he said.
Agricultural economist at SUA Anna Temu urged the government to allocate agricultural land for young entrepreneurs so that they can easily access fertile land for free or with little cost.
“Providing fertile land will act as a means to boost the country’s economic development and as a means to curb youth unemployment and massive migration to urban areas,” said Dr Temu.
According to Semdolo, many youth migrate to urban to look for employment as they lack land for agricultural activities hence they end up being idle.
The government, according to him, is prioritising foreign investors who do their activities for the betterment of their economies leaving Tanzania in extreme poverty.
“Local entrepreneurs create enough jobs and every coin they get remains in the country both for economic and social activities,” said Dr Temu.
According to Semdolo it is a sickening factor to note that the government is forbidding fertile land from being used just because people do not own it, as a result youth unemployment increases and the country economic development continues to surge.
He said that if the government is committed to eliminating poverty among Tanzanians it should subsidize agricultural equipments like tractors so that locals can easily access them.
“It is shocking for a country to depend on hand hoes for its agricultural activities, if the government is keen enough to helping us it should purchase equipments like tractors so that locals can lend under affordable prices because they have no ability to purchase one,” he said.
By doing so, he said, the government will be encouraging local people to participate in their country’s economic development.
He urged government bodies such as the Tanzania bureau of standards (TBS) and Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA) to perform their work more professionally instead of wanting people to bow after them.
“Entities like the TBS and TFDA are supposed to help local entrepreneurs to perform well their activities and not to discourage them, whenever an entrepreneur makes a mistake he should be guided on how to properly do it and not to close their businesses,” he said.
He said that the government must exempt local young entrepreneurs from paying tax as it is done to foreign investors.
“It is not sticking in mind that a poor local farmer is entitled to paying all levies including crop cess while a rich foreign investor is exempted from paying tax, as the result they exploit our country for the betterment of their home countries,” said Semdolo.
He said that all these challenges and many others make young entrepreneurs avoid registering their businesses because doing so can be dangerous for the growth of their businesses.
Despite all these challenges, Semdolo plans to expand his business to earning at least Sh100 million per month in the coming ten years.
He plans to build his own food processing industry; he also plans to own a large plot of land where he will be cultivating different grains and vegetables.
“High interest loans acts like a biggest challenge toward achieving my goals,” he says adding that
“I also wish to meet successful men and women so that I can lean their success stories, but the challenge remains how I can meet them, there is no means that enables young entrepreneurs to meet the successful ones,” he said.
He urged the government and successful business men in the country to help young entrepreneurs achieve their goals by guiding them and creating enabling environment for all entrepreneurs regardless of their financial capabilities.
Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO) is being supported by BEST AC to do a project tilted “Incentives for Agriculture Business Start-ups.