Photograph — National Geographic

Last weekend, Tanzanian President, John Magufuli announced a relocation of his presidential base from the commercial city of Dar es Salaam to the country’s designate capital of Dodoma.

Magufuli made the revelation while registering as a voter ahead of local elections expected to hold next month. “I was in Katavi Region, but I decided to come to my home city, Dodoma, to register my name because this is now my official address,” the leader said.

Dodoma was made Tanzania’s new capital by founding President Julius Nyerere in 1973. Its central location was considered more ideal for bringing government services closer to the people as against the coastal Dar es Salaam.

A new capital was generally considered a more economically viable alternative than trying to reorganize and restructure Dar, and was ideal for diverting development away from continued concentration in a single coastal city.

Prior to the relocation, which was initially announced in 2016, concerns were raised on Dodoma’s capacity to accommodate Tanzania’s government departments and staff. Questions were also raised on the source of financing for the move, which was estimated at over $500 million, majorly for infrastructure upgrades to accommodate the shift.

The country’s Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa, moved to Dodoma in 2017. And Magufuli had earlier made a pledge to have his entire government relocated to the new capital before the end of this year.

Along with Magufuli, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, several ministries, a majority of government departments and agencies and the entire Tanzanian government are now situated in the new capital.

Foreign missions and international organizations were also allocated lands by the President to relocate their offices and residences to the new capital. The leader gave 62 title deeds for the construction of diplomatic missions and five others to global organizations.

The government’s move to Dodoma, which was only elevated to city status last year, is expected to have economic impacts on the once-neglected city as well as on businesses in Tanzania as a whole.

For instance, utility service providers – water, electricity, and telecommunications – were given an ultimatum to upgrade and expand their services as part of preparations for the move.

Tanzania Telecommunication Company Ltd (TTCL) got funding from TIB Development Bank to upgrade the national broadband network between Dar and Dodoma. The project was to be implemented in partnership with global firms Huawei and Alcatel.

Dodoma’s electricity infrastructure was also being upgraded to provide better reliability, Energy Minister Sospeter Muhongo said at the time. While there were plans to improve the capacity of water supply in the city with an estimated supply gap of 18 million litres in 2016.

In addition, there could be a complete overhaul of the airport – or constructing a new one – in Dodoma. It would prevent visiting heads of state or senior government and private sector officials first flying into Dar es Salaam airport before shuttling to the new capital.

While the people of Dodoma can expect significantly better living conditions from infrastructure upgrades, the move may have a little economic impact in terms of private sector involvement.

Unlike the government, the private sector may not be willing to relocate their headquarters and offices to the new capital. This is evident in two of Africa’s top countries – Nigeria and South Africa – whose governments in the past have successfully relocated to new capital cities from commercial hubs.

Nigeria’s government spent almost two decades moving to Abuja from Lagos, a city that is still the most important to the economy today. Pretoria serves as South Africa’s administrative capital, Cape Town for the legislative, and Johannesburg the financial hub of the country.

Although there is a slight probability of investment flows that would dramatically change Dodoma even with the government situated there, a significant population influx and urbanization is expected in an originally small market town. This holds huge potential for thriving small to medium enterprises, booming services sector and growth in the local economy.

Overall, Dodoma is set for a significant status upgrade as a city. But for the foreseeable future, Dar will remain Tanzania’s commercial capital and the most important city in terms of economic and business operations.

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