Almost every day I read an article about Tanzania’s continued descent into chaos. If you are a buyer or a lover of gemstones, make no mistake about it-this will affect you.
For decades Tanzania has been considered one of the safest and most business friendly countries in Africa. The country’s gemstones are/were plentiful: Tanzanite, Mahenge garnets and spinels, sapphires and Umba Valley garnets to name only a few. These gems have been incredibly important to our industry. For all intents and purposes, they have stopped being exported from Tanzania.
When the rough ban took effect almost a year ago, many of us thought it was a simple hiccup in an otherwise tested and trusted source for gemstones. We anticipated waiting a few months (at most) until the country figured out how it wanted to move forward, trusting all the while that exporting gem rough would once again be allowed. Sadly, each passing day proves the banning of gem rough export was only a small step in a much larger plan to exercise a level of control over the country not seen in modern times. This ban has had a cascading impact on every aspect of the industry: investment, exploration, mining, the closing of gem buying offices and industry professionals subject to arrest and crippling tax bills which render them unable to operate.
On a personal note: I witnessed this descent into chaos with each trip I made to Tanzania. From the police roadblocks every few kilometers when trying to drive around the country, to being held against my will by the special police, to being harassed during the exporting process. I saw the mood was changing and that it wasn’t changing for the better. I am not alone in no longer feeling safe in Tanzania.
Safaris continue to be a major source of foreign capital for Tanzania. As the country’s draconian measures against its citizens continue to mount, I predict a boycott not only against the safaris but against the country as a whole.
I’ve linked several articles for those who care to read more about this most disturbing unraveling of a once safe and stable democracy.
p.s. On a positive note- well, at least in the long run-the same geologic conditions- the “pipelines” that contain the gemstones-are not unique to Tanzania but in fact cross borders into Kenya and several other bordering countries. The expectation is that exploration and investment will begin to pay off in some new localities.