Until recently, Tanzania hardly made any income from its abundant gold resources, a trend that has now totally changed, making the precious metal a boon to the country’s non-traditional export trade.

Last year, non-traditional exports fetched a record US$545mn of the US$776mn total export earnings with minerals, dominated by gold, accounting for 55.4% of the income. A decade ago, until 1994, the sub-sector hardly generated US$200mn in foreign exchange. Its impressive performance started in 2000 following two years of dismal export receipts resulting from low export volumes due to unfavourable weather conditions. This was compounded by low export prices in the world market following the financial crisis in East Asia.

Until 1999, Tanzania’s exports remained heavily dependent on the country’s traditional agricultural commodities like coffee, tea, sisal and cashew nuts. By last year, income from traditional exports had sharply declined to US$231.1mn from the US$436mn earned six years back, with little prospects of improving.

According to the Bank of Tanzania, “the good performance of non-traditional exports has been accounted for by an increase in receipts from mineral exports, mainly gold, which rose from US$73.3mn in 1999 to US$177.3mn in 2000.”