Extortion and protection racketeering
Trade in counterfeit goods
Illicit trade in excisable goods
Non-renewable resource crimes
Synthetic drug trade
Private sector actors
Political leadership & governance
Government transparency and accountability
National policies and laws
Judicial system and detention
Economic regulatory capacity
Victim and witness support
Political leadership & governance
Government transparency and accountability
National policies and laws
Judicial system and detention
Economic regulatory capacity
Victim and witness support
Tanzania remains a source and transit hub for human trafficking, with domestic trafficking being prevalent. Forced labour and sexual exploitation are the most common forms. Traffickers often deceive victims from rural communities and force them to work in various sectors such as the informal commercial sector, on farms, in mines and quarries, and on sea-fishing vessels. The transnational trafficking of persons is largely controlled by cartel-type gangs operating in border towns and port cities, including Dar es Salaam and Tanga. These groups also operate on the island of Zanzibar, which is used as a transit point for trafficking victims to the Middle East for the purpose of forced labour.
Tanzania has emerged as a key transit country for individuals smuggled from Central and Eastern Africa en route to Southern Africa, predominantly Mozambique and South Africa. In particular, over the past few years, there has been an increasing number of people entering Tanzania from Rwanda and Burundi through porous border points. Human smuggling networks are fairly well-developed in Tanzania and operate as loose networks, rather than highly hierarchical structures. The Coast region has been used by criminal networks as a gateway for smuggled individuals. Some Tanzanian citizens smuggle the children of close relatives or friends from neighbouring countries so that they can benefit from primary and secondary education opportunities offered for free by the government. The government’s relative disinterest in the issue of human smuggling has let networks operate with fairly few obstacles, removing the need for these networks to push people towards more dangerous migration routes.
Although Tanzania does not have a high number of cases of extortion and protection racketeering, there are some documented accounts of organized criminal cases in various cities. Criminals are known to kidnap women in nightclubs and force them to pay for protection to avoid rape and torture. Expatriates and tourists have also become victims of express kidnappings, where they are held until they provide passwords for credit or debit cards, which the kidnappers then use to empty their accounts.
A relatively stable country in East Africa, Tanzania is suffering from the proliferation of small arms due to its long and porous borders with countries in conflict such as Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The country’s long coastline is also important in the movement of illicit arms. A general lack of security and monitoring of illicit goods trafficked into maritime port areas, including Dar es Salaam, contributes to the increase in firearms. Corrupt practices among law enforcement officials facilitate the cross-border illegal arms flows. Currently, Tanzania is exposed to a large degree of organized crime, which preys largely on flawed institutional structures, including courts and law enforcement. Terrorist activity is also prevalent, with concerns about jihadist cross-border attacks on its southern border with Mozambique. Mozambican officials have complained that cooperation with Tanzanian law enforcement is undermined by the latter’s security services’ tolerance for smugglers and traffickers. Reported cases of the black market sale of firearms include the exchange of guns for basic goods, including maize, livestock and other commodities.
The counterfeit goods trade poses a notable threat to Tanzania’s economic growth, with criminals importing and distributing a range of counterfeit products, leading to significant revenue loss. Over half of the imported goods in Tanzania are counterfeit, including pharmaceutical products, foods, construction materials, clothes, electronics, auto spare parts and tools. Illicit trade in excise goods is also prevalent, with smugglers evading taxes on goods such as alcohol, and cigarettes, among others. The illicit trade of alcohol constitutes more than a half of the overall beer market in Tanzania.
The illegal logging industry in Tanzania is a serious problem, with criminal networks operating in a well-organized and well-armed manner. The majority of illegally felled wood is exported to China, primarily the highly sought-after mukula (rosewood). Tanzania is also a transit point for timber from neighbouring countries, such as the DRC and Mozambique, with Chinese nationals often acting as middlemen in illegal logging networks. Corruption within Tanzania’s forestry system is pervasive, with bribes often paid to forest officials or local police officers to solicit their help in carrying out illegal logging. The implementation of an electronic timber tracking system in Tanzania has led to a doubling of timber royalty collections, suggesting that timber diversions may be decreasing.
Wildlife crime remains a prominent problem in Tanzania, with close ties between trafficking networks in the country and Asian consumer markets. Tanzania is a source for a variety of wildlife products, including reptile skins and rhino teeth, with the port of Dar es Salaam serving as a primary transport hub for illegal wildlife products. The criminal syndicates involved in the illegal wildlife trade are also important players in other illicit economies, including the illegal timber sector and the smuggling of minerals, charcoal and other contraband products. Although the market for wildlife products remains problematic, the country has not been flagged as heavily implicated in fauna crimes. However, there are concerns that the trafficking of live animals, primarily reptiles and amphibians, could increase substantially in the coming years.
Tanzania’s mineral reserves are abundant, with gold and tanzanite being the minerals most trafficked out of the country. Smugglers also bring gold into the Lake Victoria region from the DRC. The smuggling of minerals is worsened by the conflict of interest between multinational mining corporations and local small-scale miners, as well as a lack of enforcement of mining regulations. The government has established mineral trading hubs to control the selling and buying of minerals in an attempt to stop mineral smuggling and tax evasion, but claims of success should be treated with caution due to transparency issues. Tanzania’s tanzanite-smuggling problem is especially concerning, with almost all of it being smuggled out of the country, primarily to India where it is cut and polished. The illegal mining of other gemstones is also prevalent due to a lack of investment in the mining sector and the systematic exploitation of miners. While high-ranking police and local government officials have been arrested for their involvement in the illicit economy, there have been few, if any, convictions. Despite this, Tanzania is not considered a major player in the illicit trans-border movement of valuable minerals, and has not faced strict international scrutiny for its role in the global gold trade.
Tanzania is a significant player in the regional heroin trade, both as a transit country and a destination for the drug. Estimates suggest that almost a half of the heroin destined for East Africa ends up in Tanzania. Traffickers transport the heroin in various ways, including wooden dhows, bulk carrier ships and container shipments. The heroin is then moved through the country to reach Central, West and Southern Africa. Heroin is often exchanged with cocaine travelling in the opposite direction, from West Africa to consumer markets in Tanzania and other East African countries. The trafficking networks have strong connections with organized criminal groups in Pakistan and Europe, and corruption is used to incentivize politicians, law enforcement and others in positions of power to relax security and criminal justice processes. Tanzania’s government is aware of the problem and has increased control, making several seizures in recent years. Domestically, Tanzania also has a considerable heroin use problem, as more than a half of East African heroin users live in the country.
While Tanzania is not a notable player in the transnational cocaine trade, it does play a role as both a transit and destination country. Authorities have seen an increase in the number of Tanzanians arrested with cocaine, but there has been a decrease in cocaine seizures in recent years compared to other illicit drugs. In relation to cannabis, Tanzania is the leading producer in East Africa, and also has the highest number of cannabis users in the region. The country’s weak interdiction capacity, porous borders and corruption among government officials have allowed Tanzania to become a prominent cannabis hub for domestic consumption, and regional and international exportation.
Synthetic drugs are one of the smaller drug markets in Tanzania, but the country plays a role as a transit point for methamphetamine from Asia and neighbouring Kenya destined for other Asian countries and the southern African market. The domestic use of methamphetamine continues to increase, and precursor chemicals originating in Asian countries transit Tanzanian ports bound for regional distribution. Many criminal networks involved in the synthetic drug market focus on other drugs or other forms of organized crime, such as wildlife crime, as their principal markets. Recent studies suggest an uptick in methamphetamine trafficking in the region from Afghanistan.
Tanzania’s investments in digital transformation have resulted in the country having more internet subscribers, which has led to an increase in cyber-dependent crime. Cyber-dependent crimes such as computer fraud, hacking, IP crimes and distributed denial-of-service attacks are prevalent, targeting government agencies, financial institutions and private businesses. In general, cybercrime continues to grow.
The poor management of public funds and natural resources, red-tape bureaucracy in government offices and nepotism have been identified as catalysts for financial crime in the country. The embezzlement of public funds, fraud and other financial crimes act as barriers to economic development, particularly in public procurement, privatization processes, election financing, taxation and customs clearance. The Controller and Auditor General has reported significant economic crimes and misuse of public funds by local government authorities. The private sector has also contributed to the growth of organized crime, including financial crimes. Fraud in the healthcare system has also been prevalent over the past decade. Ponzi schemes and individual investment fraud have been identified as common practices for generating criminal proceeds. The current Tanzanian government has embarked on an anti-corruption strategy to combat financial crimes, but some unfaithful government officials and private actors have continued to engage in fraudulent activities. Inadequate law enforcement efforts have also contributed to the difficulties in detecting and punishing those involved in financial crimes.
The organized crime landscape in Tanzania is complex and diverse, with criminal activities ranging from embezzlement of public funds to drug trafficking, illegal logging and human trafficking. Criminal networks operate in an array of illicit economies in Tanzania, including drug trafficking, illegal ivory trade and illegal logging. Tanzanian organized crime figures are increasingly prevalent in leadership roles in other countries, such as poaching and wildlife trafficking gangs in Mozambique, heroin trafficking networks in South Africa and other drug networks operating in India. Human trafficking and smuggling are also major concerns in Tanzania, with recruiters sourcing people from countries such as Somalia, Ethiopia and Burundi for transport to South Africa and Europe. These networks have rest houses en route to host countries, and counterparts stationed in the host country to receive people sourced within and outside Tanzania.
Foreign criminal networks, mostly West African, have operational bases in various locations in Tanzania due to the country’s porous borders and lax immigration enforcement. Criminal groups from other regions, such as Southern Africa and Asia, also contribute to the organized crime landscape in Tanzania. Criminal actors from East Asia are heavily involved in environmental illicit economies, such as the illegal wildlife trade and illegal logging. Italian organized crime groups have a presence on the island of Zanzibar, while some Chinese and Indian companies have been accused in court of employing people from their own countries without legal documents. Previous attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and opposition leaders suggest collusion between criminal actors and state-embedded actors. Government officials’ involvement in the domestic drug economy and international trafficking in illicit drugs also makes the prevention of organized crime difficult.
Private sector actors contribute substantially to organized crime in Tanzania. In recent years, some private firms have been accused of engaging in criminal activities such as money laundering, tax evasion, corruption, smuggling, trade invoice manipulation, the drug trade and the trade of counterfeit goods. Furthermore, Tanzania’s move to pursue large-scale offshore fossil fuel investment has increased the incentives for private sector financial crime.
While mafia-style groups are not prominent, urban gangs have been a concern, and the government has engaged in military operations against them. The gangs’ leaders are often businessmen with ventures in the formal economy and violence is rarely a feature of their operations. Tanzania has also been affected by armed extremist groups, with groups affiliated with Daesh/ISIS operating in the country. However, their primary motivations are political and ideological, and they only extract income from the illicit economy on an ad hoc and opportunistic basis. The country has also experienced incursions from Cabo Delgado (Mozambique) insurgents across the Ruvuma, but there is no evidence that the group has set itself up on a long-term basis in Tanzania.
Under the new administration, law enforcement authorities have been urged to fast-track investigations into rising organized crime in Tanzania. The president directed the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau on crime prevention to ensure a strong evidence base before representing suspects in a lawsuit. Following allegations of corruption scandals, and to ensure the good conduct of law enforcement organizations, the ruling party’s Central Committee criticized the police and ordered that the government investigate and reform its legal structures so as to work according to Tanzania’s constitution. Although Tanzania has improved in terms of governance, major reforms are still pending. An issue of concern is that the official rhetoric of the ‘fight against organized crime’ is obscuring the current crackdown on vulnerable people, civil society and opposition figures. Tanzania lacks a culture of transparency and accountability and, despite the progressive nature of the present administration, access to information in the country remains extremely poor.
Tanzania has ratified eight international treaties and conventions related to organized crime, with the exception of the Arms Trade Treaty. Tanzania cooperates with the EU Action Against Drugs and Organized Crime project and is a member of the Indian Ocean Forum on Maritime Crime initiative. The government has focused on restoring diplomatic relations and strengthening mutual cooperation with other countries. This has led to the deployment of troops to Mozambique as part of the Southern African Development Community mission there. Tanzania has a progressive legal framework against transnational organized crime, but enforcement is hindered by the deep-rooted culture of corruption and patronage. Tanzania has more pieces of legislation pertaining to organized crime than almost any other African nation. However, the fines issued for organized crime offences are generally low and a significant proportion of the legislation against organized crime has been enacted through executive orders, raising questions about transparency. Currently, a growing number of the opposition and activists have called for constitutional reform to encourage accountability and to end the political and economic divisions within the current constitution.
Tanzania’s judicial system is underfunded. Judges are appointed by the president, and the court lacks its own budget, making it vulnerable to political pressure. Corruption is prevalent in Tanzanian courts. However, the government crackdown on corrupt officials has been somewhat successful in reducing the pervasiveness of corrupt practices. The challenges for the judiciary in Tanzania remain a shortage of courts, magistrates and judges, and poor allocation of resources, particularly in marginalized areas. This affects the delay of justice, and provokes a widespread perception that the courts primarily protect the interests of wealthy and prominent individuals. Overcrowding is also a notable issue in Tanzanian prisons, and the government has taken steps to reduce it, such as pardoning thousands of prisoners.
Levels of transparency in the police force and the government make it difficult to assess law enforcement success in disrupting criminal networks in Tanzania. While low-level criminal actors are regularly arrested, the major players, particularly in the drug trade, are rarely apprehended. Corruption and impunity in the Tanzanian police force are deemed to be widespread, and low salaries for police officers are a key driver of corrupt practices. The police force, in fact, is viewed as the most corrupt institution in the country, and police officers are known to demand bribes from citizens, tourists and businesses. Reports of mistreatment and torture of detainees in police custody are prevalent, with the police having been accused of extrajudicial killings and other forms of violence.
Tanzania’s extensive and porous international borders have been a challenge for the country’s territorial integrity, as it has been exploited by smugglers and used as a transit hub for human trafficking and smuggling. The northern and north-western borders are known entry points for the smuggling of people, with hundreds of unmanned entry points and informal ports along the Indian Ocean coastline used to ferry individuals from Somalia through Mombasa. Tanzania is also an important regional hub for illegally trafficked products, and corrupt practices by border officials facilitate organized criminal activity. The ongoing violent attacks in Mozambique linked to Islamic extremism are creating cross-border tensions and instability for Tanzania, posing a risk of violence due to the increased risk of extremist groups taking control of key trafficking routes and transport hubs to make money from the illicit economy. Additionally, Tanzania also serves as a transit country for ISIS-associated militants communicating between ISIS affiliates in northern Mozambique and eastern DRC.
Tanzania is considered a country at risk of money laundering and terrorism financing, with considerable capacity barriers hindering its policies’ effectiveness. Despite some progress made, the absence of reports produced by the Financial Intelligence Unit has resulted in a lack of information for authorities in preventing investigations, and enacting prosecution procedures and supervisory bodies. Law enforcement agencies rely on other sources of information to run investigations and spot money laundering incidents. In general, Tanzania has not made sufficient progress in several key areas, including civil asset forfeiture and the execution of mutual legal assistance requests. Although Tanzania has a high-level legal infrastructure and authorities available, anti-money laundering efforts are often used as an excuse to target the government’s political foes.
Due to the lingering effect of COVID-19 on the economic sector, Tanzania secured an IMF concession loan for the social-economic response and recovery plan to address priority sectors that had been adversely affected by the pandemic, such as health, tourism, water, education and social protection. However, the economic hardship imposed by the pandemic appears to have fueled the numbers of people engaging in organized crime, such as poaching and trafficking illicit drugs, among others, as a means of income generation. While the poverty rate in Tanzania has decreased, the absolute number of citizens living in poverty increased because of population growth. The size of the informal economy in Tanzania is estimated at more than a half of the country’s GDP and comprises an array of sectors, including the mining and agricultural sectors, among others.
The Tanzanian government has taken steps to increase protection and support for victims and witnesses associated with organized crimes. In 2021, the government pardoned convicted smuggled individuals who were serving sentences for sneaking into the country without legal documents en route to South Africa. However, victim and witness support in Tanzania is still poor, especially regarding victims of human trafficking, with no government-operated domestic shelters. Also, protection mechanisms for smuggled individuals remain inadequate, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking.
The government has been raising awareness among consumers about the effect of counterfeit goods, but the inadequate provision of staff in many regions is a challenge to prevention efforts. In general, harm reduction programmes for drug users are implemented solely by civil society groups, including international and local NGOs. The government has introduced whistleblower legislation to facilitate reporting of organized crimes, but the programme has not been fully implemented, deterring some victims from testifying in court. The government has not made effective efforts to investigate and prosecute illegal labour recruitment companies that operate in the country, to prevent and counter the demand for men, women and children trafficked for the purpose of forced labour and sexual exploitation.
The new administration in Tanzania has promised to promote freedom of speech and media development by lifting bans on previously restricted newspapers. Despite these positive steps, challenges remain for journalists, including the arrest of cartoonists for publishing critical content about the president. Two newspapers were temporarily banned for publishing information that went against the government’s narrative, showing that civil society space in Tanzania remains constrained. Tanzanian journalists are, nonetheless, playing a prominent role in covering and reporting organized crime incidents, which is helping to bring positive attention to law enforcement agencies, and aid criminal investigations. In Tanzania, civil society groups are operating in a harsh environment, and NGOs are working on issues related to organized crime and harm reduction programmes. These organizations are running support services and shelters for victims of human trafficking, which the government has not provided.
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The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.