IMF gives Tanzania $567 million in COVID economic support

The Washington DC-based lender approved $567 million (479 million euros) in COVID support for Tanzania, which until recently was an outlier in the global fight against the coronavirus and dismissed the gravity of the disease.

FILE: The IMF said the pandemic-induced economic downturn had increased poverty and unemployment and increased debt risk, mainly due to the "collapse" of the tourism sector. Picture: 123rf.com

NAIROBI, Kenya - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has loaned Tanzania more than half a billion dollars in emergency financing as the coronavirus pandemic drags on its economy and critical tourism sector.

The Washington DC-based lender approved $567 million (479 million euros) in COVID support for Tanzania, which until recently was an outlier in the global fight against the coronavirus and dismissed the gravity of the disease.

Its economy slowed to 4.8% in 2020 as travel restrictions battered the tourism sector, a key earner in the East African country where growth was expected to remain muted in 2021.

The IMF said Tanzania faced "urgent" health, economic and humanitarian costs as a reported third wave of the pandemic swept the country.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted Tanzania's macroeconomic outlook, and the health and wellbeing of its population," Bo Li, IMF deputy managing director, said in a statement announcing the emergency funding on Tuesday.

The IMF said the pandemic-induced economic downturn had increased poverty and unemployment and increased debt risk, mainly due to the "collapse" of the tourism sector.

Tanzania launched a coronavirus vaccination drive in July in a clear departure from the deeply COVID-sceptic policies of John Magufuli, the country's late leader who downplayed the disease for most of the pandemic.

Magufuli, whose uncompromising leadership style earned him the nickname "the Bulldozer", shunned foreign-made vaccines in favour of the healing power of prayer and dismissed masks and testing as unnecessary.

His successor Samia Suluhu Hassan, who took office in March after Magufuli's sudden death, took a different path, promoting measures to curb the spread of the virus and a science-based approach to the pandemic.

Until July, when Hassan received her first jab on live television, Tanzania was among just three countries on the African continent yet to begin vaccinating their citizens against COVID-19.

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