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Tanzania Cannot Afford to Remain a Graveyard for Old European, Asian Cars

The importation of ageing cars to Tanzania carries substantial environmental repercussions within the country and globally.

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Over the decades, Tanzania witnessed a surge in the import of used cars from Europe and Asia. While this trend offers accessible transportation options for many Tanzanians, it has concurrently given rise to concerns regarding environmental impact, safety, and a sluggish embrace of technological advancements.

In 2017, the East African Community (EAC) proposed a recommendation to limit the importation of cars to those not older than five years. However,  only Kenya has fully embraced this suggestion among EAC’s member states. 

Remarkably, there are no age restrictions for imported used cars in Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Uganda.

Specifically in Tanzania, the regulation dictates that second-hand vehicles exceeding eight years are subject to an additional excise tax but does not limit the age of cars allowed into the country. 

Cars aged ten years or older face elevated import duties, taxes, and fees. This involves a 25 per cent import duty and a 20 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT), amounting to 50 per cent of the dutiable value for cars with an engine capacity up to 2000cc. The taxation for vehicles exceeding 2000cc in engine capacity further rises to 65 per cent of the dutiable value. 

This nuanced regulatory landscape highlights the varying approaches within the EAC  toward controlling the age and associated taxes of imported vehicles.


The importation of ageing cars to Tanzania carries substantial environmental repercussions within the country and globally. On a global scale, the transportation sector is indeed a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions. 

READ MORE: East African Community: A Tale of Promise And Adversity

It’s estimated that nearly a quarter of all energy-related CO2 emissions come from this sector, primarily from burning fossil fuels for road, rail, air, and marine. Vehicle emissions also constitute a notable origin of fine particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, both primary contributors to urban air pollution.

In particular, older cars play a significant role in exacerbating the effects of climate change. They release carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas associated with global warming, and consume fuel extracted from the ground in ways that can lead to pollution and environmental challenges.

A considerable portion of these pre-owned vehicles also emit hazardous fumes, posing a severe threat to public health by exposing individuals to elevated levels of air pollution. 

The detrimental impact extends beyond mere emissions, as many of these imported cars are often not roadworthy. This lack of roadworthiness increases accidents and, tragically, road fatalities.

Moreover, it’s important to recall that many used cars imported to countries like Tanzania may not align with the safety or emission standards upheld in their countries of origin. 

READ MORE: Empowering Tanzania: Vision 2050 and The Blueprint For a Fair and  Inclusive Prosperity

This disparity raises concerns about the adequacy of the vehicles’ safety features and their compliance with emission regulations, further jeopardising the well-being of both drivers and pedestrians. 

Therefore, it is safe to argue that the influx of such inadequately regulated used cars not only exacerbates air quality issues but also significantly heightens the risks associated with road transportation, creating a multifaceted challenge that demands urgent attention and regulatory intervention.

Dumping ground

Beyond the economic implications, the influx of old cars into Tanzania contributes to the country becoming a dumping ground for materials that endure much longer before decay, posing a potential environmental catastrophe. 

Many ageing vehicles, laden with metals, plastics, and other materials, are disposed of in a manner that does not align with sustainable waste management practices. The prolonged degradation of these materials in landfills can lead to soil and water contamination, exacerbating environmental challenges. 

Tanzania, unintentionally positioned as a recipient of such discarded materials, grapples with the long-term consequences of serving as a repository for items that could have been managed more responsibly elsewhere. 

READ MORE: If Development Is Truly About People, Then They Must Care And Fight for It

This not only heightens the environmental footprint but also underscores the urgent need for comprehensive waste management strategies to mitigate the adverse effects on Tanzania’s ecological well-being.


To illustrate, consider the price list for several brand-new vehicles in Japan, all of which are 2023/2024 models, with authorities actively encouraging citizens to opt for these newer models due to pressing concerns. 

By making these cars affordable for the Japanese population, often through minimal or no taxes, there’s a strategy to unload millions of older models onto countries in Africa and Latin America. 

However, the challenge lies in the contrasting regulatory and policy environments in these poor countries, which are not structured to promote purchasing brand-new vehicles. Consequently, when these vehicles are imported to Tanzania, for instance, the cost surges to nearly double the original price listed above.

This situation puts Tanzanians in a predicament. For example, someone who could potentially afford to purchase a brand-new Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum for Sh232 million, an option readily available to Japanese citizens, faces additional costs. 

READ MORE: Tanzania’s Digital Paradox: Affordable Data, Unaffordable Connectivity

These additional expenses include shipping fees and various taxes of approximately US$40,000, effectively adding an additional Sh100 million to the overall cost. Consequently, if a Tanzanian family initially had a budget of Sh250 million for a vehicle, they may find themselves compelled to import an eight to ten-year-old Land Cruiser V8. 

The price range for this older model is similar to the cost, before taxes, of the Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum, highlighting the economic challenges and compromises Tanzanians must navigate when seeking to purchase vehicles in the current market.

For the sake of calling a spade a spade, I contend that although importing used cars is a cost-effective and accessible transportation solution for individuals and families in the short term, a comprehensive evaluation of its long-term ramifications reveals significant environmental, health, and safety concerns. 

To address this, our regulations must be recalibrated, imposing more stringent measures on the importation of older vehicles or effectively banning the importation of car models older than five years while concurrently easing restrictions on newer models to enhance their affordability. 

Considering the anticipated doubling of the global vehicle fleet by 2050, with 90 per cent of this growth occurring in low and middle-income economies such as Tanzania, proactive measures are imperative. 

We must actively engage in planning and implementing strategies that position us as integral contributors to the global transition toward cleaner, safer, and more affordable mobility solutions. 
Kennedy Mmari is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Serengeti Bytes, a Dar es Salaam-based communications, public relations and digital media agency. He’s available at and on X as @KennedyMmari. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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One Response

  1. The issue is far more complicated than that. This is an actual regressive and repressive tax system, which imposes a higher burden on lower-income individuals, and disproportionately affects the poor. In a country that has one of the worst public transportation systems in the world, what should a teacher or a nurse do to free themselves from the shackles of poverty? You must realize that a car is no longer a luxury, but a necessity, just like a mobile phone. The fact is the bigwigs of the dominant party and government officials have continuously availed themselves through favourable tax policies by purchasing brand new V8s (worst pollutants) on taxpayers’ money and avoiding entirely paying import duties on those cars, as they drive around and snare at the poor citizens while imposing exorbitant VATs, import duties, etc on cheap cars that a teacher or a farmer need for their daily use. If anything this has created and exacerbated income inequality, wealth disparity, and opportunity disparities, translating into disparities in political, economic and social influence. So I think it is time we allow all citizens a fair shake at improving their lives. There are better policies that can be implemented starting with limiting high mileage vehicles( must not exceed 150,000 miles), Toyota being an exception due to their high reliability. A better waste management program. Proper waste management ensures that hazardous materials are not released into the environment. Car recycling helps reduce the environmental impact of end-of-life vehicles by conserving resources, minimizing landfill waste, and preventing the release of harmful substances. Many countries have regulations and standards in place to ensure that car recycling practices adhere to environmental and safety standards

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