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Advancing Tanzania’s Green Transition: Why Industrial Policy Matters

By investing in education, reskilling, and fair labour practices, Tanzania can lead by example and demonstrate that economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social well-being can go hand in hand.

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In the 21st century, green deals are at the heart of industrial policy globally. These deals aim to balance economic growth, environmental protection, and social well-being. As the climate crisis speeds up and the global community faces critical tipping points, the urgency for transitioning to sustainable energy sources, reducing carbon emissions, and fostering green technologies and industries has never been more evident. 

Green investments are growing rapidly, driven by state interventions such as subsidies and tax incentives, increasing investor interest in sustainable and ethical funds, and corporate initiatives focused on reducing carbon footprints and enhancing sustainability practices. 

However, more efforts are still needed to boost these investments and tackle challenges, especially their impacts on labour processes. The green transition is an exciting opportunity for Tanzania to embrace sustainable practices while providing a just transition for workers. 

This includes focusing on industrial policies that enhance economic development, environmental sustainability, and social well-being.

What is the green transition?

The OECD defines the green transition as shifting towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient, and socially inclusive economy. This includes changes in industrial policy, production, consumption patterns, and energy provision, as well as creating jobs and industries that are good for the environment and ensuring everyone can enjoy the positive changes. 

While the IMF focuses on updates to financial sector regulation to cover climate risks and measures to help countries diversify away from carbon-intensive industries, the ILO emphasises a “just transition,” which involves creating decent work opportunities and ensuring no one is left behind.

READ MORE: Capital Surge in Tanzania Calls for Labour Union Revitalisation

The green transition creates new challenges and opportunities for local labour markets. In sectors like agriculture and energy, this requires reevaluating labour dynamics and enhancing skills training and job realignment. 

Emerging sectors like renewable energy, electric vehicle production, which drive the high demand for critical raw materials (CRMs), and sustainable agriculture promise job creation but require significant workforce transitions. 

The ILO estimates that transitioning to a green economy could create up to 24 million jobs worldwide by 2030 and job losses, necessitating substantial reskilling programmes and supportive labour policies. As agents of workers, trade unions play a crucial role in advocating for programmes so that workers are equipped with the necessary skills to master new technologies and sustainable practices.

Consider a farmer named Masanja, who has been cultivating rice in the Kilombero Valley for over thirty years. With the shift towards sustainable agriculture, Masanja must adapt to new methods like organic farming and solar-powered irrigation systems. 

In the city, a skilled mechanic, Aisha, must learn how to service electric vehicles (EVs) as global EV production rises. In the south, Njile, a coal miner, must transition to potentially working in solar or wind energy sectors as coal mines might close. 

With proper support, the jobs and livelihoods of Masanja, Aisha, and Njile could be safe. Tanzania can create a sustainable and equitable future by investing in education, reskilling, and fair labour practices. 

READ MORE: Tanzania’s Clean Energy Transition Gains Momentum As More Actors Intervene

Trade unions must leverage their powers to influence sustainable industrial policies and labour rights due diligence along supply chains. They can use collective bargaining to negotiate for green transition measures that benefit workers at a firm or sectoral level, including health and safety standards for new technologies and practices.

Govt’s role

Tanzania’s Vision 2025 targets transforming the economy from a low-productivity agricultural economy to a semi-industrialised one led by modernised and highly productive agricultural activities. The green economy is integral to achieving this vision. 

Tanzania also plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 to 35 per cent by 2030 as part of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. The country faces significant ecological challenges, including deforestation, land degradation, and the impacts of the climate crisis on agriculture and water resources. 

The government’s commitment to sustainable methodologies and policies to bolster green growth is commendable. Still, the transition is in its early stages and requires close attention to labour market impacts. 

The government is critical in facilitating the green shift; industrial policies should be frequently reviewed to ensure they are relevant and sufficiently engaging with diverse stakeholders at all stages of the regulatory cycle.

There should also be investments in green infrastructure, incentives and subsidies for sustainable practices, funding reskilling programmes, and ensuring that labour laws protect workers’ rights during this transition. 

READ MORE: Extractive Industries Conference Concludes in Tanzania With Calls for Just Energy Transition

On the other hand, firms can lead by adopting sustainable practices, reducing their carbon footprint, investing in renewable energy and their workforce by providing training and development opportunities to help employees transition to new roles within the green economy. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives can further support community-based sustainable projects.

For example, industrial policy has been instrumental in driving the green transition in the European Union. The European Green Deal initiative demonstrates this commitment to climate neutrality by 2050 through regulatory measures, financial incentives, and strategic investments. 

State interventions, such as subsidies for renewable energy projects and tax incentives for sustainable practices, have catalysed green investments across various industries. However, the transition has been challenging, including job losses in sectors reliant on fossil fuels. 

Trade unions have advocated for impacted workers’ rights, negotiating for retraining programmes and social protections to facilitate their transition to new roles in the green economy. 

Simultaneously, firms across the EU are increasingly adopting sustainable practices and reducing their carbon footprints, including circular economy principles to minimise resource consumption and waste.

Readiness of trade unions

Are Tanzania’s trade unions ready to participate in the green transition discussion? The answer is complex. Although they might have implemented some initiatives, Tanzania’s trade unions and other social movements must proactively shape sustainability policies to safeguard labour interests during this transformative period. 

READ MORE: Harnessing Domestic Resources for Climate Action: Insights from Tanzania’s Extractive Sector

To influence climate commitments, they must engage in meaningful social dialogue, advocate for just transition frameworks, and collaborate with stakeholders. Forming alliances with environmental groups, governmental agencies, and international organisations can amplify their influence in sustainability and climate policy dialogues. 

Unions must also invest in understanding climate and sustainability policies, educating union leaders on green economy principles, and formulating strategies to advocate for workers’ rights.

Although the green transition represents progress in addressing the climate crisis and resource depletion, it also entails significant challenges. The government of Tanzania should not “regulate and forget”; instead, the adoption of regulations and enforcement through industrial policy should be followed by regularly reviewing the actual impacts. 

Trade unions, policymakers, firms, and stakeholders must collaborate to ensure a just and inclusive transition. By investing in education, reskilling, and fair labour practices, Tanzania can lead by example and demonstrate that economic growth, environmental sustainability, and social well-being can go hand in hand. 

With concerted effort and collaboration, the country can turn these challenges into opportunities for development.
Venance Majula is a graduate student at the Berlin School of Economics and Law majoring in the Political Economy of Labour. He can be reached at or on X as @venancemajula. 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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The Chanzo is hosting Digital Freedom and Innovation Day on Saturday April 20, 2024 at Makumbusho ya Taifa.

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