1. Introduction:

Tanzania, much like other nations worldwide, is grappling with the intricate challenges posed by surging oil prices. These price increases have far-reaching effects, influencing various sectors such as businesses, consumers, and fiscal strategies. To comprehend the origins of this challenge, a look into the history of oil provides valuable insights. Oil, which began unassumingly, has evolved into a cornerstone of the modern economy, with Edwin Drake's 1859 drilling marking its significant emergence. This event marked the birth of the contemporary oil industry, reshaping industries and global dynamics. Understanding this historical context is key to unraveling recent complexities, including the notable increase in Tanzanian oil prices following The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority's announcement of price caps, effective from August 2, 2023. These intricacies are intertwined with factors like US Dollar availability, shifts in fuel levies, global petroleum market values, and complexities in imports. Collectively, they shape the trajectory of Tanzanian oil prices, guiding us into a new era where historical insights serve as a compass for the future. Amidst these explorations, it's crucial to emphasize that this article is for educational purposes only, aiming to shed light on the intricate factors contributing to the rise of oil prices in Tanzania.

2. Oil Price Dynamics: Unveiling Historical Shifts and OPEC's Impact.

Formed as an acronym for the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC is a permanent, intergovernmental organization established at the Baghdad Conference in September 1960 by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela. Its historical significance lies in its pivotal role in shaping global oil markets. The intricate interplay of economic, geopolitical, and environmental factors has led to numerous instances of oil price surges. Examples such as the 1973 oil crisis, triggered by OPEC's embargo amid geopolitical tensions, underscored the profound impact of supply disruptions. 

The 1990 Gulf War caused a surge due to geopolitical conflicts, while the 2008 financial crisis, intertwined with a demand slump, demonstrated the correlation between economic downturns and oil price fluctuations. Further, OPEC's decisions on production quotas directly influence supply, causing price fluctuations. The 2014 oil price drop stemmed from OPEC's decision to maintain production, leading to oversupply. Conversely, the 2019 price surge resulted from OPEC's decision to cut production. These historical events and OPEC's supply-related influence illuminate the complex dynamics that shape oil prices, underlining how global factors and strategic decisions continue to influence economies and industries worldwide.

3. Decoding the Choice: Why Countries Opt to Import Crude Oil Products.

One of the primary considerations for countries revolves around the choice between importing refined petroleum products or importing crude oil and then refining locally. This decision-making process is intricately influenced by economic factors, logistical considerations, and the complexity of refinery operations. Building and operating a refinery plant is a colossal undertaking, with costs soaring into the billions. For instance, a refinery with a capacity of 160,000 barrels per day (8 million tons per year) would typically require an investment exceeding $6 billion. These substantial costs include not only construction expenses but also ongoing operational and maintenance outlays for crude oil refinement.

On the other hand, importing refined petroleum products offers significant economic benefits to many countries through global efficiency and specialization. Established oil-producing nations with advanced refinery infrastructure can capitalize on economies of scale and advanced technologies, producing refined products at lower costs through the refining of crude oil. This enables them to efficiently meet domestic demands and potentially export surplus goods. Smaller economies or those lacking extensive resources find importing refined products a prudent alternative, avoiding the expense of constructing and maintaining complex refineries for crude oil. Moreover, the interplay of supply and demand influences import decisions, allowing countries to adjust import volumes based on market fluctuations, ensuring timely and cost-effective energy supply management.

In essence, the choice between importing refined petroleum products or importing crude oil and then refining locally is an intricate dance between costs, economies of scale, supply and demand dynamics, and the complexity of refining operations for crude oil. As nations navigate these considerations, they strategically weigh the economic efficiency of imports against the substantial investment and operational costs associated with constructing and maintaining refinery plants for crude oil. This deliberate decision-making process is a testament to the complex interplay of economic factors that shape our global energy landscape.

4. Navigating the Surge in Oil Prices: Understanding Tanzania's Landscape.

In 2023, Tanzania remains a net importer of petroleum products, with imports valued at approximately USD 3.3 billion in the previous year. Operating within the Bulk Procurement System (BPS) since 2011 and being governed by the Petroleum Act and The Petroleum (Bulk Procurement System) Regulations of 2017, this comprehensive framework oversees the importation of diverse fuel categories, encompassing Automotive Gas Oil (AGO), Unleaded Motor Spirit Premium (MSP), Jet A-1, and Illuminating Kerosene (IK). It extends to Motor Super Premium (PMS), Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), and other designated petroleum products, ensuring efficient management. Tanzania's prominence is further underlined by its twenty two oil-receiving terminals across Dar es Salaam, Tanga, and Mtwara ports, featuring a collective storage capacity of 1,288,101 cubic meters, as of June 2021. Operating within the BPS framework, the procurement of petroleum products occurs through competitive bidding, selecting suppliers to create an import consortium. The implementation of this system involves key stakeholders, including suppliers, OMCs (Oil Marketing Companies), Marine Surveyors, and Terminal Owners, collectively contributing to the seamless procurement process. 

Since August 2, 2023, Tanzania grapples with a substantial 17 percent surge in fuel prices, placing our energy sector at a pivotal crossroads, driven by a convergence of factors. The core catalyst behind this escalation lies in the scarcity of the US dollar, initiating a sequence of events that reverberates throughout the nation's energy landscape. The Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) sheds light on a perfect storm encompassing challenges stemming from the availability of the US Dollar, shifts in the fuel levy, global fluctuations in petroleum prices, and the additional premiums linked to petroleum product imports. This intricate interplay of factors collectively contributes to the pronounced surge in fuel costs, unveiling both challenges and insights into the intricate threads of the global economic tapestry.

At the heart of this situation, as the supply of the US dollar's becomes constrained, its value appreciates, subsequently leading to escalated costs for importing fuel. The direct impact is seen in the spike of petrol prices, catapulting from TZS 2,736 per litre to TZS 3,199, while diesel prices have risen from TZS 2,544 to TZS 2,935 per litre. Conversely, kerosene prices have exhibited a modest dip, sliding from TZS 2,829  to TZS 2,668 per litre.

Guided by the prevailing sector legislation, notably the Petroleum Act, Cap. 392 Section 166, petroleum product prices are regulated by the principles of supply and demand. Consequently, the Energy and Water Utilities Regulatory Authority (EWURA) continues to promote sector competition by ensuring transparent pricing information, including cap prices. Within these guidelines, Oil Marketing Companies retain the freedom to sell their products at competitive prices, provided that they stay within the price cap and adhere to the floor price, as determined by the EWURA (Petroleum Products Prices Setting) Rules, published through Government Notices No. 57 on January 28, 2022, and the EWURA (Petroleum Products Prices Setting) (Amendment) Rules, published through Government Notice No. 421 on June 23, 2023.

4.1. Availability of US Dollars:

The surge in oil prices in Tanzania has been significantly influenced by challenges in securing an adequate supply of US dollars. The availability of US dollars plays a critical role in our country's ability to import oil and maintain a stable energy market. With oil being a dollar-denominated commodity, the consistent flow of US dollars is essential for purchasing oil on the global market. However, disruptions or limitations in obtaining sufficient US dollar reserves can lead to constraints in importing oil, which subsequently impacts the domestic supply and contributes to the overall volatility in oil prices. This complex interplay between the availability of US dollars and the oil market underscores the intricate relationship between currency dynamics and energy costs in Tanzania.

Central banks globally have proactively sought mitigation measures to address the challenges posed by the availability of US dollars. This effort has led to the evolution of bilateral currency swap agreements, known as central bank liquidity swaps. In response to the aftermath of the global financial crisis, central banks initiated these swaps to bolster liquidity conditions. These central bank liquidity swaps, i.e., bilateral swap lines, have proven essential for maintaining stable financial environments. For instance, when a central bank, such as the Central Bank of the United Republic of Tanzania (BOT), requires US dollars, it approaches its counterpart, and in return, the latter receives an equivalent value in the local currency at the prevailing market exchange rate. This strategy helps to maintain a smooth flow of US dollar liquidity within the economy, enhancing financial stability even during challenging times. For decades, these agreements have constituted an integral component of central banks' arsenal of monetary policy instruments.

The government's proactive measures to stabilize the availability of US Dollars are crucial in safeguarding our energy security. By working on strategies to enhance the inflow of foreign exchange through various channels, the government is contributing to the stability of our economy and the energy sector. Additionally, maintaining a favorable exchange rate with the US Dollar plays a pivotal role in controlling the cost of importing oil. The government's commitment to managing currency fluctuations, even in the face of global challenges, demonstrates its dedication to ensuring affordable energy for Tanzanians and fostering a resilient energy ecosystem for our nation's progress. 

It's worth noting that the issue of lack of US dollar availability is not unique to Tanzania; it's a global occurrence that can affect any nation in a similar manner. To address this challenge, central banks established bilateral swap lines (central bank liquidity swaps), to enhance liquidity conditions and stabilize currency dynamics. These measures reflect a coordinated global effort to mitigate the impact of US dollar shortages and maintain financial stability across economies.

4.2. Changes in the Fuel Levy:

Changes in the fuel levy have contributed to the recent rise in oil prices, adding a regulatory dimension to the complex web of factors impacting the energy sector. Mitigation strategies could involve ensuring transparent and accountable mechanisms for adjusting fuel levies in response to global market dynamics. Our Government can consider implementing mechanisms that cushion the immediate impact of fuel price hikes on consumers, such as targeted subsidies or social safety nets for vulnerable populations. Additionally, adopting a comprehensive approach that promotes energy diversification, encourages investments in renewable sources, and enhances energy efficiency measures can help reduce the overall dependence on fossil fuels and mitigate the impact of fuel levy fluctuations on consumers.

By carefully reviewing and adjusting the fuel levy, the government is taking a well rounded approach to maintain a balance between fiscal responsibilities and citizens' well being. These adjustments are not only aimed at managing short term price fluctuations but also contribute to the sustainability of our energy sector. The government's ability to strike this equilibrium is a reflection of its responsiveness to the concerns of the people, while also upholding the broader economic interests of the nation.

4.3. Global Petroleum Product Prices:

The current spike in oil costs is intricately linked to the dynamics of global petroleum product prices. Fluctuations in the international petroleum market play a pivotal role in shaping the cost of oil imports, which directly influences domestic fuel prices. The benchmark Brent crude oil price, which has now exceeded $85 per barrel, a pivotal determinant of fuel costs, has witnessed significant volatility, further exacerbated by Saudi Arabia, a prominent player in the realm of oil production, opting to reduce oil output in July. These fluctuations are driven by various factors including geopolitical tensions, supply and demand imbalances, and shifts in production capacities among major oil-producing countries. As our country relies heavily on imported petroleum products, any substantial change in global prices can lead to a direct impact on local fuel costs, affecting both consumers and businesses. The interplay between global market trends and domestic energy prices underscores the importance of closely monitoring and understanding the global petroleum landscape to effectively manage local energy costs and mitigate their potential economic repercussions.

The government's role in mitigating the effects of global oil price shifts is commendable, as it seeks to cushion Tanzanians from abrupt cost increases while promoting economic resilience. The challenges posed by fluctuations in international oil prices are met with prudent and strategic approaches that not only safeguard affordability for consumers but also contribute to the overall health of the Tanzanian economy. To mitigate this impact, our country can enhance energy diversification strategies by investing in renewable sources and foster regional cooperation to stabilize supply chains. Additionally, comprehensive energy policies that balance economic growth and environmental sustainability can help cushion the effects of global petroleum price fluctuations. This proactive stance is a reflection of our government's ability to adapt and address challenges in a globalized world while prioritizing the well-being of its citizens.

4.4. Importation Challenges and Premiums:

The recent surge in oil prices in Tanzania is intricately linked to the premiums associated with the importation of petroleum products. These premiums, influenced by a combination of factors such as global supply and demand dynamics, geopolitical tensions, and production capacities, significantly impact the overall cost of importing oil. As Tanzania heavily relies on imported petroleum products, even minor fluctuations in premiums can lead to substantial shifts in fuel prices, affecting both consumers and businesses. The interplay between these premiums and the country's energy landscape underscores the critical importance of understanding and managing the intricate dynamics of global petroleum markets to ensure stable and affordable energy for Tanzanians. To address this, our country can focus on strengthening domestic energy infrastructure, improving storage and distribution networks, and seeking diplomatic avenues to secure stable supply chains. Developing strategic oil reserves and exploring renewable energy alternatives can also help mitigate the impact of importation challenges and premiums on fuel prices.

5. Global Fuel Price Trends: Impacts and Comparisons.

Not confined to Tanzania alone, where the effects are evident, a similar narrative is unfolding across borders. The surge in fuel prices finds resonance in the United Kingdom as well, with the country grappling with a comparable rise in costs at the pump. As of July 2023, the UK's average petrol price had reached £1.45 per litre equals to TZS 4,563, reflecting the prevailing fuel cost trends, yet these figures remain notably lower when compared to the record-high levels observed the previous year. These fluctuations are a result of intricate factors, encompassing geopolitical events and supply-demand dynamics. This shared experience underscores the volatility of the global energy market, where even subtle shifts can have significant impacts on prices. The intricate dance between surging demand and supply constraints, coupled with geopolitical maneuvering and the surge of Brent crude, the oil price benchmark, which has now exceeded $85 per barrel, a peak not witnessed in over three months, further exacerbated by Saudi Arabia, a prominent player in the realm of oil production, opting to reduce oil output in July, contributing to the further tightening of supply, orchestrates these fluctuations, emphasizing the delicate balance that dictates fuel prices on a worldwide scale.

The surge in global oil prices has created a ripple effect, driving gasoline costs to varying heights across nations. As of July 31, 2023, the escalation is evident in the prices per litre: Kenya at 1.376 USD, Uganda at 1.306 USD, with Germany facing prices of 2.034 USD, France at 2.051 USD, and Hong Kong witnessing an astonishing 3.059 USD. These figures are just a few examples among many countries experiencing similar impacts. The upward trajectory in fuel costs reflects a shared challenge faced by countries worldwide, underlining the global nature of the oil price surge.

These price variations not only emphasize the shared nature of fuel price challenges but also underscore the importance of understanding the broader context that shapes energy costs. As both nations navigate these fluctuations, it becomes increasingly clear that a collaborative approach to energy management and policy is essential to ensuring stable and affordable energy prices for citizens across the world.

6. Microeconomic Impact of Soaring Oil Prices: Effects on Individuals, Businesses, and Employment.

High oil prices have intricate and far-reaching implications for economies on a "micro" level, impacting various aspects of daily life and business operations. Firstly, at the individual level, the rise in oil prices directly influences household budgets. As fuel prices increase, the cost of transportation, which is essential for commuting to work, school, and various activities, rises. This leaves individuals with less disposable income for other expenditures, potentially leading to reduced consumer spending on non-essential goods and services. Moreover, higher fuel costs often translate into elevated prices for goods that require transportation, such as food and manufactured products, contributing to overall inflation and potentially eroding purchasing power.

Secondly, businesses face a cascade of challenges when oil prices surge. Industries heavily reliant on transportation, such as logistics, shipping, and aviation, experience direct cost escalations, which can lead to reduced profit margins. These costs may eventually be transferred to consumers through increased prices for goods and services. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are particularly vulnerable, as they might struggle to absorb the extra expenses or pass them onto consumers without compromising their competitive edge. For manufacturers, higher oil prices can amplify production costs, affecting everything from raw materials to energy-intensive processes. Consequently, businesses may face tough decisions, including workforce reductions or scaling back expansion plans, which can have broader economic repercussions.

Lastly, the labor market is not immune to the effects of high oil prices. As businesses grapple with increased operating costs, there is potential for a reduction in hiring activity. In an effort to manage expenses, companies may limit recruitment, delay new hires, or even implement layoffs, leading to increased unemployment rates. Additionally, some industries directly tied to oil, such as energy and transportation, might experience workforce fluctuations due to shifts in demand and profitability. Overall, the interconnectedness of the economy means that high oil prices can create a domino effect, impacting individuals, businesses, and the job market in ways that collectively influence the microeconomic landscape.

7. Understanding the Ripple Effects: How Rising Oil Prices Impact Economies of Oil-Importing Nations.

When oil prices increase, it's not just about higher costs at the filling station. The impact trickles down to various sectors of the economy. Transportation costs rise, and that affects the prices of goods we buy every day, like groceries and clothes. Companies often pass on their increased expenses to consumers, which leads to higher overall prices. This phenomenon is known as inflation. So, when you notice your favorite products becoming more expensive, it could be due to the indirect influence of rising oil prices.

7.1. Trade Balance and Currency:

For countries that heavily rely on importing goods, higher oil prices can put a strain on their trade balance. Imagine a country importing electronic gadgets, clothing, or vehicles. As oil prices surge, the cost of shipping these goods also rises. This can result in an imbalance where a country spends more on imports than it earns from exports. To bridge this gap, countries might need to borrow more money from abroad, which can weaken their currency. A weaker currency makes imported items even pricier, impacting how much people pay for products from other nations.

7.2. Government Spending and Economic Growth:

Rising oil prices have a cascading effect on government budgets and overall economic growth. Governments need fuel for various activities, from transportation to operating machinery. When oil prices climb, governments spend more on fuel, which can reduce funds available for other essential areas like education, healthcare, and infrastructure projects. Additionally, businesses face higher energy and transportation costs. To manage expenses, they might slow down hiring or expansion plans. This can lead to reduced economic growth and job opportunities, affecting people's livelihoods and overall economic well-being.

In summary, the effects of rising oil prices go beyond the pump, influencing inflation, trade balances, currency values, government spending, and economic growth in oil-importing countries. The interconnectedness of these factors highlights the complex nature of the global economy and the wide-ranging impact of changes in oil prices.

*8. Mitigating the Economic Impact of Rising Oil Prices: Strategies at Micro and Macro Levels.*

Mitigating the economic effects of rising oil prices involves strategies aimed at both the micro and macro levels. At the microeconomic level, individuals and households can adopt measures to reduce their vulnerability to higher fuel costs. This includes optimizing transportation methods, such as carpooling or using public transportation, to decrease fuel consumption. Moreover, businesses can invest in technology and practices that enhance energy efficiency, which can mitigate the impact of increased production costs stemming from higher oil prices.

On the macroeconomic front, governments and central banks can employ a range of policies to cushion the broader economy from the shocks of rising oil prices. Implementing targeted subsidies for essential goods and services, such as public transportation or staple food items, can alleviate the direct burden on households. Diversifying the energy mix by promoting renewable energy sources can reduce dependence on oil imports and enhance energy security. Central banks may adjust monetary policies to manage inflation stemming from higher fuel costs, striking a balance between controlling price growth and maintaining economic stability. Collaborative efforts at the international level, such as building strategic oil reserves and fostering global energy cooperation, can also contribute to stabilizing oil prices and buffering against economic shocks.


Amidst the enigma of rising oil prices, Tanzania faces challenges that extend beyond its own borders. The scarcity of US Dollars, a currency integral to the oil trade, reverberates not only within the country but also ripples across the global energy market, influenced also by prices of petroleum products in the world market and premiums in importation of petroleum products. Simultaneously, fluctuations in the fuel levy, even though domestic, add another layer of complexity, underscoring that fuel prices are part of an interconnected web. As Tanzania navigates these intricate challenges, it's important to recognize that the rise in oil prices is a global phenomenon with far-reaching consequences. 

Mitigating the impact of rising oil prices requires a multi-faceted approach, including prudent fiscal policies, strategic management of foreign exchange reserves, and proactive engagement with international partners. Moreover, enhancing domestic energy alternatives, such as renewable sources, can provide a buffer against the volatility of global oil markets. The amalgamation of factors, encompassing these domestic concerns alongside global variables like petroleum product price volatility and intricacies in importing these products, presents a complex scenario. As Tanzania grapples with these intricate challenges, it's vital to acknowledge that energy dynamics are intricately interwoven on a global scale. The undulating tide of global petroleum prices underscores that this phenomenon isn't isolated but rather constitutes a chapter in a narrative that resonates worldwide.

Tanzania's journey to address the challenge of multifaceted factors driving the rise in oil prices in Tanzania aligns with a worldwide pursuit of energy security and economic stability. Amidst these interconnected dynamics, collaborative solutions that acknowledge the global nature of energy markets are imperative. By embracing this holistic view, Tanzania positions itself to navigate rising oil prices with resilience, drawing from international partnerships for a sustainable energy future. It's essential to remember that the multifaceted factors driving the rise in oil prices in Tanzania, while seemingly domestic, have implications that ripple beyond its borders. As Tanzanians, let us stride confidently in our nation's commitment to overcoming these challenges, uniting our efforts to ensure energy stability and a prosperous future for our beloved country.

Thank you.

Written by Christopher Makwaia

Tel: +255 789 242 396

- _The writer, is a University of West London graduate (formerly Thames Valley University) and an expert in Management, Leadership, International Business, Foreign Affairs, Global Marketing, Diplomacy, International Relations, Conflict Resolution, Negotiations, Security, Arms Control, Political Scientist, and a self-taught Computer Programmer and Web Developer._

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