Würzburg’s sister city is changing

English version of an article by Ramona Seitz in Main Post on 2/5/2016

Since 1966 Würzburg has been twinned to the Tanzanian city Mwanza. What is life like there in the year of anniversary 2016?

The landmark of the city of Mwanza: Bismarck Rock. The cooperation between the African city in Tanzania and Würzburg has been there for 50 years. Photo: Ramona Seitz

Since 100 days the new Tanzanian President John Magufuli has been in office. His nickname is “the bulldozer” and he is really moving something. The pace at which he runs his country is astonishing, not only to Tanzanians. Recently, during a military event, Magufuli has been speaking in military uniform to his countrymen, as commander‐in-chief of the armed forces. The message was clear: The otherwise peaceful Tanzania is at war. It does not take part in a war against another country, but against corruption and mismanagement in its own ranks.

Definitely there is a fresh wind blowing in Tanzania. Can this be felt in Würzburg’s sister city Mwanza? What is life like in Mwanza in the anniversary year 2016, the 50th year of the partnership with Würzburg?

For sure: Mwanza is a city in transition. Once a sleepy town at the shores of Lake Victoria, now there are about 1.2 mil ion people living in the metropolitan area around “Rock City”, as the city is called because of the characteristic rock formations. Mwanza is not only the second largest city in Tanzania, but also one of the fastest growing cities in East Africa, says Stanslaus Mabula, MP for Nyamagana (Mwanza City).

Mwanza is changing. Although the residents are stil proud of “their” lake Victoria and of fishing, fishing is no longer the big economic factor. New hotels and office buildings are coming up, tells Mabula. And the biggest shopping mall in the country, the “Rock City Mall”, is close to completion. It is supposed to be an attraction. Mwanza shall become a tourism hotspot and benefit more from the close‐by Serengeti, so Mabula.

The treeless savannah is just a few hours away, east of Lake Victoria. Therefore it can be accessed far easier from Mwanza than from the usual safari starting point Arusha, continues Mabula.

Despite the structural and economic changes Mwanza has not lost its charming atmosphere. The traditional markets, their vitality and diversity are still there. Those are the places where everyday life takes place. People come there to buy food and clothes, news are exchanged and business is made.

Stanslaus Mabula is member of the long‐time ruling party CCM. Yet he represents a new generation of politicians. From 2012 to 2015 he was the youngest mayor Mwanza ever had. In 2014 he visited Würzburg. Now, with just 38 years of age, he is member of the Parliament in Dodoma. He, who used to earn his income after his first degree by working nights as a security guard, is a man of the people. His voters have high expectations in him.

“It is a hard job,” he says. Still he can already announce his voters in Mwanza a first success: Starting January 2016 the Magufuli’s government has abolished the school fees for public schools. A historic step which was possible because the government has been collecting more taxes. No school fees for public schools is of great help, although parents still have to pay for school uniforms and school materials. So also in the year 2016 education is an expensive commodity in Mwanza.

Mwanza’s streets are exemplary for the society. Between the upperclass’s large SUV cars, people are, by manpower only, pulling carts overloaded with al kinds of goods. An armada of small buses, called “Dalla Dallas”, brings people to work, to friends, to the hospital. In between, motorcycle taxis, which are competing for customers. And repeatedly pedestrians: people in tattered clothes, who obviously can not afford transportation, but also well‐dressed, proud women, balancing goods on their heads or children walking to school and joking with their friends. There is happiness and hustle and bustle in the streets. Yet this cannot hide the fact that the city is facing major challenges, too.

In the social sphere, unemployment is the most urgent problem to overcome. This does not only concern unskilled workers. An increasing class of wel educated university graduates comes to the labor market, but there are not enough jobs.

In another field, power supply is a great problem. Economy and homes suffer from regular power shortages. As a result, the provider rations electricity on a regular basis, tells Mabula. “It may be, for example, that one person has power for three hours and then someone else gets electricity for three hours.”

Furthermore, the impact of climate change has become stronger in Mwanza. “The weather no longer follows the proper schedule,” says Mabula. The region around Mwanza has been increasingly suffering from the effects of the weather phenomenon El Nino. As the World Health Organization and the United Nations have recently announced, heavy rains in the region might continue probably until April. It might even get worse than in 1997-­‐98 when El Nino was similarly strong. As a result, the risk of malaria, dengue or Rift Valley fever climb, so the WHO. No good news for a city that has been battling a cholera outbreak.

Other permanent health risks are Billharzia or HIV/AIDS, the latter being now treated routinely. The diagnosis “HIV positive” no longer equals a death sentence. Thanks to modern drugs leading an almost normal life is possible.

The cooperation with Würzburg is an important pillar in addressing the challenges. There is also a climate partnership between the municipalities. For example, photovoltaics are being installed on the roofs of supply important institutions such as the Nyamagana Hospital or the City Radio. “The climate partnership is intended to improve the power supply and the emission of carbon dioxide will be reduced,” explains Charles Amani, Environmental Officer of Mwanza City Council. This is a unique pilot project, so Amani which shall also be used to motivate people to use renewable energy.

In the fight against schistosomiasis Würzburg`s Missio Hospital and Mwanza’s Bugando Hospital are planning a large‐scale project, as recently announced at a press conference in Würzburg’s town hall.

Politicians from Mwanza are aware of the fact that their city is benefiting in particular from the twinning, says Mabula. But he points out that it was not just about giving and taking, but rather about sharing ideas and about learning from friends. Especially when it comes to climate partnership Mwanza had learned a lot, he adds.

And also Würzburg can learn from Mwanza. Given the influx of refugees to Germany, for example, how to integrate people from different ethnic groups and religions. In Mwanza much may seem chaotic and not yet well‐organized, but one fact is exemplary: the peaceful coexistence of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and followers of traditional religions, which all identify themselves with their town “Rock City”.

All these people, as wel as visitors to Mwanza feel that in Tanzania after the elections, another, a fresh wind is blowing. Suddenly rules and laws are implemented ‐ in large and small ways. In large‐scale corrupt officials have been losing their jobs and more taxes are collected. In small for example taxi drivers ask their passengers to use the safety belt. Just a few months ago that would have been unthinkable and seatbelts were often just decoration.



Mwanza in both geographical and socio-economic perspective shows the picture by Biggety Mushidi, which Mejah Salimu (31, on the left) and Isack Asfao (27) present in their African Art Gallery: „Bismarck Rock as the landmark of Mwanza symbolizes the city and the Kamanga-ferry represents the social-economic activities, explains Asfao the painter’s intention. Photo: Ramona Seitz


Mwanza is one of the fastest-growing cities in East Africa. Photo: Ramona Seitz


Vitality and diversity in the streets of Mwanza. Photo: Ramona Seitz