Tanzania’s First Female President set to Transform the Nation into a World Leading Supplier of Helium

By Shaan Khan

That stuff that makes balloons float and gives you a squeaky voice when inhaled is actually the driving force behind the 21st-century economy, and it’s in demand now more than ever before.

How? It’s indirect. Sure, a new wave of technological revolution is surging with the industry trend of replacing fossil fuels with renewable green energy. Tech companies are battling to get it right first while attempting to capture society’s validation, unlike their mishaps with AI, software & privacy—yes, we’re pointing at you, Zuckerberg.

So, big & small tech alike want to entertain us with the idea of utilising revolutionary materials. Two in which are graphene & graphite; flaunted as powerful, sustainable & efficient solutions to producing tech-in-demand such as super-computer chips, batteries for EV’s & general smart devices—the media rightfully eat the news up!

Competition & hype in the tech-o-sphere is cool and all, but amid the news, a reality has dawned on them all. Helium is the gas that powers the creation of most tech products, and the supply is dwindling and isn’t enough to support the big plans of tech in the future. It’s the behind-the-scenes fears of the industry, and as they pull at their collars in nail-biting stress, a saviour is here to alleviate them—Tanzania and their new leader, Samia Suluhu Hassan

The End to an Era

Arguably, insularity has been a crux to Tanzania’s development for decades now, with an economy dominated solely by agriculture and a mining industry poorly integrated into the global market. The downward spiral of nationalist governance led to the dismissive attitude towards unsustainable harvesting & climate change and a stagnant job market for a growing populous mostly entering the 50%+ below the poverty line that undoubtedly would increase without any new initiatives.

The icing on the cake was when Tanzania’s former president Magufuli declared their nation had defeated Covid-19 back in 2020 through the power of Tanzanian’s Christendom, ignoring experts in the field instead urging people to pray if they want the virus to literally go away. Since then, Tanzania wouldn’t report its Covid-19 cases.

Magufuli passed away this March due to a heart disease many speculate was Covid-19 related. Samia Suluhu Hassan stepped down from her vice president role to become the nation’s first female president. 

Samia Hassan has been quick to make changes. One such example is implementing strict Covid-19 measures to counteract the unchecked spread of a deadly second wave of the virus that began to spread this year and to reduce chances of virus variations taking a grasp on the nation as the Delta variant had in India.

The new female president boldly stated on her first presidential address that,

“We cannot isolate ourselves as an island while the world is moving in a different direction.”

It’s refreshing words to hear, seeing as the president is on the same page with people like myself that have labelled the nation as insular in nature.

With a GDP set to decline due to Covid-19 and a stagnant economy; has Samia Hassan been acting upon her words of hope to produce pragmatic change? Well, here is a list of changes she has made for you to judge:

  • Foreign Investment – Taking full advantage of Tanzania’s rich mineral and material deposits by diplomatically securing partnerships of trade & extraction in the field with other nations and well-established, multinational mining companies who yield high market penetration and a portfolio of successful projects worldwide
  • Media Liberation – Bans have been lifted from media outlets in the country that were censored, sued and removed from online television under Magufuli’s presidency
  • Stabilising Hospitals – Since new COVID-19 measures have been applied to institutions nationwide such as hospitals, various doctors and nurses are reporting reduced strain on hospital services and fewer cases appearing over the short period that Samia Hassan has been president
  • Border Control – After being consulted by her newly-formed committee of experts, Samia Hassan had applied border restrictions due to recognising the spread of the new Delta variant occurring in neighbouring nations

While being pragmatic and open to new ideas, Samia Hassan’s policies come with a level of concern for the sceptics at first glance. In particular, Tanzanian pessimists.

In a way, Tanzania’s past of insular politics results from their initial foreign ‘relations’, if you can even call it that. When the land was captured, suppressed & passed around between European imperialists in the colonial era. To make matters worse, the people of the land were made to fight for their European rulers in World War 2.

History has therefore tainted the idea of foreign relations. That fear lingers into the present, where allowing foreign investment in Tanzania creates the concern that foreign companies will take advantage of the land for capital gain to boost their own nation’s economies, leaving Tanzanians to get the scraps of venture success that has little-to-no benefit for the working class.

To dig deeper into unravelling the truth to this issue occurring with Samia Hassan’s newly established policies, I want to pick at the nations new partnership with multinational company Helium One on the ongoing project searching & extracting the largest helium deposit in the world that could be founded in Tanzania.

Helium One

Screenshot captured on Helium One’s twitter page.

While Helium One, in essence, is a new company with no projects under their belt. The company does hold a board of directors with decades of experience in mining minerals & partaking in African ventures.

The team’s confidence in this venture has led to the project being fully funded with a clear roadmap and goal to become the leading international supplier of helium, with commercialisation & production reached in 2022/2023.

A breakdown of Helium One’s investor profile gives background on the company’s prospects & purpose:

  • Currently, the market depends on low-grade helium formed as a by-product of fossil fuel production, mostly toxic hydrocarbon that isn’t environmentally friendly. The helium is unstainable and unfit for the transition into a global green economy.
  • Helium One will source primary helium founded underground and produced by radioactive decay, deep in the Earth’s mantle & crust. Additional benefits to the organic gas are that its colourless, tasteless and requires a low boiling point amongst all elements, making it a carbon-neutral source.
  • The research team has identified specific targets in the market to capitalise upon, one key target being China, who have doubled its helium consumption in the past ten years. The rise of use is set to climb despite the global helium shortage with no alternative to fill the demand.
  • Applicational key growth areas pinpointed are medical, aerospace, electronics and computing, I.e. MRI’s, fibre optics, flat panel displays & nuclear fusions—key components to developing our projected future.
  • The mining project utilises low-cost exploration with slim hole tech that doesn’t obstruct or damage surroundings at the same scale as other mining & industrial projects.
  • Working on drilling at three project areas with high prospects and surface helium concentration of up to 10.6%. The areas include Rukwa, Eyasi & Balangida projects.
  • The research has been backed & conducted by experts from Oxford University.

Samia Hassan has recognised Helium One’s potential and given them 100% ownership of 4,512kmin total of the project areas. Also, in accordance with the Industrial Mineral Mining Act, a 16% Government Free Carry will be set in place, giving Tanzania an automatic stake in the company’s equity interest. Keep in mind, this is one of many multinational mining ventures Tanzania is involved with.

The president is invested in the Helium One project, and only the future will reveal what lies for Tanzania. Will it be the leading supplier of Helium, and how will Samia Hassan utilise the profits made from the venture if successful as projected? We can only assume how based on her present acts of governance and diplomacy.

To build a more confident picture of what the future will look like for Tanzanians is to look into the recent effects this venture has had on the local economy and future plans to continue economic development.

Socio-Economic Development

Helium One closely keep their goals for local development at the heart of their venture. Outlined in their Sustainable Development GOALS, they offer insight into how they will develop Tanzania which president Samia Hassan has approved of:

  • Education and training will be provided to local Tanzanians that Helium One will employ. The employees will be classified as skilled workers, gaining them new opportunities in the field all over the world with eligibility for Skilled Worker Visas, but also, they are promised to be employed by Helium One for the long term
  • Clean water and sanitisation will be provided to local villages
  • Mining is achieved with minimal environmental impact, allowing for sustainable use of the land in the long term whilst not contributing to climate change that would devastate the overall African economy
  • Based on projections, Helium One plan to establish multi-generational economic growth in the nation by expecting the development to have over 100 years of life and within that time, many Tanzanians will be trained as experts in the field with years of experience to which can lead them to start-up their own multinational mining companies in the future
  • Close ties with the local community to bring awareness to their venture and the impact, hoping to build trust with them, to break past perceptions of foreigners and to promote global cooperation and share insight into culture and ideas the community rarely get to witness

Current State of Affairs

Samia Hassan means business with this venture as Helium One was given the green light to commence drilling operations at all project sites this May, so there were no delays to the process.

Helium One actively post their progress on Twitter, and recently they uncovered significant amounts of Helium in an unexpected area that was above the primary target zone, which they are still working on reaching.

So, hopes are high, especially for investors, as shown with the Helium One (HE1) share price that has gained in value by 200% since April this year.

Samia Hassan is a president who is open to new opportunities and ideas from the global community. She offers hope to her people, highlighting the potential & aptitude African women have in leadership roles such as running an entire nation.

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