Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Picture: REUTERS/KATRINA MANSON
Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Picture: REUTERS/KATRINA MANSON

Dar es Salaam — Tanzania wants to boost tourist numbers by putting a cable car on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and is in talks about the project with two companies, a Chinese and a Western one.

About 50,000 tourists climb Kilimanjaro annually. A cable car could increase tourist numbers by 50% by providing access to the mountain for those unable to climb it, Constantine Kanyasu, the deputy minister for tourism, said.

The country is conducting feasibility studies on possible routes at the moment, Kanyasu told Reuters. “This won’t be the first time in the world; cable cars are there in Sweden, Italy, the Himalayas,” he said.

Kanyasu said the government was looking at business plans, potential investors and profits.

The length of the route has not been finalised, with various options under consideration depending on cost and engineering issues, the minister said. An environmental impact assessment would also be carried out.

Porter and guide groups who take tourists up the mountain oppose the project because they fear cable cars will reduce the number of climbers.

Loishiye Mollel, head of Tanzania Porters Organisation, said visitors normally spend a week climbing the mountain.

“One visitor from the US can have a maximum of 15 people behind him, of which 13 are porters, a cook and a guide. All these jobs will be affected by a cable car,” he said. “We are of the view that the mountain should be left as it is.”

There are about 20,000 porters working between Mount Kilimanjaro and Meru, another mountain nearby, he said.

Tanzania’s earnings from tourism jumped 7.13% last year, helped by an increase in arrivals from foreign visitors. Tourism revenues raised $2.43bn for the year, up from $2.19bn in 2017.

Tourism is the main source of hard currency in Tanzania, known for its beaches, wildlife safaris and Mount Kilimanjaro, which has three volcanic cones and is nearly 6,000m high from its base.