Tanzanian businessman Mohammed Dewji was kidnapped by gunmen in Tanzania's economic capital, Dar es Salaam. Picture: AFP/KHALFAN SAID HASSAN
Tanzanian businessman Mohammed Dewji was kidnapped by gunmen in Tanzania's economic capital, Dar es Salaam. Picture: AFP/KHALFAN SAID HASSAN

The family of a Tanzanian billionaire who was abducted last week has offered 1-billion shillings ($437,000) to anyone with new information that will lead to his rescue.

Three phone hotlines have been opened to gather information about the kidnapping of Mohammed Dewji, the 43-year-old owner of MeTL Group, a family spokesperson told reporters on Monday at the firm’s offices in Dar es Salaam.

The abduction of Dewji, listed by Forbes as Africa’s youngest billionaire with a net worth of $1.5bn, is the latest worrying turn for Tanzania. Once described as an "island of peace" in a turbulent region, the East African nation has seen a recent spate of politically motivated violence. Police have arrested 26 people in connection with Dewji’s kidnapping, the local Mwananchi newspaper said in reports on Monday.

MeTL accounts for about 3.5% of Tanzania’s GDP, according to its website, importing items including palm oil and consumer goods, while exporting agricultural products such as sugar and fertiliser.

Operating in countries including Ethiopia, Mozambique and Uganda, it employs about 24,000 people.

Former legislator Dewji was seized by unidentified people near the Colosseum Hotel in Dar es Salaam at about 5.35am on October 11, the spokesperson said. The East African newspaper, a regional publication, cited the city’s police commander as saying he was taken by armed "white men".

The incident involving Dewji "and continued harassment of mining executives do not bode well for the country’s investor outlook", Teneo Intelligence said on Monday in an e-mailed note.

Home affairs minister Kangi Lugola told reporters on Saturday 21 kidnappings have been reported in Tanzania between January and October, but they were isolated incidents with varying motives.

He said the country with East Africa’s third-biggest economy is safe for investors.

Amid speculation over Dewji’s disappearance, a Twitter hashtag #bringbackourmo has been tweeted about 1,400 times.

"Another night we go to sleep without knowing where our fellow Tanzanian and brother @moodewji is or his condition," Zitto Kabwe, the leader of the opposition Alliance for Change and Transparency, said late on Sunday on Twitter.

"Mo’s wife and children are in what state? His parents are in what state? It is very painful."

Bloomberg

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