Ex-presidents credit Mkapa with transforming economy

Thursday July 30 2020
Mkapa pic

Tanzania President John Magufuli and former presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Jakaya Kikwete lay wreaths on the grave of deceased ex-President Benjamin Mkapa shortly after he was buried at his home village of Lupaso in Masasi District today, July 29, 2020. Photo by Ericky Boniphace

Dar es Salaam. Former presidents Jakaya Kikwete and Ali Hassan Mwinyi yesterday detailed how their departed counterpart, Benjamin Mkapa, laid the foundation for Tanzania’s economy to considerably contribute to the elevation of the country into a lower-middle income status last year.

Describing the late Mkapa as a down-to-earth person who had Tanzania and Tanzanians at heart, Mr Kikwete said it was the departed leader who initiated the country’s National Development Vision 2025.

Development vision

“He loved Tanzanians. He hated to see Tanzanians living under poor conditions. He gave a lot of priority to economic development - and that was why he was the one who prepared Tanzania’s Development Vision 2025, envisioning that come 2025, the per capita GDP for a Tanzanian should be $3,000,” said Mr Kikwete.

Having initiated the development vision, Mr Mkapa had to hit the ground running, Kikwete said. At the time, Kikwete was President Mkapa’s Foreign Affairs minister before succeeding him as president in 2005.

“He started from there. He did quite well during his time. I tried my best during my time - and the current president, John Magufuli, has also been doing quite well,” he said.

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“We have managed to become a lower-middle income country (LMIC), with a per capita GDP of around $1,080. It is a long journey; but it is possible.”

About four weeks ago, the World Bank elevated Tanzania from a Low -Income Country to an LMIC.

According to the World Bank, LMICs are those with a per capita Gross National Income (GNI) of between $1,036 and $4,045, while Upper Middle-Income Countries (UMIC) are those with a GNI per capita of between $4,046 and $12,535. High-income economies are those with a GNI per capita of $12,536 or more.

Government figures show that, in US dollar terms, Tanzania’s average per capita income increased from $1,078 in 2018 to $1,121 in 2019. In GNI terms, World Bank figures put Tanzania’s GNI at $1,080 in 2019, a rise from $1,020 in 2018.

Mr Kikwete exuded confidence that the country would progress to a per capita GNI of $3,000 as envisioned during the Mkapa Presidency.

He said former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi (1985-95) took over at a time when Tanzania’s economy was in a poor state and he worked tirelessly to change the economic fortunes.

He said the late Mkapa had also inherited empty state coffers; but he worked tirelessly to build a sound foundation for Tanzania’s prosperity.

Conceding that it was no easy to depart from the norm, Mr Kikwete said at times, some people used to say the Mkapa’s administration was merely putting the country on an auctioning.

But the late Mkapa remained steadfast in what he believed was right. It was his belief that the advantages of whatever he was doing during his time as president would be seen in future.

“People used to say a lot of things when he was shaping the economy but he used to say ‘let them speak whatever they want; but my goal is to see us out of this condition,’” he said.

It was Mr Kikwete’s view that Mkapa’s work finally paid off as the country managed to bring Tanzania’s macroeconomic fundamentals back to line.

During the late Mkapa’s last five-year term, said Mr Kikwete, the economy grew at an average of seven percent.

He (Kikwete) also maintained the same average growth rate during his ten-year rule.

“When President Magufuli took over, we were growing at around that rate. The challenge now - which I am sure President Magufuli will do - is to raise the growth rate further to eight, nine or ten percent and after that, we could be very fine and come 2025, the per capita GDP could reach $3,000,” he said.

He said it was due to the Mkapa’s hatred of poverty that he came up with Tanzania Social Action Fund (Tasaf).

Without deeply dwelling on what Mr Kikwete had said, former President Mwinyi said it was due to the hardworking spirit of the late Mkapa that Tanzania’s development was now vivid.

The duty of a leader, he said, was to improve economic conditions of his people.

“Today, I have seen almost everyone wearing shoes here but things were different during my days a young boy… I wore shoes twice: when I went for the initiation ceremony; and the second was after I sold cloves,” he said.

Not a populist

According to Mr Kikwete, the late Mkapa would do everything possible to get things going even if that particular decision would ultimately cost his popularity.

He recalled how the late Mkapa - during his days as Nanyumbu Member of Parliament and Foreign Affairs minister - guided him and the late Jaka Mwambi on how to develop a cassava project for the benefit of people around Masasi.

During those days, Mr Kikwete was CCM’s Secretary for Masasi, while the late Mwambi was District Commissioner for Masasi.

He said the cassava project was unpopular among Masasi natives but with the guidance of the late Mkapa, they decided to soldier on.

“The outcomes were encouraging. It was very successful… From that point, I regarded him to be the type of a leader who would not be swayed by populism,” he said.

Political differences not cause for enmity

Mr Kikwete and the late Mkapa competed fiercely to secure the ruling party’s nomination for the Presidency in 1995.

Mr Kikwete defeated Mr Mkapa and other contenders in the first round; but the victory was not enough to secure him the nomination. A repeat internal poll had to be conducted - the late Mkapa won it.

When he finally became President, he picked Mr Kikwete as his Foreign Affairs minister for ten years.

The Foreign Affairs docket is a key ministerial position because it gives one visibility and exposure.

“During that time, for someone who challenged you for the presidency, probably, he would have chosen to put me on a place where I could not be seen but he did the contrary,” he said.

When he (Mr Kikwete) finally succeeded Mkapa as president in 2005, the latter could not hesitate to give the former a helping hand whenever the need arose.

“He helped me a lot even during my days as President. He did not wait for me to ask for his advice. He would simply call and ask for an appointment with you and he would discuss his viewpoint on an issue with you…

“I passed through some quite pressing times during my days as President but Mzee Mkapa was one of the pillars that I could depend upon when the going got tough,” he said.

In his remarks, President Magufuli called upon Tanzanians to love their areas of domicile just as the late Mkapa did.

He said at one point, he decided to set aside land in Dodoma where national leaders would be buried - but revealed that Mkapa had said he would prefer to be buried at his home village Lupaso.

The late Mkapa was finally laid to rest at his home village after a 21-gun salute was fired to finally close his chapter on Planet Earth this side of Heaven.