How Magufuli implements economic diplomacy

After coming to power in 2015, one the things President John Magufuli did was to restrict foreign trips of government leaders. PHOTO | FILE

What you need to know:

  • Diplomacy is to a nation what brain is to a person. Diplomacy covers every aspect of world politics. Every policy has three elements - selection of objectives, mobiliaation of means and resources in achieving those objectives and implementation of the objectives. Therefore, Tanzania’s foreign policy too has the same elements.

All sovereign states in today’s world are interdependent regardless of how small or big are. What guides each sovereign state in relation to others or even international organisations is the foreign policy, whose one of the main contents is about diplomacy.

Diplomacy is to a nation what brain is to a person. Diplomacy covers every aspect of world politics. Every policy has three elements - selection of objectives, mobiliaation of means and resources in achieving those objectives and implementation of the objectives. Therefore, Tanzania’s foreign policy too has the same elements.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, diplomacy is “the management of international relations by negotiation the method by which the relations are adjusted and managed by ambassadors or diplomats’’. Foreign policy lies at intersection of the domestic and international aspects of a nation’s life.

Country’s foreign policy is the one, which places country’s relations with other countries. Diplomacy is the instrument through which the foreign policy is implemented. It is said that diplomacy and foreign policy are the two faces of the same coin. Thus, foreign policy is the substance of foreign relations, whereas diplomacy is the process by which that policy is carried out.

Each sovereign state does practise diplomacy irrespective of the form of government it has, whether that diplomacy is in written or unwritten foreign policy. Even dictatorial governments practise a certain kind of diplomacy. Mwalimu Julius Nyerere in 1964 issued a circular, which operated for more than three decades as the country’s foreign policy without having a well-documented foreign policy.

Nyerere’s traditional foreign policy

Due to both domestic and international social, economic and political changes, Tanzania was forced to change its foreign policy made by Mwalimu Nyerere through a circular in 1964. President Benjamin Mkapa devised a new foreign policy in 2001 and made economic diplomacy its grand object. While new foreign policy under Mkapa’s administration focused on economic diplomacy, Nyerere’s foreign policy majored on political relations in which it underpinned about nine principles - defence of freedom, justice and equality, safeguarding territorial integrity and political independence of Tanzania.

Others objectives were support for struggles against colonialism, racism and neo-colonialism, support for the oppressed people in the world, the promotion of African unity, the promotion of the respect for the principle of non-interference in internal affairs of other states.

Other principles and objectives, which led Nyerere’s foreign policy included, support for the practice of the policy of non-alignment, support for the United Nations in its search for international peace and security and the promotion of good neighbourliness. These were the principles and objectives, which led Tanzania’s foreign policy for many years before 2001.

Mkapa and new foreign policy

Retired President Benjamin Mkapa was the best diplomat, who changed Nyerere’s traditional foreign policy of 1964. Under the new foreign policy, economic diplomacy is highly marked as the vision of Tanzania’s diplomacy.

The vision under the new foreign policy states: “to become an effective promoter of Tanzania’s economic and other natural interests abroad’’. But foreign policy as aforementioned is implemented through diplomacy and diplomacy is carried out by personalities.

Generally, diplomacy is a normal way or method of conducting international relations, thus economic diplomacy cannot be done by every citizen. We need experts and not mere politicians. There must be people of high integrity in conducting economic diplomacy abroad for the benefits of us all. These persons are called diplomats.

The success of our foreign policy depends on the quality of diplomacy we pursue as a country. Who is a diplomat?

Principles established by Mwalimu Nyerere in 1964 interconnected Tanzania with the rest of the world diplomatically for more than 35 years before the new policy of 2001. The President implements foreign policy through various methods, but the commonest one is travelling abroad and meeting other leaders and chief executive officers of international organisations. The second is for the head of state or government to invite his counterparts to make official visits to his country. Unfortunately, both means have massive costs, but are unavoidable. Otherwise, they have a detrimental effect on the country’s diplomacy.

The third method of executing diplomacy is through sending Tanzanians to other states in their capacities as ambassadors. This method is also expensive, but still unavoidable. All past presidents used these methods to develop and build international relations with other countries.

Each president, however, must exercise wisdom in executing foreign policy, when economic diplomacy becomes an issue, taking into account not all trips made, but the president or his assistants must bear fruit.

I remember one of President Ali Hassan Mwinyi’s trips that raised many voices that it was so costly because the president’s delegation was very big. At that time, it was said that President Mwinyi trip to Brazil cost about Sh500 million. This is one example that diplomacy is expensive and for a poor country like Tanzania, it must be done wisely.

Was Kikwete the best promoter of economic diplomacy?

Retired President Jakaya Kikwete travelled a lot and he is the one, who is on the highest record as the most travelled president abroad. At one time he was blamed to cost the country dearly, probably without any substantial benefit. There is no direct evidence that Kikwete’s diplomacy was for vain. Instead, Kikwete’s diplomacy abroad brought both substantial direct foreign investment and aid.

For instance, under Kikwete’s diplomacy, the country benefited a lot in terms of aid and investment. Incoming of a Nigerian billionaire, Dangote, and his investment in Mtwara was the results of Kikwete’s diplomacy.

Former US President George W Bush visited Tanzania and signed the aid of about $800 million through Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). During Kikwete’s administration Tanzania attracted many foreign investors. Former US President Barack Obama also visited Tanzania during Kikwete’s presidency and augmented American relations with Tanzania. This is what our economic diplomacy is all about – to attract foreign investment in the country.

Magufuli’s austerity policy may affect economic diplomacy

President John Magufuli is ambitious in taking Tanzania to a middle income country by 2025 by encouraging both local and foreign investments, he is after industrialised Tanzania. Unlike Kikwete’s style of executing Tanzania’s diplomacy by himself travelling abroad frequently, President Magufuli’s style is quite opposite.

First, he has almost banned travelling abroad for whatever reason. Second, he would like to execute economic diplomacy without him travelling abroad, but rather inviting every potential head of foreign states to visit Tanzania and through their visits, he strikes various deals on trade and investment or aid and soft loans.

If in the future before he winds up his first term in office, President Magufuli is going to reciprocate state visits made by his counterparts. He probably will need to revise his executive order of banning official travelling abroad as his austerity measures. Will President Magufuli achieve his economic diplomacy through these techniques alone? How President Magufuli will enforce foreign policy without reciprocity?

Normal practice of diplomacy demands traditional generous reciprocity, which any state visit made, should be reciprocated. Thus far, President Magufuli has invited several Heads of State to visit Tanzania.

Within a year and a half, President Magufuli has already managed to invite Prime Ministers of India and Ethiopia respectively, King VI of Morocco, Presidents of Turkey, DRC, and Zambia, while himself, apart from visiting his neighbours in East African Community, he has gone as far as to Ethiopia in attending one of African Union (AU) summits.

Appointments of diplomats must reflect quality diplomacy

We witnessed in the past retired members of the Armed Forces, retired judges of High Court and politicians, who lost during elections are appointed to head our diplomatic missions abroad. Such retired guys had nothing to do with economic diplomacy rather than taking such privilege as resting zones after their retirement in politics or public service. For active implementation of economic diplomacy, we need diplomats, who are competent, highly qualified, well equipped and well-organised on economic issues so that they may represent us well.

Exceptionally, President Magufuli has been so careful in appointing new diplomats to abroad missions. Though constitutionally, the president of Tanzania enjoys massive unchecked presidential powers in appointments.

This right has been abused by our presidents by using it as a way of paying back political favours for their close friends, who helped them in one way or another in occupying State House. Such practice reminds us of the old traditional diplomacy, which mostly served the interests of selfish statesmen, kings, princes and emperors. This is against modern diplomacy, which focuses on economy, trade and investments.

To some degree, President Magufuli has been appointing well educated young people as ambassadors or high commissioners to represent Tanzania abroad. In this area, President Magufuli has shown a difference.

Too, has seriously wanted his appointees to execute economic diplomacy as per letter without anticipating direct support from home from President himself or his cabinet ministers. President Magufuli is well satisfied that his diplomats will play their roles fully and thus relieve the country from using more money through president’s visits abroad.

However, President Magufuli cannot wholly escape from travelling abroad no matter how costly it might be, if at all he wants to augment our economic diplomacy and the foreign policy generally. The President of the country is the first diplomat, who is responsible for marketing his country abroad. This duty cannot wholly be executed by president’s representatives alone without the backing of the president in meeting his counterparts in their respective countries.

The author is a lawyer/journalist based in Dar es Salaam.