EU envoy lists key areas of partnership with Tanzania

The new European Union (EU) ambassador to Tanzania and the East African Community, Christine Grau. PHOTO | MICHAEL MATEMANGA

What you need to know:

  • The new European Union Ambassador to Tanzania and the East African Community, Christine Grau, shared insights on key areas of cooperation between the EU and Tanzania in an interview with The Citizen Managing Editor, Mpoki Thomson. The envoy also addressed the global energy challenge, human rights, rule of law, credit to SMEs.

QUESTION: You recently presented your credentials to President Samia Suluhu Hassan. What have been your immediate top agendas since you officially started serving as the EU ambassador to Tanzania?

ANSWER: What I did in the very first weeks was to work very strongly on issues related to youth and gender, which will continue to be one of our priority areas in the coming months and years.

We also worked on the launch of an SME focused on reinforcing economic development. During my first weeks, I was able to hold various meetings with different ministers and members of civil society.

Some of the EU’s key priorities include green deals, human capital, and governance. How does each element impact the Tanzanian community?

In green deals, what we are trying to do is very clear: we are trying to invest in different kinds of sustainable businesses. What is important for us is ensuring that we improve the lives of Tanzanian citizens. So we invest in green infrastructure, green cooking, and smart cities, where we work with team Europe. We want to ensure that there is sustainable development for the future.

In human capital, we focus very much on the development of skills. Tanzania has a large youth population, which is growing, so we try to work with them by empowering young entrepreneurs and women as well. We know that this is a big group that has not yet benefited from the opportunities, so this is highly relevant for the future.

In good governance, we work on different accountability systems that aim to enhance clear government strategies. We also support the rule of law by strengthening the legal frameworks and trying to see that there is a conducive environment for growth.

You mentioned the need for Tanzania to have more women in leadership roles and talked about the importance of having role models. Why is this fundamental? Did you have a role model or mentor growing up?

I consider role models to be absolutely crucial. Since I arrived in Tanzania, there have been a number of women reaching out to me and asking me to tell them my own personal story, so I hope I can become a role model myself. Role models help us achieve our dreams. They are especially important for women. It is much more difficult for women to achieve their goals because of issues like stereotypes and limited support structures.

What I found most useful was the network I had. You need a network of people at your level that you can share different things with, such as encouragement.

Sometimes you need a little push and advice; however small it is, it can have a big impact.

What is the EU’s position on its relations with Africa, and how do you see that changing or evolving in the coming years in light of rising interest from other global superpowers such as China, Russia, and India?

EU’s relations with Africa have existed over the years. We have had long-term cooperation under a number of frameworks. Do these relations change? Yes, and I think they should because the global environment is changing and has become much more complex. Other major players are coming up, so the balance that existed many years ago is shifting. For the EU, we have made it clear that Africa is a major partner. We have very strong cooperation with the African Union. As the EU, we are very qualified to talk about regional integration because we have been through it and have a lot of positives to share. What is important in this changing global environment is that we all agree that the multilateral system is relevant. It is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The new European Union (EU) ambassador to Tanzania and the East African Community, Christine Grau, during an interview with The Citizen Managing Editor, Mpoki Thomson. PHOTO | MICHAEL MATEMANGA

The war in Ukraine continues to impact the global supply chain (food supplies, gas). What are some of the key lessons learned from this, and how has Europe managed to cut its dependence on Russia for energy supply? What does this mean for the rest of the world?

The Russian aggression in Ukraine has taught us many lessons. You have mentioned two areas that are very crucial, but I would like to add a third area, which is the displacement of a large number of Ukrainians.

On the energy side, what we have learned is that you should never be dependent on one major provider. What the EU did was diversify by investing in other energy sources and building the infrastructure to facilitate supply.

We have also increased energy savings by ensuring we spend less power, and we are now also using more renewable energy.

Tanzania already has great resources for energy mixes such as water and solar, so they need to be adapted more for use. Projects like the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Dam will be an important energy source for the country. But there are also other options, such as the Kakono hydropower project. I think diversification, energy efficiency, and security are really the main issues to consider.

On food security, Russia’s aggression cut Ukraine off, yet Ukraine was a major provider of wheat and other supplies such as fertilisers. The EU has addressed the issue of disrupted transport by building fast lanes to facilitate the transportation of fertiliser and grain. We have also agreed to provide a huge amount of funding to countries that have suffered from the increase in prices and shortage of supply.

On the refugees, it has not had a direct impact on Tanzania, but it has had a very strong impact in the EU. We are proud of the number of refugees the member states have been able to take.

Tanzania is banking on projects such as the Julius Nyerere Hydropower to reduce its power deficit. Does the EU still see such sources and mega projects as viable, sustainable, and worth the money spent, considering the impact of climate change, which has disrupted weather patterns?

You cannot look at this from a single perspective. Tanzania needs more energy, and the Nyerere hydropower project will certainly deliver a lot of energy and have a positive impact on other areas. We need to look at the sustainable energy mix, which will be highly relevant. Tanzania is very much aware of that. In light of the upcoming COP28, there is a very clear understanding of the need to look at climate change. So, I think energy security is what people need, and there is a very clear way forward on a sustainable green energy mix.

Around 40 percent of energy production in the EU is still derived from fossil fuels. How can the EU and the rest of the world make a swift transition to clean energy?

We know that there is a need for climate action; we know about global warming; we have the facts. So, we will eventually get there; I’m 100 percent sure because there is simply no alternative. In Europe, there are discussions on the use of a number of energy sources. Overall, it is very clear that we will go with less fossil fuels because we need to protect the environment. Governments need to set implementable strategies to achieve these goals and set aside sufficient funding.

Are there any engagements or mechanisms being laid out with African governments that aim to make the continent self-reliant and economically independent?

Before I speak about what needs to be done, I must say that we should not replace the position of being independent or self-reliant with being non-globalised. We live in a globalised world, so that means we are all interconnected and interlinked.

There are a number of ways we work with the Tanzanian government as it tries to become more self-reliant. This includes working to increase socioeconomic development. This involves also working with the private sector, such as financial institutions. We also work on increasing trade with Tanzania.

Aid from Europe and other Western countries and institutions is said to come with strings attached, most of which conform to Western ideals and standards. What is your opinion on this?

The universality of human rights is applicable everywhere. There are no Western values or African values; there might be different cultures and traditions, but values are universal and uniform. We need to be very careful when using this argument of ‘different regions’; it is very divisive. There are no different human rights for different people in the world; human rights are applicable everywhere.

About the conditions that come with aid, we as the EU have been very transparent about this. When it comes to budget support, it is linked to a number of benchmarks that have to be achieved. But these benchmarks are discussed and agreed upon with the government; it is not that we are imposing something. The EU always works with a partnership approach.

At the first-ever EU-Tanzania business forum, investors from the EU expressed interest in investing in the country. How many of those interests have manifested?

The business dialogue created fertile ground for communication. What we have seen after the business forum is the multiplication of dialogue between foreign businesses and Tanzanian businesses.

On specific projects, such as the Kakono hydropower project, we have come so far and hope that it will start being implemented very soon. Also, the European Investment Bank has come back to Tanzania. They have signed three deals with different banks to provide credit to SMEs. Another area of investment is agribusiness, where there have been contracts signed with agrifood companies. The basis has been created to multiply what was achieved at the business forum.