President Samia Suluhu Hassan marks one year in office on March 19, 2022 as she assumed office replacing former President John Magufuli who died in office on March 17, last year. During her interview with Mwananchi Communications Limited (MCL) managing director Bakari Machumu, she expounds economic, social and political issues of national interest brought to you by The Citizen reporter Josephine Christopher.
Q: Looking back, a year ago just 72 hours after the death of Fifth Phase President [John Magufuli], and considering constitutional demands that required you to succeed him as the Head of State, what ideas came to your mind?
A: Sigh...First, it was that sense of shock and grief of losing our leader. It was a very big thing, it has never happened in Tanzania before. We have lost former presidents, but not the sitting Head of State. So, of course, it brought fear, not only to me, but to most Tanzanians, especially on the next move of action.
Knowing what comes next, there was more fear and anxiety on my part. Seeing what we did in the Fifth Phase, I wondered how I could manage. How I would be able to move forward? The feelings were inexpressible.
We used to have colourful swearing ceremonies accompanied with different celebrations, however, mine wasn’t like that. In my mind, I was thinking of the big duty making it a very difficult time for me especially during a moment the body of the President laid in state.
The good thing is that we have a foundation as a country, a system of handling things. Therefore, I’m glad that we managed to go through and here we are today.
What gave you hope?
First, I knew what happened was as per God’s will, therefore He would guide me through it all. The holy scriptures say, all the powers and authority comes from God. So, I told myself that if He saw I was appropriate for the authority, then He would give me the guidance.
Secondly, my hope lied on the country’s system, existence of guidelines, the Constitution, development plans, visions and the party (CCM) election manifesto that describe things that should be executed over time. The job now lies on someone on power to make better use of available human resource [people] and relationship in order to make better implementations.
But, also my experience in the government, after having served as a civil servant starting from junior positions since 1977 before climbing to manegerial levels. So, by 2021, when the darkness surrounded the country, I already had accumulated enough experience within my political party, CCM, and the government machinery.
You have so far witnessed a positive response to your efforts to attract foreign investment as the government pushes for improved vocational and skills education. Do you see a rise in employment opportunities in future?
One of the agreements we make with investors arriving in the country, especially those planning to open industrial parks and facilities, is that they are supposed to open vocational training facilities. This would enable the youth, who have come from our educational institutions, to add skills and knowledge.
What is it that is being done now to build investor confidence?
We started doing research five to six years ago that resulted in the Blueprint. The document specifies challenges posed by the government, the private sector both domestic and foreign and concerns facing businesspersons.
The first thing we are doing is to create conducive business environment, reduce bureaucracy in different areas of the service delivery and cut the time taken by investors to complete legal and procedural requirements that would enable them to start operations in the country from six to two months.
We have also got rid and/or reduced some of the taxes and promote a friendly working environment during tax collections.
Are you satisfied with the implementation of the Blueprint?
The speed is still unsatisfactory. But we are going!
What should be done to speed up implementation of the Blueprint?
Boost efficiency and the legal practitioners should check out terms and what needs to be addressed quickly, so that we can sit down with the private sector, hold dialogue about their concerns and list down their expectations from the government.
Boosting the country’s agriculture through irrigation and promoting livestock and fisheries has been one of your priority areas. What is the government’s strategy to attract investors in those areas?
There are two things in irrigation farming. First, we must take action on revising the irrigation commission system and secondly, emphasizing on irrigation farming across the country.
Covid-19 outbreak has changed the global economy, with crops previously considered as major food merchandises have turned to be traded as cash crops, hence the reason my government is putting more emphasis on increasing crop production.
Having over 60 percent Tanzanians who depend on agriculture, is your government planning to provide agro-inputs credits instead of funds?
That is what we are currently doing. In the preceding farming season, cotton and cashew nut farmers were provided with agricultural inputs subsidy with plans to extend the benefits to coffee farmers as well.
We have seen increasing production in various crops, forcing the government to initiate talks with commercial banks and international organisations in order to further support these initiatives.
Are there plans to start a price stabilisation fund?
Sure, and I think next year you will start seeing something like price stabilisation fund in the country.
Regarding the huge investment in Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL), what plans are there to enable the organisation to run commercially and make a profit?
The government is going on with plans to construct airports in different parts of the country like Songea, Mwanza, Chato, Kigoma, Pemba, Tanga, Iringa and Dodoma. Secondly, we have increased the number of planes from the previous five to the current 11 aircraft.
There is also an issue of management and operations. We are planning to assess the company, rate it how it could be more efficient. Additionally, employees’ contribution to the overall operations will also be evaluated.
Having prioritised the education sector, what transformation should be expected in the sector that would enable young people and the general public to increase their awareness in the available opportunities and fully participate in the building the country’s economy?
It is true we want to transform our education system. There have been concerns over years spent by children in school and the quality of skills acquired upon graduation.
That is why we have agreed to move on to skills education, instead of academics only. Skills education means that even if a child fails to continue with tertiary level of education, he/she can know where to head and find their own life path.
We are preparing the new Tanzania education curriculum, several meetings involving the government and stakeholders have been convened to collect recommendations about the initiative.
Apart from making sure that every Tanzanian child becomes patriotic, know their roles for the country, the new curriculum will also emphasize on vocational education. We will build vocational institutions in every district where students will learn issues of importance in their areas.
Being in the digital era, we also plan to support the youth by building a big digital hub that will enhance learning and later tap opportunities resulting from the digital world.
Tanzania has been targeting high end quality tourism, do you plan to maintain or change the target?
We started with low-level tourists, but we have changed and improved through increasing services and the status of our hospitality service.
When we focus on building top hotels to attract high-end tourists who will spend a lot in the country, but at the same time we attract those from lower levels to continue coming because we have hotels that they can afford.
During covid-19 pandemic, the demands of domestic tourists was up, which justified the need to boost domestic tourism. How does the government plan to utilise this opportunity?
I have also witnessed that first-hand, because in December, I was in Ngorongoro where I saw a large number of domestic tourists. So, this shows that if we create conducive environment for citizens to visit own attractions, the sector will grow and prosper than it is today.
The media is an important pillar of the state. What is your administration planning to ensure there is significant investment for the wellbeing of the sector?
There is the issue of commercialisation and competition, but also there is change in the world economy as days go on.
There are many media outlets operating in the country which is determined by global development. I can’t say if the government can empower individual media organisations because the matter is surrounded by business competition.
Therefore, media organisations need to withstand the competition among themselves in the field like stakeholders in other sectors compete.
Where do you want to see Tanzania in the next three years?
Three years is so soon. But let me say, I would love to see Tanzania with goals and huge awareness, comprising people who are ready to serve and protect their resources.
I would like to see Tanzania that is open for conversation and dialogue and a country where every citizen has access to basic needs.
Now, these will not come within a three-year time. They will come after five years, seven or more, therefore, not me alone, but someone else after me could see its realisation. I want Tanzania that protects its peace and security as well as democracy.
We have Vision 2025, which is soon approaching its end, however what is your long-term vision towards building the country?
When you talk about vision, then this becomes a national issue. So, what we will do is government experts will come up with a draft of the new national vision that will be prepared in collaboration with all Tanzanians in their groups.
What should we expect in the political reconciliation efforts?
As I mentioned earlier, it is important that we promote our democracy, but also practise civilised politics and implement development agenda for the benefits of us all.
The peace agenda, regardless of our differences in ideologies, religion and opinions should be the responsibility of all Tanzanians.
When should the go ahead of the start of political rallies and the revival of the writing of the new constitution be expected?
The economy, which is our main focus, is not yet stable, so, we are still dealing with the economy.
Secondly, I talked about democracy which also includes allowing the opposition to use their democratic space to speak to the public. But at the same time, we must promote peaceful politics and civilised engagements.
What do you miss most after becoming President?
My personal freedom.
What makes you happy?
Serving my country.