President Samia steps up Tanzania’s economic diplomacy agenda

Sunday May 09 2021
Samia pic

President Samia Suluhu Hassan and Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta hold talks at State House in Nairobi, Kenya on May 03 2021. PHOTO|NMG

By Lilian Ndilwa
By Josephine Christopher

Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s President Samia Suluhu Hassan, starting from the early days of her administration, has gestured that she would put a lot of emphasis on economic diplomacy.

She has done that by undertaking crucial visits and meetings recently which were expected to influence the trading partnership with the rest of the world.

From holding meetings with key players in the international economy, foreign traders to recent visits to Uganda and Kenya, the new Head of State, who was inaugurated in March, is repairing ties with the outside world.

One can say the President’s approach of meeting personally with the heads of state and those of bilateral organizations is a way to open up and strengthen Tanzania diplomatic relations and reinforcing her political influence across the region.

The latest two-day state visit to Kenya saw Tanzania signing natural gas pipeline deal from Dar es Salaam to Mombasa and the leaders from the two countries resolved to clear trade hurdles to increase cross-border trade, by removing some non-tariff barriers.

Analysts commented that the President was on the right truck to mend ties with other nations around the globe.

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“Tanzania is such a small country in terms of political influence, so what the President is doing is a good needed effort to work with other nations in the region and around the globe for the country’s growth in social and economic sectors,” said Dr Donald Mmari, the executive director of economic think-tank Repoa.

Dr Mmari commended that a country like Tanzania cannot operate in ‘isolation’ as economic ties and partnerships with the rest of the world are crucial for its growth.

“Developing countries such as Tanzania need partners and international cooperation to foster both social and economic development. What President Hassan is currently doing will in many ways strengthen relations and diplomacy which is an important factor in attracting investors and trading partners,” he said.On the business sector, the President also met with the Chinese Business Chamber of Tanzania (CBCT) on April 21 this year where she promised to work on issues hampering the business environment in Tanzania.

In that meeting she assured the chamber that all thorns in the business sector, including difficulties in accessing work permits, tax administration, and delays in project payments would be dealt with.

President Hassan declared that the government would work to address all challenges for the locally produced goods in local and export markets as CBCT chairman Janson Huang guaranteed her that the delegation was ready to work with her government in enhancing economic growth in Tanzania. The Chinese business leaders expressed interest in investing in mobile handsets making, pharmaceuticals, vehicle assembling, and starting industrial parks.

A day later, through her speech in Parliament in Dodoma, the country’s first female Head of State said her target was to regain trust of investors by tackling the hurdles investors face in their businesses.

This increased business community optimism on the current administration as the leader showed intent to recover businesses by giving them confidence to operate in the country.

Economist Abel Kinyondo said since President Hassan came to power there were signs that country’s economic diplomacy was opening up and ready to cooperate with other countries in the region and globally.

“President Hassan’s approach to personally meet and talk with nations and bilateral organizations signals seriousness on international cooperation which we can say were previously slightly sidelined,” says Dr Kinyondo.

“As a new Head of State, we can say that she is serious and open to engage with other countries. In an early stage of her administration, she also wants to identify partners and show significance on socio-economic development,” he said.

In April, President Hassan also visited Uganda where she signed the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline deal and recently met with the former Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo where the two discussed development of the economic arena in the region.

During her visit to Uganda, she said the pipeline among others would strengthen strategic partnership and cooperation between the two brotherly countries and in addition it would forge further regional integration and people’s interaction.

However, analysts say on her mission to strengthen socio-economic development, it’s important for the President to also check on her domestic policies and systems of management to align with her focus aimed at rekindling cooperation.

Prof Haji Semboja of the State University of Zanzibar said the good works she is doing, the President would need a strong domestic supportive system in terms of policies and management.

“She would need to make sure that the existing domestic systems and policies support her mission in nurturing Tanzania’s diplomatic and development plans,” he said.

Prof Semboja said the fact that President Hassan addressed the Kenya’s Parliament, she did not only do diplomatic work but also displayed the country as being active politically, by nurturing her political influence in the region and globally.


IMF and World Bank

Other meetings that showed President’s resolve on diplomatic nurturing were the recent meetings she held with the Co-chair of International Monetary Fund (IFM) Kristalina Georgieva.

At that meeting, the President assured the IMF boss that the sixth phase government will cement the cooperation between the two for the economic betterment of Tanzanians. She further detailed the current economic situation where the economic growth has fallen from 6.9 percent to 4.7 percent as a result of the pandemic.

The organization said it was ready to start processing funding requests made by Tanzania to relieve the effects of the pandemic on multiple sectors.

On April 19, President Hassan also met Mara Warwick, the World Bank’s country director for Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, at Chamwino State House in the capital of Dodoma.

The President pledged her country’s strengthened cooperation with the World Bank, saying the bank was a catalyst for economic development. “The World Bank is supporting Tanzania in improving social services such as education and health, and in improving the infrastructure,” she said while urging the World Bank to continue working with Tanzania towards building an economy that will transform the citizens’ welfare.

Ms Warwick said the World Bank had previously approved loans to the tune of $4.9 billion for supporting various development projects in the country, making Tanzania among the leading recipients of the bank’s funding.