Unspoken pressure coming with 'The Royal Tour' triumph

President Samia addressing a gathering in Moshi on her way to Marangu in Kilimanjaro region to record a the Royal Tour documentary on September 5, 2021. PHOTO | STATE HOUSE

On June 26, 2021, when closing the 12th Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC), at State House in Dar es Salaam, President Samia Suluhu Hassan (SSH) made a visionary announcement… her intention ‘to launch a special programme to rebrand Tanzania and its vast opportunities across all sectors’ starting September 2021.

The president revealed that she will be participating as the “Tour Guide” in the making of a film of the country under Tanzania: The Royal Tour by Peter Greenberg, America’s leading travel journalist/producer.

“For a long time, we have discussed rebranding Tanzania for the world to understand us, to know where Tanzania is, what do we have, business environment, what raw materials do we have, and how much of it,” she said adding that the producers of the film wanted to also brand Tanzania’s first female president with a view of garnering global support to the country at large.

She called for public and private sectors captains of industries – both forming members of TNBC to support the initiatives.

A presidential committee would later be formed chaired by Arts, Culture and Sports permanent secretary, Dr Hassan Abbasi.

The committee, involving state house officials, representation from ministries of tourism, investment and related agencies from both the mainland and the isles among others, got down to work.

With the film out, Tanzania becomes the second country in Africa, after Rwanda, to participate in The Royal Tour programme, and ninth in the world.

President Samia speaks to the audience during the premiere of the Royal Tour Documentary in New York. PHOTO| STATE HOUSE

What is The Royal Tour?

The petergreenberg.com website describes The Royal Tour as a “groundbreaking series of television specials, produced and hosted by Emmy Award-winning journalist Peter Greenberg, showcasing nations in a way no visitor has ever seen them before.” Guided by Heads of States, the show sets out to “offer viewers access to extraordinary locations, historical landmarks and cultural experience.”

To put it into context. The pronouncement of The Royal Tour initiative was a continuation of a major drive undertaken by the President since assuming leadership of this nation on March 19, 2021, following sudden death of the seating President, Dr John Pombe Magufuli.

From the onset, SSH stated her intent towards inclusivity and “re-opening up Tanzania to the world” both economically and diplomatically. This was followed by a number of pronouncements and strategic ideology/ policy shifts towards inclusivity aspiration both within and without, moving away from protectionism. For instance, the decision to relax work permits application, mode of tax collection sent positive signals to investors. She will later engage a higher gear towards institutionalizing areas of challenges through a comprehensive review of policy, laws and regulations by improving dialogue through sectoral task-forces.

This approach quickly described her style of leadership and her commitment to revive international relations. This was followed by a series of engagements.

Todate, at least four major missions have been undertaken. These are, Mission East Africa, Mission Europe, Mission Middle East and Mission USA.

Starting close to home, SSH travelled to Uganda on April 11th, 2021 for the launch of the $3.55 billion East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP); the Hoima - Tanga 1,445 kilometre oil pipeline project, which had been postponed to mourn the passing of President Magufuli.

SSH will tour Kenya on May 4th, 2021, reopening up trade between the two major economies in the region. As of March 2022, ten trade barriers had been resolved with 14 more given a June 2022 deadline.

On July 16, 2021, SSH visited Burundi, signing eight cooperation agreements before heading to Rwanda on August 2, 2021, where she witnessed the signing of four bilateral agreements.

Next stop will be Europe, touring France and the European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium in February this year. She secured a grant worth Euros 1.15 trillion from the European Commission to finance various development projects – unlocking a few projects which had been put on hold on ideological differences. Tanzania will also be amongst African countries to benefit from Euros 150 billion committed at the EU-African Union summit.

The same month, on February 26, 2022, SSH met with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of United Arabs Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai as she attended Expo Dubai 2020. She will witness the signing of 36 Memorandums of Understanding valued at $7.49 billion set to create about 200,000 new jobs over a period of four years.

And now, back to The Royal Tour. Unlike the other three, which seems conventional, the later is completely a new Initiative under the “Rebranding Tanzania vision”, targeting a specific market, the US. It’s a sponsored content – aimed at going beyond travel by pushing both tourism and investments.

The delegation that accompanied the president have confined to me that it was a massive big step forward. At the public level however, this bigger picture is perhaps well known to the team close to the project, no wonder soon after the film was done and promoted and premiered in New York and Los Angeles, California, the media space has been awash with discussion on the same.

The disruption is massive, to say the least. One can tell there has been huge outcry for clarity to the masses back home.

The audience. PHOTO| STATE HOUSE

The unknown unknown

It’s a fact that there has been a vacuum of information with regard to what is this Royal Tour all about? What will it do? and what wouldn’t it do? so much so that, if it was deliberately done so, by way of starving the audiance (read wetting their appetite), then the strategy might have paid dividend.

Equally significant is, given that is targeting the US market as its primary audience, the result is equally the same. It has really disrupted these spaces. The top-of-the-mind situation that exists now, prepares the public to sieve in information that will create or bring clarity.

Reflecting on worries in social spaces – including audio spaces like Clubhouse, twitter space it reminds me of the former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld case of the ‘known knowns and known unknowns’ phrase he uttered in one of the Pentagon meet the press sessions in February 2002, as the US was building a case for military action against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

People have questioned how sure are we that this huge investment will give us the desired return on investment. Some have gone further to suggest they needed to be given tangible benefits for the future today.

During the press conference, Mr Rumsfeld was challenged on the lack of evidence “linking the government of Iraq with the supply of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups.”

According to Wikipedia, Mr Rumsfeld response was: “Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.”

His argument was, the US cannot stop pursuing her mission because they didn’t have all the facts than. (Note: this article does not in any way intend to support the invasion of Iraq, rather to use the philosophy behind the phrase).

Put to our context of The Royal Tour comes with a number of the known knowns, known unknowns and the unknown unknowns.

As put by the Committee Chairman, Dr Abbasi, the fact that having the Head of State engaged on the one on one basis with top five global CEOs in the travel, hotels, hospitality, world travel tours council, plus 30 plus other more in multiple sectors, including entertainment, interested to invest in Tanzania as part of The Royal Tour package, which also presents an opportunity to be aired on 350 public broadcasting services (TVs) reaching 86 per cent of the US population (330 million plus), allay fears that it will not succeed.

It is the question of the known unknown, the unknown part being to what extent will the return on investment be? And the extent is a function of a clear action plan coupled with follow up and follow through.

Simply put one can’t buy grade one maize seeds, sow, and go sit back and relax for three months to go back and expect any harvest. It needs nurturing… applying fertilizer, watering, weeding, pesticide where necessary to reap the maximum of his investment.

And to Rumsfeld point, perhaps the most difficult part will be the unknown unknowns, which in this case comes from one’s risk appetite of venturing into unknown territories and expect to be surprise and take advantage of what will come his/her way. For that to happen, one has to make that important first step.

Luck is when opportunity meets preparedness

One thing is clear, the initiative will open up Tanzania. However, its optimal success will be a completely different animal. It will call for high levels of collaboration and partnerships. Taking the project forward will test how smart is the smart public-private sector partnership.

Chances are, in a few years’ time, many more tourists, investors will start coming to Tanzania. They will expect better supporting infrastructure, security, transportation be it air, railways, marines and land. They will expect more better hotel and hospitality in general to live to the what we have praise for as wakarimu.

These are but a few unspoken pressures coming with The Royal Tour anticipated triumph. A few things need to be done. For the government, and civil servants in particular, they will need to learn to embrace private sector wholeheartedly to get to know how the private sector works, operates - but this is the story for another day.

The private sector should seize opportunity to invest, go into joint ventures but most important partner with the government to create a critical mass of skilled labour.

The sooner we started looking at it as an opportunity and positively, the sooner we will collaborate, make the smart PPP the smartest it can be for us to reap the fully potential that comes with The Royal Tour initiative and many others planned under the Rebranding Tanzania Committee.

Time will be of essence if Tanzanians have to be part of the beneficiaries. It is important to note that the opening up of Tanzania means moving away from protectionism philosophy. What that means, the free movement of labour, capital will be the approach.

So, if we are slow to act, chances are once opportunities started presenting themselves amidst our unpreparedness, the next blame game or cry out will be that of being left out, as non Tanzanians would have seized these opportunities.

I will hate to be that person who will be uttering the “I told you so” words.

Mr Machumu is the CEO of Mwananchi Communications Ltd., publishers of Mwananchi, The Citizen, Mwanaspoti and several Digital outlets like Mwananchi Digital channel. @bmachumu