King’s Day: A great moment to reignite Dutch—Tanzania ties

The ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Tanzania, H.E. Wiebe De Boer.

Every April 27th, The Netherlands marks King’s Day—a public holiday that commemorates the birthday of King Willem-Alexander who has been in office since 2013.

It is one of the biggest and colorful festivities in the Netherlands, where the King and his family pay visits to a number of cities in the country.

A national large party thrown across cities and towns in Netherlands that involve multiple fun-filled activities such as; concerts and traditional gatherings, wearing orange costumes, flea markets, music playing and a scrap of Dutch cuisines.

It is not only observed by the Dutch’s high ranking officials but also locals thus making it a notable occasion across the country.

In Tanzania, the celebration of the day is done to honor the Dutch culture and vastly network with all stakeholders of the Dutch embassy in Tanzania.

The Netherlands Ambassador to Tanzania, His Excellency, Wiebe De Boer will host this biggest event in the country on April 29th, instead of 27th its original timing to avoid coincidence of another country’s national holiday observance (Union Day) slated on one day before its timing.

This year’s King’s Day marking is very much welcomed as it had not been celebrated for two years consecutively due to the pandemic.

The hosting of this day in the country will cement the continued linkage between Tanzania and Netherlands that stemmed for decades.

The Citizen newspaper held talks with the ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands to Tanzania, Mr De Boer concerning the bilateral relations ahead of King’s day celebration.

The Ambassador of the Kingdom of Netherlands, H.E Wiebe De Boer together with the Deputy Permanent Secretary of the MInistry of Investment, Industries and Trade, Dr Hashili Abdallah launches the comparative baseline study establishing the startup policy in Tanzania. The first right is the Netherlands visiting Ambassador for youth, Tijmen Rooseboom.

How did the Netherlands establish its ties with Tanzania?

As I said earlier, our diplomatic tie traces back in 1961 and Embassy since 1965.

The first decade of our development cooperation was much based on supporting the then Tanzania’s motive to grow its economy as coming off the chains of colonial dominance.

At the moment, since the drive of the country is fixated on graduating to upper middle—income status, the Dutch shaped its core focus into two key areas of trade and investment to align with the existing Tanzania’s vision by 2025.

The Netherlands is one of the biggest European investors in the country. Our trade links have highly concentrated on agricultural produce with Tanzania exporting a number of crops to the Netherlands and we have been the biggest supplier of machinery on the other hand.

It can be recalled that the reigning government required drastic change of bureaucratic regime in investment and trade and such a move helped Dutch’s investment and trade hike after grappling with thorny business climate over time.

What are the core areas of cooperation with Tanzania?

With a myriad of trade and investment opportunities, logistics remains the core area of our cooperation with Tanzania.

The Netherlands is a geographical hub to the European market. We take pride in KLM almost daily flights that bring in tens to thousands of passengers – with every flight carrying 10 metric tons of cargo.

We also have the largest seaport in Europe of Rotterdam. If you really want to trade in Europe, then here we are, your trusted partners. It is the cheapest medium of waterway cargo transportation within 24 hours across Europe.

We are intrigued by the busiest and interactive Dar es Salaam port. It is a lifeline to the landlocked countries and logistic hub of the world. With logistics being our key task, we see a glistening future of both countries through our major ports interactions (i.e Dar es Salaam and Rotterdam).

What does second logistics as another area of focus in Tanzania?

The second area of interest in our cooperation is agriculture. Dutch investment has been a feature of the Tanzanian agricultural landscape since the 1970s.

Specializing in floriculture, horticulture and dairy, Dutch investment has been notable for creating some of the most successful and long-lived agri-businesses in the country, such as Tanga Fresh Ltd who buy milk from over 5,000 smallholder farmers, privately owned Mount Meru Flowers that was formed in 2004 with over 500 employees, Dekker Bruins Tanzania, Enza Zaden and Rijk Zwaan Afrisem.

This agglomeration of Dutch enterprises in the country’s north represents the largest commercial agricultural cluster in the country.

We understand that there have been a number of cooperation on agriculture for the last year, but as the Embassy, we are eyeing to connect the new development on agriculture (i.e fish farming and poultry) with agro-companies, farmers and government. We have an estimation of 50 Dutch companies based on horticulture operating in the country. Further to this, all leading Dutch seed companies have their facilities running around the Kilimanjaro region for climatological reasons.

In cashew nuts investment, only ten percent of the raw cashew nuts are being processed locally and this means that other 90 percent travel all the way to Vietnam or India to be peeled before they continue their journey to the consumer markets of Europe and America.

Mama Cashew - Dutch company investing in Mtwara, has set up a factory where the peeling process of the cashew nuts can be done here in Tanzania while adding sufficient direct local value; creating local jobs and preventing unnecessary costly food miles caused by using the de-tour via Asia. Johnny Cashew, also a Dutch company investing in Mtwara, is selling these cashew nuts in the Netherlands.

Netherlands, in liaison with the Tanzanian government, undertook a seed potato farming project with a focus to help transform farmers’ lives through these new developments.

Agriculture is the main business in Tanzania and the future is bright, Tanzania could become the bread and vegetable basket of East Africa and a lot of other countries around the world. We need to invest in agriculture, innovate to make it attractive yeah even sexy for youth to work in.

Ambassador H.E Wiebe De Boer visits a cashew processing factory in Mtwara.

Tourism is one of the key sectors for mutually-based cooperation. Where does the Netherlands lie in this?

Sustainable tourism is fortunately our third focus of cooperation with Tanzania. We have been the recipient of an inrush of Dutch nationals packed up for tourism in Tanzania, not to mention our KLM splendid aircrafts ensuring top-tier logistics for visitors towards desired destinations.

Also, we are partnering with local tourism entrepreneurs to help tourists book their reservation for their luxurious stay at any of the mid-sized hotels available at the site. This goes hand in hand with promoting these hotels online and getting publicity for their increased reservations by seasoned visitors. 

What cooperation format does the Netherlands apply in Tanzania?

TheNetherlands uses a golden triangle method of cooperation; where it integrates government, businesses and knowledge institutes. We believe that to make any project successful, you need to harmonize with these three actors.  

What will Tanzanians benefit from the Dutch Embassy presence?

The Netherlands, through its embassy in Tanzania, has forged partnerships with few technical colleges in the country to conduct practical—oriented training to the students pursuing varied courses to actually address the public outcry for fit candidates in the labour market.

Speaking of exchange programs, ten days ago, I attended to the Entrepreneurial week held by Arusha Technical College (ATC) in collaboration with the Dutch University and it was an enthralling experience seeing nearly 120 students pitching their technological ideas to the gathered crowd, with a few developing them to their business packages enough to have their own ideal startups.

Considering the surging rate of unemployment in Tanzania, Netherlands co-incubated with the Tanzania Startup Association, a common lobbying for the immediate change in regulations and policies barring younger people to start their own enterprises. This is meant to untie all knots for youth and reset the enabling environment for their coveted businesses.

What is your next move after these milestones of cooperation?

This is a very good question, actually women and development is the next area of our cooperation priority. We need to see more women in the executive positions, and to my observation, they are doing better. The Netherlands regard women as change makers of societies we live in; creating an enabling environment for their development is inevitable.

What seems to pose threat to the undertaking of various cooperation activities?

I am aware of the onslaughts of the pandemic to the accomplishment of different bilateral activities for quite some time but currently deeply concerned with the unfettered Russian attack on Ukraine that draws every European country’s attention having savagely wreaked havoc on tens of millions innocent citizens.

We are of the opinion that Ukraine should be allowed to have its own autonomy and make choices. The history between the two is well known but it has no place in the 21st century where every country is free to choose its own path.

How Embassy addresses the long-lived challenge of climate change?

TheNetherlands through its embassy in Tanzania take some initiatives to cushion the adverse impacts ofclimate change.

Currently, it hosted a Photo Exhibition “Capturing Climate Change” in Dar es Salaam, from February 9 to March 3, 2022 showcasing works of eight young Tanzanians and Kenyan Photojournalists.

Exhibition was preceded by a Masterclass by a Dutch photojournalist which empowered the photojournalists with the necessary skills needed to create visual stories that will draw people’s attention to the climate change crisis.

The Masterclass is the initiative of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tanzania and Kenya, and supported by NOOR Images, PAWA254, the British Council Tanzania and the Alliance Française.