The Citizen interview with the Swiss Ambassador to Tanzania

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Prior to the marking of 40 years anniversary of their exalted Swiss- Tanzania development cooperation, The Citizen had an opportunity to conduct an intensive, but also exclusive interview with...

Prior to the marking of 40 years anniversary of their exalted Swiss- Tanzania development cooperation, The Citizen had an opportunity to conduct an intensive, but also exclusive interview
with the Ambassador of Switzerland to Tanzania Didier Chassot and the interview went as follows:-

Tanzania and Switzerland maintain strong ties dating back to the 1960s; what has shaped the close relations to date? What is being done to ensure they last for posterity?

Switzerland and Tanzania have a long history of mutually fruitful collaboration. The exchanges between our people date back nearly 100 years. Over the decades, Switzerland and Tanzania have developed strong partnerships through political exchanges, and economic and development cooperation.
Our two countries have witnessed steady progress in their bilateral relations based on mutual respect and understanding, and commitment tohuman development.
We look forward to bringing the Swiss- Tanzanian partnership to a new height, maintaining the good momentum of exchanges and further strengthening our cooperation in implementing the 2030 Agenda.

In 1981, Tanzania became a priority country for Swiss development assistance; what prompted the decision?

The Strategy on Switzerland’s International Cooperation defines the priority countries for Switzerland’s international cooperation. Switzerland selects priority countries based on
various criteria such as identified needs and the added value of the Swiss contribution.
The Swiss Cooperation works in countries and regions that are among the most vulnerable to various social, environmental and political crises but also those that offer favourable
conditions and strive to comply with good governance principles. Tanzania fit
these criteria then and still does now.

2021 marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of a Swiss Cooperation Office in Dar es Salaam. Tell us some of the major milestones achieved over the years

In the early 80s, Switzerland decided that in light of Tanzania’s need for long- term structural adjustments, intersectorial support was crucial and it increasingly became part of the overall Swiss support.

Switzerland approved its first multiyear country programme in 1986 and we have since had six successful country programmes, with the seventh and latest just having started this year.

Switzerland has contributed over $1 billion in improving the lives of millions of Tanzanians; what are some of the priority areas and the results achieved?

The Swiss-Tanzanian development partnership has had a number of achievements. Switzerland has contributed significantly to the health sector, specifically in health financing, building institutions and training of skilled health personnel.

One of the many notable accomplishments has been in the fight against malaria, where Switzerland has contributed to making Tanzania one of the front-runners in fighting the disease.
With Swiss support to the renowned Ifakara Health Institute, for example, and in collaboration with other international Swiss and non-Swiss research groups, the institution has generated a
significant amount of evidence for public health policies.
Switzerland has participated in evidence- based policy dialogue and has been at the fore-front of introducing major reforms in the health sector.

Good governance is another key area to which Switzerland endeavors to contribute as significantly as possible in Tanzania. Switzerland has provided long- term embedded experts to the Prevention and Combatting of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) since 2016.
This has played an important role in the Government’s efforts to combat corruption. Over the years, Switzerland has also been supporting key Civil Society Organizations in strengthening
accountability, and media institutions to empower independent media and improve the quality of reporting.
In the agriculture sector, Swiss support and engagement was instrumental in the elaboration of a National Post-Harvest Strategy and Action Plan to reduce post- harvest losses, and it stimulated the development of a private sector-based market for post-harvest technologies.

Strengthening state institutions and improving youth livelihoods are earmarked as focus areas under the Swiss Cooperation Program for Tanzania. How has the embassy implemented strategies for these endeavors?

The new Swiss Cooperation Programme for Tanzania just started this year. The overarching aim of the Programme is to empower young people, and especially young women, to advance socially and economically.

Switzerland will continue to contribute to enhancing democratic governance; and supporting state institutions reforms to increase public revenues, decentralize resources and provide quality, equitable and responsive public services for all citizens. Our support also puts emphasis on
tackling corruption, which is a major hindering factor to any country’s development.

To increase accountability and efficiency of public spending, we support the National Audit Office as well as the internal audit function of the Ministry of Finance and various government bodies in their scrutiny of the use of public funds. Switzerland also supports citizens, the media and civil society in holding the national and local governments to account and making sure that citizen’s voices are heard in public decision- making.

The growing youth population in Tanzania presents a huge opportunity for accelerating growth, and empowering this group is crucial to the future progress of the country.

Switzerland is committed to reducing socioeconomic barriers, supporting innovative solutions, and strengthening the economic prospects for young people, especially young women, through access to vocational education and training, and to markets.

Based on our own experience and practice in Switzerland, we are convinced that Vocational Skills Development (VSD) can play a pivotal role to make jobs more accessible, productive and with decent income, under the condition that it matches with a demand from the economy.

Access to skills is a challenge for  Tanzania’s youth. In line with the newly endorsed National Skills Development Strategy (NSDS), Switzerland decided to support the Skills for Employment
Tanzania (SET) programme. This programme aims to improve access, relevance and quality of VSD in order to improve prospects of gainful youth (self) employment.
Improving health care services in

Tanzania has always been a priority for Switzerland before and after establishment of SDC; what progress has been achieved in the health sector and what are the ongoing initiatives?

Achieving better health remains a prominent feature in the Cooperation Programme. Switzerland aims to further strengthen the capacities of the health sector, enabling civic activities around health governance, and facilitating access to health services, including in the areas of sexual and reproductive health and gender-based violence.
We have initiated in Tanzania together with UNFPA the Safeguard Young People (SYP) programme. SYP is a complementary intervention to our existing programmes targeting
young people. It aims at gender equality and greater access to sexual and
reproductive health, and rights for all young Tanzanians.

The goal of the programme is to empower adolescents and young people aged 10 to 24, with a special focus on adolescent girls, to protect themselves from sexually transmitted infections including HIV, unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortions, early marriages, gender-based violence and harmful cultural practices. SYP also aims to promote gender equitable norms and
protective behaviours in various countries.

I mentioned the Ifakara Health Institute already but let me add that in addition to a contribution towards its five-year strategic plan, Switzerland provides start-up capital to the Ifakara Innovation Hub, which focuses its attention on generating solutions to livelihood challenges faced by young people in the region.

Switzerland was influential in promoting advanced health care financing in Tanzania through the SDC; tell us how the innovative ideas implemented have been instrumental in improving the livelihoods and wellbeing of millions of Tanzanians

Switzerland has adopted a two-sided approach to health care financing in Tanzania. On the one hand, together with other partners, Switzerland has supported the Health Basket Fund (HBF)
since its inception in 1999.
The HBF is a pooled funding mechanism allowing domestic and foreign funds to co-finance the country’s health sector strategic plan and subsequent annual health plans at central, regional, district and health facility level. Since 2018, the HBF follows an innovative mechanism - direct health facility financing - in which 90% of the Fund monies is channeled directly to over 6,000 public health facilities all over the country. Access to funds at health facility level has improved public financial management and enabled districts to provide better health care.

On the other hand, Switzerland launched in 2010 its Health Promotion and System Strengthening (HPSS) programme. The aim of HPSS is to provide basic medical care to the rural population through a community health insurance fund. The smartphone based insurance system allows rural populations to access health services anywhere around the country.

The Embassy also collaborated with the President’s Office – Regional Administration and Local Government to set-up the regional ‘Jazia’ Prime Vendor system as a backup solution to prevent
stock-outs of medicines and medical devices at clinics. We have also started conversations in
this regard with the relevant actors in Zanzibar and we are looking forward to supporting there the efforts in that same direction.

Similarly, how has Switzerland helped Tanzania combat the Covid-19

The Embassy took fast action early in the pandemic to support the government’s efforts in the fight against COVID-19.  Switzerland played an active role in donor coordination and negotiated with government counterparts on a number of key issues. The original pandemic preparedness and response plan identified the limited testing capacity at the National Laboratory.

On request of the government and jointly with the Fondation Botnar, in April 2020 the Embassy mandated the Ifakara Health Institute to procure 10 PCR machines and reagents to support decentralized testing in 10 centers nationwide, including three in Zanzibar.
The same response plan called for the expansion of the national COVID-19 hotline, which was initially staffed by only six operators. We supported the scaling up of the capacity of the hotline to have continuously 30 operators available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. In addition, the Embassy provided special funding to UNFPA to operate a gender-based violence desk within the
call centre. Switzerland also supported UNICEF to sustain regular primary health care services nationwide, and WHO and the UN Resident Coordinator’s office to strengthen coordination of the pandemic response by government and external partners.

Fostering reforms to enable the Tanzanian government to provide better basic services to its citizens is one of Switzerland’s traditional guidelines; what are some of the major reforms achieved?

Switzerland supported a number of key reforms in the health sector. One was supporting the financial decentralization of 90% of external sector support to over 6’000 public clinics nationwide.
Switzerland also supported the expansion of health financing through social insurance by creating the “improved community health fund” (iCHF) to increase access to quality healthcare for people in the informal sector.

Others include the conceptualization a compulsory national universal health insurance, addressing shortage of medicine and medical equipment, and digitization of the health system.

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Part of the cooperation team at the Swiss Embassy in Tanzania with the staff of Mwananchi Communications Limited.

Switzerland has always encouraged private-public partnership. In the 40 years of the SDC, how has the Swiss embassy worked with both the private sector and the government to achieve common development goals?

We believe that the private sector plays a crucial role in the development of any country. Today, through private sector engagement, we already pursue the development of innovations around
system reforms, technologies and social change that will positively influence livelihoods of youth, in particular young women.
This happens, for instance, through telemedicine, block chain for automation and public finance
management, digitalization of health administration and startup support. Through our new “Innovation for Social Change Programme,” Switzerland will collaborate with a consortia of private sector partners to set up a Catalytic Innovation Fund that provides impact-linked finances and technical capacity building for social impact enterprises in their growth endeavors. The list goes on. We certainly aim to further increase the scope of our private sec-tor engagement in Tanzania.

Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) project under the Swiss-Tanzania partnership has helped Tanzanian young entrepreneurs establish businesses; how many youth have directly benefited from the project and what is the bigger goal?

The OYE project aims to sustain-ably increase youth employment and income by developing skills and competencies through tailored technical, vocational and life skills trainings, apprenticeships and post-training support.

As a result, youth are prepared for local market opportunities for employment and enterprise development in sectors with concrete potential for employment creation. From 2016 - 2019, the project bene- fitted over 16,000 young women and men through technical, life and business skills trainings. A second phase of OYE project was launched this year and is expected to have even more impact.

Climate negotiations are a priority to the Swiss government. Other than the international treaties and forums, are there any other extended efforts to engage Tanzania on the subject of climate change and implementing the Paris Agreement the past 40 years?

In Tanzania natural forests are disappearing. Deforestation con-tributes to a wide range of environ-mental problems including climate change, biodiversity loss, flooding, reduced dry
season river flows and landslides. Most deforestation occurs on village land, and agriculture and charcoal production are its main drivers.

Currently approximately 85% of Tanzania’s energy needs are met through use of charcoal and firewood, which is low cost and locally available. While the use of alternative sources of
energy is progressing, it is expected that this will remain the main source of energy for at least 20 years. Since 2012, Switzerland has been supporting a community-based forest management (CBFM) model with sustainable natural forest based enterprises, such as charcoal production
and timber harvesting.

This model has proved effective to incentivize communities to retain forests on village land by improving incomes to producers, formalizing production and generating revenues for community
development projects. During the first five years of the programme, significant reductions of
deforestation rates were registered. However, this trend seems now to be reversing, which is a cause for concern. Switzerland supported the government in its endeavor to develop a National
Forest Policy Implementation Strategy (2021 - 2031) that sets the target to increase CBFM areas from 2.7 million today to 16 million hectares in 2031.

What are you most proud of as the ambassador, and when your service ends, what legacy would you like to leave behind as a reflection of the wider Swiss-Tanzania relation?

It is not so much a question of pride but I hope, when the time comes, to be able to look back and say that together with the team at the Embassy we did everything we could, and then some, to
support the further political and socio- economic development of Tanzania and to further diversify the relations and strengthen the friendship between our two countries, in that same spirit of mutual respect, benefits and prosperity that has inspired us until now.

But, hey! I am supposed to stay a few more years in this beautiful country so please don’t be in such a hurry to see me leave!