by David Brewin
Foreign relations and the ‘economic war’
Ever since independence in 1961 Tanzania has enjoyed warm and friendly relations with most countries around the world. The formidable leadership of the first president (Nyerere) and his determined fight against colonialism in Africa kept him constantly in the news but there were many up and owns. Relations were broken off for a period time between Britain and Tanzania over what was then Southern Rhodesia (and later Zimbabwe) over its progress towards independence and his relations with East and West Germany because of their diverging policies.
Friction also arose over the different policies of the Communist governments in Eastern Europe and the capitalist governments in much of the rest of Europe. Nyerere had little enthusiasm for Western capitalism and tried hard to establish good relations with the then communist world. Above all he wanted Tanzania to be self-reliant and pursued this policy through, amongst other things, his forced ‘villagisation’ programme. He showed no hesitation in nationalising huge swathes of foreign owned enterprises including all the banks usually without payment of compensation.
His actions resulted in the gradual collapse of the sisal industry which had been one of the main elements of the country’s exports at that time although other factors played a part in this. A policy on tourism, which, in later years, became a major source of income for the country, was not on his priority list.
However, his great charm and the very warm relations he established with the newly emerging China and the Scandinavian countries have persisted to this day and helped to alleviate the economic situation.
By the end of his term the economy was in crisis while Nyerere concentrated on the hugely time-consuming tasks of liberating the rest of Africa, entering into a Union with revolutionary Zanzibar and on social development, particularly in education, at home. Many considered Tanzania’s economy to have become a virtual ‘basket case’ but the foundations had been laid for a socially more equitable state.
His two successors as president (Mwinyi and Mkapa) concentrated on revival of the economy and foreign capital investment began to flow again. Mwinyi and Mkapa realised that Europe and America were where the money was and efforts were made to attract some of it to Tanzania. Relations with the West became warmer again.
Then president Magufuli arrived on the scene and began a radical transformation of the economy. He calls it the ‘Economic War’’ The latest developments on this are outlined in other parts of this issue.
The arrival of the spectacularly successful new world in China has made it possible for Tanzania and other developing countries to obtain huge investment without the strict restrictions placed on other foreign direct investment. His policy of putting ‘Tanzania First’ has some features in common those of President Trump in America and his ‘America First’ policy.
Thus, Tanzania is entering a period of economic change, the eventual results of which are very difficult to determine as foreign investors wonder what their future might be and whether Tanzania still welcomes such investment.
Lake Nyasa/Lake Malawi
The boundary dispute between Malawi and Tanzania over the ownership of this lake continues. The Malawian government has threatened to escalate the dispute by taking it to the International Court of Justice in The Hague as several attempts to find a resolution have failed.
An issue of particular concern to Malawi as that the lake’s geographical space represents about a third of Malawi’s total space. Malawi argues that its economic life, culture, folklore and sentiment as a nation are linked to the lake and that therefore much is at stake. Tanzania however points to the large number of Tanzanian fishermen and their ancestral burial places in the Lake.
Malawi and Tanzania both have a common interest in the form of a massive reservoir of the most valuable natural resource – fresh water. There is talk also of hydrocarbon deposits but at the very least, the lake is filled with fish.
A longer version of this article appeared first in ‘The Conversation’ by Gbenga Oduntan, Associate Professor in International Commercial Law at the University of Kent, UK – Editor.
Zambia and Kenya
When, in mid-August, Zambia agreed to supply Kenya with 100,000 tons of maize, to relieve its serious shortages, plans were made to supply it by road. But Tanzania said no. It could not agree to these large loads passing over Tanzanian roads. However, before the dispute could become more serious, it was agreed between Zambia and Tanzania to provide a special lane on their TAZARA railway line. These commodities were to be shipped by rail to Dar es Salaam and then on to Mombasa by sea. Zambia also agreed to cut the time spent in the issuing of permits to 24 hours rather than the normal seven days. Zambia and Kenya also agreed reduce the trade turn-around time.
President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo paid a three-day state visit to Tanzania in September with the emphasis on improving trade links with Tanzania. The two governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding to conduct joint oil exploration on Lake Tanganyika. The leaders agreed that they would fast-track the construction of the standard gauge railway linking Congo with the Dar es Salaam port. Tanzania said it would allocate dedicated inland container terminals at Ruvu for cargo destined to go to Congo.
President Magufuli said that the two countries had cemented their trade, security and economic ties. President Kabila said that it was the first time since he became president that he had visited Tanzania to discuss trade. All his previous visits had concentrated on security. President Magufuli said that traffic through the Dar port was growing at the rate of 10.6% annually and that trade volumes between the two countries had increased from TSh 23 million in 2009 to TSh 396 million in 2016.
Some observers questioned the timing of this state visit as President Kabila was originally persuaded to step down as president in December 2016 at the end of his constitutionally mandated two-term limit in a deal mediated by the Catholic Church. There was a clear commitment to hold elections by the end of 2017 and that President Kabila would not be a candidate or try to amend the constitution. But these commitments seem to have been largely ignored and it is not known what the future holds.
Tanzania and Mauritius have committed themselves to promoting themselves jointly as twin tourist destinations. Mauritius national carrier Air Mauritius launched flights to Tanzania two years ago. The two countries have also signed special contracts with three consulting agencies from Europe and America to develop a marketing strategy for Germany, the USA and UK designed to penetrate world tourist markets. Mauritius recorded 2 million tourist arrivals in 2016 while Tanzania received 1.1 million. Tanzania is also targeting European travel markets, plus China, Russia, Turkey, Brazil and the Gulf states and promises more aggressive tourism marketing in the future.
‘Feza schools’ and Turkey
After the violent failed coup d’etat aimed at removing Turkish President Erdogan in late 2016 a massive purge began against anyone suspected of having been involved. Tanzania, which has warm relations with Turkey, has been the subject of allegations of involvement by 10 Feza schools which have been established in Tanzania. Turkey has targeted businesses associated with a Muslim cleric involved with these schools and has accused them of funding terrorist activities. Turkey’s ambassador to Tanzania has called for deregistration of the 10 schools as well as other businesses alleged to be funding the opposition against the Turkish president. However, Tanzania’s Foreign Minister Augustine Mahiga has explained that the 10 schools in Tanzania, which are run under the Ishik Medical and Educational Foundation, like other businesses in the country, had been vetted before being registered to operate in the country.