President Samia: Unforeseen Hero of the World’s Grand Stage, Did Belief Escape the Clutches of the Multitude?

President of The United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan. Photo: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tanzania

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How about we journey down Memory Lane, exploring President Samia’s remarkable rise to power? Dear Reader, take a moment to savor your drink and relish these memories. Cheers!

The ascent of President Samia Suluhu to the highest office in Tanzania followed a period of tragedy. In March 2021, she assumed the presidency following the untimely passing of the polarising President John Pombe Magufuli on March 17, 2021. Two years have now elapsed since she took office as the first female President of the United Republic of Tanzania. In her efforts to move beyond the shadow of her larger-than-life predecessor, President Samia Suluhu has undertaken a series of transformative measures to reconcile the once-divided nation and heal its wounds.

The initial term of the late Magufuli, known as the ‘Bulldozer’ presidency, brought about significant changes that initially sparked optimism among many Tanzanians regarding the country’s future. In his first year in office in 2015, he gained global recognition for his uncompromising stance against corruption and irresponsible government spending.

However, his later turn towards ultra-nationalistic rhetoric and policies began to deter investors. The government’s renegotiating contracts with mining companies and implementing new legal frameworks for the mining sector plunged the country into diplomatic crises with traditional allies and major multinational corporations like Acacia Mining.

The seeds of Tanzania’s economic nationalism were sown when Magufuli enacted three natural resources laws, including the National Wealth and Resources Contract Law of 2017. Economic nationalism, as defined by Sam Pryke (2012), involves principles to develop, strengthen, and safeguard national economies within the global market context. During Magufuli’s first term, Tanzania’s economic ideology was marked by economic nationalism.

He enacted laws that granted the government significant power and control over national resources. For instance, the 2017 Natural Wealth and Resources Contract Law authorized government officials to review contracts dating back two decades to assess whether the terms favored or disadvantaged the government and to compel contract renegotiations. Acacia Mining, a subsidiary of the world’s largest gold mining company, Barrick Gold, was required to pay $190 billion in revised taxes and fines after a comprehensive contract review. The law also mandated mining companies surrender a 16% stake in their companies to the government and split profits evenly.

Magufuli’s aggressive approach towards mining companies deterred potential investments and endangered existing significant investments in the country. For instance 2017, Aliko Dangote, one of Tanzania’s most prominent investors, accused President Magufuli of pushing away investors through policies designed to seize a significant share of assets.

The same year, Petra Diamond, which employed over 1,400 workers, suspended its operations in Tanzania following the seizure of its diamonds. Magufuli even announced the nationalization of diamonds worth $29.5 million, alleging that the company had under-declared its mineral exports. Magufuli’s actions created a stifling regulatory environment for foreign businesses and misguided attempts to achieve economic justice and bolster the national industry.

The Economic Recovery Efforts

Upon assuming office, President Samia’s demeanor exuded calm, empathy, and attentiveness, inspiring a sense of hope both within Tanzania and the international community. Faced with the challenge of rehabilitating Tanzania’s tarnished global reputation, President Samia swiftly restored the country’s dignity, honor, and respect. This restoration journey encompassed healing the wounds of the past five years and normalizing relations with the global community.

In stark contrast to her predecessor, President Samia, affectionately known as “Mama Samia,” espouses a more liberal political approach. This was evident in her remarkable speech at the 76th United Nations General Assembly on September 23, 2021, in New York. Throughout her 15-minute address, President Samia emphasized “multilateralism” five times, signaling her government’s resolute departure from her predecessor’s isolationist foreign policy stance.

Transforming Tanzania into a full-fledged capitalist nation has been an intricate task. To this day, Tanzania retains elements of socialism ingrained in its streets, culture, and people’s way of life. These sentiments trace back to Mwalimu Nyerere’s socialist ideology (Ujamaa), which emphasized self-reliance and protectionism, prioritizing domestic industries over international trade and open markets. The ongoing ideological struggle within the nation stems from President Samia’s commitment to practicing multilateralism despite the socialist label in the country’s constitution’s preamble.

Initiatives to Break Free from Economic Nationalism and Foster Multilateralism

President Samia’s strategic framework of the “4R” – Reconciliation, Resilience, Reform, and Rebuild – is a robust foundation for multiparty democracy and economic advancement. These four pillars stand as President Samia’s gateway to multilateralism, her complete response to her predecessor’s authoritarian leadership style.

Her first pivotal step was to restore and fortify diplomatic ties with nations worldwide that had been strained during her predecessor’s tenure. President Samia embarked on journeys to Brussels, New York, London, Paris, Malawi, Uganda, and other countries. Notably, her efforts bore fruit in the form of improved relations between Tanzania and Kenya, resulting in the removal of trade barriers between the two nations.

Enhancing relations with various development partners has yielded significant economic benefits, with increased foreign investment and improved domestic business environments. President Samia’s initiatives have propelled Tanzania’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from $69.7 billion in 2021 to $85.42 billion in 2023.

Another critical measure was her commitment to modernizing agriculture, attracting substantial investments to the sector, and revising agricultural policies and laws. Notably, the agricultural budget increased by over 200% within her first two years in office, rising from TZS 251 billion in 2021/22 to TZS 951 billion in 2022/23.

Reviving investor confidence in Tanzania has been commendable for President Samia Suluhu. This endeavor involved revising investment policies and fostering political and commercial stability.

Investors mainly look for signs of reform and progressive economic policies that promise stability. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the initiatives to bolster institutions, incentivize investors, and combat corruption had already increased foreign direct investment, growing to $1.1 billion in 2019 from $1 billion the previous year. The current FDI stock is estimated at $21.8 billion.

In March 2023, President Samia invited investors across various sectors of Tanzania’s economy, aiming to accelerate economic growth further. Sectors such as energy, information and communication technology (ICT), telecommunications, agriculture, construction, real estate, financial services, transportation, manufacturing, extractive industries, tourism, services, and media were invested.

Tourism, in particular, has been a consistent focus for President Samia Suluhu’s administration. During her visit to the USA in 2022, her government inked significant agreements with renowned sports clubs from major soccer and basketball leagues. These agreements aimed to leverage sports to enhance strategic investments and promote tourism through collaborations with American clubs.

Additionally, President Samia Suluhu played a central role in “The Royal Tour,” a documentary featuring an Emmy Award-winning journalist as a guest in Tanzania. President Samia was his tour guide, showcasing the country’s picturesque destinations. This documentary is expected to contribute to Tanzania’s tourism sector for years.

From my point of view, A Journey to Shaping Tanzania’s economy from the shackles of economic nationalism has been a remarkable transformation. Through her adept leadership, she has navigated the challenges left behind by her predecessor and set Tanzania on a path of multilateralism and economic growth.

Her strategic pillars of reconciliation, resilience, reform, and rebuilding have fostered a more open and investor-friendly environment. President Samia has made significant strides in restoring Tanzania’s image on the global stage and attracting much-needed investments by focusing on modernization, international collaboration, and stability.

As Tanzania continues evolving towards a more open and globally engaged economy, President Samia Suluhu’s legacy will be one of pragmatic leadership, economic progress, and renewed international relationships. The story of her presidency is a testament to the power of diplomacy, financial reform, and visionary leadership in shaping the destiny of a nation.

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Eli Isaac
Eli Isaac
6 months ago

All she has done is make people talk more and act less. There is no Economic Nationalism she has touched! She just loves multilaterism for what she likes from it: Aid Packages and Loans. Her true legacy, to speak justly, is The Royal Tour. She has failed in economic management, failed in government discipline,failed in many things. Any intelligent leader will never champion for Multilaterism. Nationalism first and you start opening up slowly only after cementing a true economic path for your citizens! Economic Nationalism is here to stay and even more so in the World Stage. These are petty discussions meant to derail seriousness from African Governments! Samia has failed big time, that is obvious to very many people on the ground.She should have followed the footsteps of her predecessor and only after everything played out well should she have started a new path. That is intelligence at its best. Magufuli was right about Acacia expulsion and very many other things and they are paying off now only so that the praises are accorded to Samia in a malicious way? Hell No!!!

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