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Mkapa unlocked power of private sector to create wealth, jobs

RETIRED President Benjamin William Mkapa was yesterday laid to rest in his home Lupaso village, Masasi District, Mtwara Region.

Nothing gives greater pleasure than paying a fitting tribute to a human being, a Tanzanian leader, who struggled to lead his nation to remain united; to remain a meaningful entity in East Africa, in Southern African Development Community (SADC) and in a globalised world.

There are famous words of Shakespeare one would pertinently quote: ‘the evil that men do, leaves after them but the good is often entered with the bones… so let it be with Mkapa’. President Mkapa, as a Tanzania leader, took over from President Ali Mwinyi. The latter took over from President Julius Nyerere.

President Mwinyi inherited a highly shaken economy after a two-year war with an army of a Ugandan buffoon, dictator and aggressor Idd Amin Dada. President Mkapa, too, inherited still a shaken economy with a high inflation rate.

When he looked around he was seeing millions of hardworking small farmers and vendors (wamachinga) of surplus imports in a growing informal economy --- all struggling to make good lives; he was seeing millions of broke workers in private and public sectors and a very weak private sector.

As president of his social democratic Chama Cha Mapinduzi he argued that the government had to conceive a nexus approach that would find solutions based on the interconnections between various sectors. Tanzania had to be part of an African group of nations actively looking for new models of economic management.

His party agreed. Farmers tilled the land feeding themselves, feeding urban residents and earning foreign currency for the country. Most of the public companies were performing badly and feebly; they had either been run down or were dying a natural death for lack of capitalisation.

President Mkapa, backed by his party, unlocked the power of the private sector to create wealth and jobs. He encouraged the private sector to get united and speak with one voice.

In pursuit of that presidential encouragement, the Acting Chairman of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF), Ms Angelina Ngalula, recalled on Sunday, July 26, 2020, in a statement she issued on behalf of the foundation mourning the death of the departed retired president.

“… Because of that presidential great push, 33 associations in various sectors of economy led by the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (TCCIA) agreed to form the TPSF in 1998 followed by the formation of the Tanzania National Business Council in 2001.”

President Mkapa had to unlock the private sector, within the legal regime. On September 22, 200l he issued and signed Presidential Circular No. 1 of 2001 for Establishment of the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC). For intellectual refreshment and for the good of the future generations, let us quote a few paragraphs of that document to illustrate the kind of a person President Mkapa was.

He argued: “Trends in today’s world have created opportunities and challenges for governments and business firms in both developed and developing countries.

The globalisation of economic activities, the liberalisation of trade and the fierce competition to which local firms are exposed; the poor performance of state-owned enterprises and the consequent rise of interest in the private sector in creating the wealth of a nation have all combined to compel governments in Africa to search new model of economic management.

“In Tanzania, the Government has embarked on a fundamental restructuring exercise meant to bring the country to a point where it will be able to swim in the main stream of the emerging global economy. The Government has for long realised that the growth of the economy depends ultimately on a dynamic and robust private sector.

Its ability to solve problems such as poverty alleviation, employment creation and overall welfare of the people also depends on a growing economy. A healthy private sector increases Government revenue.

The private sector, on its part, has been calling for a less constrained operating environment, a more business-friendly public service, and a platform for expressing its views in the process of planning and implementing the developing of Tanzania.

It is now generally realised that the crisis of development of Tanzania cannot be left to the government alone. Neither can it be left to the private sector alone, even though it is acknowledged that the private sector is to become the prime mover of the development process.

The government and the private sector need each other. They have to work together. “In the past the Government has had dialogue with the private sector on an ad-hock basis as a result, sometimes there was no follow-up on decisions made.

The Government has, after consultations with the major stakeholders, decided to institute the mechanism for holding regular dialogue with the private sector and other stakeholder on issues concerning the socio-economic development of Tanzania.

The purpose of the circular is to create the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC).” The TNBC’s objectives were among other things to provide a forum for public-private sector dialogue with a view to reaching consensus and mutual understanding on strategic issues relating to the efficient management of development resources; to promote the goals of economic growth with social equity and even development, to review from time to time developments in the external and domestic business environment, the challenges they pose to Tanzania and propose a course of action and to encourage and promote the formulation of co-ordinated policies on social and economic matters, including consideration of existing and proposed economic legislation, and make recommendations through the government to parliament and other appropriate bodies.

The TNBC is even more relevant than it was 19 years back. Meeting of the TNBC are chaired by the president of the united republic.

It was because of the private-sector friendly environment President Mkapa created the TPSF, was established on November 4, 1998, as the umbrella body of the private sector associations and corporate bodies in all sectors of the economy. The TPSF has cause to salute the efforts of and mourn the departure of the retired president.

Already the TPSF has grouped its members in 14 clusters, namely, agriculture, livestock and fisheries; manufacturing; trade and commerce; natural resources and tourism; financial services and banking; services; construction and engineering; transport and logistics; oil and gas; women in business; mining; Zanzibar entrepreneurs; regional businesses and large corporate bodies.

In that statement Ms Ngalula also highlights the fact President Mkapa was vocal and instrumental in urging the private sector in East African countries to form a single council in order to coordinate investments in that zone. Sequel to those efforts, she remembers, the East African Business Council (EABC) was formed in 1997.

She is right because President Mkapa was a firm believer in East African unity. In his own words, President Mkapa reminded fellow East Africans: “After the vicissitudes of the past, we in East Africa now realise that only our unity can give us a chance in a globalising world. United we stand, divided we fall.”

The private sector misses President Mkapa with cause. He was a great and dependable friend of the private sector throughout of his ten-year (1995-2005) presidency and throughout his retirement. He will be remembered and missed by many in the private sector.

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Author: Correspondent PETER KEASI

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