Fifteen years back, African governments were compelled to look for new models of economic management, because trends in that period had presented opportunities and challenges for governments and business firms in both rich and poor countries. Tanzania had to take action in order to survive.
The Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) was founded on November 4, 1998, while the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) was formed in 2001. These institutions were formed to promote Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) so that Tanzania could benefit from opportunities and squarely face challenges presented by a globalised world economy at that time.
Our Correspondent PETER KEASI, early this week talked to the TPSF Acting Executive Director, Mr Zachy Mbenna, on a number of issues. He also wanted to verify on reports that Tanzania tops the list in implementing the PPD when one compares Tanzania’s performance on this issue with her counterparts in East African Community and Southern Africa Development Community.
The Ag ED confirmed the statements as correct. That is actually the case, he said modestly, explaining that using the PPD, Tanzania has developed and implemented well the Blueprint on regulatory reforms. He also reported that as of July 1st this year, about 233 levies and issues which had been a burden on the business community had been removed or amended.
QUESTION: Tanzania tops the list in implementing the PPD, whether one examines the issue while considering Tanzanian’s performance with her counterparts in the East African Community (EAC) or the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Is this correct?
ANSWER: Yes, it has. Our engagement with the government and other stakeholders has seen many policies reformed. For example, the fiscal policy, or call it the tax regime has been hugely reformed for the good of our nation; these reforms sought to make the private sector work effectively.
A good number of regulatory constraints have been addressed as a result of implementing the BP on regulatory reforms. As I reported earlier, some 233 levies which had been a burden to the business community have been abolished. However, the business environment is not static, it is dynamic.
New constraints do emerge, hence making TPSF’s engagement with the government continuous. Not all people know the difference between our two bodies. In very simple terms, the TNBC and the TPSF are counterparts, always working to ensure PPD is strengthened.
Thirdly, we are proud of the establishment of the Blueprint for Regulatory Reforms to improve business environment. This Blueprint provides the government’s main framework for enabling a holistic review of Business- Enabling Environment (BEE) in order to improve the business climate in Tanzania.
It presents key challenges affecting the business environment in Tanzania along with a set of recommendations for reform to put in place a more business-friendly environment
Q: Come Nov.14 this year, three months away, TPSF will turn 22. Congratulations! Tell us the biggest achievement out of the many you have bagged in the last 21 years.
A: TPSF has launched the Sector Skills Council (SSC) with a view of bridging existing skills gaps in the country. This effort seeks to equip the workforce with skills that are required for the jobs of today and those of tomorrow.
You will appreciate that this is a strategic concern that will help Tanzania to realise the envisaged industrial economy come 2025. Already, employers are feeling the impact of the talent shortage and they foresee this skills gap getting even worse over the coming years.
To prevent the situation from worsening, the government through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology mandated TPSF to coordinate the establishment of SSC. We consider this to be one of the big achievements in our 22 years of existence.
Secondly, we managed to convince the government to establish the TNBC, the highest wellstructured public private dialogue (PPD) platform. Twenty members from the public sector and 20 from the private sector form and use that great platform to examine issues and decide on how to survive in the globalised world economy.
The president is the Chairman of the meetings of the council and the co-chairman is the chairman of TPSF. This council meets twice every year to discuss the business environment and investment climate. Thirdly, we are proud of the establishment of the Blue Print for Regulatory Reforms to improve business environment.
This Blueprint provides the Government’s main framework for enabling a holistic review of business-enabling environment (BEE) in order to improve the business climate in Tanzania. It presents key challenges affecting the business environment in Tanzania along with a set of recommendations for reform to put in place a more business-friendly environment.
Q. Just for intellectual refreshment and public enlightenment, the TPSF, although incorporated under the Companies Act, chapter 212, it is non-governmental organisation (NGO). That is correct, is it not?
A. Let me put it this way: TPSF is a Non-Profit Organisation. It does not earn income other than the revenue accumulated from members’ voluntary contribution. The foundation then use that revenue to felicitate its core mandate.
Q. And what is TPSF’s mandate?
A. Our mandate is to function as an apex and focal private sector organisation in Tanzania. As an apex and focal private sector organisation, we have to enhance private sector development and ensure there is effective engagement with the government of Tanzania; in short we have to ensure there is effective PPD I have earlier referred to.
We have to engage other stakeholders effectively in matters of development policy and in the provision of services to our members.
Q. When one reads a recent TPSF document, one learns from that document that TPSF has around 318 direct members. What do you mean by direct members, because we know the foundation is the umbrella organisation for private sector associations and corporate bodies?
A. Right; when we talk of TPSF direct members, we mean members that have individually enrolled with the foundation. Private sector associations are fundamentally direct members, whereas corporate bodies can either enrol as direct members or under their private sector associations.
Q. The TPSF prides itself of having 198 member business associations going by the 2020 count. By estimation, how many entrepreneurs in formal and informal businesses does the foundation reach using these associations?
A. The foundation currently reaches over 5,000,000 entrepreneurs through their private sector associations.
Q. This brings to mind the question of clusters. We are told clusters were formed to give a voice to members in various sectors of the economy. How may clusters do you have so far?
A. There are currently 14 clusters. The clusters we have on roll board are mining, oil and gas, agriculture, transport and logistics, corporate, service, women entrepreneurs, extractive and energy, engineering and construction, regional businesses, tourism and natural resources, trade and commerce, banking and financial services and zanzibar PSO Apex Body.
Q. What do you mean by regional businesses when they are known to constitute a cluster?
A. Regional Business that we consider form a cluster are those businesses that operate under regional associations. They are mostly located in unique and different environment from other clusters. You may also wish to know that regional businesses mainly participate in the regional and district business councils
Q: Let us turn to Public Private Dialogue (PPD) you earlier referred to. Some reports suggest that Tanzania tops the list in implementing the PPD, whether one examines the issue while considering Tanzanian’s performance with her counterparts in the East African Community (EAC) or the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Is this correct?
A. That is actually the case. Yes it is true. You see, using the PPD, Tanzania has been able to develop and implement the Blue Print on regulatory reforms I talked about. The Blue Print seeks to improve business environment.
To fast track the Blue Print Implementation, Tanzania has formed BP Sector specific TWGs which bring together private and public sector representatives. Similarly, the private sector has responded with a model to streamline private sector action areas/plans by forming private sector-led BP TWGs.
I am glad to tell your readers and though your readers report to the general public that as of July 1st 2020, a total of 233 levies had been removed. Bear in mind that this is a big number of levies that have been removed in just a period of four years; since fiscal year 2017/2018-2019/2020. This is not a small feat.
Q: In this vein, how closely do you work with the TNBC?
A: Good question. Not all people know the difference between our two bodies. In very simple terms, the TNBC and the TPSF are counterparts, always working to ensure PPD is strengthened. I have already said and let me repeat here that we worked hard and managed to convince the government to establish the TNBC.
We need a platform that is highest well-structured to enhance public private dialogue (PPD). In TNBC you have that kind of wellstructured platform. I hope your readers will wish to know that the TNBC Executive Secretary is also our Board Director under TPSF’s governance structure.
This keeps the two parties closely engaged and informed of each other’s strategies and objectives.
Q. What role does TPSF play in making TNBC national meetings that are chaired by President of Tanzania, effective and beneficial to both the private sector and nation?
A. Look, our Foundation has the mandate to suggest private sector representatives in the TNBC meetings. But you want to know the effectiveness and benefits to the private sector and nation. We work this way. Using its cluster- based membership structure, TPSF forms its board of governance.
This is very important in ensuring good representation in the TPSF. Cluster chairpersons automatically form our board of directors. When it comes to TNBC, these directors, or cluster chairpersons, represent their members in TNBC meetings.
So you can see that this kind of representation makes the TNBC meetings very informed and effective. Effective because the representatives you see in TNBC meeting are come from and present views and concerns of our members in all key sectors of the economy.
As if that is not enough, the TPSF picks companies, associations and individuals it deems have such a big contribution to our nation’s economic growth to attend TNBC meetings. I hope your readers will appreciate that this is exhaustive representation of the private sector in the TNBC meetings, and we are proud of this.
Q: TPSF is known to promote effective engagement with the government and other stakeholders in the economic reform process. Has the engagement been of much value?
A. Yes, it has. Our engagement with the government and other stakeholders has seen many policies reformed. For example, the fiscal policy, you often call it the tax regime, has been hugely reformed for the good of our nation; these reforms sought to make the private sector work effectively and in a friendly environment.
A good number of regulatory constraints have been addressed as a result of implementing the BP on regulatory reforms.
As I reported earlier, some 233 levies which had been a burden to the business community have been abolished. However, the business environment is not static, it is dynamic. New constraints do emerge, making TPSF’s engagement with the government continuous.
Q: Besides engaging the government, does TPSF talk independently to stakeholders such as WB and European Union or foreign missions?
A: This is a somewhat difficult question to answer. It is difficult to answer because TPSF does not have a hidden agenda or mission to discuss independently with development partners or foreign missions.
No. That said, your readers will appreciate that the TPSF as development catalyst agent has and must have good working relationship with all stakeholders who are keen to support our efforts in strengthening Tanzania’s private sector.
So, to answer your question and against this backdrop, we engage foreign missions which are keen to see Tanzania’s private sector flourish and contribute hugely to enhance Tanzania’s economic growth or Tanzania’s gross domestic product (GDP) and development.
And in this vein, I am proud to report, we have had very productive engagement with European Union. Our foundation has been instrumental in facilitating cooperative efforts our country has had with foreign missions represented here. I have in mind foreign agencies like the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).