TANZANIA’S first female President, Samia Suluhu Hassan, is leading the nation united from the Covid-19 pandemic, facilitating economic growth and preparing future generations for even greater opportunity.
In March of 2020, the whole world found itself facing a common enemy amid the rapidly growing Covid-19 pandemic.
In this same month a year later, the unfortunate and unexpected death of late President John Magufuli left Tanzania and the African continent in a state of shock amid global lockdowns.
The uncertainty of these crises on a global and national scale has resulted in major shifts: from fractured economies that are still in recovery, an increase in digitalisation across the globe and the rapid inauguration of Tanzania’s new President, Samia, Tanzania is now in a period in which the nation can unite, rediscover its identity and reach its full potential.
Within two days of the announcement of the late Magufuli’s death, acting Vice-President Samia was sworn in as President per the constitution, marking an extraordinary moment in Tanzania’s history as its first female President.
For Samia, however, the moment was symbolic, representing her love for her country and the importance of her responsibility in the highest office in government.
She said, “It’s not a good day for me to talk to you because I have a wound in my heart. Today I have taken anoath different from the rest that I have taken in my career. Those were taken in happiness. Today I took the highest oath of office in mourning.”
Having inherited the presidency for the next four and a half years, the moment also reflects the beauty in diversity, the strength and capability of female leaders and sends a positive message to young girls across the world that the world, too, is theirs.
As a leader who is wellprepared to guide Tanzania during this traumatic period, in her inauguration address, she urged Tanzanians to look forward with hope and confidence.
“This is the time to stand together and get connected,” President Samia said. “It’s time to bury our differences, show love to one another and look forward with confidence. It is not the time to point fingers at each other but to hold hands and move forward to build the new Tanzania that President Magufuli aspired to.”
The Samia presidency is a new chapter for Tanzania in which she intends to unify the nation and lead the Tanzanian people toward a brighter tomorrow.
Having been sworn in as President during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Samia’s most urgent initiative required the establishment of a plan to address Covid-19 and take appropriate measures to control the virus.
She set a committee of experts to investigate ways in which Tanzania can address Covid-19 and take appropriate measures.
Though a different approach from her predecessor, within three weeks of being in power, she successfully formed a committee of experts to advise her on the status of Covid-19 in the country and the necessary steps to take to keep the Tanzanian people safe. Her swift action in this respect demonstrated that the President’s approach to Covid-19 is a more open yet still independent position.
President Samia states, “We cannot segregate ourselves like an island, but also we cannot blindly accept what is being brought forward to us (regarding Covid-19) without carrying out our investigations and inputs.”
The country has implemented social distancing and mask mandates to protect its citizens and has begun a Covid-19 immunisation campaign. In light of the pandemic, the economy slowed in 2020 with job losses in many sectors. Many fear that the economy will continue to be impacted into 2021 and 2022 and challenge Tanzania’s development as a whole.
Ms Samia has stated that her administration will continue with economic development plans already in place, such as the Tanzania Development Vision 2025, which is expected to aid longterm recovery from the pandemic.
Samia recently introduced a stimulus plan for economic recovery, citing economic diplomacy, provision of incentives to strategic projects, fighting corrup-tion and eliminating bureaucracy in the issuance of work permits and approval of investment projects, all of which is designed to spur economic growth to at least 8 per cent annually.
President Samia says, “Due to Covid-19, economic growth dropped from an average of 6.6 to 4.7 per cent last year. We need massive investment to spur economic growth.”
Samia’s administration is moving forward with the objective of urging Tanzanian authorities that are responsible for taxes, immigration and business licenses to implement policies that are more accommodative to foreign investors in order to attract investment and steer the nation toward greater economic growth.
In addition to a recovery plan, initiatives are to unite the country, protect fundamental freedoms and amplify democratic voices. This mission involves reopening previously banned media outlets.
“Democracy, individual freedom and freedom of the press are important to foster development and peace,” the President said.
“In the interest of protecting democracy, I intend to meet with all political party leaders to discuss how they can best conduct their political activities for the benefit of our country.”
Uniting the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), is key to achieve this a bold and progressive move for the government, and she acknowledged that some of her changes would go beyond party loyalty but asked for trust in the process.
“If your children will be touched by the coming changes, you should understand that we have done so for the good of the country, and not otherwise.
We will arrange ourselves in the available positions in order to build unity. Everybody should significantly contribute to the country’s development - but provided that they are of good character, free from ethical and security defects.”
With this new ambience in Tanzania, continued development is on the horizon. One notable development initiative that is part of President Samia’s agenda is the opportunity to revitalise climate policy.
Even though climate impacts are impacting critical infrastructure and people’s livelihoods in Tanzania, the country has fallen behind its neighbours in preparing for climate change.
The sun-rich nation comprises an area of almost one million square kilometres with over 1,000 kilometres of coastline. In terms of meeting its growing energy demand, Tanzania has an abundant potential to become self-sufficient.
Enhancing economic growth and the quality of life of Tanzanians across the country cannot be fully realised if the impacts of climate change on development remain unaddressed. In her former role as Vice President, President Samia was entrusted with overseeing the nation’s climate portfolio and worked closely with the Union Affairs and Environment Minister.
In September 2020, President Samia gave a speech at the International Ozone Day and called on development partners to continue supporting Tanzania on environmental protection and adaptation and resilience to climate change.
Samia also noted that advancements have been made to curb the effects of climate change, stating, “As part of the International Community, Tanzania has so far managed to reduce more than 216 tonnes equivalent to 86 per cent of the total use of ozone-depleting chemicals.
Our goal is to completely eliminate the use of these chemicals in the country by 2030.” President Samia now has the opportunity to combine economic growth with a climateresilient development pathway and make Tanzania a frontrunner on climate action.
President Samia is a signal of great change for Tanzania and a symbol of the possibilities of the future. Having four children of her own, President Hassan has spoken publicly to encourage Tanzanian women and girls to pursue their dreams. “I may look polite and do not shout when speaking, but the most important thing is that everyone understands what I say, and things get done as I say.”
Indeed, she has been described as calm, rational and inclusive, yet these traits are the vital ingredients to move the country forward and put Tanzania back on the diplomatic map.
From the very first moment she stood on stage as President, Tanzania was made keenly aware that their new leader represented a new type of leadership that encompasses strength, compassion, deep patriotism and one who understands the responsibility of developing a nation into greatness.
Her presidency has sent a message of goodwill across the globe and reminded Tanzanians of the value of humanity, democracy and the true spirit of Tanzanian camaraderie.