By James Woods-Nkhutabasa*
Hailing from neighbouring Malawi, I have always been a follower of Tanzanian politics. Julius Nyerere’s stories of national unity inspired us, the young generation, to dream of a national identity that unites rather than divides. And ever since reading Nyerere’s stories, Tanzania has always had a special place in my heart.
Later on, during his time in office, I would also come to develop a friendship with former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete. Kikwete’s gentleness and down to earthiness also increased my affection for Tanzania, and I started to interest myself more than ever in Tanzanian politics and affairs.
Gaining an avid interest in Tanzanian affairs, I was therefore shocked to hear of President John Magufuli’s demise on Wednesday 17th March, 2021. And I was shocked not just because he is someone I knew about – but also because he was a larger than life figure, even though at the end of the day we are all human. Some things you just don’t expect, and this was one of these things.
Magufuli did things that other people could not and would not do. He managed to both commit to austerity where there needed to be austerity, as well as to promote booming economic growth where there needed to be economic growth. Consequently, during his time leading Tanzania, the Tanzanian economy would average almost 7% economic growth per year, barring obviously the Covid19 hit years of 2020 and 2021 (even though forecasts still expect the Tanzanian economy to grow).
How did Magufuli manage this? By promoting effective spending on infrastructure, going by a very sacred principle in development economics: that investing in infrastructure always yields to more returns in the long run. And Tanzania during Magufuli’s time in office showcased this principle in a very effective manner. Even more so, both Magufuli’s infrastructure spending as well as his determination in finishing his plans and policies earned him the nickname of the “Bulldozer”. At a time when Tanzania needed a strong leader, he did not disappoint.
This was especially seen when he was fighting wasteful public spending. Instead of spending the Government’s revenues on perks and benefits for friends of friends, he made sure that Tanzania spent its money on all its people. And this is definitely something that should be both admired as well as exemplified by other leaders in the African region as well as on the global stage. For the reasons mentioned in the points above, as a Malawian, and more importantly as an African, I join all Tanzanian citizens in mourning President John Magufuli’s passing.
I would also like to stand with the new and first female President of Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan. Servicing the Tanzanian public for over 20 years in politics, Samia Suluhu Hassan started her journey in public affairs at the Zanzibar House of Representatives. Later on, she would go on to serve as Minister of Youth Employment, Women and Children Development and Minister for Tourism, Trade and Investment in Zanzibar. In 2010 she was then appointed as Minister of State in the VP’s Office for Union Affairs, before becoming Tanzania’s Vice President in 2015, and finally assuming Tanzania’s Presidency this month.
I have no doubt in my mind that her illustrious career and experience will serve Tanzania well, and from here I’d also like to wish both Her Excellency as well as our Tanzanian kin the best of luck for the future.
*James Woods-Nkhutabasa is an award-winning African achiever with significant experience dealing with governance issues, reputation management, strategic media, and communications.
He holds a Bachelor Degree with Honours in Politics, Philosophy and History; A Master of Science in Social Policy and Development from the London School of Economics and Political Science; Executive Leadership Programme at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford; Certificate in Global Diplomacy, School of Oriental and African Studies joint programme with the University of London; Executive Programme in Shipping Economics, Investment and Finance from CASS Business School and Baltic Exchange and has undergone Diplomatic Training at the Clingendael Institute of International Relations in The Netherlands.