Tanzania's president touts country's progress at St. Thomas appearance

Tanzania President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete (right) and wife Salma, at the University of St. Thomas.

Tanzania’s President, (now Dr.) Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, on Thursday assured an audience assembled at the atrium of the University of St. Thomas’ Minneapolis campus that Tanzania is the ideal destination for investors and tourists. Whereas he has only been in office as president for nine months, the “super diplomat” was awarded an honorary doctorate degree in law by Father Dennis Dease, President of the University of St Thomas in recognition of his dedicated public service stretching back to his school days.

The university, founded in 1885 in Saint Paul by Archbishop John Ireland, is the state’s largest independent university with international students comprising 3 percent of enrolled students.

Addressing an audienceof American businessmen, students and academic staff at the University of St Thomas, President Kikwete described his country as one that was at peace with itself and its neighbors and was the perfect gateway to six land-locked countries in Eastern and Central Africa.

He promised to “stay the course” of economic reforms and liberalization started by his two predecessors, Presidents Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Benjamin Mkapa in which the government’s role is that of creating a conducive atmosphere to investors while business activities are left in the hands of the private sector.

President Kikwete was accompanied by his wife Salma Kikwete, a big delegation of business executives from Tanzania as well as a few parliamentarians and cabinet ministers. He assured his audience that although Tanzania belongs to the list of 50 least developed nations in the world, “our situation is neither hopeless nor helpless as we have great potential for development and tremendous resources.”

Time magazine has described Tanzania as “a country of the future” and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has rated the country as number one investment destination with the highest sales growth in a 2003 report of the investor’s perception survey.

The Tanzania Investment Center (TIC) reported that since its inception in 1997, it has been able to process investments from both foreign and local entrepreneurs totaling US $ 18 billion. According to the Director General of the Tanzania Investment Center (TIC), Emmanuel Ole Naiko, major investment opportunities exist in agriculture, tourism, mining, agricultural processing, floriculture and horticulture, service sector, lapidary, manufacturing industries and trade, Export Processing Zones (EPZ), timber and wood processing, Energy, and Economic infrastructure.

Tanzania is known as “The Land of the Kilimanjaro”, Africa’s highest mountain, and is endowed with unique world re-known tourist attractions such as the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater game reserves; and the exotic spice islands of Zanzibar and Pemba. It is the only country in the world that produces that most attractive gemstone named Tanzanite!

Presenting Tanzania’s attractive package to investors in a video presentation before President Kikwete spoke to the audience, TIC Director General Naiko said an investor in Tanzania enjoys a high degree of investment security without paralleled elsewhere. He said the country has a legend of peace and stability, respects democratic rule, transparency, rule of law and accountability in the political leadership, and has a business-friendly macro-economic stability with a low inflation rate of only 4.2 percent

TIC offers a one-stop facilitation agency of the government services and a simplified bureaucracy of registering investors and businesses. Further, Tanzania has embarked on a partnership of dialogue between the government and the private sector and has created the National Business Council chaired by the President and incorporating private and government organs to avoid contradictions in policy.

The World Bank has ranked Tanzania as one of the top ten performers and its successful on-going economic liberalization measures with business-supportive legislation is being constantly improved through dialogue between government and the private sector. There are investment guarantees and settlement of dispute mechanisms in place and there is no risk of nationalization or expropriation.

Tanzania’s mining sector has potential for growth and is destined to a leadership position in the African scene as last year, 50 metric tons of gold were produced ranking Tanzania number three in Africa in the gold industry after South Africa and Ghana. As of now, there are 207 mining companies registered in Tanzania and Barrick Goldmine with an investment package of $600 million is today Africa’s most modern gold-mine.

President Kikwete scooped an 80 percent landslide victory in elections held last year and was described by his hosts at the University of St. Thomas as “old enough to be wise and young enough to be a role model.” He was born in Bagamoyo, Tanzania in 1950 and graduated in economics at the Universsit6 of Dar es Salaam in 1975.

Speaking of himself as a breed among the new generation of African leaders, he humbled himself before such giants as Nelson Mandela, Jomo Kenyatta, Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah but promised to “rise to the challenge to deliver” what Tanzania’s had entrusted him in the ballot box.

He said Tanzania was faced with “daunting challenges” that include poverty, inadequate educational and health facilities, petty corruption, and the HIV-AIDS scourge affecting nearly 2 million people. He said ours is a struggle to provide education to the people, meet their social services and provide amenities to populations where people still die of curable diseases. He was hopeful that with his motto of new speed, zeal and energy, and the commitment by Tanzanians to achieve success, these problems should be overcome with time.

On HIV–AIDS, he said only 40,000 of the country’s 440,000 people who should be on ARV drugs get them and the goal is to provide all who require them by 2008. He thanked the Bush Administration for their Emergency Funding Program and the Clinton Initiative in assisting such efforts.

Describing corruption as a negative economic catalyst, he promised to exercise “zero tolerance” on the practice as a way to restore the nation’s moral fiber and credibility.

He thanked the University of St Thomas for awarding him the honorary doctors of laws degree and said he was convinced that this was a gift for all Tanzanians and he accepted it on their behalf. He said the University of St. Thomas had started a life long relationship with Tanzania, a matter he highly cherished and would be proud to visit it again.

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