Tanzania’s Ambassador to the United States, Hon. Ombeni Sefue has challenged Tanzanians living in the US to “become a bridge” in promoting trade and investment ties between their country and the US. Addressing Tanzanians resident in Minnesota in North Minneapolis on Saturday, September 13; the envoy said Tanzanians have to rise to the challenge of exporting to the US some 6,000 assorted products designated duty-free under the AGOA protocol.
He lamented that since AGOA was introduced by the US administration to boost exports to the US from sub-Sahara African countries nine years ago, Tanzania is exporting to the US to the tune of only $4 million a year compared to Lesotho’s annual exports to the US of over $500 million!
The envoy was in Minnesota to attend ceremonies marking 20 years of Books for Africa, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that collects books from America for shipment to Africa.
The Hon. Ambassador called on Tanzanians in America to utilize their understanding of the business culture in the US to assist those from home who wish to access the US market. “America is the bastion of a market economy,” he stressed and asked Tanzanians to think big and adapt to the prevailing free-market mindset.
The Ambassador surprised his audience when he claimed that the largest single component of investment entering Tanzania by way of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) originated from neighboring Kenya. He said Tanzanians need to pull up their socks noting that the resumes (cv) of Tanzanians in Minnesota were very impressive.
He said Tanzania’s economic reform program has been praised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) qualifying the country to receive $700 million under the Millennium Challenge program. Most of this money will go towards the improvement of the country’s inadequate infrastructure.
He said infrastructure development is essential to create a national integrated market. Infrastructure is the second priority in Tanzania’s development endeavors after education. This years’ budget has allocated 14 % of resources to infrastructure, second to education that receives 17 % of the budget. A good infrastructure would address supply-side constraints, he said.
Under a program named BEST (Business Environment Strengthening in Tanzania) the goal is to improve on gains already made in the betterment of the investment climate in the country. Having established the Tanzania Investment Center (TIC) as a one stop gap to facilitate FDI, he said our next move is to improve road, rail and port facilities, as well as address the bottlenecks in power supply, to make our country investor-friendly.
Reacting to fears that corruption in Tanzania has been given lip-service by the authorities with suspects being allowed to walk away free, he said Tanzania has pledged to live within the dictates of the Rule of Law and respect for human rights without condoning corruption. Efforts at capacity building for institutions involved in fighting this scourge by way of hiring additional manpower and the use of modern tools in ICT such as cell phones will improve outcome results as there is political will to succeed, he observed.
“Some elements in the Tanzanian media and some politicians have acted as Judges, Investigators, Prosecutors, Jury and Witnesses in condemning the alleged culprits demanding their being hanged in high noon.” He warned that such a stance would lead to chaos as our commitment is to give all suspects a fair legal hearing.
Answering a question on the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Round talks regarding agricultural farm subsidies, he said there was no level playing field in global trade and added that a waitress in STARBUCKS coffee shop in America earns more money in a week than the average farmer makes in growing coffee for a year in Africa!
He caused laughter when he observed that it was “better to be a cow in Switzerland than being a human being, as the cow enjoys $7 per capita support.
He said NGOs have to step in and raise the issues on third-world trade concerns to be seen as “domestic political agenda” in Europe and America as was the case with debt cancellation when proponents of this move exercised their numerical strength to influence political decisions.
The resident Hon. Consul for Tanzania in Minnesota, Hon Kjell Bergh said he has been assisting American investors do business in Tanzania as well as assist Tanzanians in the US with immigration issues, handling social problems like transporting the body of a dead relative, identify good educational institutions or bringing family members to the US.
He said to-date, the US’s investments in Tanzania in the gold-mining sector alone has reached $ 1.5 billion. Besides, he said there were over 60 churches in St. Paul and hundreds others elsewhere that are engaged in projects in Tanzania, ranging from health, education and orphanages.
He said after “September 11, 2001” he spent many hours in jail houses when Tanzanian youth who were black, male and Muslim were taken to jail for frivolous issues and some faced unfair deportation. He informed the audience that the dust on such profiling has now settled and the “overreactions” are now history as the image of Tanzanians being law-abiding immigrants has been restored.
Tanzanians of Minnesota expressed concern about the stringent measures being applied by the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam when students, family members and other Tanzanians approached the embassy for visa to enter the US. People without title deeds for houses were usually turned away.
The Ambassador asked individuals with specific complaints to document them to him and he promised to look into hurdles that stood on the way of the growing good relations between Tanzania and the US.