Five years ago in 2015, Tanzania voted in a new president, Dr. John Magufuli. One of his very first moves was to stop the country’s annual Independence Day celebrations and instead the millions that would otherwise go into the traditional parade were directed to infrastructure—the congested New Bagamoyo Road expansion.
That year, to celebrate Independence Day, Tanzania held a national cleanup campaign. The President and his deputy, Vice President Honourable Samia Suluhu led the country in cleaning the environment.
I do not mean they signed some environment pollution documents; the president in person walked out of the State House and collected trash, not in his backyard, no, but all the way down to the filth–piled fish market, several meters from the State House.
If anything, the cleanup was symbolic of what was to come under his presidency. Little did the aristocrats, corrupt officials and unscrupulous business–owners know that that was a sign of the future to come – a total cleanup of the country.
Let us go back to the 2015 election campaign. What did Magufuli promise the country; what did the country elect him to do and five years later, has he done it?
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2015 Pledges in a nutshell
Free education: President Magufuli pledged that under his rule, Tanzanian children will go to school free of charge from primary all the way to secondary level. The president delivered and now Tanzania is recognized as one of the countries that is well underway to achieving the SDG #4: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.
Transport sector development: A key pledge was development of air transport. Since Magufuli’s election, Tanzania has set regional precedence in the purchase of 11 brand new Bombardiers. The planes alone would not do much without a modern airport and so, last year, a new, third terminal at Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) in Dar es Salaam, was officially inaugurated by President Magufuli. The new terminal will now handle international traffic and is expected to cater to six million passengers per annum.
Worth noting in here is development in marine transport. New ships have been built and old ones refurbished and to go with it, almost all ports in the country now have new or upgraded berths and notably, construction of an entirely new port in Bagamoyo.
As for rail transport, probably as outstanding as air transport development is the construction of Tanzania’s first electric train system, the Standard Gauge Railway. The 2,190km railway line will ease transportation of goods between the port of Dar es Salaam and Kigali in Rwanda, Bujumbura in Burundi, and Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Further, there is the reviving of the internal network of rails. At least five railway networks have already been revived and more are underway including Dar es Salaam-Tabora–Kigoma and Mwanza–Uvinza–Msongati in Burundi, Isaka-Kigali in Rwanda and Tanga-Musoma through Arusha.
As for road transport, infrastructure works are well underway all over the country and most notable are the expansion works in the commercial capital of Dar es Salaam. The city now has the most outstanding six flyovers that surpass any of the neighbouring EAC states.
The city is also one of the very first metropolitans in Africa to have a rapid transport bus network.
Under Magufuli’s administration, more than 2,439 kilometres of roads have been upgraded and another 5,427 kilometres of roads constructed.
Along with road works, six bridges have already been constructed including the most remarkable the Kigamboni Bridge, a 680 meter long stay bridge—the first of its kind in the EAC.
Another first for East Africa is the ongoing construction of the New Selander Bridge. The 1.03 km bridge is celebrated as the longest over–ocean bridge in East Africa.
Energy: Looking at traditional power supply first, Tanzania has now achieved having more than 74 percent rural power supply making it the most rural electrified country in Africa, surpassing Nigeria which has achieved 72 percent.
Looking at alternative energy sources like natural gas, wind and solar, Tanzania has an estimated recoverable reserve of over 57.54 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas and it is making good use of it.
Rather than sole reliance on traditional hydro power, Tanzania, under Magufuli has increased development of the Songo Songo gas plant, a 25km offshore pipeline that joins a 207km onshore pipeline and now powers most of the industrial markets in Dar es Salaam.
In 2015, when Magufuli took office Tanzania switched from heavy furnace oil (HFO), and use of fossil fuels to natural gas to generate electricity; the country saved US$6.7 billion in that year alone. When the new liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Likong’o-Mchinga, valued at US$30 billion is completed, Tanzania will enter a new realm – that of an LNG exporting country.
Under Magufuli, Tanzania is now one of the most preferred destinations for foreign investment in Africa (it counts among the 10 biggest recipients of FDI in Africa). According to UNCTAD’s 2020 World Investment Report, the FDI inflow in Tanzania reached US$1.1 billion in 2019 and showed an increase compared to the previous year from US$ 1.0 billion.
Tanzania has also made huge inroads in allowing the private sector to lead development. Through public private partnerships, the government has strengthened the private sector’s participation in the country’s development and with that the middle class in Tanzania has increased along with average annual household income.
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Internal revenue, middle income status
Another symbolic move in his first few days in office was his surprise visit to the country’s Ministry of Finance. To show he meant business, on the morning of his first day at State House, President Magufuli did not take a motorcade escort, he literally walked to the Ministry, just a few blocks from State House.
This was followed by a visit to the Tanzania Revenue Authority offices later on and since then Tanzania has been collecting increasingly more internal revenue every year than it has ever done in recent history.
More corrupt or underperforming government officials have been sacked under Magufuli than ever before and with that, he has brought corruption down and internal revenue up.
‘The state is in a stronger fiscal position than in the past, due to increased collection of taxes and improved efficiency in government operations,’ says Imani Muhingo, the Head of Research and Analytics at Orbit Securities in Dar es Salaam.
While the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) predict Tanzania will suffer economic slowdown of 2 percent and 2.7 percent respectively, sector pundits say the country is probably going to experience strong growth in specific sectors.
For example, Muhingo notes that there is no indication that the government will slow down in implementing ongoing infrastructure projects. This means sectors like construction and social services will continue to grow.
As such, the EIU forecasts ‘a rebound to 4.8% growth in 2021, and expects that public and private infrastructure investment will support annual average real GDP growth of 5.8% in 2022-24.’
Citi analyst David Cowan also agrees with this assessment. He writes that ‘Tanzania is one of the few countries in East Africa with fiscal space to help support growth.’
Earlier this year, the World Bank raised Tanzania’s status to lower middle income since Tanzania’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita—a measure of a country’s average income per resident went up from US$1,020 in 2018 to US$1,080 in 2019.
What to expect in the next five years
President Magufuli is expected to run for another five–year term come the October elections. His popularity gives him leverage to win the election and if he does, what can we expect?
Notably, we can expect the country to continue living under a tight fiscal belt. A lot of the infrastructure development work is funded internally so we can expect tax collections to remain stringent.
In this regard, it is likely the PAYE rate may be lowered slightly but all other taxes are expected to stay if not increase in some instances.
There is expectation of a focus on youth and social development. In this regard, loans for higher education may increase while social security nets will be tightened. As for economic development, the focus is expected to be on increased foreign direct investment as well as empowering private sector-led development.
Under President Magufuli Tanzania will remain on a trajectory to achieve industrialization on the backbone of agricultural sector development. Hence, it is expected that there will be increased efforts to mechanize agriculture.
This will go hand-in-hand with increased investment in value chain addition for agriculture products. Hence, there probably will be incentives for the construction of new factories and even set up of new industrial development parks.
The achievements made by Tanzania under Magufuli are indeed remarkable and now experts say, ‘Tanzania is well-situated to become a regional economic and transit hub. Tanzania is endowed with rich renewable and non-renewable resources that can power not only its own economic transformation but that of its neighbours as well.’
Under Magufuli’s leadership, the country was forced to tighten its belt as he has led under tough fiscal policies. It is these policies that have seen Tanzania propel to middle income status, five years ahead of schedule.
So, it is hoped the Magufulification of Tanzania will continue on for the next five years in the same vein, during which time the President will systematically root out any remaining weeds. Long live the Bulldozer! Long live Tanzania!