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Tanzania’s Hassan takes art of the reshuffle to new highs

27th October 2023

By: Tara O’Connor

     

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Attacks in Israel, its counterattacks in Gaza and the war in Ukraine have sent global tensions to highs not seen for a generation or more. This, combined with a rush of military coups in West Africa that will consign the Sahel to a decade or more of instability, insecurity and decline, has led to commentators and news magazines combing the continent for signs of which country is next to fall.

Be careful not to be swamped in global gloom and doom, and look beyond the area of “contagion” to reflect on countries that have made significant improvements – notably in the investment environment, which will underpin long-term stability. One such country is Tanzania, where the late President John Magufuli’s populist nationalism has been replaced by the pragmatic competence of incumbent President Samia Suluhu Hassan, and marked by the return to the country of a host of international law firms. Under Magufuli, several professional services firms closed or scaled back their offices as his decisions made business conditions difficult, especially for foreign investors. That trend has now reversed, as evidenced by a strong international corporate presence at the fifth Tanzania Energy Congress in Dar es Salaam. Canada’s Orca Energy Group, Norway’s Equinor, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline, Anglo-Dutch Shell and Russia’s TMK Group all made a showing.

Much of this is down to Hassan’s determination to reform the investment environment for the long term. But she has had to deal with Magufuli’s legacy, a powerful cohort of nationalists who remained in key positions in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party. The Magufuli nationalists reportedly held firm to his determination that Tanzania should own its resources – which, according to would-be investors, put a brake on external financing for essential developments. Hassan’s efforts have been to move these energy and infrastructure projects forward to boost growth, meet CCM’s manifesto targets and so underpin her credentials for the Presidential elections in 2025. As the official opposition is very weak – weakened further by Magufuli’s autocratic tactics of suppressing media and imprisoning opponents – Hassan’s main challengers are from within her own party. As the country’s first woman President, she faces a great deal of grassroots and popular chauvinist opposition, but as elections are by party and there are no credible external party challengers, her battle is internal and her weapon is the reshuffle.

Restructuring Cabinet has become part of Hassan’s modus operandi. She continually edits and creates a loyal Cabinet that best suits her Presidential ambitions. In the October 2022 reshuffle, Hassan warned her subordinates not to “overstep boundaries” and to understand that their power has limits. She set a precedent of intolerance for disloyal and underperforming Ministers. Operating under the looming threat of being replaced is likely to motivate Ministers to be loyal to her, which simultaneously consolidates her support in government. At the end of August, she made wide changes to her Cabinet for the seventh time since assuming the Presidency in March 2021.

One of the key reshuffled appointments was Energy Minister Doto Biteko, who was also appointed as Deputy Prime Minister under current Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa. Biteko will be the first person since 1994, and the third since Tanzania’s independence, to hold this position. Biteko moved from Minerals and Mining Minister and despite originally being a Magufuli appointee, is described as “pragmatic and business minded”.

Hassan and Biteko appear to be working in tandem to speed up decision-making, cutting nationalist-led bureaucrat tactics to move on energy-sector developments and investment decisions. Hassan announced just before the energy congress that she had replaced Tanzania Electricity Supply Company’s (Tanesco) MD and given the new MD, Gissima Nyamo-Hanga, “strictly six months” to fix the electricity shortfall and curtail electricity rationing. Biteko followed suit and used his conference platform to heap blame on Tanesco for delaying Tanzania’s power ambitions.

Tanzania’s power ambitions are considerable and, with investment partners, achievable. They include providing electricity to Rwanda, Burundi and Zambia’s Copperbelt. Currently, Tanzania’s total installed power capacity stands at 1 900 MW. Most is sourced from natural gas (48%), followed by hydropower (31%), petrol (18%), solar (1%), and biofuels (1%). Tanzania also imports power from Uganda (10 MW), Zambia (5 MW) and Kenya (1 MW) and would like to reverse this to become a power exporter to the region.

Biteko is expected to move on projects like the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Plant and Tanesco’s connection to the Southern African Power Pool, and will be key in negotiations with Equinor, Shell and Exxon Mobil over the $42-billion liquefied natural gas project. Although government concluded negotiations with investors in May, Cabinet has yet to approve the Host Government Agreement and production sharing agreement ahead of the final investment decision, possibly in 2025.

Hassan’s reshuffles also aim to ensure that her pro-investment policies survive her Presidency. She moved Energy Minister January Makamba to be new Foreign Minister. Makamba ran as CCM’s presidential candidate in 2015 but lost to Magufuli. He has a close relationship with Hassan, having acted as her Minister in the Vice-President’s office for four years during Magufuli’s term and is reportedly the only Minister Hassan trusts fully. Makamba is described as “forward-thinking” and “full of innovative ideas”. Sources predict he will support Hassan’s Presidential campaign in 2025 and say he is projected as a strong candidate for the 2030 election.

Lest all the best-laid plans fail, Hassan has assumed control of the all-powerful Tanzania Intelligence and Security Service (TISS), the sole agency for both internal and external security and intelligence activities. Hassan on August 28 swore in Ali Siwa as the new director-general – a veteran in the security structure. This followed Parliament’s improvements to the Intelligence and Security Service Act of 1966, which now designates the TISS director as an adviser to the President, reporting directly to her instead of to a Minister. Although Hassan has liberalised the press and allowed political gatherings, marking a liberalisation after Magufuli, the recent arrests of government critics indicate that she will not shy away from “Magufuli-era tactics” to keep her programme on track.

Edited by Martin Zhuwakinyu
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

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