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Interview: H.E Baraka H. Luvanda, High Commissioner of Tanzania to India

25 November, 2019, 12:00 1249 Views 0 Comment

The relationship between Tanzania and India has traditionally been cordial and friendly, driven by shared commitments to anti-colonialism, anti-racism, and socialist practices. In an interview with Diplomatist, the High Commissioner of Tanzania to India, Baraka H. Luvanda, talks about this ever-growing mutual cooperation against the backdrop of trade, technological and professional ties.

Q. Mutual cooperation between Tanzania and India has been consistently reinforced through various international cooperations such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and other various initiatives under South-South Cooperation. How do you see this cooperation shaping up in the future, given the already existing strong ties India has with Tanzania?

The relationship between Tanzania and India is a rewarding and enriching one. The same has been defined by historical, political, economic, military and, more so, by cultural connections. Apart from sharing part of the Indian Ocean, the trade, technological as well as professional ties between the two countries have cemented this relationship and, as rightly put, have continued to give shape to existing strong ties existing strong ties. India’s involvement with Tanzania can be explained not only by the large presence of an Indian Diaspora in Tanzania, but also by a large number of Tanzanians of Indian origin living in the country as well as those with Tanzanian nationality residing in places like Mumbai and Ahmedabad. The first Indians arrived in Tanzania more than 90 years ago, shortly after WW1 when the League of Nations designated the then Tanganyika Territory as a Protectorate under the British control. At independence in 1961, a large number of Indians remained in the country and, today, they occupy an important place in the country’s economy. The available data shows that, at present, there are over 50,000 Tanzanians of Indian origin in Tanzania and an expatriate community of an additional 10000 Indians, mostly professionals who live and work in commerce, industries, and services. It can be stated that since its independence, India has maintained friendly and cordial relations with Tanzania. Like Tanzania, India was a staunch supporter of the nonviolent decolonization struggle in countries of Africa and Asia, and played a key role in the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). Overall, the various initiatives of South-South Cooperation pioneered by India have shaped up our relations with this great country. 

In 2008, India decided to embark on the path of Summit Diplomacy in engaging more with Africa. The First India-Africa Summit was held in New Delhi in the same year and was a momentous stride in strengthening the partnership at the Summit. India pledged a sum of USD 5.4 billion for new Lines of Credit (LoCs) to Africa, of which Tanzania has been one of the major beneficiaries. Most of the funds from LoCs have been directed to social amenities projects in Tanzania such as water supply, education, ICT development as well as infrastructure development. The outcomes have been quite remarkable. The stage for further collaboration between India and Africa was again enhanced at the Second India-Africa Summit held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2011, while the Third India-Africa Summit was held in New Delhi in October 2015 during which Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced credit lines of USD 10 billion. The monies were to benefit African countries in infrastructure and development programmes.

In yet another positive gesture, India announced a Special Duty-Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) for Africa. Tanzania joined the DFTP in 2009 and since then, Tanzania’s exports to India have increasing significantly in 2009. While the exports before joining the DFTP had been less than 15 percent, the same has now increased to between 20 and 25 percent of the total trade volume. The major Tanzania exports to India have been cloves and variety of other spices, pulses, cashew nuts, coffee, cotton, sisal, minerals and gemstones, timber, hides/skins/leather, tanning/dyeing colouring materials, non-ferrous metals, essential oils, ores and metal scrap, etc. India’s major exports to Tanzania include, inter alia, textile materials, garments, agricultural equipment, transport equipment and auto parts, pharmaceutical products, consumer goods, food grains, electrical machinery and other capital equipment, construction materials, mineral fuels, oils, yarn, iron and steel articles, plastic products, agro-chemicals, and rubber items including tyres. By all accounts, India has remained a leading trade partner of Tanzania. Equally important, India remains an important and reliable investment partner. Statistics available at the Tanzania Investment Centre as of May 2017 place India as the 5th largest investor in Tanzania with a cumulative investment of about USD 2.2 billion spread across about 420 projects, having created about 54,406 jobs in Tanzania. Besides, India is the 5th largest source of tourists visiting Tanzania, with the numbers indicating that there have been about 35,000 to 40,000 tourists from India per year, especially in the recent past.

Q. Has the economic engagement between India and Tanzania increased comparatively after the BJP-led Modi government came into power with the vision to enhance the investment climate in the country? Can you please elaborate on the same with examples?

Certainly, the economic engagements between India and Tanzania after the BJP-led Modi government came to power in 2014 have increased significantly.  It is in this period that we have witnessed not only a vibrant business and commercial relationship but also the flow of investments from India to Tanzania has seen what I would call a “phenomenal increase”. And as stated elsewhere, India remains a leading trading partner comprising 15 percent of Tanzania Foreign Trade. India is also among the top five investment sources for Tanzania, with investments of up to $2.2 billion. Indian companies have invested heavily in Tanzania in sectors such as manufacturing, transportation, tourism, agriculture/agro-processing, services, financial sector, energy, construction, telecommunication, human resources development, education, broadcasting, mining, and ICT. To name but a few of these companies-Kamal Group of Companies (export processing Zone Industrial Park), India’s National Mineral Development Corporation (mineral exploration & exploitation), Bank of Baroda (financial sector), Bank of India (financial sector), Canara Bank (financial sector), TATA International Ltd (automobiles and chemicals), Reliance Industries (downstream and petroleum sector), Ashok Leyland (trucks and vehicles), Bajaj (scooters), TVs (scooters) and TanzIndia Assurance Company (insurance business), etc. In addition, under this administration, numerous delegations from both countries have periodically met to pursue commercial and other collaborative opportunities. For instance, a delegation of over 50 Indian businesspersons visited Tanzania in July 2016 coinciding with PM Modi’s visit. Since then, 46 companies led by CHEMEXCIL participated at the Indian Chemical and Cosmetics Exhibition at Dar es Salaam on 28-29 July 2016, a delegation from the Solvent Extractors’ Association visited Dodoma and Dar es Salaam on oil and seed sector (sunflower), more than 50 companies led by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry participated at the East Africa International Trade Expo (July 2016), about 25 Indian companies led by APEDA visited Dar es Salaam in December, 2016, about 25 companies led by PHERMEXCIL visited Dar es Salaam where a business roundtable and B2B meetings were held, an Indian education fair was held in May 2017 in Tanzania, a working business mission by the Kerala Cashew Board was conducted in Tanzania in November 2017, an incredible India pavilion was organised at the Dar es Salaam Swahili International Expo was mounted in October 2017, a PLASTICINDIA Roadshow was conducted in Dar es Salaam in September 2017, a delegation of 30 businesspersons from Tanzania participated at the India-Tanzania Business Forum conducted on the margins of the Joint Trade Committee Forum on 30 August, 2017 in New Delhi, a delegation from Kerala Cashew Corporation visited Dar es Salaam and Mtwara to explore the possibility of increasing trade between India and Tanzania (October, 2017) and about 42 Indian companies led by the Federation of Indian Export Organization (FIEO) participated at the 13th Tanzania Trade Show at Dar es Salaam in November 2017.

In addition, Tanzania delegations participated in a number of trade fairs in India, including IPHEX-2017, India International Footwear Fair 2017 and I for Africa Conference 2017. As for the bilateral exchanges at a high level during the stated period, they included the Vice-President of the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar, H.E. Ambassador Seif Ali Idd who visited India in April, 2017 and the Minister of Trade, Industry and Investment, Honourable Charles Mwijage, who led the Tanzanian delegation at the Indo-Tanzania Joint Trade Committee on 28-29 August 2017.

Q. India and Tanzania have been trying to deepen their overall defence and security partnership, especially in the maritime domain. What kind of headway have the countries made in this respect?

As maritime nations, Tanzania and India have a common interest in the domain of maritime security; this is, by and large, a priority for Tanzania and is well reflected in the Tanzania National Security Strategy. Threats in maritime domain include the following among others – Sea Piracy, Maritime Terrorism emanating from sea, illicit drug trafficking, human trafficking, illicit small arms and ammunition trafficking, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing. And all these may have a bearing on climatic changes such as rising sea levels. The most effective way to encounter these threats in developing countries has been through partnerships for common good. In this regard, there is a new impetus for cooperation between the Navies of Tanzania and India in countering maritime threats following the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding in 2003 on Defence Cooperation.

Under this MOU, there have been quite a number of capacity building programs for Tanzania’s Military personnel in India under the International Technical and Economic Cooperation platform. For instance, for the academic year 2017/2018, a total of 105 slots were allocated to members of the Tanzania Defence Forces to join various military training establishments in India. In order to enhance interoperability, the Tanzanian forces have, from time to time, been invited to multinational exercises and forums such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium to which Tanzania is an Observer, and also to MILAN forums where maritime challenges are discussed. Besides, in terms of infrastructure development, Tanzania has for many years acquired from India most of the maritime security assets and on maritime safety, Indian ships have been conducting the Indo-Tanzania Joint Hydrographical surveys for the past five years as well as providing the requisite training in that speciality. On security front, anti-piracy patrols by India Naval Ships off-Seychelles and Mauritius have augmented the joint efforts to protect Sea Lane of Communications (SLOCS) by Tanzania, South Africa and Mozambique based on the Trilateral Maritime Security Agreement which was signed in 2012.

Another area which is being looked at is on maritime domain awareness in terms of White Shipping Information and the upgrading of Surveillance Systems. To this end, a draft agreement on sharing White Shipping Information between the Navies of the two countries has been exchanged and awaits some feedback from relevant institutions. Once concluded and signed, it will cater for information sharing among the commercial ships, passenger liners, and pleasure craft and fishing boats which are non-military and non-government related shipping vessels.

Q. Tanzania has undergone impressive political and economic developments and improvements in social welfare in recent years. However, the country continues to face considerable development challenges in various sectors. How does the country plan to address the same in terms of seeking India’s cooperation to resolve the issues?

His Excellency Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli assumed the presidency in in November 2015 and embarked on the tradition of change and continuity in very practical ways. He has introduced some impressive policy changes, especially his drive and style of fighting corruption in the country, earning him an international accolade. The Transparency International Report which was released on 21st February 2018 revealed how the war on graft in Tanzania is paying dividends. According to the report, Tanzania has climbed 13 places to position number 103 in the Corruption Perceptions Index in 2017 from 116 in the previous year with a score of 36 points, up from 32 recorded in 2016, the highest score in over 10 years. But at the same time, President Magufuli has ensured a certain level of continuity in those pillars that define us as Tanzanians. These include, for instance, an entrenched sense of nationhood that holds together the more than 126 tribes with different beliefs and ensure they define themselves first and foremost as Tanzanians. Equally important, President Magufuli has continued to preserve peace and tranquillity, unity, rule of law, human rights and democratic values, all of which are key to the attainment of the Tanzania Development Vision 2015.

Q. During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Tanzania in 2016, the two sides agreed to work bilaterally, regionally and globally to combat the twin threats of terrorism and climate change. How is the cooperation between the two countries shaping up on these two fronts?

On counterterrorism, India continues to partner largely with Tanzania through a number of comprehensive capacity building training involving all sections of the Tanzania Defence Forces, namely, Navy, Land, and Air Forces. Efforts have been geared towards ensuring that information sharing in support of counterterrorism strategies is enhanced through regular bilateral consultations. India continues to support regional counterterrorism efforts, initiatives, and joint working groups that seek to impart the Indian experience and some good practices in fighting terrorism.

Q. The two nations have also partnered in the areas of agriculture and food security through enhanced export of pulses from Tanzania to India. Can you give some details about this engagement and future prospects?

The agricultural sector in Tanzania is among the sectors that have benefitted immensely from the partnership of the two countries over many years. Apart from the agricultural inputs, markets, and equipment, there has been a constant technical exchange by the relevant institutions as well as technology transfer. For instance, in 2015, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the East Africa Statistical Training Centre (EASTC) based in Tanzania and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

It is also true that Tanzania’s agricultural products such as cashew nuts, coffee, pulses, cotton, sisal cloves and a variety of other spices have always found a steady and reliable market in India. As regards to the pulses, for many years before 2017, Tanzania has been exporting to India large quantities of pulses, namely, pigeon peas, chickpeas, black gram, green gram, and lentils. The total exports for the year 2016 alone were 283,809,885 tons. However, following an all-time bumper production of pulses in India in 2016/17 (22.95 million tonnes), the government decided in August 2017 to ban the importation of pulses from outside India as well lifting the restrictions on export of Indian pulses to other countries. The decision has had devastating effects on not only Tanzania, but also to many other pulse producing nations around the world as India has been a major importer of pulses all along. The decision had sought to support the local prices due to the said record production in India. Whether this is only a short-term/temporary measure or not it is a million-dollar question. So I cannot state with certainty what the future prospects are, but I will continue advising my government to look for alternative markets elsewhere as well as looking for other usages of the product through value addition. 

Q. Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has implemented several reforms in the country after he took office in November 2015. Can you brief us about the radical transition Tanzania is witnessing in terms of the better functioning of the overall economy?

I must admit that this is a very valid but broad question. It requires an overall assessment of the reforms brought about by the fifth phase government under H.E Dr. John Pombe Magufuli in his two years in office.

Nevertheless, I will try to summarize the major reforms in the past two years. As correctly pointed out in your question, President John Pombe Magufuli has registered remarkable achievements since he came to power in November 2015. He started by waging war against corruption by, among other steps, establishing the Economic Crimes Court to deal with corruption. He also urged public services offices to implement cost-cutting austerity measures. Notable results in his two years in office include increased monthly revenue collection from TZS 850 Billion to TZS 1.32 Trillion monthly. 

The President Magufuli is now focusing on flagship social and economic projects to deliver his promise to improve the lives of Tanzanian people. On education, Tanzanians are now enjoying free education from primary to secondary level.

Health budget has been more than doubled. Hospitals like the Heart Institute at the National Hospital in Dar es Salaam can now perform major operations including heart surgery, something that would require Tanzanians to embark on costly foreign trips for the same treatment earlier. Some neighbouring countries are now turning to Tanzania for heart surgery.

Under Magufuli, Tanzania has just launched construction of a modern Standard Gauge Railway from Dar es Salaam to the Western part of the country. Two first Lots-Dar to Morogoro and Morogoro to the country’s current political capital, Dodoma, have already been launched and the government will spend over TZS 7 Trillion. The two lots are set to be completed in December 2019. Second, as the two lots are on the roll, Magufuli’s government has already announced a tender for purchase of more than 1,500 different wagons and about 25 electricity and diesel locomotives ready to service passenger and cargo transportation along the new standard gauge railway.

With first Moody rating of Tanzania at B1 negative, the highest score in East Africa, the government in partnership with the private sector is set to deliver its industrialisation policy to spur more economic growth. Tanzania’s economic growth of an estimated 7 percent per annum is ranked among Africa’s top 6 fastest growing economies.

Kanchi Batra
Kanchi Batra
Kanchi Batra is the Business Editor of The Diplomatist.
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