Interview with Honourable Charles John Mwijage, Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment, Tanzania, at the India-Tanzania Business and Investment Forum 2017, in New Delhi, India.

  • November 6, 2017

What are the policy reforms that you have introduced since the day you took charge as the Trade Minister of Tanzania on December 14, 2015?

In Tanzania, we have fine policies and strategies as far as trade and development is concerned. But those are merely on paper; their implementation on the ground is limited. We have the National Investment Promotion Policy, the Sustainable Industrial Development Strategy, the National Trade Policy, and Vision 2025 – so all the policies are there on paper. The real challenge, however, lies in implementation.

If we are able to implement those policies and plans even by 50%, I am sure we can attain the goal of becoming a middle-income country before 2025.

Therefore, the plan is not to establish new frameworks but to implement the policies already in place.

What is preventing Tanzania from implementing all those policies that have been embedded on paper since such a long time?

As I told you, we are implementing the policies that are already in place. Vision 2025 was established in the 90s and it aimed to formulate a new economic and social development vision for Tanzania emanated from the outcomes of economic reforms – especially those which were pursued since 1986. The Industrial Development strategy started in 2011. We decided to implement these well-formulated policies instead of wasting time on starting new ones.

However, instead of diverting from your question, let me tell you that the success of a country depends upon its leader and the way he or she makes the groundwork happen. I firmly believe that under the administration of the current President John Magufuli, we will be able to achieve our goals.

During the fourth session of the India-Tanzania Joint Trade Committee meeting in New Delhi, the Indian delegation raised concern of the absence of long-term visas for reputed business companies. Are you considering to extend the tenure of such visas?

I don’t see why somebody who is going to invest 50 million US dollar or a 100 million US dollar is given only a three- month visa, or even a lecturer or a medical practitioner who is coming to train our citizens is allowed such a short stay. Hence, I definitely see the logic behind what you are saying.

And India is not the only country to have raised this issue and mentioned about this. People from Europe, China and the United States of America are also of the same opinion.

I will definitely convey the same to my colleague in the visa department. We want people to come and invest here. How can I give you only a 3-month time frame when you have come here for investing money and establish a business? I assure you, we will definitely work on it.

The Vietnamese firms have expressed interest to revive all idle cashew factories and construct many more for adding value to the cashew crops in Tanzania itself. Will we see this value addition happening in other sectors as well?

You know why we are embarking on this? Because agriculture employs about 70% of our people and contributes about 25% to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Agriculture is the pillar of our economy. So if we want to promote an inclusive economy, we should shift our approach of selling raw materials and move to adding value that will enhance our exports.

Because, today merely producing goods for our own sustainability is not enough. To progress, you need to be able to export for encouraging the flow of foreign currency in the country. This will support other development works in the country.

Economic growth is of no use if it is not inclusive; every citizen of the country must benefit from it. Our people will move from cultivating to adding value to their own produce and that, in real sense, is industrialisation.

The Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF) is gaining popularity with every passing edition. What are the preparations for the next fair and what can the Indian entrepreneurs expect from it?

India has been one of the major players in the Dar es Salaam International Trade Fair (DITF), popularly known as the Saba Saba Day that takes place annually. It is a major promotional event organised by the Board of External Trade, which is dedicated to establishing global business partnership through organising and managing international and specialised trade fairs, solo exhibitions, product and market research, prospect development, trade missions, buyer-seller meetings and contact marketing programmes.

The next trade fair will be conducted sometime in the first week of December. This year, we will be focussing on food-processing machines. So I request Indian companies to participate in the trade fair and bring their machineries and technology to support our shift from selling raw produce to value-added products.

India and Tanzania share a long-term relationship that began even before our independence. I have studied with Indian kids during my school days. When I was young, I was reading Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi and have been watching Amitabh Bachchan films since then. So, you can say that I am an Indian at heart.

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