VP Harris Visit and What It Means to Tanzania

It’s expected that President Samia will push her message that Tanzania is open for business and use the presence of VP Harris to market Tanzania to global investors. 

Over the last 20 years, Tanzania has managed to host three US presidents: Bill Clinton, George Bush, and Barack Obama.

It’s a testament to the relationship between the US and Tanzania, which heightened in 1963 when Tanganyika’s first President, Julius Nyerere, met with President John F. Kennedy.

There have been moments of ups and down, like during the 1965 diplomatic hurdle, which saw the expulsion of Frank C. Carlucci from Tanzania and the subsequent response from the US, which involved the expulsion of Herbert Katua, an official with the Tanzania’s Embassy in the United States.

Fortunately, positive moments have been more profound than days of challenges, including strings of aid from the US Agency of International Development (USAID) at the early stage of Tanzania and later on, the impact of Millenium Challenge Corporation and Pepfar, and many other engagements.

Over the years, Tanzania has built a respectable reputation through its foreign policy and capable leadership in the region. This has seen Tanzania being at the forefront of many support programs from the US government, as well as close bilateral ties and respect for its foreign policy.

However, in the last seven years, Tanzania’s foreign policy has been ‘shaky’, to say the least, with both ends of our global and even regional friends frustrated with our attitude, which was extremely narrow and inward.

This has changed with the new leadership under President Samia Suluhu Hassan, who envisions returning Tanzania’s position in the global arena.

In this context, in about a week, Tanzania expects to welcome US Vice President Kamala Harris, who will be in the country between March 29 and 31, 2023.

This visit comes eleven months since VP Harris met with President Samia at the White House.

Africa has received the visit by VP Harris with excitement. During recent Samia’s state visit to South Africa, journalists were surprised and asked her host President Cyril Ramaphosa why South Africa had not attracted such a high-profile visit from the north.

Similarly, Nigeria media houses have been asking why Nigeria appears to be ‘missing’ from VP Harris’s schedule.

The bottom line is this is a significant visit as every African country is looking to attract more capital and investment outside Africa.

Observers of global politics are looking at VP Harris’s visit as a footing of the Biden-Harris policy to Africa amidst global rivalry with China.

The White House announcement says the visit will “build on the recent U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit President Biden hosted in Washington in December 2022.”

Looking at the US-Africa Leaders’ Summit, I will say it was not a big win for Tanzania. Perhaps the days of shaky foreign policy has pushed us back and made some of Tanzania’s friend in DC forget about Tanzania.

However, VP Harris’s visit shows that reforms have paid off and that Tanzania is gaining its lost ground in global politics.

Attracting investors

It’s expected that President Samia will push her message that Tanzania is open for business and use the presence of VP Harris to market Tanzania to global investors.

Like other African countries, Tanzania has been at multiple pressure points caused by COVID-19 and Ukraine war.

To that end, several solutions have been applied to the Tanzania economy, including the mobilization of domestic resources by introducing new levies, which have been unpopular and less effective.

Many analysts and the government see the way forward is attracting significant investments in the country.

Looking at the Tanzania tax collection 2021/22, most of the Tanzania taxes were received through VAT on import (15.4 per cent), corporate tax (15 per cent), fuel (13 per cent), and pay-as-you-earn tax (10.9 per cent).

This shows that investment can play a massive role in catapulting the country forward through employment and business spending in the economy.

VP Harris’s visit comes when she has just managed to get out of DC politicking following last year’s election, which saw Democrats taking the lead in the Senate, where she serves as the President.

It means that VP Harris would want to push for concrete results in this visit, and in some outcome, her office will take direct ownership of and follow up.

Some areas mentioned in the White House statement include the digital economy, climate adaptation, resilience, strengthening business ties and investment, food security, and the effects of the Russia- Ukraine war.

It’s expected that trade and investment will be a big winner on this visit, which is of mutual interest to both sides.

On global politicking, it’s not expected Tanzania’s philosophical ‘neutral’ position on the Russia-Ukraine war to change. Still, the visit is expected to bolster US influence on the issue, especially if there is any gain from Russia on Tanzania’s foreign policy circle.

With a background that VP Harris and President Samia have already met, Tanzania can make an ally and friend out of VP Harris. There are always pay-offs when trust is built.

Tony Alfred K is analyst, writer and editor working with The Chanzo. He can be reached at tony@thechanzo.com and on Twitter at @tonyalfredkDo you want to publish in this space? Contact our editor at editor@thechanzo.com.

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