In the past few weeks, the statement ‘Tanzania is back’ has been used liberally concerning matters of investment attraction.
If we were on a pendulum, we would say Tanzania has swung from being warm and friendly under President Jakaya Kikwete to rigidly hostile under President John Pombe Magufuli to now enthusiastically attempting to be overly welcome to investment attraction under the current President Samia Suluhu Hassan.
Is Tanzania truly back, or is this another phase of attractiveness that could come to pass? Going by the experience, there is a reason to be cautiously optimistic.
At the signing ceremony of the graphite mines and other rare earth minerals ceremony, the Managing Director of Australian-based Evolution Energy, Phil Hoskins, said they were optimistic that the Government would play its role accordingly to share success.
There can be no doubt that the Government means well and that President Samia is committed to creating an excellent environment for investments in the rich natural resource environment.
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However, hurdles remain, and they are everywhere. The Government and its partners are not looking, at least not in the public realm where high fives and win-win have been the theme song.
What the Government does from here going forward will determine whether we are back or Tanzania is starting on a spotless slate in investment matters as it should.
A legacy of political superiority over everything else, economy included, still has its enthusiastic supporters.
It explains why using words like wawekezaji uchwara to mean fake investors are still familiar in our lexicon. But, more often than not, its usage leads to deals done in boardrooms ending up shattered in courtrooms.
There is no escaping that negotiations and high-stake negotiations involving considerable sums of money require law, practice, and experience training.
It would be unreasonable to expect a 30-year-old law graduate of Iringa University, who has never been employed anywhere other than at the Njombe District Council, to have the skills, experience, and technical know-how to negotiate appropriately for an investment project.
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Government officials and ruling party officials still have a say, unwritten as it is. Their word can write off millions of dollars if their whims are not met, no matter how unreasonable. It is called the cost of doing business.
Selection of board members needs to be on merit and public; it is not good having negotiators as board members and, in a few years, calling them mining investors in their personal capacities.
Then there is our entitlement mentality. Our very able Gilead Teri can do all he can as Executive Director of Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) to make investors smile, visit, and even sign contracts.
But it is the entitled public, government bureaucrats, and ruling party apparatchiks who rule the roost.
Investment is all about perception. So those of us wondering if the Government means what it says and signs, or if it does not say what it means, are pointing to the one direction no one wants to talk about because it’s a political hot potato.
A people who are entitled to the idea of wealth without commensurate work and a political environment that thrives on it does not reassure observers that Tanzania is back.
We may need to truly re-set. Are we ready for that?
Nick O. Kasera is a researcher and communications consultant. He is available at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of The Chanzo. Do you want to publish in this space? Contact our editors at email@example.com for further inquiries.