Dar es Salaam. Michael Shirima, one of Tanzania’s celebrated entrepreneurs and businessmen, died on Friday at the Aga Khan Hospital in the city, where he was admitted on June 8, 2023.
In a death announcement, his family described Shirima as “an inspirational and a leader to many,” promising to “forever cherish his life.”
Mr Shirima was a Tanzanian businessman, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. He was the founder and chairman of Precision Air, Tanzania’s only private airline. He was also the founder and proprietor of Cornel Ngaleku Children Centre in northern Tanzania.
On Saturday, President Samia Suluhu Hassan led Tanzanians in mourning the passing of Mr Shirima, describing him as an essential person in Tanzania’s airline business and other social functions.
According to his memoir, On My Father’s Wings: An Entrepreneurial Journey of Finding Humility, Resiliency, and a Lasting Legacy, Mr Shirima started as an aircraft performance engineer before becoming a serial entrepreneur.
He resigned from an executive position in a national airline, Air Tanzania, to begin his private career trading coffee and other commodities culminating in his founding of Precision Air, Tanzania’s largest privately-owned and premier airline in 1993.
In his book, Mr Shirima also speaks about how he benefited from his father’s wisdom. The book also tells the story of a devoted husband and a loving father to his children and those at the orphanage he founded at the base of Kilimanjaro.
CHADEMA national chairperson Freeman Mbowe described the news of the passing on of Mr Shirima as “shocking” and “heartbreaking” to Tanzania’s private sector and the country’s business community in general.
“He was [a] great, rare, humble, courageous, and loving man; a true icon,” Mr Mbowe said in a statement. “We thank God for the present of his life. He inspired many. His rare courage, skills and talents were appropriately utilised throughout his professional life. Mzee Shirima was [an] iron man in a country of quitters.”
An aircraft performance engineer and evaluation expert, Mr Shirima worked for eleven years in Nairobi, Kenya, at the now-defunct East African Airways (EAA).
In 1977, he joined the task force established by the government to set up the National Airline, Air Tanzania Corporation (ATC), and was appointed its first Operations Director.
He resigned in 1979 and traded internationally in coffee. In 1986, he founded Precision Flight (Africa) Limited, a crop dusting company, and Precision Air Services (Precision Air) in 1993.
Mr Shirima has served on boards of several entities, including the Bank of Tanzania (BOT), Chairman of Tanzania Golf Union, and Chairman of the Boards of Precision Air and TOL Gases, both listed companies in the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange.
In his memoir, Shirima describes his life of entrepreneurship and philanthropy in Tanzania. The book equips readers with essential life lessons on the value of taking risks; being kind to everyone regardless of age, race, status, or gender; and never losing sight of what’s most important in life.
Alex Chesosi, a Kenyan entrepreneur and former colleague of Mr Shirima, said on Twitter that he received the news of the businessman with profound shock.
“He was a man who exemplified goodness, held no malice within him,” Chesosi described Shirima. “[He was] a committed husband, great dad, and amazing godfather. He touched countless lives with his love and kindness. May his soul rest in peace.”