Dar es Salaam. Former Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Mussa Assad has backed the intergovernmental agreement between Tanzania and Dubai that will see the latter’s logistics company DP World taking over some operations at the Dar es Salaam port.
Prof Assad, currently the Deputy Vice-Chancellor – Administration and Finance at the Muslim University of Morogoro (MUM), expressed his support for the controversial deal on August 8 during a Dira ya Uchumi programme broadcasted by the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi-owned television station, Channel Ten.
During the programme, Prof Assad, unceremoniously and unconstitutionally removed from office in 2019 after serving since 2014, said Tanzania does not have the luxury to shirk foreign investments, saying the country lacks much of what it takes to build a prosperous economy.
He said the benefits of inviting serious investors to the Dar es Salaam port cannot be overemphasised, given how the port is the gateway to East and Central African land-locked countries. He said Tanzania would gain more than lose if DP World took over operations at the port.
“We have a severe congestion problem at the Dar port, you can even see this on our roads, so many trucks,” Prof Assad explained. “Roads are unpassable because of congestion. That’s the port problem because shipments cannot leave the port conveniently.”
Assad’s backing of the deal comes hot on the heels of criticisms that lawyers, politicians, academicians, activists and other ordinary Tanzanians have expressed about it, pointing out that its terms are designed to benefit DP World more than Tanzania and its people.
The government has dismissed much of these criticisms, with President Samia Suluhu Hassan defending the deal, approved by parliament on June 10, 2023, describing it as “a rare opportunity,” urging Tanzanians to stop “quarrelling” about it.
Prof Assad shares the government’s position on the polarising agreement, telling his interviewer that much of the deal’s criticism is being informed by the lack of general understanding of investment issues and the misreading of the intergovernmental agreement itself.
Needs for investors
“People think port operations constitute the unloading of shipments only. But it is broader than that. They start right from when the vessel arrives at the wharf. Just like we need an airline radar, we also need a ship radar to know how many vessels are there in Tanzania, which are coming in and which are going out.
“That’s part of the port operations also, it’s called ship navigation. Then there are loading and unloading of shipments and transportation. There is room for investment at our ports for DP World and any other interested investor, not just in Dar es Salaam but also in Mtwara, Tanga, Kilwa, and Bagamoyo.
“Tanzania, frankly speaking, among all of the East African countries, is the only country with an opportunity to build as many ports as possible and serve all of Africa’s landlocked countries.
“If we can invest at the Dar es Salaam port and find other companies to invest in other ports in the country, in twenty years, people will look at Tanzania with amazement, describing the people who welcomed such an investment as very intelligent,” Prof Assad said.
What about claims that DP World will be allowed to own land in Tanzania? Prof Assad says there’s no such thing, explaining that people confuse land ownership and land rights.
“Land rights are not the same as ownership, and the IGA clearly states this. Land rights constitute the utilisation of the land, it constitutes access and right of use,” he says.
“The owner of the land here is the Tanzania Ports Authority and is entitled to it, so TPA will give DP World the right to use that land. They cannot be owners. They’ll just have the right to use it,” Prof Assad clarified.
What about the claim that the agreement does not specify a timeframe for the partnership, which has led some to conclude that the agreement will be permanent?
Prof Assad said agreements between two countries usually do not have a timeframe, adding that the issue would be considered in the project-specific contracts.
“But because people have complained about it, the government can speak to its partners and agree to a specified duration with the IGA so that people can be happy about it,” he said.
Doing it better
Can Tanzania ensure it benefits more from the deal? Prof Assad said yes.
He backed the proposal shared by the leader of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party Zitto Kabwe of forming a joint company that will be owned by TPA, DP World and Tanzanians through the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange and which will be responsible for the port’s operations.
Prof Assad warned against leaving everything to investors, urging the government to sit down with DP World and agree on a specific period for reviewing each other based on the agreed responsibilities, which could be after every four or five years.
“If that will be done,” Prof Assad opined, “things will be much better.”