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Four Key Areas Tanzania’s Foreign Policy Should Prioritise

Tanzania’s foreign policy should pivot around four key domains: peace and security, cyber security and intelligence, economic diplomacy, and cultural diplomacy, bolstering our soft power.

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The review of Tanzania’s foreign policy commenced in 2023. By October 12 of the same year, President Samia Suluhu Hassan received the comprehensive report outlining recommendations for the extensive reform of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation. 

In January 2024, January Makamba, who heads the docket, convened a public forum at the Julius Nyerere International Conference Centre (JNICC), responding to President Samia’s directive to solicit public input regarding proposed alterations to Tanzania’s foreign policy.

Our foreign policy should pivot around four key domains: peace and security, cyber security and intelligence, economic diplomacy, and cultural diplomacy, bolstering our soft power.

Peace and security

We must formulate a distinct foreign policy strategy concerning the peace and security of our nation, particularly concerning the Great Lakes region, while concurrently devising measures to enhance our presence and ensure security within the area.

In so doing, we shall fortify our borders and safeguard our regional economic stakes, exemplified by projects like the Kasomeno-Mwenda Toll Road (KMTR) connecting the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. 

READ MORE: Now Is the Time for a Bolder Tanzanian Foreign Policy

This vital infrastructural endeavour stands to significantly truncate the round trip for commercial transporters from Haut-Katanga to the port of Dar es Salaam by 500 kilometres, underscoring the tangible benefits of our proactive engagement.

In January, Tanzania’s Chief of Defence Forces, General Jacob John Mkunda, issued a cautionary note regarding the infiltration of foreign agents into our institutional framework. General Mkunda voiced his concerns in the presence of President Samia, Tanzania’s Commander-in-Chief, during his annual assembly with Tanzania People’s Defence Force officers. 

Mkunda underscored the presence of foreign individuals occupying pivotal roles within the state apparatus.

On July 3, 2023, I authored an opinion piece entitled Tanzania: Time To Have Two Separate Intelligence Services? The underlying premise was that Tanzania ought to bifurcate its intelligence apparatus into two distinct entities: one dedicated to domestic intelligence affairs and the other to foreign intelligence operations, akin to the division observed within the British Intelligence between MI5 and MI6.

Notably, the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) directly reports to the Foreign Secretary. In our context, we could envision appointing a Director of Foreign Intelligence, nominated by the President yet working in close coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Cybersecurity and intelligence

While inherently intertwined with peace and security, this issue demands particular scrutiny due to its grave threat to national security. In the 21st century, warfare transcends traditional battlegrounds, extending into cyberspace. 

READ MORE: Reflection on President Samia’s Foreign Policy Doctrine

Indeed, contemporary conflicts are waged not solely through conventional means on land, sea, or air but increasingly through the manipulation of computers, servers, mobile devices, electronic systems, networks, and data, which are susceptible to malevolent cyber assaults.

The British Government operates the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) within the purview of the Foreign Ministry, entrusted with managing cybersecurity and intelligence affairs. 

Conversely, the United States maintains the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) under the auspices of the State Department, tasked with furnishing and orchestrating prompt, impartial intelligence to fortify U.S. diplomatic endeavours.

We need not replicate every aspect of sophisticated intelligence services but establish an initial framework within a dedicated department. As requirements and resources expand, so can the scope and authority of these departments focused on cybersecurity.

Economic diplomacy

Our economic strategy in foreign policy needs to be more specific. It fails to delineate targeted industries and preferred trade partners. I strongly advocate for a shift in focus towards Asia, favouring engagement with the region’s dynamic economies over traditional alliances with Europe and the West. 

READ MORE: How Kagera War Ended Tanzania’s Activist Foreign Policy

I firmly believe that emulating the economic frameworks of Asian powerhouses, such as the Four Asian Tigers of Southeast Asia, presents a more viable path forward, particularly given our present circumstances.

The Four Asian Tigers include Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Taiwan. These economies underwent rapid industrialisation and maintained exceptionally high growth rates of more than seven per cent a year between the 1950s and 1990s. 

Given our robust diplomatic relations with China, a crucial aspect to emphasise is our steadfast adherence to the One China Policy, which acknowledges Taiwan as an integral and inseparable component of China. 

In light of this, I am convinced that forging solid partnerships with the dynamic economies of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand, has the potential to catalyse Tanzania’s economic advancement significantly.

Furthermore, we must cultivate deeper economic relations with fellow African nations and prioritise promoting intra-continental trade as a cornerstone of our foreign policy. 

READ MORE: Here is Why the Quality of Tanzania’s Foreign Envoys Has Declined. Committee Proposes Solutions

Advanced economies globally predominantly engage in trade within their respective continents, exemplified by the exceeding 70 per cent of intra-European and intra-Asia trade, whereas intra-African trade currently hovers around 20 per cent.

To begin with, Africa should aspire to set a benchmark for achieving a 50 per cent intra-African trade ratio over the next 25 years. This objective has profound implications for the continent’s economic advancement. 

Elevating trade within African nations fosters the growth of indigenous industries and facilitates access to competitively priced goods. 

Moreover, it diminishes dependence on developed economies, which often impose unfavourable trade conditions and are sometimes entangled with the assistance they extend to us. 

Consequently, such a shift in trade dynamics would shield Africa from the imposition of foreign social norms, which are occasionally enforced due to our disproportionate reliance on Western nations.

Soft power

Many nations cultivate soft power through cultural diplomacy. We are uniquely blessed with Kiswahili as our indigenous tongue—a language resonating with over 200 million individuals across forty countries. 

READ MORE: Tanzania Should Leverage Its Soft Power to Improve International Standing

Moreover, Kiswahili holds the distinguished status of being an official language within esteemed bodies such as the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the East African Community (EAC).

The United Nations has additionally designated July 7th as World Kiswahili Language Day. Presently, 100 universities across the United States offer Kiswahili as a foreign language course, and plans are underway to introduce it in Japanese academic institutions. 

The opportunity is unmistakably present, yet we must seize the initiative to advance Kiswahili before our neighbouring Swahili-speaking nations do so. Whenever Swahili crosses anyone’s thoughts globally, Tanzania should inherently be associated with it. We must continue in this endeavour.

The global expansion of Kiswahili will not only empower our cultural industries, like Bongo Movie and Bongo Flava, on the international stage but also open doors for Tanzanians seeking opportunities abroad, such as teaching and lecturing. 

This synergy will further stimulate tourism in our nation, as the allure of Swahili culture piques curiosity and beckons visitors to explore our rich heritage. The possibilities are vast and transcend the confines of a single article.


My primary concern lies in the lack of institutionalisation within our foreign policy framework, where shifts occur based on the priorities of the incumbent top diplomat. 

READ MORE: ‘We Are Staying’: Denmark Announces It Will Retain Embassy in Tanzania

Under President John Pombe Magufuli’s leadership, Tanzania notably withdrew somewhat from the global arena, prioritising domestic affairs at the expense of international engagement. 

However, it’s crucial to recognise that domestic and foreign policies are intertwined, like the synergistic relationship between a person’s legs when walking—they work in tandem, enabling swiffer progress.

While it may seem daunting given the constitutional authority vested in the president, it is paramount that our current diplomatic corps, particularly the senior officials, advocate for establishing a legal framework that endures irrespective of leadership changes.

Thomas Joel Kibwana is an international relations and business development expert. He can be reached at or on X (Twitter) as @thomasjkibwana. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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One Response

  1. Exellent and well researched document for people’s consumption.
    :To things for CCM to thrive more and more;these are:
    1.To away with Old and Walafi. Some of them retured during Magufulis term. Walisahau ni ni huko ndani ya CCM!?!
    2.We are a strong nation within EAC partner states. Lets use this strength to loo in itelligent charters to the various sectors of the Economy. Hii habari ya sijiu Ooh kuna bwanamillenge wengi Tz haiutusaidii kabisa.

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