FORMER LEADERS’ BENCH WITH DAILY NEWS: Ambassador Amina links her success to being a leader of principles

  • Encourages young leaders to work to achieve good results
  • Insists on seeking God’s help for leaders’ who want to succeed

“FOR those who hold a view that I succeeded in all positions I served during my time, it is important for them to note that sticking to leadership principles was the key driver to success,” Ambassador Amina Salum Ali discloses.

Speaking to Former Leaders’ Bench with Daily News, Ambassador Amina

Some of the good qualities of leadership include to be a good listener, be innovative, communicating, continuously brushing -up on your leadership skills, creating  common values, embracing  change and leading  by example as well as admitting your mistakes because to err is human, but some leaders are uncomfortable with the idea that their team could see them make a mistake.

These qualities, also known as leadership principles due to the way they inform leadership, are essential to high-performing managers, directors, and team leads. Technocrats apart, the same leadership qualities are essential for those who hold political posts.

Indeed, those with strong leadership principles intuitively know how to direct their teams to success. In some cases, the presence of these principles can even be the difference between an ethical leader and one with little regard for their team’s well-being.

And, for Amb Amina, these are the qualities she holds dear but the most important for her has always been to remain a leader of principles especially in management.

“I was always serious at work to achieve good results. These are words from Amb Amina, when she was speaking to the Tanzania Standard (Newspapers) Limited (TSN) editorial team, which she hosted for an exclusive interview at her Mbweni home in Unguja recently.

She opened up on the operating realities during her time in office and her experience working with the country’s top leaders.

Born and raised on the island of Zanzibar and educated in India, Ambassador Amina has held various ministerial positions in the Tanzanian government, including minister for finance as well as Member of Parliament. She was also the African Union’s first woman Ambassador to the United States.

“In all positions I held in 39 years of my service in public offices, and also in private sectors, I was a friendly leader to all staff, but always pushed for better results,” explained Amb Amina.

She salutes all top leaders serving now in both the United Republic of Tanzania, and Zanzibar as exemplary in enhancing leadership principles.

“President Dr Samia Saluhu Hassan and her Zanzibar counterpart Dr Hussein Mwinyi have been exemplary in their leadership style and are closely following up issues especially those related to the development of the people,” she said.

If you have leaders of principles at all levels, she said, beginning from top, ministerial, and even local administration, the country’s development plans succeed for the benefit and interest of people. She urged current young leaders to put into practice leadership principles for efficiency.

Principles of management are basic activities that can help you plan, organize and control operations related to material, people, machines, methods, money and markets. They provide leadership to human efforts so that they achieve set objectives efficiently.

“My success story, being firm on leadership principles helped to make the staff observe code of conduct, work regulations and maintain discipline, as well as accomplishing assignments in time with acceptable standards. I received positive comments from top leaders, including then Union President Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Zanzibar President Salmin Amour Juma,” she said.

Amb Amina served in managerial function in finance and economics affairs, as well as a member of the Planning Commission in Zanzibar. The commission is responsible for overall government planning and economic management, monitoring and evaluation.

Her stunning leadership qualities saw her climbing up the ladder to the ministerial and ambassadorial positions, both with the Union and Zanzibar governments as well as the then Organisation of African Union (OAU) now Africa Union (AU).

As Zanzibar Minister for Trade and Industry (2016 to 2020), her responsibility included spearheading industrial sector development, trade facilitation and creating conducive business environment as well as trade capacity building and promoting close partnership with private sector.

Ms Amina mentioned her other success story of leadership with principles when she served as African Union (AU), Permanent Representative to the United States (2006 to 2015), “My responsibilities were to Advise the AU Commission on the issues of the Americas that are of interest to Africa. Follow up of African development interests and those of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in America, promoting Africa, Diaspora and investments and finance in Africa.

When in AU position, she developed, maintained and consolidated constructive and productive institutional relationships between the AU and the government of the USA, Congress, the Breton Woods Institutions, non-governmental and academic organisations that are engaged in African issues.

Working as a committed leader with principles, she said, managed to coordinate African positions with the African group of Ambassadors and to member countries in their relationships with the Americas.

“This is the time when we intensified promoting Africa’s interests in the US, a positive image of Africa and also to create American popular opinion about Africa, and AU key issues of concerns,” said Ambassador Amina adding.

She ensured promoting USA and Diaspora investments into Africa; and partnered with the World Bank (WB) in developing programmes to support refugees and internally replaced persons in conflict areas and other fragile states; and regional projects.

“As part of the AU mandate, we supported the peace process and related negotiations between the government of Sudan and South Sudan; but also, in relation to the discussions on the distribution of external debt obligations and debt relief between the two governments.

“We also countered media distortions of emerging developments and events in Africa, and to mobilise resources in support of AU programmes. This is why distortion about Africa in media somewhat declined during our time,” she said.

In her role as the Zanzibar, Minister of State- Chief Minister’s Office (2005 – 2006), she was successfully in charge of the Election Commission, House of Representatives, and coordinating home affairs issues with the Union Government.

She was also in charge of social programmes for poverty reduction and economic empowerment, the task she fulfilled well.

“When I served in Chief Minister’s Office, we managed to come up with several important policies including, Zanzibar Government policies for the people with disabilities; programmes on HIV-Aids and the establishment of Zanzibar Aids Commission, as well as the Zanzibar Disaster Management and Relief programmes.

Others success stories she registered during her time include promoting initiative on income generation and peoples’ economic empowerment policies and programmes, successfully being in charge of the Social Adjustment and Empowerment programmes funded by the World Bank and other development partners; and coordinating policy follow-up, monitoring and evaluation among government ministries and local governments, other success stories.

As the Zanzibar Minister of Finance (1990 – 2000), she was responsible for fiscal and monetary policies and overall economic policy formulation and implementation; including budget preparation and execution, formulation of policy, management and expenditure control.

In the Union government, she served as the Minister of State (Finance- 1989 to 1990), responsible for negotiation of rescheduling of Tanzanians’ external debt with the non-Paris Club members and promoting bilateral relations with partners and bilateral countries in the Joint Commissions.

“In the Union government I also served as: State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1986-1989) in charge of International and Regional Cooperation; and Deputy Minister of Finance (1985 – 1986) in charge of the finance and revenue management portfolio.

Ms Amina also served in Zanzibar as Senior Economist (1984 – 1985) in the Zanzibar Planning Commission, in charge of Bilateral and Multilateral economic cooperation; and also, Director of Foreign Trade (1981 – 1984) in the Zanzibar Ministry of Trade, in charge of promoting foreign trade and export promotion.

“I was not perfect, but I thank God to have enabled me record success. Challenges never miss, particularly when you are a woman, but I remained stable and committed to my duty,” Amb Amina explained.

She also revealed that her biological mother was also a very strict and committed mother, helping her and her children to grow and become responsible citizens.

She said that in addition to being a leader of principles, she frequently wake-up at night to pray for God’s guidance and support. “If you want success in whatever you do, seek help from God by being good to people and wake-up at night for prayers.”

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