WHILE serving his sixth year in office at the State House in Dar es Salaam as the Fourth President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Dr Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete contemplated building a hall to cater for official activities at sprawling gardens of the State House.
He was motivated and even frustrated, by the lack of enough space at the main State House building, first erected during the Germany rule of Tanganyika between the late 1800s and 1919.
His frustration was especially obvious during major state events, including state banquets, when he agonizingly witnessed many senior officials of his Government, including cabinet ministers, being forced to take their seats at the State House gardens, for the lack of enough space in the official banquet hall.
Such irritations were especially obvious when he hosted state banquets for US Presidents; George W Bush and Barack Obama, which were both huge attractions for almost all senior Government officials and the media.
His idea materialised quickly as the construction of this multipurpose hall begun in 2011 and was eventually launched officially in 2014, just a year before he relinquished state power towards the end of 2015, on November 5, 2015 to be exact.
His successor, Dr John Pombe Magufuli realised and appreciated the wonderful work that his predecessor had done by erecting the huge, ultra-modern structure and decided to name the multi-purpose hall after the man behind its erection: Kikwete Hall.
This building has now officially entered into Dr Kikwete’s history, because it was the venue that hosted the activities of the official launch of Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Foundation (JMKF) on April 11, 2018.
It was a colourful event attended by high level dignitaries, including senior government officials, ambassadors and high commissioners, JMKF potential partners and other stakeholders and friends of the Foundation including former assistants of President Kikwete and family members of the former president.
President Magufuli was accompanied by his Vice-President, Samia Sululu Hassan as well as the Second President of the United Republic, Mzee Ali Hassan Mwinyi, popularly known as “Mzee Rukhsa” On the day whose activities were broadcast live on four national TV networks, Dr Kikwete recounted how himself and his assistants and friends began contemplating about what he would do after retirement.
The discussions centered on how best he could make gainful use of the knowledge and experience he had accumulated in his over 40 years of public service.
Kikwete was due to leave office in October 2015, at the age of 65, in good state of health, not too old and definitely not tired.
He felt he had a good reserve of energy which, if combined with his love and passion of service to humanity, would allow him to make worthwhile contributions to people’s advancement in Tanzania, Africa, and the world.
What Dr Kikwete needed at this juncture was a mechanism to help him do that, and that is why he conceived the establishment of the Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Foundation (JMKF), which was officially launched by President John Pombe Joseph Magufuli, who promised his predecessor full support and assistance in realizing his dream.
Dr Kikwete believes that the Foundation is the perfect vehicle to ride on, in pursuit of his nostalgic dream of his continued service to humanity beyond the Presidency.
Fortunately, Dr Kikwete is not alone in this historic journey because he is in the company of likeminded and a highly motivated, knowledgeable, and experienced group of people who stand ready to travel with him.
These are none other than the nine men and women who have agreed to serve as founding members of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation. Because of their historic significance, he recognizes and mentions them for the records.
They are Ambassador Ombeni Yohana Sefue, former Chief Secretary under both President Kikwete and Magufuli; Prof Rwekaza Sympho Mukandala, a renowned scholar and former Vice- Chancellor of the University of Dar Es Salaam; Prof William R Mahalu, a leading cardiologist surgeon and Chairperson of the Jakaya Kikwete Heart Institute.
Others are Ambassador Mwanaidi Sinare Maajar, a famous lawyer and former Tanzania’s ambassador to St James’ Court and the United States of America and Abubakar Said Bakhresa, a leading businessman and the CEO of the Said Bakhresa group of companies and a business empire that has operations in East, Central and Southern Africa.
The list also include Ambassador Charles R Stith, the USA’s former ambassador to Tanzania, Prof Carlos Lopes, former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and Dato’ Sri Idris Jala, former minister in the Government of Malaysia, which lost recent elections, and Ms Genevieve Sangudi, an international financial expert and consultant.
This Board of Trustees is supported by a management led by another person with national and international experience,
Mr Omari Issa. With the support of these great minds, Kikwete Foundation has been able to fashion a Vision and Mission of the Foundation as well as spell out its objectives.
The overarching agenda of the JMKF is to make an impactful contribution in transforming people’s lives with the ultimate objective of lifting them out of poverty to prosperity and improving their living conditions.
Cognizant of the fact that this is a very broad agenda involving many things and that they cannot do everything, for obvious reasons, the JMKF has decided to choose a few areas of focus. In this regard, Board of Trustee has agreed to concentrate on four areas which are child and maternal health, youth development and support for smallholder farmer and promotion of good governance and peace.
Dr Kikwete recognises that he would not be surprised if, in the opinion of some people, the list of areas of focus they have chosen may appear to be too long because they may think the Foundation is being unreasonably too ambitious.
He, however, assures everyone that the foundation does not intend to deal with all things involved in each of the areas of focus at the same time, and certainly, the JMKF does not have the capacity to do so. He says that the Foundation has decided to be very selective, guided by the principle of prioritization, and it has also agreed to identify one or two niches in each focus area to dedicate its efforts, trying to avoid duplication of activities which those established before the Foundation are already doing well.
Wherever, possible, says Dr Kikwete, the Foundation will devote its energies towards those areas which are yet to be touched by others, and for those areas which are already covered by other players, the foundation will dedicate its efforts to spaces and gaps which are yet to be attended to. Dr Kikwete says the Foundation will be guided by the principle of sequencing in deciding what to do and when.
“We cannot do all things at a go. We will have to do one thing at a time especially at the beginning of each programme. This way, the Foundation will have time to better organize, build, and consolidate matters,” he says.
He knows, there will come a time, later, when all the programmes will be implemented concurrently, and it is in this spirit that programmes related to child and maternal health will come first, followed by youth development and mentorship, and then supporting small holder agriculture. Governance will be fourth and the last as there “many experienced players in this field already, most of whom are doing a wonderful job.”
JMKF, which is non-profit and non-political in nature, while headquartered in Tanzania, will be Pan-African organisation working in other African countries in line with the work that Kikwete did for the continent, first as foreign minister and later as president, as he tried to contribute to the continent’s prosperity by engaging himself in issues related to Africa including conflict resolution in countries such as Burundi, DRC, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Madagascar, Ivory Coast and now in Libya.
The Foundation intends to work with governments and other partners and stakeholders in tackling issues related to the selected areas of focus. He told President Magufuli: “Mr President, we intend to work with governments in Africa including yours and not again them. We will not be swayed in pursuing this principle even if other people try to convince us otherwise.”
President Kikwete also said that the Foundation will seek to work with organisations with similar objectives, and not compete against them. “Some of us have been bridge builders throughout our lives and we will attempt to bring that nature into the workings of the Foundation.”
The JMKF which was first registered in Tanzania on February 7, last year, 2017, held its inaugural meeting of its Board of Trustees on March 13 of the same year at the Hyatt- Kilimanjaro Hotel in Dar es Salaam and then set on putting in place guiding documents and principles before its official launch.
Kikwete’s is the third presidential foundation to be to be founded by a former President and registered in Tanzania. Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation (MNF) seeks to foster the ideals and aspirations of the Founding Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere and Mkapa Foundation under the chairmanship of the third president of Tanzania, Benjamin William Mkapa, seeks to make a contribution in the fight against HIV/Aids in the country.
Launching the Foundation, President Magufuli assured his predecessor of his Government’s utmost support for his foundation calling on ambassadors, high commissioners and head of international organization present at the launch: “I urge you to kindly support this foundation.
It is an important foundation and I know the founder, as well as you do. You support will be used prudently and your money will be in safe hands.”
He also praised the President Kikwete and the other trustees of the foundation for their decision to steer the foundation clear of politics and instead work with Government in Africa.
“Often, we see people who believe that they will get more funding because they are antigovernment. This is a miscalculation because if you want to get involved in the development of Africa, you cannot succeed by working against African Governments.
Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Foundation has taken an accurate approach on this. We thank you, Mr. President and wish you and your fellow trustees well. We stand ready to support and help.”
- The Writer, Mr Deogratias Mushi is a Senior Media Consultant with Pioneer Communications in Dar es Salaam.