RECENTLY freelance reporter Livingstone Ruhere interviewed the Vietnam Ambassador to Tanzania Mr Nguyen Kim Doanh on the cooperation between the two countries since the mid 1960s.
QUESTION: Tanzania and Viet Nam will soon mark the 55th anniversary of their diplomatic relations. Please explain how the people of Tanzania and Viet Nam have benefitted from the bilateral relations say in the field of socio-economic development including agriculture, education and health.
ANSWER: This year, Viet Nam and Tanzania will celebrate the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations (14/2/1965 - 14/2/2020). It marks the right time now to look back at the friendship and cooperation relations between the two countries for a better future of cooperation.
I am happy that our two countries enjoy high mutual confidence and good multi-faceted bilateral cooperation over the last five decades. Viet Nam and Tanzania share various similarities, namely the century-long struggle for national independence, the diversified geographical features and the struggle for a wealthy nation with prosperous people.
The two peoples have cooperated, shared and learned a lot from each other for the common interests. We all know that Tanzania is rich in natural resources and Viet Nam can import minerals and agricultural products from Tanzania.
Tanzania can import electronic products, construction materials, fertilisers, medicines and consumer goods from Viet Nam. As brotherly countries, the Government of Viet Nam is willing to share its experience to Tanzania in developing the country, ready to cooperate with Tanzania in all fields, especially in agriculture, education, healthcare…
Q: During the war between Viet Nam and the United States, myself as a young secondary school student, together with my fellow students, were mobilized by Father of the Nation, Mwalimu Nyerere, and demonstrated against the American invasion of Viet Nam.
Mwalimu also gave assistance to the Vietnamese Government including canned beef from our local industry namely Tanganyika Packers. For the benefit of the young generation of both Tanzania and Viet Nam, can you please explain briefly the sentiments from the Vietnamese Government on the little assistance from the Government of Tanzania?
A: The war in Viet Nam ended 45 years ago. During that time, Vietnamese people had received big spiritual and material supports from peoples all over the world. We highly appreciated and extended great gratitude for those supports, including the support from the People and Government of Tanzania at that time.
Since then, the two countries have supported each other in their struggle for national independence and building of the countries. I can say that the friendship between the two countries and two peoples has been invaluable assets, which have been nurtured by the peoples and generations of leaders of the two countries.
Q: Casius Clay a.k.a Muhammad Ali, world most renowned boxing champion refused to honour the United States Government call to go to Viet Nam to join the US troops in its war against the Vietnamese forces, the act that was perceived in different ways by the American public.
What was the reaction from both the Vietnamese Government as well as the general public on Muhammad Ali’s position?
A: Thank you for your interesting question. I also learn that Mr Muhammad Ali was sentenced up to 5 years imprisonment and a 10.000 USD fine in 1967 because of refusing to join the US Army and fight in Viet Nam war. Mr Muhammad Ali was only one among thousands of Americans who protested against the Vietnam War.
His act, no matter what reason and purpose was, made contribution to anti - Vietnam War movement of the progressive forces in the United States in particular and in the world in general.
Q: Viet Nam is smaller in size comparing to Tanzania, but it is one of the leading producers of rice in the world. What has been the secret behind this success? Also, mention the volume of rice business between Tanzania and Viet Nam.
A: We are very proud that Viet Nam is among the biggest producers and exporters of rice not only in the region, but also in the world. Our rice export reached 6.3 millions tonnes with volume of 2.8 billions USD in 2019.
There are some attributes to that success, namely the hard-working farmers, strategy and long-term vision of agricultural development of the Government, allocation of arable land for rice, good system of irrigation, R&D in seedling, mechanisation, transports, post-harvest technology, large system of distribution.
So far, there is no rice exported from Viet Nam to Tanzania since there has been a ban of importing rice to protect the local products as the Deputy Minister for Agriculture Hussein Bashe confirmed this month in a meeting in Dodoma to boost the local rice production. But many African countries import rice from Viet Nam.
Q: Recently, your Government purchased huge amount of cashew nuts from Tanzania. Can you state the amount purchased and its value but also Viet Nam indicated to build cashew processing plants to assist our local farmers. How soon this pledge will be implemented?
A: I want to say that it is not our Government, but just a private company from Viet Nam who bought 176,000 tons of in-stock cashew nuts of the season 2018 in August 2019. Every year, Viet Nam needs more than 1 million tonnes of raw cashew nuts for its production. Viet Nam imports raw cashew nuts from Asian and African countries.
The amount of raw cashew nuts imported from Tanzania is just a small amount of demand which is needed for the processing plants in Viet Nam. Regarding the establishment of cashew processing plants in Tanzania, the Embassy of Viet Nam to Tanzania always encourages Vietnamese companies to invest and build processing plants.
However, there are some obstacles needed to be solved before we can see the presence of Vietnamese cashew processing facilities in Tanzania. As far as I know, some chains of cashew processing machines, which are made in Viet Nam, have been purchased, installed and put in operation in Tanzania.
I think that Tanzania bussinesses should buy more cashew processing machines, from Viet Nam or other countries, and build plants to assist the local farmers.
Q: I heard that the Government of Viet Nam did purchase cashew seeds from Tanzania in the 1980’s and now it is the second largest producer of cashew in the world after India. Please allow me to know the tonnage as well markets Viet Nam enjoys for this crop. Is your government ready to share that noble experience with the Government of Tanzania?
A: I am happy to share with you the cashew story in Viet Nam. Cashew was introduced into Vietnam in the 19th century. In the early 1980s, the cashew trees were considered as forest trees or shade trees in home gardens. Seedlings were mainly used as planting methods and little care was given to the trees.
As a result, the crop gave very low yields and poor quality nuts. In 1988, Viet Nam started to build 3 factories to process cashew nuts for export. In August 1989, the cashew crop was recognised by the Government of Viet Nam as an industrial crop and under management of the Ministry of Agriculture.
In 1990, the Vietnam Cashew Association (VINACAS) was set up to promote the development of the cashew planting in Viet Nam, and since then there has been a rapid increase in areas of production. In 1996, Viet Nam earned 120 million USD from exporting cashew nuts.
In 2019, Viet Nam imported around 1.6 million tonnes of raw cashew nuts and exported 450,000 tonnes of processed cashew nuts with the entire volume of 3.6 billion USD. The domestic production of cashew nuts in Viet Nam stands at 400,000 tonnes per year, meeting only 1/3 demand of the production capacity.
Viet Nam has been maintaining its position as the world biggest exporter of processed cashew nuts in 13 consecutive years since 2006. The Vietnam Cashew Association always welcomes the Cashewnut Board of Tanzania (CBT) to visit Viet Nam, meeting with partners and sharing the experience in developing the cashew industry.
Q: My country Tanzania needs to learn from Viet Nam’s advancement in various fields of the economy. Also, I am informed that there are numerous investors from Viet Nam in Tanzania. Please name the sectors which investors from Viet Nam have ventured in and should be there any obstacles they have encountered in their endeavour.
A: There are some Vietnamese companies doing bussiness in Tanzania now, among which the Viettel Tanzania Company is the biggest investment project of Viet Nam in Tanzania. Being a vast country and big market in the region as well as a gateway to East Africa, Tanzania should further improve its investment environment in order to attract more foreign investors to the country.
However, foreign investors and businessmen share the same concerns of working permit and residence permit fees, the process time of those permits, taxes, infrastructure system… when they invest and do business in Tanzania.
Q: Mechanical agriculture including irrigation is among the areas which Tanzania can emulate and learn from Viet Nam in order to increase productivity. What should be done to bring about the desired change in Tanzania’s agriculture sector in order to boost agricultural production?
A: Agriculture is the oldest and vital sector in each economy. Food security plays as an important role as other economic sectors in one country now. Tanzania has over 44 million hectares of cultivable land of which only 23 per cent are under cultivation.
In order to increase the agricultural production and productivity, you need to focus on the scale of cultivable land and farm, water supply, mechanisation, seedling, fertiliser, harvest, transport, distribution chain, promotion… The Government of Viet Nam is willing to share with the Government of Tanzania its experience in developing agriculture.
Q: I understand that Viet Nam has excelled in the industrial sector and several industries including textiles produce high quality garments which have access to the United States market under Special Preferential Agreement including AGOA with the US Government.
The 5TH Phase Government of Tanzania have put emphasis on industrialisation. What can the Government of Viet Nam do to assist the Government of Tanzania realise her dream?
A: Well, the US AGOA was designed only for African countries. Industrialisation plays a significant role in lifting up the development level of one country. However, I see that industrialisation of agriculture is more important since you have a big population and vast cultivable land.
I share with you some of my thoughts:
Firstly, Tanzania has a huge source of young and cheap labour. So, you should focus on some light industries that are labour-intensive such as garments, textiles and footwears, consumer goods... Then you should prepare for the transitional period when you want to move to higher levels of industrialisation by promoting the advanced technology.
Secondly, most of the population of Tanzania live in the rural areas and engage in agricultural activities. Industrialisation of agricultural sector is another story which should be focused on. Furthermore, the legal framework should be improved to make sure that you could create a fair playing ground for both domestic and foreign companies and minimize the harmful impacts on environment.
Infrastructure and supporting industries should be built up to facilitate the industrialisation. Thirdly, the exchanges of high-level delegations and the visits of public and private sectors of the two countries should be enhanced. I am confident that the success story of Doi Moi (Renovation) of Viet Nam since 1986 can be a good reference for Tanzania.
Q: I learned that Viet Nam is among those member countries spearheading the development of French language. Tanzania being a member of both the African Union and the SADC Group has been pioneering the Kiswahili language and now is among the official languages officially used in the AU and the SADC. Any thought from the Vietnamese Government on the Kiswahili language?
A: Kiswahili has become the regional language now. Kiswahili is both a language and a rich culture along the East African Coast that now spreads over the East African and Southern African regions. Regional peace, solidarity, cooperation and development can be promoted through the common language and culture.
Q: Finally, I would appreciate to hear from you about our President John Pombe Magufuli’s personality and leadership style.
A: You put me in a hard situation when asking me that question. Leaders are always different from country to country. Each leader has his own style of leadership and personality. No matter what style of leadership is, a country leader is mandated to bring peace, wealthiness, prosperity, happiness… to his peoples and his country.
The efficiency of national economic development and respect and support of the people towards the country leader are the good measurements of his personality and leadership style.