ON his first day in charge five years ago in 2015, President John Magufuli walked unannounced to the Ministry of Finance, just a stone’s throw away from the State House and enquired about absentees.
That marked the dawn of a new era for Tanzania under the former Works Minister, who campaigned for the presidency on a platform of hard work with a famous slogan of ‘Hapa Kazi tu.’
Dr Magufuli, nicknamed `bulldozer’ for his no-nonsense and results-driven approach, then cancelled lavish independence- day celebrations to free up funds to fight a cholera outbreak and slashed the budget for an opulent dinner party to celebrate the opening of parliament directing the money be used to buy hospital bedsThe newly-elected President would later go after one of the biggest drain on the state coffers - costly excursions of government officers.
He reduced the number of delegates attending the Commonwealth summit inMalta from 50 to just four, and
asked government officials to fly economy class.
He thereafter limited foreign travel to only what is most essential, with those travelling needing to get special permission from him or the Chief Secretary of the Cabinet.
President Magufuli also cancelled all workshops and seminars held in expensive hotels, with ministries and
government institutions having to use their own boardrooms and removed sitting allowances for government employees.
In just after a month in office, his no-nonsense approach, anti-corruption crusade and austerity drive turned
him into a social media sensation inspiring twitter hashtag #WhatWouldMagufuliDo for situations that required strong leadership.
He would later came up with `lance the boils’ campaign, popular in Kiswahili as ‘tumbua majipu’ where
corrupt and incompetent government officials were fired in public. Things became no longer at ease for government officers as the new president took off gloves in fighting graft and ended the days of sleaze in the government.
Over his first three months in office, he fired more than 150 senior civil servants among which were top officials of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) and Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), the director of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), the Commissioner General of the Immigration
Services Department, the Managing Director of Reli Assets Holding (RAHCO), and the Director General of
Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority.
Fast forward to 2017, he changed the rules of the game in the mining sector after the government passed sweeping new laws to ensure that the country maximizes the benefits from its wealth of natural resources.
The government banned the export of unprocessed ores in March 2017, and enacted the Finance Act, which imposes a one per cent clearing fee on all minerals exported from Tanzania.
A few days later, President Magufuli signed three bills into law that dramatically changed the landscape for
natural resources investments in the country.
Among other things, the new laws require the government to own at least a 16 per cent stake in mining projects, increase royalty taxes on gold and other minerals, provide the government with the right to dissolve or renegotiate contracts for natural resources, and reject international arbitration for natural resource disputes.
“The country has been short-changed and continues to be cheated out of the muchneeded revenue that would greatly boost our health sector, infrastructure and others,” he told a public rally at his home village in Chato District in Geita Region.
In what appears like a victory for his tough stance, in January this year the government struck a deal with a
mining giant, Barrick Gold – whereby it agreed to make a 300 million US dollar payment to Tanzania as part of an agreement to resolve tax and revenue sharing disputes over its three gold mines in the country.
Under the deal, the mining company handed to the government 16 per cent stake in its three gold mines - Bulyanhulu, North Mara and Buzwagi mines and agreed to share 50 per cent of economic benefits of its mining operations in Tanzania.
Other measures in the mining sector included establishment of 31 big mineral trading hubs and 39 small ones at district level and the construction of a 24-km Mirerani perimeter wall around Tanzanite mine in Mirerani, Manyara Region to curb theft and smuggling of the precious stones.
And results from the reforms have not been mean.
The sector is growing at an impressive pace and its earnings swelling.
Presenting the 2020/21 government budget in Parliament last June, the Minister for Finance and Planning, Dr Phillip Mpango said mineral revenue collection had surged from 196bn/- in 2015/16 to 470bn/- from July
2019 to April 2020.
The mining sector is now growing at an average of 17.7 per cent, making it the fastest growing industry ahead of construction.
President Magufuli also championed tax revenue collection which helped Tanzania Revenue Authority raise
monthly collection from a monthly average of 825bn/- in 2014/15 to an average of 1.3tri/- in 2018/19 and further up to monthly average of 1.5tri/-, according to Dr Mpango.
These achievements were reflected in the economy which has been growing at an average of 6.9 per cent in his five years in office supported by heavy public expenditure in implementing major economic infrastructures (construction, transport, electricity) and social services (health, education and water).
The robust economic growth led Tanzania to be among ten largest economies in Africa, as reported by IMF
(2019) and an upgrade by the World Bank from low to lower-middle income status in July this year after strong economic performance of over 6.0 per cent real gross domestic product (GDP) growth on average for the past decade.
Tanzania’s GNI per capita had increased from $1,020 in 2018 to $1,080 in 2019, which exceeds the 2019 threshold of $1,036 for lower-middle income status.
This impressive growth of the economy helped to boost government revenue to finance development projects, improve social services and increase economic opportunities.
And it explains the audacity to undertake major infrastructure development projects such as construction of a standard gauge railway from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza at the cost of 7.2tri/-.
The line is expected to be extended to Rwanda and Uganda, and through these two, to Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Tanzania is also constructing Julius Nyerere Hydropower Station (JNHS), also called Rufiji Hydroelectric Power Station, which is a 2,115 megawatts hydroelectric dam along Rufiji River. The grand
project is expected to cost $3.0 billion US dollars.
President Magufuli took up the challenge of transforming Tanzania into a worldclass economy and challenged the long-standing negative views about African leadership.
Judging from the experience of his first five-year term, he proved to be a strong leader who is well-qualified, by character and experience, to meet the daunting challenges of the nation.
He has shown he has what it takes to help the nation scale new heights in development which provides renewed optimism for a great future in Tanzania.