PRIVATE SECTOR CRUCIAL IN TANZANIA'S DIGITAL
TRANSFORMATIVE DEVELOPMENT

Discussion Summary

In the quest for national sustainable development, the public and private sectors are driven by a common vision as detailed in the country’s five-year development plan. Being a key catalyst of this vision, the role of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) is to prepare the country for the digital economy that exists worldwide. As a byproduct, eCommerce will necessitate the digitization of the government thus allowing more transparency and efficiency.

Speaking with members of the CEO Roundtable of Tanzania (CEOrt) recently, Minister of Communication and Information Technology Hon. Dr. Faustine Ndugulile emphasized the government’s commitment to move in the direction of the global digital transformation and called upon the private sector leaders to play a significant role in facilitating this shift.”Ten years ago, most billionaires were in the manufacturing industry. But now with the ICT transformation across the world, we are seeing more billionaires in this industry,” he remarked. Outlining some of his ministry’s focus areas, Hon. Ndugulile mentioned that digital transformation not only features prominently in the Tanzania Development Vision (TDV) 2025 plan, but is also a component of the ruling party’s manifesto.

As part of its ICT priorities, the Government of Tanzania intends to increase broadband reach from 40% to 80%, improve digital literacy nationwide, enable affordability of digital services and review the industry’s legal and regulatory framework. Hon. Ndugulile pointed this out when engaging with the members of the CEOrt in dialogue on how joint collaboration between the public and private sectors could harness Tanzania’s transformative development. The CEOrt regularly facilitates dialogue between the sectors through its monthly members’ meetings, and utilises such engagements to share insights from the business leaders’ perspective in relation to the government’s overarching vision. A policy dialogue forum bringing together CEOs of leading companies in Tanzania, the CEOrt’s core functions include advocacy and advisory, which it carries out through member expertise that can influence policy.

Expanding on his Ministry’s priorities, Hon. Ndugulile explained that the government’s role would be that of an enabler and called on the CEOs to be the drivers of digital transformation by liaising with investors to bring about affordability of digital devices through public–private partnership (PPP). The Ministry will also be reviewing investor policies to attract investment in the ICT sector in Tanzania, and hinted at upcoming major institutional and functional reforms that will see the regulatory authority nurture growth of ICT in the country by becoming more of an enabler rather than policing the industry. In his plan to create a thinktank to chart how we move forward with the national digital transformation agenda, Minister Ndugulile encouraged the private sector to act as advisors and share guidance in working with the public sector on training and manufacturing of relevant goods including devices, tower components and fibre optic cables. In addition, the Director of Information and Communication Technology, Mr. Mulembwa Munaku, said the government has mapped the skills gap and wants to embark on capacity building to develop skills in collaboration with the private sector by forging a linkage between hiring institutions, the private sector and relevant areas within the government.

While wholly supportive of this outline of planned activities, CEOrt members were also cautiously optimistic, citing various challenges to overcome on the road to the country’s digital transformation. Mr. Hisham Hendi, CEO of Vodacom Tanzania, pointed out the need for extending internet connectivity to the entire population, the smartphone dependency, and the high taxation on these devices that hinder their affordability. Minister Ndugulile brought up phone subsidies as a possible solution for telecoms to consider, reiterating the government’s commitment to enabling progress in digital transformation. PwC Country Senior Partner Mr. David Tarimo also commented on the high costs of digital services in relation to the ability of ICT to broaden the tax base and eradicate digital poverty. Furthermore, Mr. Martin Warioba, Managing Partner at WS Technology Consulting, brought up challenges with innovation in the country and the need to recognize innovators. Minister Ndugulile was keen on receiving shared learnings and expertise from Business leaders who had operated similar platforms in order to expand these programmes and fully support innovation across multiple industries. Responding to Ms. Brenda Msangi, CEO of CCBRT, on possibilities of government support to healthcare facilities in terms of data storage, Hon. Ndugulile affirmed that the government will promote the services available to the relevant parties so support can be provided through its data centers. Addressing a comment from Mark Ocitti, Managing Director at Serengeti Breweries Limited, on the importance of data privacy, the Minister stated that the government is working on policies to oversee data privacy and protection, and would engage the private sector in formalizing this.

The CEOrt remains dedicated to working with the government, its development partners, and other stakeholders to perpetuate a conducive business environment for country development, and that includes playing their part in order to pave the way for this cultural shift in digital growth. “Through its members, the CEOrt can greatly impact the nation’s competitive thinking. By bringing the private sector into the equation, the government is tapping into connected reflections that are directly linked to the public,” said Mr. Sanjay Rughani, Chairman of the CEOrt. “Together, we can go beyond making a difference and truly accelerate the pace with which we bring about positive changes,” he concluded.