Thoughts by Sanjay Rughani
President Samia’s 100 Days of Purposeful Service – Thoughts by Sanjay Rughani, Chairman – CEO RoundTable and CEO Standard Chartered Bank Tanzania
In March 2021, Her Excellency President Samia Suluhu Hassan made history when she was sworn in as Tanzania’s first female president. Having previously made history as the country’s first female vice president, President Samia assumed office amidst grief and sorrow as the nation mourned her predecessor, President John Pombe Magufuli. I remember wondering how daunting it would be to suddenly become a commander in chief while also facing the responsibility of consoling a nation, being a beacon of hope and direction, and ensuring the people remain in solidarity. With the utmost faith in her government and a growing sense of optimism, it has been beyond impressive to witness President Samia’s leadership over her first 100 days in office.
Over the past three months, President Samia has not only inspired me as a citizen – she has also driven me as a business leader, encouraged me as a player in the global financial industry, and motivated me as a member of the private sector. A strong symbol of ethical leadership, one of the very first assurances President Samia issued was her zero tolerance approach to corruption. As Chairman of the CEO Roundtable of Tanzania, an organization with business and ethics among its focus areas, I found this to be an encouraging mark of carrying on the staunch ethical stand that had permeated various areas across the country. President Samia’s first 100 days in office have also been characterized by a shift in levels of transparency. For one, she quickly formed a committee of experts to share advice on dealing with Covid-19, ending months of silence by the government on the nation’s state as far as the global pandemic was concerned. She also lifted media bans, permitting the reopening of several media houses.
The President’s call for transparency is one I certainly hope will be mirrored by all leaders – business and community alike. By recognizing and acknowledging weaknesses amongst ourselves, we are able to redirect and take on new paths that can turn those flaws into strengths. It is no secret that President Samia’s directive to government officials to promote and drive investment, trade and expand the tax base, has been met by strong support from the business community. Our President’s inclusive approach, recognising the legitimate interests and contribution of all social partners, including business is encouraging, the overall tone of connection, correction, collaboration and direction that we have witnessed in the first 100 days is key to driving enhanced economic expansion, this will serve to unlock more strategic investments and promote faster economic growth aligned to Tanzania’s 3rd five year development plans (FYDP III).
The business community has previously voiced their challenges with investing and operating in the country, and long held out hope for a more conducive business environment. The President’s remarks in this regard, including at the recent 12th meeting of the Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) have reaffirmed our commitment to playing a key role in building our nation’s economy, and this has been a good start to further regaining investor trust and confidence. Whilst plenty needs to be done to meet our national collaborative ambitions including navigating local and global disruptions due to the the pandemic, the work has evidently begun – policy makers are meeting with business representatives and laws and policies are being reviewed. They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and on the journey to promote medium to long term prosperity in Tanzania, President Samia’s administration has already made progress including through interventions highlighted in the Budget for period 2021-22. We look forward to continuing that walk together and coming to a place where industry and trade is an even larger contributor to the country’s gross domestic product.
Along with moves to improve the business environment, it has been uplifting to also see President Samia’s focus on strengthening international relations. Besides having important engagements with development partners in the country she has visited neighbouring East African countries on critical business promotion exercises and during her visit to Kenya, she signed an agreement to transport liquefied petroleum gas from the Kenyan port of Mombasa to the Tanzanian economic capital Dar es Salaam. In Uganda, she had bilateral trade talks with President Museveni that will culminate in the signing of the crude oil pipeline deal. She has been positioning Tanzania as a powerhouse in regional trade and ensuring cooperation between the East Afrcian Community (EAC).
Most recently, President Samia has also encouraged our central bank to be prepared for the use of digital currencies and ensure Tanzania takes the lead and optimizes on the opportunities that 4IR brings. I have had the privilege of engaging with Her Excellency many times before and I recall on 2017 when I met her with Group leaders from Standard Chartered Bank visiting Tanzania she keenly discussed with us about evolution of cryptocurrency, this is a testament to her curious nature and dynamic leadership. She is clearly intent on making sure Tanzania has an economic stronghold in the global market, overcoming financial instability and boosting development.
President Samia is a formidable leader who is strong willed and goal oriented, and I look forward to watching the story of her purposeful service in leadership unfold, indeed as we say it in Tanzania ‘Kazi Iendelee’.