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Trade, Not Aid, Should Strengthen TZ-US Bilateral Relationship

July 2021 marked 60 years of bilateral relations between Tanzania and the United States (US), a long standing partnership between the two countries that is rooted in the pursuit of shared socio-economic development goals. With both nations committed to the mutual benefit of their people, the rich history of cooperation is driven by the commitment to enhancing peace, improving health and education outcomes, promoting broad based economic growth and supporting democratic reforms.

Earlier this year, we had the honour of hosting US Ambassador to Tanzania, Donald J. Wright, as guest speaker during the CEOrt monthly members’ meeting where he shared some insights on this existing bilateral relationship along with his priorities while in office. Among the priorities mentioned were health – continuing the work of the majority of US development funds in Tanzania that have gone to improving health outcomes in the country in various areas, including HIV, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. In recent months, President Samia Suluhu Hassan has reiterated a focus on maternal health, which the ambassador also mentioned as an area of interest in terms of health services that are open for partnership.

With regards the business and investment climate, there are on-going efforts to increase US investment in the country and promote reciprocal trade between the US and Tanzania, with the goal of seeing more Tanzanian products including cashews and cotton, in the US marketplace.

Furthermore, the ambassador highlighted a priority of people with a focus on the predominantly youthful population in Tanzania, with the objective of empowering the youth through the provision of technical skills, vocational training, and quality education that will allow them to thrive in adulthood.

As a large bilateral donor to Tanzania, the United States provides substantial assistance to Tanzania and sponsors programs ranging from PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), early childhood education, through to anti wildlife trafficking and more. The need for policies that encourage home grown industries and support local talent, investment in industrialization and workforce development is undeniable. Therefore, policies that facilitate participation by US and international firms will further positively impact our nation’s growth and prosperity. Foreign investors have the capacity to drive new business models, develop innovative technologies, and train local workforces.

As guest speaker at that CEOrt meeting, Ambassador Wright commended President Hassan on the work underway to improve the local business climate to continue to attract foreign investment. And it seems American investors and businesses are answering the call – the ambassador mentioned that a poll conducted by the embassy of US firms operating in Tanzania found that 61% of the companies considered their outlook of the Tanzanian market to be positive or very positive. As Tanzania progresses in its middle income economic status, trade, not aid, will likely become a stronger part of the bilateral relations between the nation and the United States.

The CEO Roundtable has active projects that have similar underlying priority areas as those mentioned by Ambassador Wright. Putting the focus on people, the CEOrt builds human capacity through its CEO Apprenticeship Programme in partnership with Strathmore University Business School (SBS) and prepares experienced local talent to become exceptional future CEOs. Within the health sector, the organization spearheaded Smart Hands Tanzania, a private sector-led initiative aimed at increasing private sector participation and investment in contributing to delivering results for vulnerable communities in the WASH Sector in Tanzania. Overall, the organization is committed  to working with the government, its development partners, and other stakeholders to perpetuate a conducive business environment for Tanzania’s sustainable development.