TBY talks to HE Jakaya Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, on the importance of a fiber-optic network, attracting FDI, and the secret of Tanzania's success.

HE Jakaya Kikwete
Jakaya Kikwete is the fourth president of Tanzania, having been elected in 2005. Prior to this, he was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1995 to 2005. He also served as the Chairperson of the African Union between 2008 and 2009. He graduated from the University of Dar es Salaam in 1975 with a degree in Economics.

What is the role of technology and science in education?

We are investing heavily in our ICT capacity. For example, we are building a nationwide fiber-optic network. We also want to channel this project into e-government, making it easier for people to access government services remotely. If we succeed in this it would also contribute significantly to the reduction of irregularities that currently blight the system. This administration is dedicated to the proliferation of e-education for the future of the nation. There is a vast amount of knowledge available on the internet and we want our schoolchildren in small schools and villages across Tanzania to access it. We want all schools to be connected to the network, which would go a long way toward addressing the problem of teacher shortages as lessons could in part be widely broadcast simultaneously.

E-medicine, e-commerce, and e-tourism are other areas of interest to us. Tanzania should reach a point where someone coming from San Francisco and staying here can simply swipe a card and pay for the entire trip without resorting to cash. This is one of the programs we have developed in collaboration with Microsoft. And once again, for such programs to become a reality, a fiber-optic network is essential. For all our previous projects, we have been dependent on expensive satellite links. Now, however, with optic-fiber and submarine cables, we believe Tanzania is creating the right infrastructure to encourage science and ICT. School curricula, meanwhile, are preparing students today to enter the information industry tomorrow.

What policy decisions have contributed to making Tanzania such an attractive destination for FDI?

We effectively pursue all diplomatic channels in the interest of advancing our technological capabilities. For example, India has donated a super computer on which scientific research is pursued in some interesting areas. In regard to e-medicine, which we are working toward, we were able to see its potential in terms of dispensaries, hospital work, and data gathering for national hospitals. My reaching out to Bill Gates at Microsoft also led to support for our schools, and this was also the case with IBM, which has contributed to ICT education at local schools. I have visited the laboratories of Google and Stanford University, where I heard interest in working with Tanzania. When it comes to investment, it is a question of putting the right policies in place and ensuring that the climate is attractive for the private sector. We see a great deal of interest in Tanzania's resources, especially in regard to natural gas exploration. We have made a number of amendments to our investment environment to facilitate commitment. The country's geography itself is a resource, offering access to a huge market.

“ We effectively pursue all diplomatic channels in the interest of advancing our technological capabilities. "

How will Big Results Now help the country achieve its Tanzania Development (Vision 2025) goal of becoming a middle-income country?

Strategic planning has been the touchstone since independence. We set out with five three-year development plans, although the oil shock, war with Uganda, and historical droughts negatively impacted the implementation of the second five-year plan, almost discontinuing the five-year plan system altogether. Then in 2000, we developed a long-term perspective embodied in Vision 2025, whereby Tanzania aims to become a middle-income nation. When I assumed my current position in 2005, we declared the Vision, but still lacked a plan. Recently, I returned to the 15-year development plan. We are currently formulating the first three-year development plan, and in 2025 we will emerge as a middle-income country. Breaking it down even further, we also draft annual plans. Within those, we see strategic areas of investment and focus. In the cabinet, we decided to agree on the key six sectors that needed our focus. These were infrastructure, energy, water, education, agriculture, and tourism. Health was to be included in due course. Appropriate budgeting for each has been a challenge and some allocations remain to be made. I believe that it is imperative for all ministries to deliver on their allocated targets for a uniform advancement of the economy, and in its wake the country itself. The government has made promises to the people, and we deliver on them.

What is your personal vision for the country over the next decade?

I'm very optimistic that by 2025, Tanzania will have emerged as a middle-income country. It's a tall order in the sense that by that time, the population will have reached 65 million. We also have to post a GDP of close to $200 billion. Gas-related revenues will clearly expedite the process. However, we first have to regulate the sector properly, allocate revenues judiciously, and ensure overall national development. We are working hard in collaboration with the US, the UK, and the World Bank to avoid catching the proverbial “Dutch disease" in the process. These entities and a variety of others are helping regulate the sector and build systems that ensure effective national growth.

How can Tanzania inspire its neighbors to increase regional prosperity and stability?

We have been making contributions to regional peace. However, “charity begins at home," as they say. And so while working aboard, we have been concentrating on peace and stability on the home front through the rule of law, and bolstering of human rights, the democratic principle. We believe that the policies pursued by the founding fathers and successive generations have laid the foundations for a sustainable and peaceful nation. We have also registered progress across many areas thanks to the dynamism, open-mindedness, and receptiveness to change of the Tanzanian people. In 2014, we are going to celebrate 50 years of the union, and although we have experienced challenges, on the whole we have succeeded. And in celebrating 50 years, I have suggested that we review our constitution for potential amendment in step with national advancement. The commission tasked with this has provoked much debate and we are confident of its findings. At the political level, there is an inherent dynamism on the part of the ruling party, which has a readiness to effect the necessary changes. This has supported the stability of the country and is also a catalyst for positive change to come.

What role will science and technology play in the national Vision 2025?

It is my firm belief that science and technology will carry Tanzania toward its status as a middle-income country by 2025. If we can anchor these two critical components properly, we can, for example, maximize the productivity of our agriculture sector. We also have the natural resources and human capital to benefit from science. This should result in a higher growth economy, with a more developed market, and substantially increased income of the Tanzanian people.