TBY talks to HE Bernard Kamillius Membe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, on economic diplomacy, attracting FDI and investment, and the relationship between Tanzania and the EAC and SADC.

HE Bernard Kamillius Membe
HE Bernard Kamillius Membe studied political science at the University of Dar es Salaam. He later pursued his Master’s in Conflict Management, Conflict Resolution, International Law, and International Economics at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). In 1992, he was assigned to serve as an Advisor to the Tanzanian High Commissioner in Ottawa, Canada, where he served until 2000. Previously, he had served as a national security analyst at the president’s office in 1978. In 2000, he was elected Member of Parliament representing the Mtama constituency. He was reelected in 2005 and 2010 and appointed Deputy Minister of Home Affairs by President Kikwete after the 2005 general elections. Following a cabinet reshuffle in October 2006, he was appointed Deputy Minister of Energy and Minerals, and became Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation in January 2007.

What have been the greatest successes achieved thus far by Tanzania's foreign policy transition to “economic diplomacy" and how would you rate its overall performance since its implementation?

The success achieved by Tanzania's foreign policy's transition to economic diplomacy has been impressive. Stable growth rates, a stronger engagement in global economic and financial cooperation, and support from our trade and development partners have come as a result of this new policy mode. As a result, Tanzania has been among the fastest-growing economies for the past decade. With the discovery of oil and gas deposits, we are expecting to see even more economic growth. Second, the increase of FDI inflow and portfolio investment has become an important source of financing and economic development, especially in emerging and developing countries. Due to its importance, it has been actively sought after by virtually all emerging and developing countries. Tanzania has made considerable efforts over the past three decades to improve the investment climate here with a view to attracting more FDI. Major policy and structural reforms were carried out since the mid-1980s to target the improvement of the business and investment environment. These efforts have resulted into an increase in FDI inflows. According to the “Tanzania Investment Report 2012," FDI stock in Tanzania rose steadily at an average rate of 10.3% per annum from $463.4 million recorded in 2000 to $10.39 billion in 2011. This is a result of joint efforts made by all the stakeholders involved with economic diplomacy in promoting the available investment opportunities. The economy of Tanzania depends on the economic situation and security of its trading partner countries, as well as the global donor community. The economic downturn that occurred in 2009 in the major world economies impacted our economy, and a decline was observed in FDI inflows. In 2010, inflows bounced back, but declined again in 2011 following the large repayment of a number of short- and long-term loans. FDI inflows have averaged $1.34 billion per annum over this period.

Beyond Tanzania's traditional sources of FDI, what other countries or regions has your Ministry identified as being potentially significant investment partners?

FDI plays an imperative role in Tanzanian economic development, and our nation as a whole. For our economy to grow to the required extent, we need to have strong development partners in this segment. Its impact on the local economy has been in terms of improved job creation, government revenue, technology and skill transfer, capital investment, and foreign exchange earnings. However, going beyond our traditional partners, we are now looking to attract investment from the economic regional blocs we are involved in, as well as BRIC countries and the Asian tiger economies.

What are the Ministry's strategies to increase the exposure and accessibility of Tanzania to foreign investors?

The Ministry, in collaboration with other ministries, departments, institutions, and the private sector, will continue to implement economic diplomacy by attracting strategic investors to come and invest in various sectors in the economy. To this end, our strategies include the building of an enabling environment for economic growth, the strengthening of international partnerships, giving priority to economic objectives in bilateral cooperation, strengthening multilateral cooperation, improving relations with our neighbors, and improving regional cooperation. Our participation in various meetings such as joint permanent commissions, bilateral meetings, and regional and international meetings, as well as official visits abroad by our leaders and the official visits of foreign leaders to our country, are crucial to the realization of our goals. For these to happen, the Ministry will coordinate investment forums and facilitate the participation of Tanzanian companies in international trade fairs in addition to establishing trade/investment/tourism desks at all Tanzanian missions.

How do you see Tanzania's foreign policy and position in the region evolving over the long term?

Since independence, Tanzania's foreign policy has been focused on promoting friendly relations with all nations and on playing a constructive role in the UN, the African Union (AU), and other international bodies. Despite the fact that the new foreign policy is placing an emphasis on economic diplomacy, particularly strengthening economic cooperation with our development partners, it still continues to sustain the major principles of traditional foreign policy. Hence, the Ministry is keen on defending our sovereignty and the right to decide our own affairs, and promoting good neighborliness. Tanzania identifies with the goals of the AU and the UN as well as the policy of non-alignment. We fundamentally respect human rights and equality, and we still believe in being a non-aligned country. In view of the deepening process of economic globalization and the impact of trade liberalization, Tanzania has put emphasis on regionalism in order to create synergies through economies of scale, as well as strategic partnerships to strengthen domestic markets, attract investments, and create new platforms for beneficial integration into the global market.

As an example of stability and security, how is Tanzania working with member countries of the East African Community (EAC) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to increase security throughout the region?

Tanzania has been an active Member of both the EAC and the SADC for a number of years now. Both the EAC and the SADC advocate economic policies for the benefit of all partner states. Therefore, the idea of maintaining peace and stability among member countries is of paramount importance. For example, Tanzania is working hand-in-hand with other member countries in formulating a Regional Strategy for Peace and Security for the EAC. Since the inception of the EAC in 1999, the organization has taken bold steps to create a framework and structures to address security issues. This treaty recognizes peace and security as pre-requisites for the success of the EAC regional integration process. Developed through a highly consultative and inclusive process, this strategy will anchor peace and security sector activities, giving form to the areas of cooperation in addressing regional threats. In terms of the SADC, Tanzania has actively participated in efforts at peace creation and peacekeeping in the region, including sending of troops to the Eastern DRC as part of the Force Intervention Brigade following a request of the UN Security Council. The mandate was to fight against rebels of M-23, who were ultimately defeated and forced to surrender in early March 2014. M-23 signed the Nairobi Declaration to denounce armed rebellion and laid down their arms.

What steps is Tanzania taking to balance the economic integration of the region with core national interests?

The creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963, which became the AU in 2000, was aimed at integrating African countries into one powerful, united continent. This is because most African countries had small markets, limited power infrastructure, an unfavorable business environment, conflicts, and a poor industrial base. Subsequently, African leaders, including the Father of the Tanzanian Nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, stressed the creation of a unified African nation on a step-by-step approach. In this regard, Tanzania has been an active member of both the EAC and SADC, and through these regional economic communities member countries have expedited several infrastructure projects and are striving to maintain peace and security.