REGIONAL INTEGRATION

Tanzania 2018 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dr. Augustine Mahiga, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, on economic policy, working on economic integration in the EAC, and ensuring security in the region.

 Dr. Augustine Mahiga
BIOGRAPHY
Dr. Augustine Mahiga is a Tanzanian diplomat who has been Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation since 2015. He previously served as the Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the United Nations from 2003-2010 and as the UN Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Political Office for Somalia from 2010-2013. In December 2015, he was nominated as a Member of Parliament by President John Magufuli and thereafter appointed to the Cabinet as Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation.

What are the objectives of the ministry's strategic economic policy?

The ministry has adopted economic diplomacy in recent years to respond to the reality of the international economy. As well as reaching out to other governments for economic development, it has become vital to reach out to the business community for direct investment, dealing not just with other governments and government agencies, but also with economic institutions like the IMF and emerging economic actors and individuals. It is an approach geared to deal with these new realities, committing resources to enhance our economic standing and increase our access to opportunities in the international arena. In particular, such diplomacy has to be directed toward two areas. The first is to ensure that we reshape our economic performance domestically along these lines, promoting a competitive economy and embracing the private sector. The second is to publicize the fact that Tanzania is ready to engage with its own private sector as partners to enable the private sector from overseas to come and work on collaborative projects. This includes making room for PPPs.

What must be done to ensure that economic integration in the EAC acts in favor of the interests of each and every Tanzanian citizen?

Bilateral, national-oriented development cannot be complete without regional integration. East Africa has gone through painful experiences: political differences, fractures in our community, conflict, and ideological clashes. The common services—railways, harbors, the postal system, telecoms, and even the monetary system—that we inherited after liberalization broke down, and we wound up establishing national services. All these are behind us now, fortunately. However, we still need to find a new way of harmonizing, which proves to be difficult. We need these national services to be synchronized in terms of regulatory provisions. That being said, the lynchpin of the new common market is economic trade and investment. We started with the customs union and are now advanced in the common market, heading toward a monetary union. There may be hurdles along the way—as we see with the EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), for instance—but we hope the benefits of economic integration will incrementally become more evident. We may have to readdress the way in which our communities interact to counter any possible imbalances, and it may not take the form of the federation we know. At the recent EAC summit, we discussed fundamental issues such as non-tariff barriers and the aspects of infrastructure that should be coordinated. There are the northern, central, and southern corridors to consider in terms of issues related to energy and resource sharing. It is also too early to tell how the outside world will respond to this proposal for increased integration. Regarding the EPA, we have yet to iron out the difficulties, and it is still clear that some of the agreements are favorable to Kenya as a much more advanced economy and do not necessarily benefit other nations to the same extent. However, we remain open to discussions, and while the timing is not right yet, this will be a vital moment for the EAC to define a new approach to cooperation with Europe

What policies is the ministry implementing to ensure that safety and security are a key priority in Tanzania and the region?

Tanzania takes its humanitarian responsibilities seriously. We have received refugees from nearby states like Rwanda since 1959, before independence, throughout the liberation movement, and during the Great Lakes crisis. We still receive and host refugees as part of our international obligation. We have an important role that we must continue to play in conflict resolution and promoting peace and stability in the region. The role we have particularly in maintaining and facilitating the resolution of conflict is an extension of our own independence and stability. That is why we swore a dedicated commitment to the UN to operate peacekeeping operations in Sudan, the DRC, and Jordan.