TWO TO TANGO

Tanzania 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Raymond P. Mbilinyi, Executive Secretary of Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC), on its work to support the private sector in the country, tackling challenges in the economy, and clamping down on corruption.

Raymond P. Mbilinyi
BIOGRAPHY
Raymond P. Mbilinyi is the Executive Secretary of TNBC. He is a professional engineer, with a BSc in engineering, a certified project manager, and a professional marketer with an MBA in marketing and over 18 years of professional experience in Africa. He has gained extensive experience in both public and private organizations, and for international organizations such as the World Bank, UNIDO, and BP. He also served as Vice-President of the World Investment Promotion Agencies Association (WAIPA) until December 2012. Currently, he is a Board Member of Tanzania Industries Licensing Board (BRELA), Victoria Microfinance Co., and the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF).

What is the principal mission of the council, and how does it work to achieve this?

The TNBC was established by presidential decree in 2001 and was first formed in 2002 as a way of bringing together the government and private sector to discuss how best to support the private sector in the country. When we moved from a central economy to a market-led economy, it was decided that the private sector would be the engine of the economy and the government the facilitator. When his Excellency President John Pombe Magufuli came to power in 2015, as the Chairman of the Council he appointed the third council, which was inaugurated in April, that met for the 10th TNBC meeting. The council has 40 members: 18 from the private sector, representing sub sectors such as tourism, agriculture, and others; the labor union; government ministries; the governor of the Bank of Tanzania; and prominent members from academia. The purpose of the council first and foremost is to brainstorm how best to improve the business environment and competitiveness of this country, lowering the costs of doing business, enabling the growth of medium and small businesses, as well as larger companies, and ultimately attracting more foreign and domestic investment. A foreign investor will always ask a domestic investor about business in Tanzania; therefore, it is important to improve conditions for those companies that are already here.

What was on the agenda at the 10th TNBC meeting?

We had three main agenda points: Tanzania's business environment, private sector participation in industrialization, and strengthening the links between agriculture and industrialization. On the former, we tackled several different challenges that active businesses currently face, including a lack of access to land and underdeveloped human capital. On the latter two issues, we looked closely at how to fill in the gaps in our agricultural production, through irrigation projects, greater availability of fertilizer, improved small scale and commercial farmer linkages, and the best possible methods of value addition in agriculture. Elsewhere, we also discussed opportunities in tourism, currently contributing 17.5% to the GDP, with the potential to contribute much more. Currently, we welcome 2 million tourists on average each year; however, by reducing the costs for tourists entering the country—through more competitive rates for transportation and accommodation—we could double or even quadruple that number. On this front, we explored the various ways to fast track the improvements planned for Air Tanzania.

What was the response from the public sector regarding progress made to these ends?

Prime Minster Hon Kassim Majaliwa directed Tanzania Port Authority to have 24 hours operations to increase efficiency and reduce congestion at the port. The various ministers present at the council meeting reported on the respective progress made. At the moment, the Ministry of Land is working to expedite titling procedures, both for investment and housing. The Ministry of Agriculture revealed plans for the bulk procurement of fertilizer to minimize costs while the Ministry of Local Government explained how it will link small traders with the appropriate infrastructure, designating spaces for marketeering complete with all the necessary facilities.

What about the private sector?

It takes two to tango, and the private sector also has a role to play. When we talk about economic corruption, often there is a preconception that the fault lies mostly with the public sector. However, it behooves the private sector as well to tackle corruption in Tanzania. Private businesses have benefited from the fifth government's tackling of corruption, bureaucracy, and the cost of doing business. At the end of the meeting, the chairman requested that TNBC prepare the matrix relating to the various concerns raised by the private sector that came under discussion, as well as allocate chief responsibilities and confirm the timeframe for completion. The 10th TNBC meeting was a great success as it reaffirmed the commitment of the fifth government phase of private-sector development in Tanzania.