Magufuli’s leadership sets an example for Africa
AUTHOR of Africa is Open for Business; media commentator and public speaker on African business affairs, and a weekly columnist for African Independent – Twitter Handle: @VictorAfrica
‘ Hii ni kwa Magufuli, right?’ (This is for Magufuli, right?)
Or at least that was what I think my cab driver said. I was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and the driver had just filled up with about 25 litres of petrol. At this quiet service station on Bagamoyo Road near Mbezi Beach, he was stating the obvious with his rhetorical question. The petrol pump attendant was giving him a receipt to comply with what President John Magufuli wants: that every transaction must be documented.
Although this was mere banter at the end of a brief stop, it pricked my curiosity to ask him, once we were on our way again, why he had said that.
“No, the President says for everything we buy, we must demand a receipt to curb corruption,” he answered.
“So, he is an impossible man, this Magufuli, hey?” “No, mzee; he is a good man. “The only people who are unhappy with him are those who have been stealing.”
This was confirmed later at some of my meetings.
A consultant for one of the Euro- pean aid agencies complained about the tough crackdown on malfeasance by Magufuli.
She agreed with the fight against corruption, but was concerned that the man nicknamed “The Bulldozer” was a bit heavy-handed.
Hotels are standing empty because he stopped all the conferencing, which had been a source of good income for them.
Look around, she continued, and you will see mega-building projects not progressing as fast as they had been before he took over in December 2015.
President Magufuli, meanwhile, was about to host his Egyptian counterpart to discuss possible investments in Tanzania’s health sector. Apart from the resumption of talks over the Grand Renaissance Dam and its impact on Egypt, Magufuli and Abdel Al-Sisi explored prospects of capital injection to boost Tanzania’s pharmaceutical sector and agriculture.
President Magufuli wants to cement trade and investment relations with Egypt to reduce the $11.2 million (R143m) his government spends annually to procure medicines and supplies.
He also wants a share of that huge meat import bill Egypt pays to India, if Egypt can help his farmers to build their meat processing capacity.
Never shy to aim high, The Bulldozer even wants to tap into Egypt’s health sector expertise to enable
Tanzania’s own Muhimbili National Hospital to perform kidney surgeries before 2020.
It is tempting to dismiss him as someone aiming too high; but is the lack of ambition not our problem as Africans? Considering how many Africans – including those running countries – travel elsewhere to receive medical treatment, maybe it is better to aim too high than too low.
My seven days in Dar es Salaam drummed into me the belief that President Magufuli might just be the kind of leader most African countries need. If even petrol attendants know that they need to issue receipts for their petrol sales, they must be feeling his presence.
It is true that the slowdown in the economy could have disastrous effects on employment. His
current stand-off with the mining companies includes his $190 billion (R2.4 trillion) tax bill facing UK-listed Acacia Mining. Accusing the company of operating illegally and understating its gold exports, Magufuli has also banned copper and mineral sands exports.
He has redirected expenditure to major infrastructure, banned lavish Independence Day celebrations and curbed air travel for most government officials. Media professionals who criticize him have not been spared either.
On the Acacia dispute alone, some analysts – including from Investec – were quoted in BBC reports saying the tax bill against Acacia “is more than twice what all top five global gold miners (including Barrick) combined have paid in taxes since 2000”!
Acacia has cautioned that his move threatens the “security of the 36 200 indirect and induced jobs” and its ability to invest in education, infrastructure and health.
Magufuli will certainly dial down on the intensity of his actions, but he deserves the benefit of doubt, for now; and maybe his second term.
He is doing much better than most African leaders we have.