President John Magufuli yesterday challenged His Highness the Aga Khan to review service costs at his institutions that get tax exemptions from the government.
Dr Magufuli told the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims to lower the service costs at his facilities, citing the Aga Khan Hospital. President Magufuli was speaking at the State House in Dar es Salaam where he received and held talks with visiting spiritual leader who also chairs the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
The Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims jetted in yesterday on an invitation by Dr Magufuli on the second leg of his tour of East Africa. Minister of Defence and National Service, Dr Hussein Mwinyi and his Education, Science, Technology and Vocational Training counterpart, Prof Joyce Ndalichako, were at the Julius Nyerere International Airport (JNIA) to receive the leader who was treated to a full guard of honour and other traditional dances.
While in Dar es Salaam, his itinerary shows that he will meet members of the Shia Ismaili Community. Dr Magufuli thanked the AKDN Chairman for various projects that his organisation is implementing in the country, citing the expansion of the Aga Khan Hospital to increase the number of beds from 74 to 172 as well as expansion of the hospital's cardiac and cancer departments.
The health facility offers general medical services, specialist clinics and state of the art diagnostic services. It is part of the Aga Khan Health Services international referral system, with links to the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi and the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi.
"He has informed me about his project to construct the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Arusha where they have acquired land and construction work is scheduled for completion in the next six months," the president said of his talks with the visitor.
But, he proposed reduction in the service costs, especially at the hospital and other facilities that get tax exemptions, affirming the government keenness to extend collaboration with the Aga Khan. He requested Aga Khan to further expand his investments to Dodoma Region, the country's headquarters.
The Aga Khan assured the president that he will work on all the concerns the Head of State raised, saying he was ready to support development initiatives. The visiting leader said AKDN is fully committed to have a big university in Arusha, AKU, to train not only Tanzanians and East Africans, but all leaders in the African continent.
Regarding the media, he said he doesn't buy the idea of media focus on politics as a priority, saying the media has a role to highlight development issues especially in developing countries. The Aga Khan's visit is part of a series of visits that coincide with the commemoration of the Aga Khan's Diamond Jubilee to celebrate 60 years as the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
Aga Khan ascended to the Ismaili Imamat throne on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. Over the past six decades, he has transformed the quality of life for millions of people around the world, including Tanzania.
In health, education, cultural revitalisation and economic empowerment, he has inspired excellence and improved living conditions and opportunities in some of the world's most remote and troubled regions.
In Tanzania, the work of AKDN has been transformative, dating back to over 100 years. The Aga Khan Foundation has increased income opportunities for over 100,000 smallholder farmers and over 9,200 community-based savings groups in Southern Tanzania.
Meanwhile, President Magufuli yesterday received and held talks with a delegation of US Senate Council dealing with environmental issues especially on the US' National Reserve, Forest and Wildlife.
The delegation is in the country for a three-day tour of Ngorongoro National Reserve. They are Mr James Inhofe, Mr Mike Enzi, Mr David Perdue, Mr Luther Strange, Mr Tim Scott and Mr John Thune.
After conversation that was also attended by acting US Ambassador to Tanzania, Dr Inmi Patterson, Mr Inhofe and Mr Enzi commended the president for inviting US business people to invest in the country, which is endowed with abundant natural resources.