Tanzania: Kikwete Hopeful for Action On Climate Change, Optimistic On Africa's Future

President Jakaya Kikwete is standing for re-election.
18 December 2009

Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete recently sat down for an hour-long interview with AllAfrica's Reed Kramer and Tami Hultman at State House in Dar es Salaam. In the wide-ranging conversation, he addressed issues of health, education, corruption, food security, regional integration, civil society and economic growth. Here are President Kikwete's observations, beginning with climate change.

What are you doing along with other African leaders, to make a difference on climate change?

First, let me express my deepest appreciation that there is now a greater awareness of the whole issue of climate change than there was in the past.

I think that is because all of us are beginning to feel the effect of climate change.

There now has been rainfall unreliability for the past three years, consecutively, and we don't have good rains in many parts of the country.

This year there is drought in the areas of the country that border Kenya, and the Masai that live along the border are suffering immensely. They have lost a lot of their cattle. There is no pasture, no water for their cattle. It's a very disastrous situation. The changing water patterns are very much a factor of climate change, and it has dawned on us that this thing is real.

We have problems, also, with rising sea levels. Along the coast here, many of the wells that used to have fresh water now have salt water. Sea water has come into those wells.

I come from Bagamoyo, just north of here. We grew up using water from wells. Now these wells don't have fresh water anymore. So you can see the effects.

There is one island north of Bagamoyo - Maziwe, near the coastal town of Pangani - that used to be the breeding place of the green turtles. It has been totally submerged. Disappeared! The turtles had to move along the coast. So we have these real problems.

Essentially it is a question of increased carbon dioxide - carbon emissions. We're not responsible for that. Of course, cutting trees can also contribute, but we have not cut so much. We have set aside close to 30 percent of our territory for conservation - conservation of wildlife and forest reserves. Of course, the charcoaling in urban areas involves a significant cutting of trees. But comparatively, you cannot blame that for the global warming.

What we're saying is that those who are responsible for huge carbon emissions into the atmosphere that cause the problems of climate change should take responsibility. We want equal, but differentiated, responsibility. This is the catch-phrase that we use.

Fortunately, these developed countries have the resources for reducing carbon emissions. But, also, they have the technology to prevent more emissions into the atmosphere. We just want them to do what should be done.

I think what is really lacking is political will. For us, we are busy with adaptation and mitigation. And for that, as well, we need the support of developed countries.

In the town I made reference to, Pangani, we are now building a huge wall.

Otherwise the town will also be submerged, inundated. These are now the measures we are taking for adaptation.

For mitigation, we need to continue to preserve our forests. The only problem is if you preserve the forests you are not rewarded for it. You're only rewarded if you cut and plant, so maybe we [need to] cut and plant, but we don't want to be irresponsible!

We hope the meeting in Copenhagen will be a meeting of hope. The new administration in the U.S. has given us hope that they will be more responsive to the needs of climate change. All our eyes and ears are looking at Copenhagen.

Increasingly, international bodies are saying that there is a need to help Africa's rural farmers. What is your opinion on rural agriculture and how it figures in Tanzania's development?

Agriculture is everything here, because 85 percent of our people live in the rural areas. They depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Many of our industries here are agro-based - cotton ginneries, the textile mills, food processing plants. We think agriculture is critical for us, and we are giving agriculture the due emphasis that it is supposed to have.

When we came to office, we came up with an agricultural sector development program. It is a huge program, a seven-year development program - about a U.S. $2.1 billion program - with the main aim being to modernize our agriculture; increase the use of irrigated agriculture - right now I think it's about two percent only; increase the use of high-yielding seeds.

We're not using much of that. We're developing our own capacities to develop those seeds by supporting our research institutions, with two percent of our budget set aside for our research institutes as a whole, and agriculture would benefit from that.

We're also looking at increasing the use of fertilizers. The average use of fertilizers is only eight kilos per hectare. When you compare with the Netherlands, which is about 577, you see that we're doing nothing!

We're not yet there.

Besides that, we've come up with a comprehensive program for subsidies - subsidies for high-yielding seeds, subsidies for fertilizers, for herbicides and pesticides - to make it easier for the poor farmers to be able to get fertilizer and seeds. And it has paid dividends. In the southern highlands, after we increased support for agriculture, we think we're going to get a four-million ton surplus of maize this season.

Will you export the surplus?

We use it for our own consumption, and then the surplus we would sell.

We also are looking at how to impart skills for farmers so they will be able to use agronomic methods well. The issue here is getting extension workers. Last year, we set aside a budget to employ 3,500 new extension workers to help the farmers, to train the farmers, to impart skills to the farmers.

And then we are looking at the crop-marketing system. We've had problems with the crop-marketing structure. When the farmers don't have access to markets, if the markets are not there, if the pricing of commodities is not favorable, then they simply lose interest.

We're also looking at rural infrastructure, to improve the roads so that farmers can get inputs easily and, at the same time, make it easy for farmers' crops to get to the markets. This is part of a comprehensive program. Also included in that plan - we want to move slowly from the hand hoe to the oxen plow and to mechanization.

Last year, we suspended buying motor vehicles for the government, and the money that we saved was devoted to getting tractors to our district councils, and then they could sell them to cooperatives of farmers. We created a revolving fund. When they pay back, then we will bring in more tractors. So we agree that for two years, we are not going to buy government vehicles, unless very essential.

We say agriculture is everything. Besides that, we've also been looking at the value additions. We're now trying to encourage the manufacturing sector for agro-processing industries to be established. The new thing which we have done: our agriculture is essentially peasant agriculture; the private sector has not been actively involved - so we had meetings with them, and we agreed now to launch the campaign that has come to be known as 'Kilimo Kwanza' [Agriculture First].

This is a new motto for sensitization, for increasing awareness. It is targeted at the private sector. Let them be big farmers, be involved in agriculture as big farmers. Of course, peasant agriculture is important, but we also need large-scale farmers.

For the private sector to produce, they need to get involved in the production of inputs. We're producing 75 percent of our seeds. Our only weakness has been building capacities for seed multiplication, and for this we need large-scale farms. This is where we want our private sector to participate. We want them to produce pesticides and herbicides.

Our new 'Agriculture First' motto is a new spirit now. We want to continue to modernize the peasant agriculture, but now involve the private sector to come and be, as farmers, producing for the agriculture sector - but also consuming products from the agriculture sector. Add value. Export or sell locally.

Agriculture has preoccupied us for quite some time. Of course, the main target here is insuring food security.

You mention the importance of rural infrastructure. Infrastructure in general is key to all the things you just mentioned. So how are you addressing infrastructure challenges, such as power shortages?

We're doing a lot. Infrastructure is the second largest [item in the] budget. The first is education. The second is infrastructure. The third is health care. The fourth is agriculture.

We have allocated a lot of money for roads. We've created a road fund, and we've given a lot of money to the rural areas to improve the rural roads, to make them passable, to open up new areas.

With regard to electricity, during my time we've increased 100 megawatts; 145 megawatts have already been increased. We're now planning to increase 160 megawatts by the end of next year. We had a huge program for 300 megawatts production in Mtwara using natural gas, working with private companies. But with the economic slowdown and the financial crunch, they've postponed their investment in this project. So we're looking for some other funds.

We have problems right now. In our power generation, we don't have power surplus to take up the load in the event of a problem developing. So we had problems with one of the machines here. We lost 20 megawatts with the Songas. And we have problems with a hydro-power station in Kihansi, where we lost 60 megawatts. This 80 megawatts created a big problem for us here.

Now what we're working on is building capacity.

We have not been able to cope with the demand for electricity; I think the demand is increasing by 17 percent.

That shows you are growing.

Yes, that is crazy - 17 percent. What we've actually done here is to suppress the demand. The challenge is how to cope. We have a coal mine for generating power. Right now, we are getting only six megawatts. We want to increase that to 200 megawatts, if we can find the financing for that. We are going to get 200 megawatts from coal. We are now working, through our own budget, 160 megawatts - 100 for Dar es Salaam and 60 for Mwanza. Then we are working on the 300 megawatt station. We are still looking for other partners.

In terms of a vision for what needs to be done in the power sector, we have that. Our constraint has been getting the resources together. But I think now, with private-public partnership, we should be able to do that.

We've done that successfully with gas, and now we're encouraging that with hydro-power generation.

When any government is involved in large-scale projects or tendering large contracts, the issue of corruption arises. Someone in your anti-corruption bureau said to me, 'We are winning. We are in every district. It's a big, big challenge, but we have support at the top, so we think we will make progress.' Can you address that?

Indeed, they have support from me. First, corruption is evil. We must do everything possible to fight corruption. Whatever we can do, we must fight corruption in the country. It drains resources, diverts resources, from doing good for the people. It may be good for some individuals' pockets, lining their pockets, doing good for their stomachs. We want it to be good for the pockets of the people, good for the stomachs of all the people, instead of individual public officials.

The first thing we did was to look at the legislation. We have had legislation since 1971. There were so many inadequacies in it. So the year before last, we came up with new legislation, a more comprehensive one, almost all-encompassing. Then we looked at the [anti-corruption bureau itself], building the capacity of the institution itself. Now we have a network in every district.

We have increased personnel. I think we hired around 1,000 new staff for the institution. We have been working with other institutions worldwide to help us train our people. The Serious Fraud Office [United Kingdom] is helping us, and other institutions are helping us.

We have given them the equipment they need, the vehicles and so on. We also have a lot of donor support. There's a lot of interest from our partners in supporting our efforts.

So they have been working. And the thing that I have told them is they should feel free to do their work. As long as I'm not going to interfere, they shouldn't fear anybody. They have been trying. It's difficult, but, so far, so good. They've done well, I think.

We have more [legal] cases of graft corruption now than at any other time in our history. There are a few others they're still working on. Some difficulties they're facing is, with regards to those cases, that they've got to seek information from outside Tanzania, where it needs the cooperation of other organizations. There have been some setbacks in those cases.

These are the challenges. The important thing is that there is commitment, that they are motivated, and that they're showing a lot of vigor in doing their work. We'll continue to help them.

On the 2009 Ibrahim index [the annual African good governance survey of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation], Tanzania is rated 12th, which is an achievement for such a poor country. But you do have some poverty and you are facing problems meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Could you summarize your poverty elimination strategy?

What we have here is not some poverty. It is a lot of poverty.

Thirty-three percent of our people still live in abject poverty - and that's a lot.

This is an area where we have not been succeeding very well. In 2004 or 2005, it was 35 percent. Then in 2007, it was 33 percent. A very small decline, but I sense that it is because agriculture has not yet turned around.

As I said, 85 percent of our people live in the rural areas, with subsistence agriculture and very low productivity. People live from hand to mouth. This is where the poverty really is. That's why we give a lot of focus to transforming the agricultural sector. I hope that the investments and effort put into the agricultural sector will make a difference in the coming years with regards to poverty.

In health care, we've come up with a comprehensive program of primary health care to increase dispensaries in the rural villages. Our target is that people should be able to access health care services within a radius of five kilometers. It's a tall order, but I think it is doable, as long as we have this one as a focus.

Because we've succeeded in secondary education. In primary school, we have 96 percent enrollment. And now we have had phenomenal expansion in secondary education. We have invested in teachers, text books, teachers housing.

We said we want one secondary school for every ward - we have 2,556 wards.

Now, some wards have two, some have three, some have four secondary schools. One has broken the record with eight secondary schools!

This has been achieved with community participation. In 2005, the student population was 524,379 or 524,372. This year, the secondary population is about 1.4 million. You can see the phenomenal increase.

This year alone, 524,700 entered secondary school from primary school, and this was more than the total of all students in secondary school in 2005.

All this has been achieved through community participation. I believe that now we have moved from secondary schools to building dispensaries in the rural areas.

I deliberately started with secondary schools, because if we gave [communities] a choice between a secondary school and a dispensary, they would choose a dispensary. So I said, let's start with secondary schools.

They will still have the energy to build a dispensary. But if you start with a dispensary and then talk about a secondary school, they will say 'no, we are tired'.

Last year we had 600 dispensaries that we had already constructed, but there were not medical personnel. So we had to budget for that, and now we have them. This is what we're working on with primary health care.

Besides that, we're working on training of our health workers - doctors, assistant medical officers, medical assistants, nurses - because that's where you have a huge gap. The ratio of doctors to patients is one to 50,000. Nurse to patient is one to 23,000. And the capacity of our university here is to produce 250 doctors per annum.

That's why we're now investing big in expanding medical training, training of medical personnel. We have a university [which] we're moving to new premises. We're building new buildings, bigger ones, to be able to take more students. We're building a new university at Dodoma [Tanzania's capital], and we're starting a medical school [there].

Other indicators of poverty would be electricity [and] water supply. Our target is to get to 90 percent in urban areas by next year. We may not get there, but in several towns we're already there. In other towns, we are not. In the rural areas, we still have a long way to go. Our target is to get to 65 percent in rural areas. I think we are close to 50-55-plus.

And then of course, there is the whole aspect of job creation - to create employment for people. We think encouraging more investments into the country would create more jobs. We're doing fine in terms of investments so far. We're doing better than any of the other East African countries.

Last year it was U.S. $744 billion coming into Tanzania. That's a lot of money by our standards. I think we were the largest in East Africa, but we could have done more had it not been for the economic crisis. There was an investor from the U.S. who was going to invest U.S. $3.5 billion in an aluminum smelter in Mtwara, but they shelved that. There was a Canadian company that postponed a $160 million investment in a cobalt mine. We think, as things calm down, we will get the investment in the power station, and so on.

But there's a lot of poverty, yes.

How do you see regional integration as addressing your economic needs?

We're entering the common market [the East African Community]. Five years ago we signed the customs union, and it has worked well for us. Before the customs union, Kenya had a trade surplus with us. Now, we have a trade surplus with Kenya. Regional integration has worked so well for us.

In the beginning there was a lot of suspicion that we may just become a market for Kenya, but it has turned out to be the reverse. And that is why I am quite keen on working on other programs.

But you have to make it work for all the members.

It works for all the members. Trade has increased all over east Africa.

Intra-east Africa trade has increased tremendously. Our trade lines have always been vertical, but now we're having horizontal trade amongst ourselves, which is good.

We are now getting to the next stage of the common market. At the moment, we're working on free movement of goods across the borders and the removal of tariff barriers. The stage we are coming to now is the movement of capital, which is going to be a more interesting phase. Building bigger capacities, where surplus capital on one side can move over to the other side and promote growth.

In addition, we are looking at the movement of labor across borders and the movement of services. Again, it has got its own fears. My people seem to be leading in fear, as we always are (laughs), but you see the benefits on the ground. I've been telling my colleagues, 'Look here, you have to be understanding. You have to be accommodating. You have to bring everybody along. If you try to become too hasty, it may create some problems.'

A couple of thorny issues for the region have been postponed, like an east African common currency and the question of land ownership.

The common currency is the next step - when we come to the monetary union.

We agreed we are doing customs union first, then common market, then monetary union, then political federation. So after this, we work on monetary union and common currency. A common fiscal policy - that's going to be a more advanced stage when we get to the monetary union.

The land questions - at the moment we continue to use the national laws.

The national laws don't prevent anybody from getting land. Only that they've got to use the national law. But making laws on East African land at the moment may create undue stresses and strains to our cooperation. It may be a source of instability, a source of friction.

The whole problem in Kenya is essentially a problem about land. You cannot ignore that factor. Land is still a sensitive matter. Let's do what is possible now, and I think what is possible now is essentially the other economic issues - movement of capital, of labor, movement of services.

This is what we're focusing on, and the right to land can be based on the national laws.

Equity for women is also a big issue.

Of course, we know. It's essentially a problem of our traditions. There are some tribes here where women don't inherit land. And strangely enough, it is one of those tribes here with the most educated people where women don't inherit anything. Women don't inherit anything from the father.

That's tradition. These are some of the issues that we're grappling with.

It has very much to do with our cultures.

We're coming up with national legislation which covers this. Nationally, this legislation [is]... not discriminatory. Women can invoke [it]... and get their rights. But people, obedient to their traditional cultures as they are, they don't invoke this national legislation.

Can you do something to help women have access to those rights that they have in these laws?

The civil society needs to do more. You have the TGNP [Tanzania Gender Networking Programme] and so on. I'm not sure how much they're doing about that, I've seen some of them being more interested in the politics of the country, being partisans to the political parties, than dealing with basic issues that concern the women.

On the issue of civil society, many Tanzanians have told us that their year in national service [which no longer exists] was a formative year in their lives and gave them their identity as Tanzanians. As someone engaged in civil society organizations said, Tanzania is fortunate; it's a united country. But "fortune must be nurtured", he said, and is concerned that young Tanzanians don't have the same exposures and experiences. Are you thinking of re-instituting national service?

Yes, we are. National service has not been abrogated. Only that - because of economic difficulties - the government could not fund the programs. We are reviving the national service program in this financial year.

I agree with those people that you met that national service has been a wonderful thing. In this life, first you meet people in school, then you meet people in national service. But in national service, you learn to live a very humbling life. Boys and girls together there, in semi-military or quasi-military fatigues.

And you do all sort of things which, under normal circumstance, a person who has gone to school would not do. Sitting down, waking up in the morning doing exercises, singing together. Going to do manual work in the farms. Studying this and this.

It's been something quite useful, and the observation by people from the civil service is quite true. I agree with them, and we've seen it. Many of our boys now not going through national service are a different kind of breed from those of us who went through national service. It is something we have thought about carefully, and we are seriously working to reinstitute it.

And about government engaging with civil society and helping to energize them and listen to their suggestions?

We consider civil society to be very important. They are doing a wonderful job. They are doing a wonderful job. There are areas that they reach that government would not reach easily. There is information that they know which governments may not readily know. So working with them is quite useful. I must admit that there aren't adequate structures for government meeting civil society, so we need to develop those structures.

Speaking of partisan, as you were earlier - you have a vibrant free press. How do you feel about that? Are they playing a useful role?

Of course, they're playing a useful role in terms of educating the people, but there are also times they have been irresponsible. You have both sides to the coin.

But you let them have their say.

One thing one cannot accept is them getting to the point of writing things that are going to break up the country - incite tribal differences or religious differences. These are things we will not be able to tolerate.

We would have to say, 'Sorry, we can't bear with that'. But if they say 'Kikwete cannot run this country', if they think someone else can run it better, then that doesn't bother me. The people would decide, not the newspapers (laughs).

Zanzibar is a great attraction to tourists, as are many areas of Tanzania, and yet the island is a perennial challenge to governance. What is your feeling about the future of Zanzibar?

The political class there needs to sit down and talk. I initiated discussions of the parties, which we did successfully. We agreed on the future of Zanzibar come the next elections. Then the process stalled on disagreement on how to conclude. Recently I saw the leaders of the two parties meeting on their own, and I hope that meeting will come up with a solution. I support their initiative and encourage them to stay the course.

You were the first African leader to meet the new U.S. President, and at the United Nations luncheon hosted by President Obama in September, you were one of three African presidents asked to speak. What is your general view of Tanzanian relations with the United States?

Our relations with the U.S. are excellent. Excellent! We developed good working relations with President Bush, and now we have good working relations with President Obama, Secretary Clinton. We see eye-to-eye on a number of international issues, particularly African issues. I think they have the right vision, because their thinking augurs well with our thinking. We share the same priorities. In the new administration, there are people who understand Africa's issues, who empathize with our problems and who care about what needs to be done and are ready to do something about it, which to us is a matter of great appreciation.

You say you're an optimist. What gives you optimism about the future of Africa?

When you look at Africa at independence 50 years ago and Africa at this point in time, it's totally different. We're still poor, but the poverty levels at independence are not the poverty levels we're in now. You walk the streets and people are better dressed, people live in better homes than they did before. If you go to Dar es Salaam today, there are traffic jams. In the past, everybody used to walk. You are seeing a sense of affluence that is developing, and this is very much a factor of the policies.

African economies have been growing at five percent on average before the onset of the economic crisis. So even in terms of our economic growth, Africa is on the right trajectory. It's simply because there are the right macro-economic policies. Almost all countries have adopted the right economic policies on the continent, and this is what has translated into this growth.

Of course, the economic slowdown would have an impact. For us, for example, we are growing at 7.1 percent on average. In 2008, we were at 7.4 percent. Our projection for this year was 7.8 percent. But with the economic slowdown, we've now brought that down to five percent if we're lucky.

So you can see the effect, and many African countries are in the same kind of situation. We've lost markets for our commodities. We're losing tourists. We're losing transit trade because our neighbors are in the same predicament. The prices for our commodities are on the floor. These are some of the effects.

If the economies bounce back, we will also bounce back. That's why we pray that the major economies sort out the mess quickly so that we can also survive. There's no other way we can do it.

Looking at governance, there is much more democracy now than before. There are a few difficult cases. There are a few reversals, but on the whole, when you look at Africa, Africa is moving towards democracy.

On corruption. there is increased awareness now. Where in the past, leaders would deny that there is corruption in their countries, now many accept that there is a problem of corruption in their countries, and they're ready to take action and many are doing something about it.

When I see these trends, I'm optimistic about the future of Africa.

RELATED: Kikwete - 'Agriculture is Everything'

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