17 June 2019

Tanzania's New Trade Minister Outlines Priorities

Dodoma — The new Industry and Trade minister, Mr Innocent Bashungwa, has outlined what he is going to start with, in serving the new docket as government minister following the recent Cabinet changes.

Mr Bashungwa, 40, revealed his plans when meeting top officials from 16 institutions and departments under his ministry, seeking to ramp up the speed of facilitating businesses to meet the expectations of the President John Magufuli government.

"Our duty is to facilitate businesses to attain an industry-based economy. I do not expect to see us frustrating businesses. If your institution deals with regulatory issues, I do not expect you to be overregulating," the minister said.

With implementation of the 'Blueprint' for improving Tanzania's business climate officially beginning after the Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Philip Mpango, scrapped 54 fees and levies in his budget proposals, the remaining task now was on mindset change, the new minister stated. "We now need mindset change. We need to be seen as having the customer care that is not available in the public service. We must work together to build an industrialized Tanzania."

On the issue of markets for strategic crops, Mr Bashungwa said his ministry will deepening its cooperation with the ministry of Agriculture to develop a single marketing plan.

"Our two ministries should coordinate marketing plans for cashew nuts, cotton, tea, coffee and tobacco, among other crops," he said.

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According to Mr Bashungwa, his ministry would immediately embark on reviewing the Sustainable Industrial Development Policy and the Agricultural Marketing Policy of 2003 with a view to aligning them with current realties.

"The goal is to ensure that we complete the reviews within the 2019/20 financial year. (This is) so that when we come to prepare the third and last Five-Year Development Plan [which will run from the 2021/22 to the 2025/26 financial years], there should be clear alignment between industrial policy and the economy at large," he said.

The 16 institutions and departments under the Finance ministry were expected to come up with resolutions towards a reformed ministry that would actively facilitate the setting up of businesses and industries - and finding markets for Tanzania's products at the close of their two-day meeting.

The board chairman of the Fair Competition Commission (FCC), Prof Humphrey Moshi, said the two-day meeting revealed to him that the ministry has well-qualified manpower - but, at times, they have been working as separate entities.

"With this meeting, we should now be able to pull our synergies together and work as a team. We have everything that we need to do well in this ministry," he said.

The acting director general of the Business Registration and Licensing Agency (Brela) said that, in the endeavor to facilitate businesses, Brela was working with the National Identification Authority (Nida) to ensure that Tanzanians seeking to register their businesses were able to get IDs within three-to-five days.

Mr Bashungwa was sworn into office as Industry and Trade minister last week after President Magufuli sacked his predecessor, Mr Joseph Kakunda, saying he was not impressed by the way he (Kakunda) was carrying out his duties at the ministry.

Among the key issues that the President said the ministry had failed to effectively work on was finding a market for cashew nuts.

The firing of Mr Kakunda, and demotion of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) Commissioner General, Mr Charles Kicheere to Njombe Regional Administrative Secretary (RAS) came within hours after the President had held a dialogue with prominent traders from across the country.

The June 7, 2019 session at the State House in Dar es Salaam saw to traders pouring their hearts out over the difficulties they face in doing business, ranging from an unfair taxation regime and harassment by security and regulatory agencies to unmitigated bureaucracy and corruption.

Following the complaints - and in an endeavor to fulfill the expectations of President Magufuli in particular, and Tanzanians in general - Mr Bashungwa warned the institutions in his ministry against "over-regulation".

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