Dar es Salaam — The death of the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) chairman Salum Shamte is a blow not only for the sisal industry in Tanzania, but also for the entire business community to which he had significant contribution.
Shamte - who died at the age of 69 yesterday at the Muhimbili Orthopaedic Institute (Moi) where he was hospitalised following spinal complications - was a seasoned member of the business community for long.
Apart from leading the private sector, he was on several boards as chairman or member and has participated in founding influential organisations of the private sector.
"He was one of 35 people who set out to form TPSF to unite the private sector. We have lost the person who knew it properly and who stood firm on issues," said TPSF acting chairperson Angelina Ngalula.
Shamte fought for empowering farmers in Tanzania and was pushing for full implementation of the blueprint which he also participated in formulating. He was one of members of the team that spent almost five years to prepare the blueprint book that sets the stage for a raft of amendments to laws and regulations governing the conduct of businesses
He spent much of his lifetime in the agriculture sector, especially sisal where he was an influential commercial farmer who risen to become the leader of the country's private sector.
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"When I visited him at the intensive care unit (ICU) on Friday, he insisted on the unity of the private sector. It was really shocking to hear that he passed on," said Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC) executive secretary Godwill Wanga.
He joined the sisal subsector in 1975 as a director at the London-based Tanganyika Sisal Marketing Association (TASMA) where he worked for 10 years.
He also happened to be the chairman of the Tanzania Sisal Authority (TSA) before privatization of the sisal industry that led to the formation of Katani Limited, a sisal growing and processing company in Tanzania.
The company produces sisal fibre through a smallholder outgrower scheme, and sisal cordage and woven products for the Tanzanian and export markets. It also produces biogas, electricity and organic fertiliser from sisal biomass residue and breeds heifers.
Shamte also grew mangoes, rice, chicken and fish.
"A patriot who dreamed of making Tanzania a top exporter of sisal, a founder of Agricultural Council of Tanzania died in prison. Hard to swallow," said opposition politician Zitto Kabwe on Twitter.
Shamte - who is a former managing director of the Tanga-based sisal firm Katani Limited - and two officials of the firm were charged last October at Tanga Resident Magistrate's Court with three counts of economic sabotage offences including money laundering which is non-bailable.
He remained behind bars until his death.
From 2006 to 2013, Shamte chaired the Agricultural Council of Tanzania (ACT), the private sector apex agricultural body which he participated in establishing in 1999.
In that period, ACT was actively involved in the preparation of the Kilimo Kwanza [Agriculture First], a policy resolve which has put agricultural transformation at the top of Tanzania's economic agenda.
ACT also runs the Tanzania Agricultural Partnership programme which brings together private and public sector players to intervene in the agricultural value chains.
It has been instrumental in developing the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (Sagcot) which Mr Shamte chaired from its inception in 2011 to 2017.
Shamte - who held a Bachelor's degree in Commerce, and a Master's in Business Management - has been the vice chairman and board member of the Southern Africa Confederation of Agricultural Unions (Sacau) a body that brings together all farmer organisations in Sadc. He also chaired the National Ranching Company.
By virtue of his position, he was a member of the Tanzania National Business Council - the forum chaired by the president of the United Republic of Tanzania bringing together the private and the public sectors in Tanzania to address economic issues.
Additional reporting by Bakari Kiango