Allow me at the outset to sincerely thank you, Mr. President for having conceived the idea of convening this forum and for your decision to implement it.
Let me also thank Ambassador Tripathi for reaching out to me with this proposal and, especially for encouraging me to accept.
I wish to thank the esteemed members of the MIICCIA for endorsing the proposal and, also for attending in a big way in this forum.
I salute my Colleague, His Excellency Sanjiv Kohli for joining us in this forum.
I also wish to welcome my compatriots from the Tanzania Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture (TCCIA) and also those from the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) for finding time to join in this important forum. This reminds me of a passage in a book written by Indian, Robin Sharma, in “Who Will Cry When You Die,” he says… “Success in business and in life is a connect-the dots-process…. All you need to do is to find out the habits, disciplines and strategies that others have used to obtain their results and connect the dots by duplicating their actions…” I believe you will find value in your interaction today with your Indian counterparts in this forum.
Mr. President, I wish to thank you, once again, for one more thing, which is, your acceptance to my idea of including as speakers my two Colleagues, Mr. John Mnali from Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) and Mr. Derick Lugemala from Tanzania Development Bank (TADB). I believe their presence on this platform will be useful especially, in enlightening members of the Chamber (MIICCIA) of the immense business opportunities that exist in abundance in Tanzania for you to be able to make the right and informed decisions.
As a matter of fact, because of their presence, my role has been simplified in the sense that I am not going to make a long narrative but only to be more generic and let the two folks delve into those specific details, including the major policy, legal and institutional reforms which have been undertaken under the administration of His Excellency, President Dr. John Pombe Joseph Magufuli in favour of both local and foreign investments.
Friends, the timing of this forum today is auspicious. It is happening at the time when the world must chart out the path for recovery from COVID-19 pandemic whether through vaccine or otherwise. In effect, there is a growing sense that with or without a solution to COVID-19 there must be a “new normal” by adapting to new ways of life.
In other words, while India and Tanzania struggle to fight the twin battle of epidemic control and recovery, questions that come to my mind are: what prospects are there for this historic and solid relationship that will help rekindle the bilateral trade and investment and restore people-to-people ties that have been largely disrupted by the pandemic in the foreseeable future? Again, amid the challenge of COVID-19, to what extent and in which aspects is the pandemic impacting trade and economies of our two countries? Equally important, how will India and Tanzania work together to upgrade the trade and economic relationships? And, in which industries will India and Tanzania level up business cooperation? Above all, in post-pandemic times, how can Tanzania level further opportunities within Indo-Tanzania Cooperation Framework? All these are important questions that should be dealt with in the course of our discussion today.
I believe, as you Mr. President confided to me, most of the esteemed members of the MIICCIA who are following this forum will play the role of propagators for future businesses in Tanzania and in India after listening from forum these distinguished speakers.
It can also be said that this forum offers an opportunity to take stock of the challenges and experiences in the context of COVID-19 and therefore strategize the way forward. And, as you may be aware, the IMF has predicted that the world will not get back to a pre-pandemic level of GDP until 2022/23.
For instance, the assessment which was conducted by the SADC Secretariat this year on the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 has shown that the regional economic growth is expected to contract by an average of about 3.8% in 2020.
It is therefore appropriate for us to respond and strategize together with our close partners such India through, amongst others:
Promotion of bilateral, regional and international cooperation. This will allow quicker recovery out of the crisis and, perhaps, avoid protracted/prolonged processes for normalization. In this regard, it is important to dialogue between our two countries on common challenges and strategies towards achieving a stable economic recovery.
Supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and informal sector is critical in supporting the livelihoods of the majority of our people through job retention and creation.
Investing more in digital technology, and here I think that COVID-19 has created the rationale for acceleration and broadening of digitalization of entire economies.
Enhanced sharing of strategies amongst Tanzania and Indian stakeholders on addressing and leveraging the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friends, India and Tanzania have had strong and deep ties of cooperation in the past and now because of the history, geography, ideology, culture, and people-to-people connection and there is strong need to further strengthen these ties to support and assist each other during and in the Post COVID-19 scenario.
It is heartening that our excellent bilateral and interpersonal relations are not only rooted in the factors I have just mentioned, but have also endured the test of time. In pre-colonial times, Indian travelers stopped along the East African coasts in search of fresh water and fresh food. Many stayed behind and resettled, leaving behind, what are now East Africans, and in the case of Tanzania, these are Tanzanians of Indian descent, and we do have quite a number of them who are very successful in various businesses, large and small.
Friends, although trade, businesses and investments have been substantially affected and even decreased in the wake of COVID-19, as the global economic climate recovers, further Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) is expected to capitalize on other industries and countries whose productive potential remains untapped.
As I stated in another forum recently, the post COVID-19 path to recovery calls for out of the box strategies to counter the fallout of the economic downturn and to meet the challenge of emergent priorities.
For instance, in terms of digital economy, India is actively working with Tanzania, in general, and with the whole of Africa, in particular, in transforming the economy on the continent through the “soft infrastructure”, among others. The decision of Bharti Airtel Ltd., (an Indian business conglomerate), to expand its high-speed 4G data network across the continent by investing USD 2.4 billion is a welcome measure. Airtel Africa, the holding company for Bharti Airtel is now operating in 14 countries, including Tanzania.
By and large, the post COVID-19 recovery calls for collective solidarity through strengthening existing partnerships between India and Tanzania. For instance, Indo-Tanzania cooperation in medical industry will undoubtedly boost the long-term availability of medical goods, vaccine and services not only in Tanzania, but also in the SADC region, and in Africa, at large.
At this juncture, let me salute the leadership of Hester Biosciences Limited of India with its headquarters at Ahmedabad for putting up an 18 Million US Dollar animal vaccine plant in Dar es Salaam, the largest in Africa to be launched later in December 2020. Other Indian businesses may follow suit by taking advantage of a variety of business opportunities that exist in Tanzania in areas such as:
- Agriculture (mainstay of Tanzania’s GDP) and transport
- Infrastructure development of all sorts
- Manufacturing for a market of about 59 million people, i.e. Tanzania; 162 million people, i.e. EAC; 345 million people, i.e. SADC; 390 million people, i.e. COMESA; and 1.2 billion people, i.e. the whole of Africa
- Safe and clean water projects,
- Mining, oil, gas extraction and processing
- Healthcare and Education
- Solar Energy and other renewable energy
- Financial Services
- Capacity building, etc.
In closing, I should like recall on my plea I made in another forum that India should continue campaigning for international efforts in support of global fund to help countries recover better from the pandemic. This includes provision of debt relief in form of “debt cancellation” to countries in need, to enable them qualify for more borrowing. It is common knowledge that fighting COVID-19 by new borrowings will lead into a more serious debt crisis in a very near future.
But before I end up, let me remind you one more thing. On 12 August 2020 the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) gave Tanzania the “Safe Travels’ nod, which gives travelers confidence to visit our rich and varied attractions for anybody planning to visit, be it for leisure, business, trade, etc. And from July this we opened up international flights to Tanzania after having put in place the necessary protocols and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). So, dear friends please come and enjoy with us.
And finally, I would like to quote from the speech made by His Excellency Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, former Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania at the inaugural Session of ICWA Conference on India’s Interface with EAC and SADC Countries: Partnering for Security, Stability and Development, held at Dar es Salaam on 18th January 2018:
“India and Africa are indeed close neighbours. Nowhere is this more evident of this historical close social economic relationship than in the significant number of People of Indian origin who have, over two centuries, made Southern and Eastern Africa their home.” (End of quote).
And it is therefore important that this historical fact should and must allow for mutual benefits in our two countries.
I Thank You for Your Kind Attention.