Tanzania’s Barrier-Breaking New President

Foreign direct investors in its mining industry are apprehensive on account of Magufuli’s resource-nationalist policies.

The sudden death in Marah of Tanzania President John Magufuli turns the spotlight on his successor, Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan, now the nation’s first female president. She inherits the helm of a nation in relatively good shape, economically—growth slipped to 2% last year but remained positive, and economists were surprised by a 10% jump in foreign reserves in January, to $5.2 billion, according to NKC African Economics.

Foreign direct investors in its mining industry are apprehensive on account of Magufuli’s resource-nationalist policies.

Foreign investors in Tanzania’s mining will be watching closely to see whether Suluhu will hew to her predecessor’s resource-nationalist policies, which included relatively high royalty rates, a ban on export of mineral concentrates and curbs on international arbitration for resource groups. She is expected to retain Magufuli’s nationalistic minerals minister, Doto Biteko, says Ed Hobey-Hamsher, senior Africa analyst at risk consultant Verisk Maplecroft.

The biggest task for Suluhu, a Muslim from the island of Zanzibar, will be retaining the support  of mainland Tanzania’s majority-Christian population, political analysts say, both for her leadership and for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.

“As a Muslim from Zanzibar, unifying the mainland Christian nationalists of the CCM will not be easy [for her],” says Hobey-Hamsher. The previous president was a skeptic of the Covid-19 pandemic, and his “repeated references to the protection offered by religion played well with the ruling CCM’s traditional Christian support bases in rural Tanzania.”

While Suluhu has broken the glass ceiling, she has little time to celebrate; Covid-19 and its effects, remain a stark reality for the country she has inherited. Then there is the economy to watch over.

The World Bank reported in March that although Tanzania avoided a recession in 2020, “the poverty rate is estimated to have risen to 27.2%.” That means an additional 600,000 Tanzanians have fallen below the national poverty line in the past year.