When Economic Diplomacy leads to Moral Apathy: Tanzania’s betrayal of the Global South

Hafiz Juma
4 min readApr 5, 2024

One of the big mistakes political analysts make is that they think that their enemies should be our enemies. That, we can and will never do. — Mandela, 1990 interview with ABC’s Ted Koppel

The plight of the Palestinians is very different and much worse… They have been deprived of their own country; they are a nation without a land of their own. They, therefore, deserve the support of Tanzania and the entire world. — Nyerere, 1984 interview with El Mussawar

Julius Nyerere International Airport, Nyerere National Park, The Julius Nyerere Hydropower Station and most recently the Julius Nyerere Express. We have no shortage of naming honours we have made in name of the Father of the Nation. We bandy about his name as though it is the only one viable to give credence to projects and monuments we feel are of any worth. However, beyond the superficial plaques and laser cut neon signs memorialising Mwalimu — we do very little else, particularly in embodying his values in the local and political arena.

Mwalimu was the Chairperson of the South Centre from 1995–1999 and was a proponent of creating a unified bloc that could leverage the solidarity of the Global South as a diplomatic force with the OECD. He was also the first African leader to recognise the PLO and an important personal and political ally to Yasser Arafat. Nyerere and de-facto, Tanzania’s stance was that a world in which there were places of hate, a lack of dignity and self-determination provide a moral imperative to reverse this.

The post-Magufuli era of Tanzanian foreign policy has been defined as a period of aggressive economic diplomacy. One could argue the unofficial Samia doctrine is “We are open for business”. The numerous state visits and external delegations have been used to court investors, investment and resources that can be used to further Tanzania’s development. There is a case to be made for this and I will be the first to acknowledge this far outweighs the insular and nationalist myopism that defined the Magufuli era.

It was during the Magufuli administration that Ambassador Mahiga opened the first Tanzanian consulate in Tel Aviv. One can understand acts of questionable morality under this regime — however, the question must be asked why has this not changed?

Tanzania’s only public statement on the post Oct 7 genocide of Palestinian life has been a call for restraint from both sides. While South Africa has made public condemnation of the indiscriminate violence perpetrated by the Israeli state, recalled their officials from their Embassy in Tel Aviv and most significantly brought a case of genocide to the ICJ — Tanzania has deflected and demonstrably distanced itself from the liberation ideals of the man who’s name is on our new train.

On January 29th, our Minister of Foreign Affairs January Makamba gave a powerful and compelling speech at the meeting of European Corporate Council on Africa and the Middle East. He made a persuasive argument on how Europe’s militaristic resistance to the surge of illegal migrants from Africa could be reframed. He spoke of how it is possible to “Change the phraseology from stop the boats to bring the planes”. He continued to make the argument that investing in African human capital is not only right but good for Europe who would benefit from the pool of required skilled labour. This was a great example of the Samia doctrine in practice. Not once (at least not in the published speech) was there a mention of arguably the most important circumstance in the Middle East today. I would like to believe that had Nyerere been around, speaking to that audience, the rhetoric would be Stop the Zionists. Free the Palestinians.

It is not Tanzania’s responsibility per se, nor directly supportive of our economic development to be a force for good, freedom and human dignity in this world. It is a choice but not an obligation.

That being said — if we have opted to be passive on-lookers to cruelty and genocide at best or are actively distancing ourselves from enemies of those we are courting under the guise of non-alignment at worst, then I believe we must wear our ideology on our edifices.

I call on a petition to officially rename Dar-es-salaam’s Airport to the Entry and Exit of Capital International and Selous National Park to The Wildlife Coservation area for attracting Forex. Furthermore a renaming is required of our Mega Dam to The Hydropower Project for Industrial Wealth.

Finally, I call on the renaming of the Nyerere Express to the Train of Lost Ideals.

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Hafiz Juma

CEO and Founder of Inalipa. Curious dilettante, random writer. All views expressed are my own.