Suomi/Africa
Perspectives from Africa,
engagement from Finland
 
 

Understanding Africa

Representing Africans

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Fireworks at Kansalaistori Square, Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Fireworks in Helsinki, to celebrate a century of Finnish independence (Photo: Finland 100)

Relationship building for business development in Dar es Salaam

A Finnish ministerial visit to Tanzania has strengthened ties between the two countries, opening up opportunities for trade and investment across a range of sectors. The three-day visit, in May 2013, led by two Finnish ministers, has laid down a foundation for enhanced business ties between Tanzanian business people and their Finnish counterparts.

With Tanzania’s economy continuing to grow at a healthy clip and increased interest in trade and innovation, strengthening ties with Tanzania may prove pivotal in the years to come. Tanzania is rich in resources and home to 45 million people, many of whom have been seeing their incomes rise. The arrival of the two ministers - Minister for European Affairs and Foreign Trade Dr Alexander Stubb and Minister for International Development Mrs Heidi Hautala - has marked the beginning of a new history between the two countries, based on reciprocal trade for Finnish and Tanzanian goods and services. The visit has opened doors for a mature level of dialogue and co-operation between Finnish and Tanzanian traders. The bilateral relationship is now moving on from providing aid and grants to trade co-operation and business relationships.

Ahead of the visit, Finnish Ambassador to Tanzania H E Sinnika Antila told this writer that, as European economy shows slower signs of growth, and emerging economies like Tanzania continue to expand, many Finnish companies are looking at Africa’s market potentials, especially in the area of knowledge economy – ICT, cleantech and e-learning - as well as in energy and minerals. Tanzanians interviewed by this writer supported this view, saying the Ministerial presence would enable deeper linkage between Tanzanian traders and their counterparts in Finland - and would open Tanzania to foreign markets and business opportunities.

The relationship between the Tanzanian and Finnish governments goes back to the 1960s. For more than 50 years, the two countries have been working together in various areas such as education, economy and other social related issues.

Tanzania’s Minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, and the Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade, Alexander Stubb, launch a new city centre substation built and run by the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) in Dar es Salaam

An alumni network for Finns and Tanzanians

The arrival of the two ministers and their delegation, from Ndola in Zambia, was marked by the launch of a Finnish-Tanzanian alumni network at a reception evening, held at the Ambassador’s residence.

The Finnish ministers attended the launch of the alumni network, which comprises Tanzanians who have attended studies in Finland from the  1970s to the present day. The Tanzanian Minister for Education and  Vocation Trainings, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa was among the very  important people who attended the launch event.

“We are glad our country has a good relationship with Finland. It is through this relationship we have managed to acquire quality education, which helps us to participate in pushing for development programmes in our country,” said one of the alumni – who added that most of those who gained an education in Finland were working in various sectors in Tanzania, and that their contribution to Tanzanian development was principally based on the quality of education they had acquired from Finnish universities.”

“Some of us are lecturers, architectures, engineers, etc. We are who we are because we are among people in the World who luckily got Finnish quality education,” she said.

The Finnish focus on international development

In an exclusive interview, Minister Hautala told this reporter that the delegation had come to Tanzania because Finland wants to bring people together and see how they can cooperate on various issues. She added that Tanzania and Zambia had been chosen out of the 54 African countries because they were long-term partners of Finland, and the two countries have many opportunities.

“We need to be here because Tanzania is among fast-growing countries in Africa. It is a peaceful country, with many resources - including gas and oil,” she said. “We should understand that it is difficult for an official to do everything and sufficiently bring development alone.”

Minister Hautala commented on the role of Team Finland – a network that promotes Finland's external economic relations and country brand, the internationalisation of Finnish companies, and foreign investment into Finland. She said that Team Finland helps strengthen cooperation and creates linkage between foreign companies and Finnish companies. The team helps to put things together and it is really doing a good job.

On forestry preservation, the minister said citizens should be educated on the need to preserve forests and the nature. She commented, “The government should play its part of educating people in the side effects caused by the destruction of forests.”

The new Euro 25 million Tanesco substation was funded by the Finnish government

The minister added that Tanzanians should share knowledge, so as to understand better how important the forests are to their lives and how serious it will be if degradation is not stopped.

On education, Minister Hautala said, “Teachers need to be appreciated and recognised. Our education system is strong because teachers are well-treated and recognised for their good job, and on top of that the country enjoys the economic prosperity that boosts all sectors.”

Speaking also with this writer, Director General of the Department for Development Policy at the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Mr Pekka Puustinen affirmed that the visit would strengthen the ties, which have been there for more than 50 years. He noted that the delegation had decided to come to Tanzania because the growth rate of the country seems to be in the right track and hence the country has become the best place for trade and investment, with many opportunities for cooperation. According to Mr Puustinen, the visit of two ministers and the delegation opens the way for a win-win situation.

“Tanzania has many resources and opportunities that would attract any country to invest in and cooperate with. Finland cannot wait for 10 years to come; this is the right time for us to step in,” he said – and added that the aim of cooperation with Tanzania was to enable companies and other stakeholders from the two sides to work together.

“This is to say that Finnish companies could import its products to Tanzania and those in Tanzania could export its products to Finland. This will really open up and strengthen our companies’ capabilities to do business and produce more,” he said.

Minister Hautala commented on the role of Team Finland – a network that promotes Finland's external economic relations and country brand, the internationalisation of Finnish companies, and foreign investment into Finland. She said that Team Finland helps strengthen cooperation and creates linkage between foreign companies and Finnish companies. The team helps to put things together and it is really doing a good job.

On forestry preservation, the minister said citizens should be educated on the need to preserve forests and the nature.Results to the fore

Historical events in Dar es Salaam

Along with other activities, the ministers and their delegation participated on consultations towards the signing of bilateral agreements with Tanzanian Minister of Finance Dr William Mgimwa. They also attended a courtesy call to the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, at The State House. The delegation then held a discussion on competitiveness and on doing business in Tanzania with the nation’s Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Minister and Deputy Minister for Communication, Science and Technology, and Minister of Trade and Industry. The Ministers also attended an event at the Nokia Mobile Campus, and also a Tanzania Youth Alliance (TAYOA) service at Kibasila Seconday School in the Temeke district of Dar es Salaam. TAYOA’s objectives include the empowerment of youth by spreading scientific knowledge, instilling constructive values and attitudes, building organizational skills, creating opportunities to earn income, promoting and connecting youth organizations through networking technologies, and encouraging youth engagement in civic life and in the policy process.

Moreover, Minister Stubb attended the launch of a new city centre substation by the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco), with Tanzanian Minister for Energy and Minerals Professor Sospeter Muhongo. The centre was constructed with the Finnish governmental support of Euro 25 million. Minister Stubb said the project, which took two years to complete, will increase efficiency and power management in Dar es Salaam.

Tanzania Youth Alliance (TAYOA) director Peter Masika (right) briefs Finnish Minister for Foreign Trade Alexander Stubb (centre) and Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala during the visit to Kibasila Secondary School in Dar es Salaam - to inspect a youth project known as Vijanatz Portal, funded by Nokia and the Finnish Youth Foundation. Left is the Finish ambassadress to Tanzania, H E Sinnika Antila.

Tanzanian Ministers commend the visit

The Tanzanian  Minister for Energy and Minerals, Professor Sospeter Muhongo, and its Minister for Tourism and Natural Resources, Mr Hamis Kagasheki, commended the Government of Finland for being a strong and reliable partner in funding and supporting various development projects in the country. Minister Muhongo said the launch of the new Tanesco city centre substation would enable the availability of reliable electric power in the city.

“We thank Finland for this support, this project will help to boost our economy since it guarantee for reliable power, which is a backbone of economic activities,” Minister Muhongo said.

Minister Kagasheki commended Finland for working with Tanzania in facilitating the National Forest Resources Monitoring and Assessment (Naforma) project. He observed that Tanzania is losing a lot of forest cover as a result of the cutting of trees for domestic and commercial use. The minister said it was dangerous, as arable land is losing its fertility and the country is becoming prone to droughts. It was recalled that Deputy Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office for Regional Administration and Local Government, Aggrey Mwanri told parliament recently that Finland was among the developed countries that are committed at supporting and cooperating with Tanzania. He said that Finland has so far pledged to support Tanzania’s general budget with at least Euro 40 million.

Local traders and ordinary Tanzanians speak of Finland

Mr Geofrey Mugyabuso, a petty trader at Kariakoo market, said the visit of the Finnish ministers could open up business between the two countries - and that, probably, Tanzania could start receiving goods from Finland. Ms Rehema Abdallah, a mobile money operator in the Mwenge area, on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, said the cooperation could enable the importation of quality products from Europe - particularly from Finland. Most of the goods sold in Tanzania are imported from Asia. And Mr Juma Rajabu, a teacher at Msalato secondary school in Dodoma, commented that it was high-time that Tanzanians use the opportunity to learn and cooperate with one of the World’s most developed countries.

“We can learn and share a lot of things with Finland, we have resources and they have capital, our cooperation must go beyond aid and grants, we should start doing business together under the win-win situation,” Mr Rajabu said.

The coming and going of the two ministers has left Tanzanians with a new hope and expectations of cooperating with the Finnish government and with Finnish companies in capitalising on various opportunities.

Florence Mugarula