By Polycarp Machira
The Political Platform Reporter
Dar es Salaam. Just a day after the Americans went to the ballot box to decide who will lead the World Superpower for the next four years; a cross section of Tanzanians has expressed mixed feelings on what the election means to Tanzania.
Some say President Barack Obama’s win would be fruitful to African countries including Tanzania while others see no change at all.
Neither of the presidential candidates would change the country’s foreign policy in favour of Africa, let alone Tanzania, they say.
Obama was considered a saviour in most African countries when he was first elected in 2008. But the perception seems to change after Tanzanians realised that despite having African background, he cannot do much for the continent.
Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) chairperson Esther Mkwizu says the US has had quite favourable policies that encouraged bilateral trade with Tanzania during the Obama Administration.
The US government was keen to boost growth in African countries despite having national policies that centered much on national interest with little attention to other countries, she observes.
“The business community in Tanzania may benefit much if Obama is re-elected to the presidency, as this will see more investments flowing into the country,” she says.
While Obama’s second term in office may see him improve from where he left, Romney would no doubt be looking to international markets to boost domestic growth.
Dr Benson Bana, the University of Dar es Salaam political science lecturer, says the America foreign policy on Africa remains the same irrespective of who is the President.
“The voters out there will decide what is good for them, Tanzania and other African countries will put up with whoever wins,” he says.
Dr Bana notes, however, that during his first term in office, Obama made himself an ally to the majority of Africans, including Tanzanians, who feel democracy is in a way a precondition to the solution of their problems.
Secretary General of the Trade Union Council of Tanzania (Tucta) Nicholas Mgaya believes Obama’s re-election would, in one way or another, benefit Tanzanian workers just as their colleagues in the US do.
The democrat government policies, he says, aim at improving workers conditions, an arrangement that saw Tanzania get $200 million in support from the US government this year. The amount was spent on training in new labour laws. “The Republicans, if elected, can cut short such kind of support on US workers and would not do anything to strengthen African workers,” he noted.
Another University of Dar es Salaam’s renowned lawyer, Prof Chris Peter Maina, believes Obama may do greater things for African countries basing on democratic rule and strong institutions during his next term in office. “He has outshone his predecessor on the US government policies on Africa and other developing countries in the World,” he says. He recalls a declaration which President Obama made in Accra, Ghana, in July 2009: “Africa does not need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.”
The views of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, and their foreign policy advisers, regarding political liberalisation and democracy in Africa are not known.
The Republicans do not seem good at pro-poor policies which can easily fit in Africa, Tanzania included, says Prof Maina, adding: “We are yet to see Romney’s policies on Africa if he wins the election. The incumbent President is trying to give the poor and middle class Americans opportunity for improved livelihoods; something that is missing in the Republicans.”
Tanzania Constitutional Forum chairperson Deus Kibamba shares the same sentiments. He cautions Africans over becoming overambitious, saying the US policy will, with or without Obama, always remain the same.
While Romney would take completely hard stand towards African countries, President Obama would be relaxed during his second term in office and implement the foreign policy with a lot of ease.
“In his second term, Obama may decide to improve on some areas as far as foreign policies are concerned and probably African countries like Tanzania may reap further,” he says.
Tanzania Centre for Democracy’s James Mbatia hails Obama presidency saying it has lived to support the country’s development pillars.
These include strengthening democratic institutions, spurring growth in economy, trade and investments, advancing peace and security and promoting opportunities and development. “What is unusual about the democracy pillar is the bold commitments made which many African leaders can hardly undertake. We should learn a lot from him,” he says.
Tanzania and Africa at large could very likely see the emergence of even deeper trade agreements with the US.