On the heels of a White House visit, Samia Suluhu Hassan, Tanzania’s first female president, made a special stop in New York City: The world premiere of Emmy award-winning journalist and travel editor Peter Greenberg’s global television special, “Tanzania: The Royal Tour.”
“This is a very special, up close and personal journey to and through a country, seen through the eyes of its leader,” said producer and host Greenberg. “It’s an all access pass, a deep immersion into the history, culture and the environment at a critical time in Tanzania’s history.”
In the film, President Hassan and Greenberg travel across her country, beginning with her small fishing village in Zanzibar, then soaring over Mt. Kilimanjaro, moving from the expanse of the Serengeti to the Tanzanitemines and investigating the country’s anti-poaching efforts.
She was hosted by New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the premiere was held at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
The hijab-wearing Muslim wife, mother of four and president then crossed the United States and attended the April 21 Los Angeles premiere of the film.
The film was also shown on WTTW-Chicago PBS and rolled out on PBS affiliate stations throughout the country. It will be available on Amazon Prime and Apple TV+.
During a White House courtesy visit, Vice President Kamala Harris introduced Africa’s only female head of state and her East African country to the American public. The vice president said she recognized the Madam President’s focus was on “the importance of the economic growth of Tanzania, which I know is one of your highest priorities and a main purpose for your visit to the United States.
We welcome, of course, the attention you are giving to that and that the focus of this trip includes, in the United States, focusing on the investment opportunities as it relates to the economy as a general matter, but also in the area of tourism.”
Along with voicing the customary importance of human rights, Tanzania’s president talked about collaboration with U.S. businesses. President Hassan said her government “is in the process of enacting the Tanzania Investment Act, expected to set the tone for creating safe lending for investors. So, we are creating—we are doing all what we can to make the private sector work comfortably in Tanzania.”
Vice President Harris, however, also used the meeting to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and call for the world to stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Tanzania has abstained on all three resolutions related to the conflict put before the UN General Assembly. Some African countries, including Tanzania, may be considering more complex relationships and what the conflict in Europe could mean.
“Specifically, Africa’s natural gas could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. For example, Tanzania president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, stated in an interview on the sidelines of the European Union-African Union summit in mid-February that the tensions in Ukraine are generating growing interest in the country’s gas reserves, which are the sixth-largest in Africa,” according to Brookings.edu. That could mean long-term growth opportunities emerge from the Ukraine crisis.
“Her nationalist predecessor, the late President John Magufuli, suspended talks with natural gas investors in 2019 to review the country’s production sharing agreement regime. Hassan, however, favors a more business-friendly approach and has revamped negotiations with energy companies in the hopes of attracting $30 billion in foreign investment to revive construction of offshore liquified natural gas projects in 2023,” said the Brookings Institute.
During her first year as president, “Mama Samia,” as she is affectionately known, has governed with a very different style from her presidential predecessor. Her roots are in collaborative activism and there is a culture of humility and hospitality in Zanzibar where she grew up.
She took over as vice president after the death of President Magufuli and has reversed some of his “economic nationalist stance.” Under Hassan, Tanzania is rapidly opening up to its neighbors. The country ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) last year, giving Tanzania access to a market of 1.2 billion potential customers.
Her administration has agreed to join the rest of the East African Community in signing a trade deal with the European Union, which Magufuli had blocked. Tanzania has also removed dozens of trade barriers with Kenya, reported Germany’s DW magazine.
The resumption of talks between Tanzania’s government and multinational corporations on plans to develop the country’s rich liquefied natural gas reserves has triggered optimism, according to The Africa Report.
“We are looking for markets wherever,” President Hassan said. “Whether Africa or Europe or America, we are looking for markets.”
Internally the 62-year-old president is reaping the reward of being the first woman hijab-wearing Muslim president. Dar es Salaam resident Monica Patric told DW’s Kiswahili service that the “great things (President Hassan) is doing in and out of the country” is why she’s happy as a woman with Mama Samia’s performance.
“There are so many changes since President Samia took office,” she said. “So many people and I are proud of her.”
Having a woman president has great symbolic value beyond Tanzania in showing that African women can govern, commented Ugandan women’s rights advocate Stella Nyanzi. “I celebrate President Samia Suluhu Hassan because she has echoed the importance of giving women governance,” the activist said. “She is not perfect, but she is doing a good job.”
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