- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2001

Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye of Tanzania spared few superlatives this week in selling his East African country to an American audience as a haven for foreign investors.

He cited its low-cost labor, strategic location and a series of "vigorous economic reforms" undertaken by President Benjamin Mkapa. These include the privatization of state-owned enterprises, relaxed rules on the repatriation of profits and reduced tax burdens.

At a luncheon hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa — which seeks to bring together Americans and Africans for business opportunities Mr. Sumaye boasted about the shift toward free markets and privatization after decades of a failed socialist experiment.

"Our reforms have boosted GDP [growth] to between 4 [percent] and 6 percent. They have created jobs, and they have expanded the profit opportunities for investors," the prime minister said.

He also pronounced his country the most stable in the region, noting that it has become a haven for refugees from Central African wars.

Those refugees "would not be there if it were not such a stable country," he said.

Tanzania's economic reforms mark a wrenching shift from the "ujama," or cooperative economics, established by the country's founding father, Julius Nyerere.

The rejection of Mr. Nyerere's collectivist approach, particularly to agricultural production, began with Mr. Nyerere's successor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, and accelerated under Mr. Mkapa's stewardship.

Henry Cohen, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, yesterday described Mr. Nyerere's economic program as "pure socialism on the Soviet model."

He acknowledged that Mr. Nyerere had tried to spur agriculture by tapping the traditions of village life.

But, he said, traditionally "people were not herded away from their villages and into large production units as they were during the time of Nyerere."

One tradition begun by Mr. Nyerere — that of the country as peacemaker — has continued under Mr. Mkapa.

Both men prized Tanzania's role as African peacemaker, turning the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha into the Geneva of Africa. Peaceful solutions for the bloody ethnic conflicts of Central Africa have been sought in countless conferences there.

At the moment, former South African President Nelson Mandela is working from an office in Arusha to resolve the bitter ethnic conflict between Tutsis and Hutus in Burundi.

The Corporate Council luncheon drew attention to a coming African-American business summit to be held in Philadelphia from Sept. 16 to 20.

U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick will join an expected 13 African heads of state, including South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Nigeria's Olusegun Obasanjo, Angola's Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Algeria's Abdelaziz Bouteflika and Congo's Joseph Kabila.

Bordered by the Indian Ocean and three of the five Great Lakes of Africa, Tanzania is rich in agricultural products, principally coffee, cotton and sisal. Its top mineral resource is diamonds.


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