Tanzania: Is Magufuli’s Integrity Enough?

Tanzania: Is Magufuli’s Integrity Enough?

President John Magufuli has assumed office and is beginning noteworthy efforts to transform Tanzania into a regional leader. However, deep reforms are needed if Tanzania is to continue as a hub for foreign investment.

Since securing victory in Tanzania’s recent elections, John Magufuli is continuing to turn heads. Magufuli has been labelled a Jambe (‘a hoe’), testament to his practical approach and commitment to Hapa Kazu Tu (‘work and nothing else’). He is already meeting many people’s high expectations.

Magufuli has made significant strides in putting Tanzania on a positive trajectory. Since Magufuli has stepped into office, Tanzania has changed from being perceived as a backward country in the region, to being seen as a progressive example to East Africa, following a number of measures.

First, on 20th November, Magufuli claimed he would boost government revenue collections by cutting out ‘unnecessary’ expenditure. In turn, he has ordered restrictions on foreign travel for government ministers. Under the previous administration, such spending had amounted to around $160 million, money that could have be used to navigate the country’s infrastructure bottlenecks. Similarly, he has cancelled Tanzania’s Independence Day celebrations which he sees as a drain on resources which could be used for benefiting the country.

Second, the new President has reiterated his commitment to education. He promises to make primary and secondary education in Tanzania free. Such measures will significantly enhance the country’s capacity building and future potential to benefit economically as an emerging market.

Third, Magufui has selected his new Prime Minister, Majaliwa Kassim Majaliwa. A similar leader to himself, Majaliwa was a low profile candidate who maintains a strong track record in government. This selection shows that Magufuli has enough political capital to select decision makers with little political capital but great integrity. He was welcomed into the position with a 73.5% vote in favour.

Finally, aware that corruption and inefficiency are pervasive in the country, Magufuli has identified the need for reforms in the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (Tanesco), Air Tanzania Company Limited, Tanzania Revenue Authority and Tanzania’s Railways Limited. This should lead to reduced corruption risks across multiple sectors.


The public’s reception of these measures has been more than positive. The phrase, ‘What Would Jesus Do?’ used by Christians to stimulate proper moral judgement has now been adapted to Magufuli. A hashtag has emerged on Twitter: #WhatWouldMagufuliDo, humorously prompting Tanzanian citizens to emulate his leadership style and integrity. The Magufuli work ethic is apparently inspiring the public to live within their means and work hard.


Undoubtedly, Magufuli’s rhetoric and actions are encouraging developments in the country, but he is certain to experience hick-ups and setbacks along the way. Notably, Tanzania’s nascent extractive sector needs deeper reforms if issues such as corruption are going to be effectively managed.

There are fears – expressed by the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS) – that levels of investment in the country may outpace the regulatory environment, particularly in the extractive sector. Prior to elections, new extractive industry bills including The Petroleum Act of 2015, The Oil and Gas Revenue Management Act, and the Tanzanian Extractive Industries (Transparency and Accountability) Act, were perceived to be rushed through without proper consideration or consultation. As a result a number of reforms are needed if the sector is to be managed properly.

One proposed reform is for the oversight of the sector to be taken away from the relevant minister and given to parliament (as in Norway and Ghana) in order to enhance levels of accountability and transparency. If such reforms are made then issues of corruption that have plagued other countries’ extractive sectors are less of a likelihood.

Deep Reforms

Although Magufuli clearly has an agenda of undermining corruption, he will not be able to do so in the long-term through pure good will and purging corrupt individuals. Undermining corruption and improving economic management in the long-term will rely on astute policy making which can benefit investors and Tanzania’s population through a strong regulatory framework and increased mechanisms for accountability.

In turn, investors can be confident that Magufuli is a good leader who is unlikely to use his power for corrupt objectives in the extractive sector. However, political developments and policy making processes should be monitored closely as the President is yet to illustrate concretely that he is capable of reversing structural problems in the government which have allowed for corruption to continue since his party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi, came to power.


About Author

Elliot Kratt

Elliot is a Freelance Analyst with The Economist Intelligence Unit. Prior to this, he held positions in a number of risk consultancies and has worked in East and West Africa. He has been quoted by journalists with the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal. Elliot holds a first class BA (Hons) in International Relations from the University of Leeds. All views expressed are his own.