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Tanzania-France Business Forum May 27-29 2024: Key Highlights

France-Tanzania Business Forum 2024 in Zanzibar

MEDEF International’s France-East Africa Business Council and the Sustainable Cities Task Force organized the Tanzania-France business mission and forum from May 27 to 29 in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar.

The forum brought together representatives of the Tanzanian government, French companies participating in the business mission, the Tanzanian private sector, and the European Union.

On day one, in his opening remarks, the French Ambassador to Tanzania, Nabil Hajlaoui, emphasized the robust and growing partnership between the two nations. Highlighting significant political and business climate reforms in Tanzania, Ambassador Hajlaoui noted the enhancement of private-public partnerships, stating, “These changes are enhancing private-public partnerships and are now becoming a reality.”

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Ambassador Hajlaoui urged French business leaders to invest more in Tanzania, emphasizing France’s long-term commitment. “We are here for the long term, committed to mingling with your people, investing, and taking risks,” he affirmed. He praised the resilience of French companies during the COVID-19 pandemic, mentioning that no French company left Tanzania during that time.

The ambassador also highlighted the success of the French Chamber of Commerce in Tanzania, now boasting around 90 members. He stressed that French companies are present in Tanzania for business but also to create projects and share expertise. “Our Agency for Development (AFD) is deeply committed to Tanzania, with a portfolio of 1.2 billion euros, the largest in the region,” he added.

He also underscored high-level interactions between Tanzanian and French leaders, recalling that Tanzania is now among the few with a privileged partnership with France, focusing on sectors like agriculture, infrastructure, sustainable cities, and energy Ambassador Hajlaoui expressed optimism about this collaboration, saying, “We are pleased that the private sector is responding positively to this call for collaboration.”

Looking ahead, the ambassador mentioned the anticipated visit of President Macron, potentially by the end of this year or next year, marking the first official visit by a French President to Tanzania. He concluded by expressing confidence in Tanzania’s upcoming elections, hoping for a peaceful process upheld by the rule of law.

For her part, Ms. Christine Grau, EU Ambassador to Tanzania, highlighted the importance of trade and investment as major priorities for the European Union in the country. She expressed her pleasure at seeing so many business representatives present. “As you know, trade and investment is a major priority of course of the European Union in the country,” she stated.

Ms. Grau acknowledged the strong relationship between France and Tanzanian businesses, emphasizing that this approach aligns with the EU’s strategy in Tanzania. She praised Tanzania as a “very safe and stable country” with a promising economic base for investment, highlighting its youthful population and future potential.

She stressed the need for foreign direct investment for Tanzania to fully benefit from these developments, and expressed her anticipation for the roundtable on the  EU Global Gateway, an initiative by the European Union to strengthen its economic relations, promote trade, investment, and industrial cooperation with key partner countries around the world. “We are looking very much forward to having you here,” she said, highlighting the strength of European cooperation and the benefits of exchanging ideas with businesses from different EU member states.

Philippe Labonne, Chairman of the Africa Committee of MEDEF International, highlighted the commitment of French companies to strengthening economic ties with Tanzania and Zanzibar. Leading a delegation of 27 representatives from various French companies, Labonne emphasized the eagerness of these companies to contribute to the Franco-Tanzanian economic relationship. “These companies of various sizes and sectors are eager to contribute to strengthening the Franco-Tanzanian economic relationship,” he stated.

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Labonne expressed gratitude to Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan for her unwavering support and thanked Minister of Foreign Affairs, January Makamba, for inviting MEDEF International to organize the forum. “This forum illustrates our shared desire to intensify our economic partnership and implement concrete joint projects in response to the country’s needs,” Labonne noted.

As the forum provided an opportunity to explore key sectors such as transport, logistics, energy, banking, and water management, Labonne highlighted the importance of these sectors, which are represented in the Sustainable City task force, comprising nearly 200 French companies, to make cities more sustainable. He also mentioned the Franco-Tanzanian Declaration signed in Paris last week, warmly welcomed by the French private sector.

Agriculture was highlighted as a priority area of interest, with Labonne expressing a desire for dedicated discussions on the topic. He assured Tanzanian partners that French companies are ready to propose ambitious projects aligning with the Global Gateway strategy, which aims to mobilize up to EUR 150 billion of investment in Africa.

Labonne underscored the commitment of French companies to capacity building, vocational training, digitalization, and the aerospace industry. “French companies are keen to co-invest in Tanzania and in Zanzibar to forge a bright future together between our two countries,” he emphasized.

For his part, the Tanzanian Ambassador to France, Ali Jabir Mwadini, highlighted the strong and fruitful relationship between Tanzania and France. He referenced President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s visit to France in February 2022, which resulted in several agreements and MoUs, followed by reciprocal visits and engagements, including the Foreign Minister’s visit to France in November 2023. “Our relations are at their best,” he emphasized, pointing to the productive discussions and collaborations with MEDEF International.

The ambassador also highlighted President Hassan’s recent co-chairing of the World Summit on Clean Cooking in Paris, where pledges of around 2.2 billion euros were made to support clean cooking initiatives, with Tanzania playing a leading role.

Mwadini stressed the role of ambassadors in bridging business communities and emphasized that the private sector is the engine of development. “For my Tanzanian fellow citizens, you are welcome to contact the embassy at any time for any inquiry, and we promise to support you,” he stated, noting the investment interest of French companies in technology, energy transition, infrastructure, and renewable energies.

He praised Tanzania’s stability and strategic location, highlighting its borders with ten countries and its excellent infrastructure, which facilitates easy movement and investment. “Tanzania is one of the most stable places in the world, not only in Africa,” he said, inviting French companies to explore the numerous opportunities in Tanzania.

The forum also saw the participation of Hon. Prof. Makame Mbarawa, Minister of Transport of Tanzania, who emphasized the critical role of transport infrastructure in the country’s development while acknowledging the significant progress in the bilateral relationship between Tanzania and France.

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“Transport infrastructure is essential for economic development and growth,” Minister Mbarawa stated. He highlighted that the transport sector contributes around 6% to Tanzania’s GDP and is a major source of foreign exchange, ranking third after tourism and mining. “The Tanzanian government has prioritized investment in the transport sector through various funding mechanisms, including government funding, bank funding, and public-private partnerships (PPPs). Without private sector involvement, there is no way we can develop our country,” he emphasized.

Minister Mbarawa outlined key projects in the railway sector, particularly the construction of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), which is divided into seven segments totaling approximately 1,600 kilometers. This ambitious project aims to connect Tanzania with neighboring countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to facilitate the transport of mining resources and other goods. French companies are already involved in aspects of this project, particularly in signaling and communication systems.

He also mentioned the importance of private sector participation in the operation of the SGR and other railways. “We have changed our law to allow the private sector to operate,” he said, inviting private companies to bring their rolling stock and expertise to operate in Tanzania.

In addition to railways, the Minister highlighted ongoing developments in the port sector, emphasizing the need for efficiency and private sector involvement in port operations. He noted that French maritime companies have significant potential to contribute to these efforts.

Minister Mbarawa also discussed opportunities in maritime services, particularly on Lake Tanganyika and Lake Victoria, and the potential for connecting Tanzania with the DRC through improved waterway systems.

Following the opening ceremony, the forum moved to roundtable sessions focused on Infrastructure & Transportation, Energy Transition, and Tourism & Sustainable Cities.

On the following day, delegates participated in working meetings with financial institutions, including the African Development Bank (AfDB), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the World Bank/IFC, and the French Development Agency (AFD). They also held meetings with the Tanzania Investment Center (TIC).

On the third day of the Tanzania-France business forum, the French delegation touched down in Zanzibar, greeted by President Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi who warmly welcomed the French representatives, extending an invitation to explore sectors such as tourism, fishing, ports, oil and gas, and water transport.

In discussions highlighting the blue economy sector, President Mwinyi emphasized Zanzibar’s advantageous position, particularly in port development. He highlighted ongoing initiatives such as the comprehensive maintenance of the Mangapwani integrated port, aimed at facilitating the import and transport of containers for local and international traders.

Underlining the significance of ports like Malindi, Mkokotoni, and Fumba, President Mwinyi stressed their pivotal role in driving the country’s economic growth. These ports serve as vital hubs for transportation, distribution, and various commercial activities, catering to the needs of both local and international businesses.

For his part, the Minister of State for the Office of the President, Labour, Economy, and Investment, Shariff Ali Shariff, lauded the strides taken by the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar to create a conducive environment for investment. He commended efforts to bolster infrastructure, enhance communication networks, and elevate tourism hubs across the archipelago.

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