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VP Harris hails Tanzania leader, announces trade boost

By AFP
Tanzania US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff arrived in Tanzania late Wednesday.  By ERICKY BONIPHACE (POOL/AFP)
THU, 30 MAR 2023 LISTEN
US Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Douglas Emhoff arrived in Tanzania late Wednesday. By ERICKY BONIPHACE (POOL/AFP)

US Vice President Kamala Harris unveiled Thursday an initiative to expand trade with Tanzania as she hailed the leader of the East African nation as a "champion" of democracy.

On the second leg of her trip to Africa, Harris said EXIM Bank, the US government credit agency, would sign a memorandum of understanding to facilitate up to $500 million in exports to Tanzania covering transport, infrastructure, digital technology and clean energy projects.

"On the subject of economic growth, good governance delivers predictability, stability and rules which businesses need to invest," Harris said at a press briefing alongside President Samia Suluhu Hassan.

"Working together it is our shared goal to increase investment in Tanzania and strengthen our economic ties," she said, also announcing plans to partner with Tanzania in 5G technology and cyber security.

Harris described Hassan, Tanzania's first female president who has been rolling back the authoritarian policies of her late predecessor John Magufuli, as a "champion" of democracy.

Hassan described their meeting as a "historic milestone" and referred to Harris -- the first Black person and first woman to be elected US vice president -- as a "sister".

Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been introducing political reforms.  By Brendan Smialowski (AFP/File) Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan has been introducing political reforms. By Brendan Smialowski (AFP/File)

Harris is on a three-nation trip to Africa, the latest push by the United States to deepen its engagement with the continent to counter the growing influence of China and Russia.

Tanzania has remained neutral over Russia's war in Ukraine, abstaining in UN votes against Moscow and calling for the conflict to be resolved through diplomatic means.

And in November, Hassan visited Beijing and held talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Political reforms

Hassan, who marked her second year in office on March 19, has sought to turn the page on Magufuli's hardline rule, which had tarnished Tanzania's reputation as a stable country in a troubled region.

Earlier this month, she vowed to restore competitive politics and jumpstart a stalled process to review the constitution, a long-held opposition demand.

In January, Hassan announced the lifting of a ban on political rallies, paving the way for the return that month of opposition stalwart Tundu Lissu who had spent most of the past five years in exile.

On Thursday, Harris also laid a wreath at a memorial commemorating the August 1998 bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's economic hub.

The almost simultaneous attacks by Al-Qaeda in Tanzania and the US embassy in Kenya's capital Nairobi left more than 200 people dead and more than 5,000 wounded.

Harris commended the government for its "transparent response" to an outbreak of the Marburg haemorrhagic fever which has killed five people in Tanzania, noting that USAID is providing $1.3 million to help.

As she wrapped up the first leg of her trip in Ghana on Wednesday, Harris announced an initiative of more than $1 billion to improve women's empowerment in Africa.

In a speech in Ghana's capital Accra on Tuesday, she noted three areas of focus Washington believes could benefit from more investments: women's empowerment, the digital economy and good governance and democracy.

"We are 'all in' on Africa," she added, repeating US President Joe Biden's declaration at a US-Africa leaders' summit last year.

From Tanzania, Harris heads to Zambia on Friday.

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