Tanzanians elected Jakaya Kikwete president last December. He is the second president elected since the East African state transitioned to multi-party democracy in 1992. President Kikwete spoke to VOA during a visit to Nigeria, where he was attending a conference of Africans and African-Americans.
President Jakaya Kikwete:
"A stable democratic environment itself creates possibilities for stable economic growth. And this is what we have been witnessing, since we started economic reforms in 1986. To date, we are on record performing well, the economy's doing fine, we have been able to attain high growth rates. Last year we recorded 6.9 percent. Of course, because of the drought and the effect the drought has had on the agricultural sector, we think the growth rate is going to come down this year…
The greatest challenge has always been, and continues to be, the fight against poverty and under-development. Of course, on the one side, we've been trying to improve on the provision of social and economic services, like health services, build more dispensaries, health centers, hospitals. The other we've been trying to deal with [is] the provision of water, both in the rural and urban areas, which is a major problem. And in the rural areas, it’s one of those problems that really tortures the women. We've also been trying to look into interventions to encourage or promote industrialization in the country -- increase production, and productivity, create more jobs for the people.
One of the things I think is going to be Tanzania's contribution to the A.C. [African community] is putting efforts in our own development. But the other is: One of Africa's problems is peace, stability -- or the lack of peace and instability. We have had a track record of peace and stability in the country, and we are surrounded by a neighborhood that has gone through a lot of turmoil. So one contribution we can make is to help our neighbors build peace, peace-building in the neighborhood. Of course we have done that in the crisis in Rwanda. We have done that with Burundi. We are continuing that now. We've done that with the DRC [Democratic Republic of Congo]. So, this is our modest contribution that we have made.
The thing that I find as a personal challenge is that I want, after I complete my term of office, that the people of Tanzania say that they have benefited from my being president. That I found them here, and I leave them here, instead of finding them here and leaving them there, behind. That's the only thing I consider as a major challenge to me that is very personal."