French envoy: Our priority is on security, democracy… – The Citizen
France’s new ambassador to Tanzania, H.E. Nabil Hajlaoui, speaks to The Citizen’s managing editor, Mr Mpoki Thomson, in an exclusive interview held at the former’s Office in Dar es Salaam recently. PHOTO | LOVENESS BERNARD
QUESTION: You served as Head of the East Africa Department at the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs. Tell us how this experience will reflect in your new role as the French ambassador to Tanzania.
ANSWER: What I have learnt is that East Africa is a rising region; it is experiencing very fast growth, but there is also a rise in challenges in areas such as security – especially the fight against terrorism, democratic transitions. These are major challenges that are crucial to this region and its neighbours, such as France; we have more of the same challenges which we have to tackle together.
Second thing that I have learnt is the aspiration of young people in this region whom we can work together to empower. Tanzania, for instance, is a lucky country with the longest political stability, as there are no coups d’ etat, no civil wars. It has good cultural civilization, and takes pride in the Swahili language as well as the legacy of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. This development is very significant and I hope we can share the values that you have and also learn from your experience in various areas, especially on women empowerment… There are many lessons to learn from each other.
You have vast experience in the political, cultural and economic development of African countries, especially North Africa. How do you plan to use this experience to help in your Tanzanian mission?
I consider France and Tanzania as neighbours who share common interests and challenges about youth, democratic aspirations and economic development. These challenges are more or less the same, and we have to work with our partners to overcome them. So we share similarities – although each country has its own history.
Tanzania is a lucky country and this probably makes it easier for us to work together to upscale our existing cooperation. We have for years worked with this country through various projects – and, now, we want to upscale investments and have huge projects. This is our mission’s focus
What are your priority areas for cooperation and development as the French ambassador to Tanzania?
To be specific, I will focus on three areas: try to work on the cooperation between our two countries in regard to the model of society we are seeking to achieve: women empowerment, youth education, and health care. This is the road map that my President has assigned.
Second, to upscale our economy and investments as I mentioned; to strengthen our cooperation in this country. We want to become the commercial partner for investments in Tanzania. We are willing, able and ready to do it – and we are really working with the Tanzanian government to ensure that this is successful.
Third is to discuss security issues in Tanzania – and France, as well. You want to develop your economy, your ports, among other things. We have the same intentions. These are the three main goals that I want to achieve together with the Tanzanian government.
Your predecessor, H.E. Frederic Clavier, was instrumental in the establishment of the French-Tanzania Chamber of Commerce (FTCC). How do you plan to further develop the Chamber?
I want to start by saying that my predecessor did a wonderful job during his stay here, including setting up the Chamber of Commerce which is instrumental in building ties between Tanzania and France. So, we are going to continue bolstering the Chamber.
What we want to do is to provide te Chamber with a bigger role in the future. We want to have more Tanzanians, more industries in this country becoming part of this Chamber… This is something we are going to do very soon. We will launch new things in the coming weeks whereby we will show how we want to move forward in strengthening our bilateral relations.
One of the biggest examples of our economic ties is the upcoming launch of direct flights by Air France between Paris and Zanzibar.
What do you think is key to maintaining close ties between France and Tanzania?
Our history in Europe is based on institution-driven government; we have religious people with different beliefs and those without religion – and all are peaceably living together. Tanzania’s history is very close to ours, so, basically, we have this common history that is unifying our countries – thus making our relationship even stronger.
Also, Tanzania’s international ideology is very much like ours. Based on what President Samia Suluhu Hassan said before the UN General Assembly this year, she started by saying that Tanzania is very attached to multilateral relationships to tackle development issues. These are some of the values that we share with Tanzania.
You have an academic background that saw you collaborate with many French universities. Are there any plans to create close ties between French and Tanzanian academic institutions?
I paid a visit to s France school here in Tanzania, and it was really amazing to see people from different cultures, Tanzanians and French, learning together and trying to achieve the level of knowledge that transcends origins and cultures. This is what I will try to achieve here during my tenure: to make rapport between your universities, your academic community and ours.
Tanzania is a member of various regional economic blocs, including the EAC and Sadc. Also, it recently ratified the Africa Continental Free Trade Area. What is your comment on this and how best do you think Tanzania can utilize such markets?
When you remove barriers and other obstacles to free trade, it makes neighbouring countries have economic growth. We have been removing trade barriers in Europe for years now. We have no lessons for anyone but the opportunity of this bloc gives countries a chance to economically grow.Tanzania ratifying the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement comes with positive results, as it is the best way to make progress collectively – and, I think, that Tanzania has the potential to become a leader in both the EAC and Sadc.
In your public service in Africa: what are some of the challenges you normally encounter – and how do you overcome them?
We have challenges that we face in various countries. But, the challenges that have become very common are security issues. My experience in several countries – especially in the northern part of Africa – was issues of security; how to work with partners who face threats such as global terrorism which can sometimes jeopardize investments.
Fortunately, Tanzania is not part of that. But, of course, the security in terms of terrorism – and also drug-trafficking – are the issues that need to be dealt with because you cannot achieve, or attract, more investments in such an environment.
You recently presented your Letter of Credence to President Samia Suluhu Hassan in thenational capital Dodoma. Was there anything specific that the President wishes to see you accomplish as the representative of the French Government?
We had a very positive conversation after submitting my credentials. We agreed to focus on specific areas during my stay here. I earlier mentioned areas like women empowerment, the global focus on tackling climate change… And, we also touched on economic issues: growth and development. Another discussion that we want to have in the future will be to further strengthen our ties.
What do you think will define your time as French Ambassador to Tanzania?
Personally, my goal is to be remembered as the ambassador that really created a bond between Tanzania and France. To be more specific: I want to achieve much by attracting more French investors to this country.
I want to see French investments in Tanzania grow by 10-fold in the next three years. Also, I want to trigger visits of the highest level. I want your President to visit France; I want my ministers, MPs to come to Tanzania. These are the things worth doing.
We want to assure you that my government is committed to sustaining the long-standing relationships with Tanzania. Even during the most difficult diplomatic hardships between the European Union and Tanzania in late 2018/19, it was France that stood firm and said we cannot stop cooperating with this country. This is something that I think Tanzanians should know – and always bear in mind.
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