Tanzania tries bulldozing its way to growth

Tanzania’s president at a China-Africa party forum
Tanzanian President John Magufuli opens an African-Chinese Communist Party dialogue in Dar es Salaam. His no-nonsense political style seems modeled on Xi Jinping’s (source: dpa)
  • President John Magufuli has given Tanzania’s declining ruling party a good shake
  • He has staked his rule on a Chinese-style anticorruption and industrialization drive
  • A big risk is that the president’s heavy-handed style has spooked foreign investors

Before becoming Tanzania’s president in 2015, John Magufuli ran the country’s Ministry of Works under the administration of President Jakaya Kikwete (2005-2015). As a member of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM, or “Party of Revolution” in Swahili), Mr. Magufuli won a reputation for getting things done and for keeping a low profile during the party’s internal power struggles. His fabled efficiency earned him the nickname “bulldozer.”

Despite the introduction of multiparty politics in 1992 in the so-called “third wave of democratization” and its strict observance of the constitutional limit of two presidential terms since the retirement of President Julius Nyerere (1964-1985), Tanzania remains a dominant-party regime. This is mainly a result of the ruling CCM’s cohesion and tight grip on state institutions (a legacy from Tanzania’s socialist period), the lack of significant ethnic or regional cleavages that would foster the development of strong opposition groups, and the vast patronage networks that connect party members.

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