Is Tanzania’s President the new role-model for African countries? By Emily Bralee, Research Associate, Executives in Africa

The son of a peasant farmer and successful previous Minister of Works, John Magufuli, became President with 58% of the people’s vote following a bruising election in 2015.  He is known as ‘the bulldozer’ for his no-nonsense and abrasive style, which, together with his claimed peasant farmer family background, has enhanced his popularity.  His election pledged to end the frequent power outages, to introduce free primary and secondary education and to create more jobs within an improving economy.

Magufuli’s austere and straightforward approach has made him the talk of global politics, consequently gaining supportive followers and winning over the Tanzanians, including the majority of the opposition party.  He has caught the attention of other African countries and nationals, who have expressed the want for their presidents and leaders to parallel Magulfi’s actions to create an improved Africa through sound, proactive management.  So what is he doing differently?

His influence is showing the people of Tanzania a new direction, portraying his vision that ‘Tanzania is not a poor country but has simply been poorly managed’ (Ambali 2016).  He is overcoming the prior poor management by being a proactive leader, spending public funds wisely and in highly visible areas, and through this he is positively and creatively influencing the country’s citizens.

His charismatic leadership approach to date has generally been regarded as a success and he is considered a person who is ‘making things happen’.  Tanzanians are starting to gain confidence in their President who is doing what he promised when he campaigned around the country.  They are witnessing ‘real change’.  His open approach is suggested to have a positive impact on promoting a vibrant, people-centred and prosperous democracy which is evidently desired by Tanzanians by 2025 (Eyakuze 2016).

Photo – Issa Michuzi / issamichuzi.blogspot.co.uk

Through his no-nonsense leadership style, Magufuli has promoted the importance of public funds and expenditure cuts, for example, cancelling Independence Day celebrations.  Instead, this money was spent on widening a Dar es Salaam road from Morocco to Mewenge.  Furthermore, he implemented a policy that insists that government officials who travel on taxpayers’ money must travel in economy class.

Magufuli’s popularity is magnified by the fact that he is making education free for children whose parents can’t afford it (Zikoko, 2017).  Moreover, when Magufuli was due to attend a lavish evening party set to entertain him in the capital, he did not allow a great expenditure.  Instead, he cut the party budget and used the money to buy hospital beds and medical equipment (Kitoka 2017).

Within his first days in office, Magufuli made an unannounced visit, walking into the Ministry of Finance where he found many employees not at their desk during work hours.  With this unannounced and impromptu visit, it spurred all public officers to attend their workplace on a daily basis, knowing that Magufuli may visit at any time (Kitoka 2017).

His ‘Magululification’ of the country, demonstrated through his charismatic, bulldozer, and no-nonsense leadership style has provided Tanzanians with a new hope for a better tomorrow.  In return this has seen Tanzanian citizens begin to believe and take confidence in their government.

By Emily Bralee, Research Associate at Executives in Africa, eb@executivesinafrica.com

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