President John Magufuli’s new policies is winning him admirer, both at home and abroad.
The man described as the bulldozer is fast removing Tanzania’s reputation as a lone ranger and gaining influence in the East African region.
Tanzania have been known to be cautious and slow in plans for regional integration and infrastructure. This has sidelined the country in regional politics for a long time.
Kenya’s influence on the other hand surged, putting it at the forefront of East African politics.
John Magufuli’s surprise win last October in the presidential election seems to be what Tanzania needed to step out of the shadows of Kenya.
Tanzania has increasingly started to present itself as a viable alternative for regional cooperation in different sectors since Magufuli’s win.
Magufuli is said to have hijacked a pipeline deal Kenya had with Uganda. Tanzania was able to offer Uganda a cheaper and faster route than Kenya would provide.
Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter and other Kenyan officials had their passports seized denying them access to the port of Tonga where the agreement between Tanzania and Uganda was made.
Rwanda also took cue suggesting that it would be cheaper to build the proposed international railway project through Tanzania instead of Kenya.
Reports are suggesting that Kenya is deciding to terminate the Standard Gauge Railway in Naivasha or Kisumu after Rwanda pulled out of the flagship infrastructure project on the Northern Corridor.
The Rwandan government has however said it plans to continue with both routes.
Also, Tanzania recently pulled out of a trade deal that the East African Committee was negotiating with the European Union. But Kenya needs the deal more than its neighbors because all existing trade deals with the EU will lapse if it is not signed by October 1.
Kenya would then be required to pay between 4.5 percent and 19.5 percent on all its exports to the EU. Magufuli also declared that Tanzanian companies should not import anything from Kenya that could be bought in Tanzania.
He later tightened the already stringent work permit requirements for foreigners working in Tanzania, said to be targeting Kenyans in the country.
The willingness and readiness of countries like Uganda and Rwanda to break off deals with Kenya and pursue them with Tanzania shows that there is a clear shift of influence within the region.
President Magufuli’s pragmatic, hands-on approach is making this possible and Kenya will now have to up its game if it wants to retain its regional strength.