14 July 2015
Tanzania’s next president will need to balance political and economic stability while delivering change for the country’s expectant youth.

Adjoa Anyimadu


Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete congratulates politician John Magufuli in Dodoma on 12 July 2015, after he was nominated ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party's presidential candidate. Photo by Getty Images.
Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete congratulates politician John Magufuli in Dodoma on 12 July 2015, after he was nominated ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party's presidential candidate. Photo by Getty Images.


On 12 July, Tanzania’s ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) announced that Dr John Pombe Magufuli, currently the minister of works, will be its candidate in October’s presidential elections. An uncontroversial party stalwart, Magufuli will face a stark challenge in healing internal fissures in his party. Longstanding factionalism has deepened in recent years, intensified by disagreements over outgoing President Kikwete’s pledge to review the constitution, and intense competition between those vying for the presidential nomination. Magufuli’s election by the CCM national congress represents a concerted move by the party’s leading members to rally behind a unity candidate.

Political uncertainty

The CCM’s continuing dominance over Tanzania’s politics means it is highly likely that Magufuli will be the next President. But he will face significant long term challenges. The first is whether CCM can maintain its long grip on Tanzania’s politics. CCM’s share of the vote at the last election, in 2010, was 20 per cent down on previous polls. And apathy over the inevitability of a CCM victory saw overall voter turnout collapse to 43%. The October 2015 elections will be a real test of whether the party can rebuild its popular support base after this disappointing showing. And he will have to do it against a newly united opposition, as the political parties Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo, the Civic United Front, NCCR-Mageuzi and the National League for Democracy, now plan to propose a single candidate under the banner of the Coalition of Defenders of People’s Constitution.

Secondly, a planned referendum on a new ‘people’s constitution’, promised by President Kikwete as an inclusive expression of the views of all Tanzanians, was postponed indefinitely in April. This has not only left President Kikwete without a clear legacy from his decade in power, but also highlights how the most contentious issues of Tanzania’s political dispensation have been left in limbo.

It remains unclear whether the referendum will happen ahead of October’s elections. And in any case, the proposed draft cements the status quo of Tanzania’s union structure, shutting out any debate about Zanzibari dissatisfaction over the extent of the islands’ autonomy from the mainland, and raising the potential for electoral violence on the islands. Traditionally, Tanzania’s vice-president is drawn from CCM in Zanzibar, and Magufuli’s selection of Samia Suluhu Hassan to share his ticket is a continuation of this trend. If elected Ms Hassan would be Tanzania’s first female vice-president − and would need to play an important role in representing and moderating the concerns of Zanzibar’s politicians and population over the state of the union, repeating a role she played as vice-chair of the constituent assembly brought together to debate the draft constitution.

Tanzania's youth

Magufuli will have to reconcile the inherent conservatism of these trends with the need to appeal to investors, and to meet the aspirations of Tanzania’s enormous youth population (over  51 per cent of the population is under the age of 18). Tanzania is currently the prime destination for foreign investment within the East African Community, receiving higher inflows even than the regional economic powerhouse, Kenya. The appeal of Tanzania’s beaches and safaris may also lead to greater revenue, as its tourism sector benefits from security concerns in Kenya.

However, it is the potential monetization of recent offshore gas finds that could be the economic game-changer for Tanzania – and the biggest challenge. Exports of LNG could eventually earn Tanzania up to $6 billion annually. Crucial to this will be careful management of the relationship between Tanzania’s new political leadership and the international oil companies with offshore stakes – relations that have, under the current government, frequently been hampered by lingering mistrust of the private sector, a legacy of the country’s long socialist history. If elected in October, Magufuli will also have to make good his past strong public statements against graft, with corruption continuing to blight Tanzania’s politics – during his tenure President Kikwete has sacked at least eight ministers due to graft allegations.

The acceptability of Tanzania’s October elections to the country’s citizenry will hinge on whether an ambitious, and long-delayed, biometric voter registration process can be completed ahead of the election date. In a country where approximately 6 million people have come of voting age since the last registration, ensuring the enfranchisement of young people will be key. Additionally, the country’s new president will need to bring young blood into the new government – particularly as prominent young politicians such as January Makamba, the current deputy minister of communication, science and technology, performed well in CCM’s presidential candidate race.

So while the approaching October election date now consumes the attention of Tanzania’s politicians, the country’s next president will have to take a far more long-term view of current and potential challenges. Tanzania’s new leader will have to balance efforts to improve service delivery, manage the development of Tanzania’s offshore gas to support inclusive domestic growth while remaining commercially viable, and bolster political stability – both within his party, and between Zanzibar and the mainland – without allowing corruption and continued CCM political hegemony to alienate external investors or Tanzania’s disenchanted youth. 

To comment on this article, please contact Chatham House Feedback