A Partner in Arms – TPSF Supports Govt. Efforts to Mitigate Impact of Covid-19

Tanzania has largely adopted a liberal stance to the fight against the novel virus (The country did not effect border closures and bans on large gatherings like most of her neighbours), there is little doubt that the pandemic has not spared its economy and trade.

In the ensuing debate on how best to protect public health, keep crucial supply chains open and by extension the economy moving, the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) has played an important role.

At the onset of the pandemic, TPSF made significant contributions in cash and kind towards the government fund to mitigate the impact of the crisis and has to date donated Tsh 9 billion (US$ 4 million). Donations in kind include medical equipment, medical supplies, expertise and other non-medical facilities and equipment required for containing Covid-19.

TPSF has remained unequivocal that a joint and collaborative approach between the government and the private sector will be key in addressing the Covid-19 crisis.

The closure of the Nakonde Border between Tanzania and her southern neighbour Zambia was among a raft of measures that created tensions at the onset of the pandemic.  The closure had not only affected trade between the two countries but also transit cargo to adjacent nations notably the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and parts of Zimbabwe.  TPSF’s role in the dialogue resulted in relaxation of the border controls and movement of hundreds of cargo trucks that had been stranded on either side of the borders.

TPSF being a member of the National Monitoring Committee for the Non-Tariff Barriers, reported to the Committee the challenges facing the transport and logistics, and trade sector resulting from closure of borders by the neighbouring countries. Bilateral discussion between several Ministers of Tanzania and those of Rwanda took place to address the cross border challenges between the two countries. The National Focal person has also updated TPSF that the Government is planning on conducting bilateral meeting between Tanzania and Zambia to address the pending cross-border challenges between the two countries.

TPSF also worked closely with both East Africa Business Council (EABC) and SADC Business Council to ensure that the Guidelines that were provided by both Regional Economic Communities to facilitate trade during the Covid-19 outbreak, especially for essential goods were being implemented by the respective Member States.

TPSF has also been doing frequent surveys since April with its membership, keen to have an accurate pulse of the full impact of the pandemic on Tanzania’s business community. Findings from these surveys have been instrumental in the frequent and well received policy recommendations shared with the government. Among these and which have already been implemented are measures supporting commercial banks liquidity for onward lending to the private sector to spur investment and production.

Among recommendations still under consideration is temporal reduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) from 18% to 15% to cushion citizens from the adverse economy. The foundation has also called for fast tracking of pending bills by the government to local entrepreneurs.

TPSF also formed a TPSF Advisory Committee which comprised of key national experts from various economic sectors. The overall objective of this Committee was to advise TPSF on the actual and potential risks of business related to COVID-19 impact on all clusters of the Private Sector, but also provide policy recommendations to the Government and advise on the post COVID-19 recuperation proposals to the Government, financiers, and Regional bodies on how to develop recovery projects and programmes.

The Committee prepared an interim executive summary report which provided key cross cutting recommendations that sought to avert or at minimum mitigate an onset of a deep recession that were triggered by COVID-19 pandemic nationally, regionally and globally. The recommendations sought to create an enabling environment for businesses to reopen (or to resume operations) on a usual basis; to reduce pressure on cash flows for sustainability of creditworthiness. The report was submitted to the Chief Secretary who later directed the Permanent Secretary from the Ministry of Finance and Planning to call for a meeting with TPSF Advisory Committee to discuss on the proposed recommendations as per the report. Initial technical meeting was held in June, meanwhile the Ministry of Finance is preparing for the said meeting and it is expected to bring together other Permanent Secretaries from other key line Ministries.

According to TPSF’s Interim Chairperson Ms. Angelina Ngalula results from its private-public dialogues may indeed be the safe boat that enabled Tanzania ride out of the current storm, “We remain indebted to TradeMark Africa that has invested a lot in bringing us together as an Umbrella body for the private sector. This has enabled us to speak in one voice and be able to have structured conversations with the government, resulting in many positive reforms both in the current situation and in the past.”