Remarks by Ambassador Donald J. Wright, M.D., M.P.H.
Venue: National Defense College
February 16, 2022
I am honored to be with you this morning. I want to begin by thanking our host, the National Defense College and Major General Mhona, for their support of this very worthwhile and important course of study and for the extremely close and collaborative partnership that the Tanzanian government has had with the U.S. Embassy stretching back for many decades. As the United States Ambassador to Tanzania, I am grateful for this opportunity to speak to senior Tanzanian government officials and military officers, as well as senior military representatives from ten other nations who are here for this important course of instruction.
As many of you may be aware, we recently celebrated 60 years of partnership with Tanzania. Since 1961, when Tanganyika declared independence, we have been friends. And this this bi-national relationship extended into a mutually respectful and personal affinity between two of our most revered leaders: Julius Nyerere and John F Kennedy.
It has been a long and storied history, but I would like to focus on where we stand today. There are four key pillars that guide our relationship: health and education, economic development, promoting democracy, and most relevant to you, security. In each of these areas, our partnership is having a positive impact on the lives of ordinary Tanzanians while strengthening the nation as a whole.
I will address the pillar that I am most familiar with first and that is Health and Education. And, given the current COVID pandemic, it is a very timely issue. As many of you may know, prior to serving as Ambassador, I worked at the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the senior leadership. Public Health is near and dear to my heart as well as my chosen profession. This is how 30 years ago, I found myself in Tanzania working at a children’s hospital in Zanzibar. It was truly a life-changing experience, and I was elated to be able to return in 2020 as the Ambassador. I consider representing my country to the good people of Tanzania to be the single greatest honor of my life.
Good health is the foundation of strong and sustainable development. And this is why the U.S. devotes more than $450 million a year in assistance to Tanzania to the health sector. This includes investing more in health, defeating serious diseases such as Malaria, HIV, and Covid-19, working to prevent, detect and respond to future health crises, and partnering with the African CDC and other institutions to advance health security.
The centerpiece of our health security partnership is PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Administered by the Department of State, it supports national, international, and civil society organizations in HIV/AIDS care and treatment, prevention, impact mitigation, and health systems strengthening. U.S. government investments in the health sector leverage the expertise of agencies including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense to address global health security, training and capacity building for healthcare workers, HIV/AIDS, pandemic preparedness and response, maternal and child health, family planning, nutrition, malaria, and tuberculosis. The US Government has saved millions of lives in Africa and built up the capacity of governments to anticipate and deal with health issues. It makes me proud to contribute to the health improvement of Tanzanians. And, to this end I want to announce the return of the McGovern-Dole Food Program – a flagship initiative that will fight food insecurity by offering supplemental nutrition to underserved children in some of the most rural and remote areas of Tanzania.
As we continue to work in the area of health, we must also give Tanzanians the tools to improve their lives, and just like Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, the US strongly believes in the power of education.
The US sponsors a number of programs that facilitate the education of Tanzanians in sectors vital to the development of the country. In fact, we count over 3000 alumni of US government exchange programs in Tanzania, many of whom have reached the highest levels of their chosen fields.
One of the oldest and most renowned is the Fulbright program where top Tanzanian students are given the opportunity to travel to the United States and earn advanced degrees at some of the most prestigious universities in the United States. What is probably less known is that the Fulbright program is truly a two-way exchange. Despite COVID, we currently have two American professors teaching and doing research at Tanzanian Universities.
And, speaking of Americans working in Tanzania, the Peace Corps has a 60-year distinguished history of sending service-oriented Americans to work hand-in-hand with Tanzanians. Since 1961, Tanzania has welcomed 3,200 Americans who have contributed to health, agriculture, poverty reduction, and education. Pre-COVID (2019), Volunteers taught more than 13,000 students in math and science (53% were girls). And more than 10,000 individuals were reached with health or agriculture programs. Lamentably, they had to evacuate because of COVID, but we are working hard to bring Peace Corps Volunteers back to Tanzania soon.
Among our newer programs that have also had a profound effect on the education of Tanzanians is the Young African Leaders Initiative. This is a program where we select promising young leaders and empower them to make changes in the community. They may be entrepreneurs creating jobs for others or grass-roots advocates pressing for positive change. We see great potential and hope to nurture the next generation of Tanzanian leadership by helping them network, raise funds, and plan strategically for business.
Another educational program I’d like to mention is ACCESS, where we help secondary school students improve their English and life skills. To see the growth in these kids is amazing and having good English coupled with more confidence will open many doors for these young people.
Probably the best-known United States government agency in Tanzania is USAID, and it is very active in the education field. USAID will spend nearly $40 million between now and 2025 on programs to promote better literacy and numeracy at the primary school level. They fund programs that promote early grade reading, they provide teacher training and quality teaching and learning materials, they increase school enrollment and retention among adolescent girls, and they improve community perceptions about the value of educating girls. The embassy spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to give the Tanzanian people improved education and to protect their health and we appreciate the opportunity to do it together.
Good health and quality education are the foundations that will enable Tanzanians to seize the opportunities of the future to create economic growth. The United States is a big believer in mutual prosperity, and we want to create an investment climate that will attract US companies that will create jobs for Tanzanians and generate revenue for the government. We hope to see growth in the agricultural commodities, minerals, and textiles that dominate Tanzania’s exports to the United States while seeing more imports from the United States including aircraft, machinery, cereals, plastics, and milling products. This is not always an easy task, especially during a pandemic when individuals are loathe to travel, but we continue to make progress.
The United States supports Tanzania’s economic development through USAID and other programming that contributes to Tanzania’s goal to become self-reliant by 2025. And agriculture plays a vital role in Tanzania’s economy. USAID funds programs to strengthen the agriculture policy environment and improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by boosting agricultural growth and productivity. These programs promote market development and trade expansion with equitable rural economic growth and investment in innovation and research.
Another area of keen interest for economic cooperation is the tourism sector. Tanzania is a beautiful country blessed with unique wildlife and scenery that needs to be protected for future generations to enjoy. We appreciate that so much of Tanzanian territory has been set aside for reserves and parks and the U.S. government is prepared to assist in protecting this delicate national heritage. Together, we have combatted poachers, trained members of the tourism industry, and promoted Tanzania as a great destination for US and international tourists. The Department of State and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assist in building law enforcement capacity in Tanzania to combat wildlife trafficking. These efforts complement USAID programs in natural resource management that support community-based conservation, sustainable livelihoods through conservation enterprises, and reforms to national environmental policies.
Tanzania has endless possibilities to grow economically in so many different sectors and we will do our part to ensure that the full potential is met.
The next pillar I want to talk about is democracy. Governments exist to serve the people, not the other way around. The public puts a great deal of trust into those who lead, and every government should be transparent and accountable to those that vote it into power.
To promote effective, democratic governance, the United States supports an open, inclusive environment in which media and civil society provide accurate and impartial information that promotes participation, inclusion, and accountability. The Embassy of the United States has programs that strengthen the ability of Tanzanian organizations to monitor, collect, and utilize data for better advocacy and focuses on greater participation and oversight of elections and political processes. For example, during the Tanzanian elections held in 2019 and 2020, the Embassy advocated for both to be free and fair. Every legitimate political process should not only allow, but also encourage political dissent. This is how almost every large and necessary societal change has occurred. A government that is afraid of criticism is a government that lacks confidence in its legitimacy.
Furthermore, members of the Embassy team served as monitors, and we trained over 3,400 local election observers. Through a robust grants program, we continue to support the rights of marginalized groups, including women, the disabled, and refugees. We want to see a Tanzania that respects the rights of all people no matter their differences and that recognizes diversity as a strength. As many of you have seen from recent events in the United States, no democracy is perfect. We must all recognize that fact. However, we must continue to strive for our democratic ideals, because the alternative robs people of opportunity and initiative.
The military plays a crucial role in the concept of national strength. But as I have hopefully demonstrated, national strength also derives from looking after the citizenry, giving them opportunities, and protecting national resources for the use of future generations. However, today I am speaking at the National Defense University of Tanzania and what kind of orator would I be if I didn’t talk about the important work that my audience directly participates in? This brings us to our final pillar, security.
First, let me thank you for your service. A career in the military is not easy, nor is it for everyone, but you have selflessly dedicated your lives to serving your country and its people. There is no higher calling, and you have my utmost respect and admiration. We are all gathered today to celebrate this important milestone in your career but also to recognize the oath you took to support and uphold the ideals of your country. Always remember that you are role models and represent the best that your country has to offer. This will make you a better officer, leader, and citizen.
Tanzania is a key U.S. partner for promoting peace and regional stability in East Africa. The U.S. remains committed to supporting Tanzania through the military professionalization and development of the Tanzania People’s Defense Force while supporting the protection of human rights. Our military assistance includes providing training primarily through the International Military Education and Training program; enhancing maritime domain awareness and maritime security capacity building through the African Maritime Security Initiative; peacekeeping capacity building to support readiness for United Nations peacekeepers deployed throughout the continent; and support assistance for security forces countering the trafficking of illicit goods and narcotics.
Like all of you here, we are also concerned about the safety and security of the Tanzanian people. We enjoy a longstanding partnership in training and mentoring Peace Keeping Operations soldiers, as well as several law enforcement organizations in their counter-drug efforts. In just one example, the close cooperation of our US Department of Defense and Drug Enforcement Administration – teaming with their Tanzanian counterparts – contributed to the largest drug seizure in Tanzania’s history. To build on these successes we have a group of military trainers in Tanzania working with their counterparts in the Tanzanian People’s Defence Forces.
The Joint Combined Exchange Training or JCET currently being held not far from here, is part of a close and continuous military partnership between the U.S. and Tanzania spanning decades to strengthen defense ties and promote regional security. Designed to enhance the readiness of U.S. and partner forces, while also improving interoperability between nations, JCETs help set the foundation for sustainable and productive military relationships. The program of instruction includes marksmanship, small unit tactics, medical, urban and rural movement techniques, mission planning, and maritime infiltration techniques.
All U.S. military training begins with the law of armed conflict and human rights instruction. Look to the US as a committed ally in every area of security from preventing violent extremism, to fighting trafficking in persons. And as we look into the future, we can assist in fighting cyber criminals that launder money and those who look to harm women and children. We have and will continue to support Tanzania, as criminal and other nefarious organizations go transnational. This international cooperation will be vital, and it is why I am so pleased to see representatives from so many countries.
To conclude, the United States will continue to support Tanzania in the areas of Health and Education, Economic Development, Democracy, and Security. We remain grateful for the opportunity to walk alongside you as partners to address shared goals through diplomacy, defense, and development.
Tulikuwa pamoja, tuko pamoja, na tutakuwa Pamoja. We have been together, we are together, and we will be together.
Thank you once again and I wish you a very enlightening and successful course of study.