Kagame is a Talker; Magufuli was a Doer

Magufuli at Kagame’s ranch at Muhazi in 2016

By David Himbara

In his 5-year presidency, Magufuli achieved five major developmental goals that Kagame promised but miserably failed to deliver in 20 years.

Tanzania’s late leader John Magufuli promised to turn Tanzania into a middle-income economy by 2025, which he achieved in 2020. Rwanda’s Paul Kagame promised to turn Rwanda into a middle-income economy by 2020 and failed to deliver – Kagame now says he will turn Rwanda into a middle-income economy by 2035.

Magufuli launched in 2017 the 300-kilometre Dar es Salaam-Morogoro Standard Gauge Railway line. Kagame announced in 2009 that he would build the 571 kilometre Kigali-Isaka railroad to connect Rwanda to the Tanzanian seaport of Dar Es Salaam by 2013. Kagame’s railway is still on the drawing board.

Magufuli expanded the urban-suburban commuter rail network and the bus rapid transit system serving the Tanzanian commercial city of Dar es Salaam. Kagame’s plan to build the infrastructure for public transport for Kigali is still on the drawing board.

Magufuli built major national infrastructure works, including the Selander Bridge, and Kigongo-Busisi Bridge, expanded the Port of Dar es Salaam, and the Dodoma Bus Terminal. Kagame built the Kigali Convention Centre, the Kigali Basketball Arena, and RwandAir which plunged Rwanda into a US$1.5 billion debt.

Magufuli saved taxpayers’ money by living a modest lifestyle, abandoning foreign trips and when he did, he travelled on commercial aircraft. Kagame who used to make foreign trips every month before Covid19 travels on one of his two US$65 million Gulfstream executive jets.

Magufuli was not perfect. Since his first election in 2015, he adopted an interventionist “hands-on” leadership style that was sometimes heavy-handed leading to accusations of human rights abuses. Magufuli was also a Covid19 skeptic which may have cost him his life. Nevertheless, his tireless efforts at building Tanzania’s economic infrastructure made him an exemplary African leader that will be missed beyond Tanzania.

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