If not for the destined event of March 19, 2021, Tanzania’s Samia Suluhu Hassan would not have made the Business Elites Africa’s list of ‘Top 30 African Women Executives & Influencers’. Outside Tanzania, little or nothing would have been known about her.
Prior to this date, Samia was the vice president of Tanzania, an East African country with a population of over 60 million people. Although she was the second-highest officer in the executive arm of government, her role was typically ceremonial, a stooge to her superior at best.
Affectionately known as Mama Samia, Hassan, 61, is naturally laidback and soft-spoken yet a veteran politician and political leader who had served in various important capacities in government before emerging the vice president, a role historically occupied by Tanzanian men. Attaining this height speaks to her doggedness and competence.
Samia’s political acumen was underutilized or, perhaps, muzzled under the administration of her belligerent and autocratic boss, President John Magufuli whose leadership style was a stark contrast to Hassan’s. She remained loyal to the President, albeit reluctantly, as there were rumoured rifts between the two.
In 2016, she was forced to publicly align with Magufuli’s political ideologies after rumours of her differences with the President had grown. It was even speculated that she had resigned from the government.
“When you started working as president, many of us did not understand what you actually wanted. We did not know your direction. But today we all know your ambitions about Tanzania’s development,” she said in front of Magufuli.
Fast forward to March 18, 2021. Sadly, Magufuli was announced dead on state television after two weeks of not appearing in public. The passing of the man nicknamed the “Bulldozer” for his no-nonsense attitude, paved the way for Samia Hassan to take over the administration that was marred by authoritarianism and human right abuses.
On May 19, Hassan was sworn in as President of Tanzania, becoming the first woman to ever attain that position. She is also the first female president of any country at all, in North Africa. She is now serving the remainder of Magufuli’s second five-year term, which will expire in 2025…
Read President Hassan’s full story and more inspiring features like this in our latest issue below. Find it on page 82.
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