On March 17th, 2021, the former President of Tanzania, John Magufuli, passed away. Two days later, Tanzania’s first female president, President Samia Suluhu Hassan assumed the position. Since the unexpected transition, President Hassan has begun to make slow changes to the Tanzanian government’s approach on important issues such as, the COVID-19 Pandemic, the media and regional trade. In April, President Hassan announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Committee that would be tasked with creating policies to strengthen Tanzania’s response to the pandemic. Hassan has approved of face masks, often seen in public wearing one, and has ordered visitors entering the country to present a negative COVID-19 test, be tested at time of entry or quarantine for 14 days. None of these measures existed under Magufuli.
President Hassan has also emphasized the point that Tanzania cannot live in isolation and is dedicated to mending ties with regional and global partners. Hassan has already traveled to two important regional allies, Uganda and Kenya, to discuss new economic projects. Tanzania and Uganda will be partnering on an oil-pipeline project; and Tanzania and Kenya are working on building a joint gas-pipeline.
Hassan was born in Zanzibar in 1960 and is the second Zanzibari to be president. Her father was a schoolteacher, and her mother was a housewife. As a high school student, Hassan has said she struggled in school and her finishing results were poor; however, these initial educational setbacks did not keep Hassan from succeeding in higher education and in her future career. She attended the Institute of Development Management at Mzumbe University as an undergraduate and holds postgraduate degrees in economics from the University of Manchester, the Open University of Tanzania and the Southern New Hampshire University. Hassan has spoken publicly on encouraging Tanzanian women and girls to receive an education and pursue their dreams.
Hassan has had a varied and prosperous career, working within the UN’s World Food Program, the Zanzibar’s House of Representatives and the National Assembly on mainland Tanzania. After joining the National Assembly in 2010, then-President Jakaya Kikwete appointed her as the Minister of State for Union Affairs. In 2015, the presidential nominee for her party Chama Cha Mapinduzi, John Magufuli, selected her as his running mate. Hassan became the first female Vice President of Tanzania. In October 2020 they were re-elected to serve another 5 years. Since Magufuli’s passing, President Hassan will finish out the term with her new Vice President, Philip Mpango until 2025.