Sri Lanka and Tanzania opened a new chapter in business and investment promotion between the two countries with the launch of the Sri Lanka Tanzania Investment Chamber in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania last week. The business chamber was officially inaugurated by the Chief Guest at the occasion, Minister of Tourism Development, Christian Religious Affairs and Lands, John Amaratunga.
In his keynote address at the launch Minister Amaratunga noted that the business and investment chamber was being launched at the right time. "With both countries enjoying a period of economic revival under their respective new governments this is the best possible time for an initiative of this nature. This chamber has laid the foundation for investment promotion. We want to promote partnerships," he pointed out.
The inaugural meeting of the Sri Lanka Tanzania Business Chamber drew much attention in Tanzania and saw the participation of key government officials including Tanzanian Ministers of Tourism, Investment Promotion, Agriculture and Education. A Sri Lankan businessman in Tanzania, Lal Silva was appointed as the Chairman of the Chamber.
Minister Amaratunga noted that the first task of the new chamber was to build strong trade relations between the two countries. “This chamber should serve as the vehicle for Sri Lankan and Tanzanian businesspeople to explore investment opportunities available to them in the two countries,” he said.
The visiting Sri Lankan Minister said he was happy to note that the Sri Lanka Tanzania Business Chamber was working closely with the Tanzania Investment Chamber which comes under the Ministry of Trade and Investments in Tanzania. He congratulated the officials responsible for setting up the new Chamber. “This is a timely initiative to harness the best possible investment opportunities for both countries. I would like to congratulate the organisers for recognizing the business potential between our two countries.”
The Minister stated that the top priority of the Sri Lankan government was the revival of the economy through local industries. “Sri Lanka is very keen on attracting foreign direct investment in to the country. My participation at this meeting is also in furtherance of that policy. What this government can offer prospective investors is something that no government before or after can offer. That is stability. This is because the two main political parties in the country have for the first time since independence in 1948, come together to form a unity government for a period of five years,” noted Minister Amaratunga.
“As the Minister in Charge of the subject of tourism, I would like to take this opportunity to invite members of the Tanzanian business community to look at ways and means of connecting with our tourism industry. The opportunities for collaboration are many. Tourism in Sri Lanka offers huge potential for investment. Areas that were previously out of bounds to tourists due to the conflict are opening up for investment. Some of these places are rich in wildlife, a sector that Tanzania has much experience and expertise in. We are open to the concept of tourism exchange programmes where both countries can benefit from each other’s experience,” said Minister Amaratunga.
The Minister of Tourism in the island of Zanzibar was also present at the inauguration of the business chamber. Zanzibar is a Tanzanian archipelago off the east coast of the country. It is home to some of the most exotic hotels in Africa and noted for its high end clientele.
Minister Amaratunga added that Sri Lankan entrepreneurs could benefit from investing in Tanzania’s growing tourism industry. “We have many home grown brands that have ventured beyond our shores to operate hotels in many parts of the world. I will brief them on the opportunities available in Tanzania,” he said.
Like Sri Lanka, Tanzania too has seen rapid growth in its tourism industry in the last six years, during which period arrivals have gone up from 690,000 in 2009 to 1.3 million last year. Tanzania also attracted the highest FDI in the East African region amounting to over 2.1 billion dollars in 2015.
Minister Amaratunga said that Sri Lanka was becoming a sought after destination for health and wellness tourism. He told the Tanzanian officials to look in to the possibility of arranging exchange programmes where Sri Lanka is promoted as a health and wellness destination for outbound Tanzanian tourists while Tanzania will be promoted as a wildlife destination for outbound Sri Lankan tourists.
Following the inauguration of the chamber, Minister Amaratunga held wide ranging discussions with Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism of Tanzania, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe and other top officials. The Tanzanian Minister said as a follow up to the meeting a forum will be organized focusing on the areas of tourism, fisheries, agriculture, minerals and mines, and health with the active participation of the new chamber.
As the first business venture of the Sri Lanka Tanzania Investment Chamber, fiberglass fishing boats manufactured in Sri Lanka by Danusha Marine will be made available to the Tanzanian fishing community which still predominantly uses boats made out of wood. Minister John Amaratunga along with Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism of Tanzania, Prof. Jumanne Maghembe presided at a ceremony to hand over the first Sri Lankan made boat to the Tanzanian fishing community at the Msasani fishing village last Friday.
Speaking at the event the Tanzanian Minister Jumanne Maghembe said his government will place an order for 500 of the boats as an initial step.
The following day Minister Amaratunga presided at a ceremony to officially declare open a new residential building for Buddhist monks in the city of Dar es Salaam.
The modern building was built by a Sri Lankan businessman in Tanzania, Thangavelu Nallavan. Speaking at the event Minister Amaratunga said the religious unity in Tanzania was a shining example to the rest of the world in this turbulent period. The handing over ceremony was witnessed by the Catholic Bishop of Dar es Salaam and representatives from the Muslim and Hindu communities.
"I am glad that the Chief Monk for the African Continent, Ven. Dr. Ilukpitiye Pannasekara Thero has always been preaching religious harmony in this region," the Minister noted while commending the benevolent gesture of the non-Buddhist Sri Lankan businessman.