John Pombe Magufuli, 56, a former math and chemistry teacher, was nominated today (July 12) by Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), to be the country’s fifth president. He aims to succeed president Jakaya Kikwete, who leaves office after serving two five-year terms, in October’s general election. He made history by selecting a woman, Samia Hassan Suluhu, who hails from Zanzibar, as his running mate.
Magufuli, the works minister, defeated two women in the final vote to secure the nomination: justice minister and former UN deputy secretary general Asha-Rose Migiro and African Union ambassador to the US Amina Ali. This is the first time in the history of CCM that a female candidate had made it this far in the nomination contest.
In what was at times a fractious contest, Magufuli emerged victorious from an initial list of 38 candidates who sought the nomination, including former prime minister Edward Lowassa and current foreign minister Bernard Membe. Both considered front-runners going into the nomination campaign, they seemed to have cancelled each other out.
First elected to parliament in 1995, Magufuli, who has a doctorate degree in chemistry, has served in government in various capacities, including as the fisheries and land department’s minister.
As nominee, Magufuli will need to unify his party heading into the general election after a divisive nomination fight.
He enters the campaign as a strong favorite to win the presidency in October. Opposition parties, led by Chadema, are looking to field a unified candidate but don’t appear to be as strong as in 2010, when as a collective they won close to 40% of the vote.
Should he become president, Magufuli will be faced with the task of alleviating poverty, which voters have indicated is their chief concern, according to a 2014 poll by East African non-profit Twaweza. Despite average yearly economic growth of 7.6% over the last decade, Tanzania, a country of 51 million people, has struggled to reduce poverty (pdf).
Magufuli will also face the challenges of implementing a new constitution and creating a regulatory framework for the emerging oil and gas sector that benefits Tanzania without alienating investors.