Posted on 25 July 2020
It was with great sadness that we learned of the passing of former President Benjamin William Mkapa. Mkapa, who served from 1995 to 2005, immeasurably contributed in diverse fields which have left us a rich legacy.
We recall Mkapa as one of the first presidents to face the impacts of climate change. His government
faced the biggest climate disaster, the 1997/1998 heavy floods attributed to “El-Niño” rains. The impact of El Niño was severe causing food insecurity, health problems, extensive damage to vital infrastructures and disrupting livelihoods across the country. The country recovered, and it was the former president’s resilience to address environment issues afterwards that shaped the country to date.
Mkapa understood and acted on the inextricable links between poverty, environment and sustainable development. Under his leadership, Tanzania laid out long-term policy roadmap considered most effective for the achievement of sustainable development and environmental protection. Mkapa is credited for facilitating the National Environmental Policy (1997) a framework that brought environmental considerations into decision-making, planning, management, and enforcement - in Tanzania.
The former President also assented the Environmental Management Act, 20 of 2004 (which became effective in July 2005). An Act that provides legal and institutional framework for sustainable management of environment. Additionally, the Act establishes a national Environmental Regulatory Body (ERB) and Environmental Units (EUs) at district levels. The ERB and EUs are responsible for screening projects and reviewing of environmental impact assessment (EIA) reports.
After his tenure in office he dedicated most of his time in driving the agenda for sustainable development and conservation even further. In 2013, with his fellow former presidents Festus Mogae (Botswana) and Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), pushed the motion for a green Africa which led to the African Development Bank and the Club De Madrid to agree to foster sustainable green growth in Africa. In 2006 he served as a member of the High-level panel on UN System-wide Coherence in areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and Environment, appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General.
He has written several articles on environmental issues, the latest being on Pandemics and the environment in Africa, titled: Africa will Rise if we do it Well
Widely recognized for his role in promoting economic growth as well as regional integration, Mkapa will be celebrated for keeping environmental issues aligned with poverty and development squarely on the national and Africa agenda.