FARE-THEE-WELL AL NOOR KASSUM
Al Noor Kassum or “Nick” to his many friends, passed away on 18th November and was laid to rest on 20th November, 2021. Even though he was born into a family of affluence, of Indian heritage, during the struggle for Tanganyika’s independence he was one of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s closest allies. After independence he was appointed Junior Minister for Education. He then worked for the United Nations (UN), first as a UNESCO Representative to the UN in New York and later on as Secretary of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). He returned to Tanzania in 1970 and was appointed by the Government to the position of Deputy General Manager of Williamson Diamonds Limited at Mwadui. After that he was appointed Minister for Finance and Administration of the East African Community. When the Community was dissolved in 1977, Mwalimu Nyerere appointed him Minister for Water, Energy and Minerals, a position he held for 13 years until 1990 when he retired. During his time as Junior Minister, he was involved in the founding of the University College of Dar es Salaam as a constituent college of the then University of East Africa. He was also instrumental in securing the area then known as Observation Hill (Mlimani) where the University of Dar es Salaam was later built.
We had the good fortune to work with Al Noor Kassum from the early 1980s when he was Minister for Water, Energy and Minerals. He was a leader with great vision: He was very hard-working; he followed up the execution of all his Ministry’s functions very closely; and he preferred to inspire rather than force his subordinates to follow his example. He listened to, and valued, his experts’ advice regardless of their seniority, and he respected and adhered to all the applicable laws and practices when discharging his responsibilities. His patriotism was manifest more in his actions than in what he said in public.
In order to deal with the challenges posed by the global energy crises of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Minister Kassum advised the Government to establish a department to focus on, and coordinate, all energy-related matters. He was personally involved in building the team that would help to achieve that objective. He identified a young lecturer at the University of Dar es Salaam who taught and carried out research in energy matters. He made him his adviser, and later proposed that President Nyerere appoint him Commissioner for Petroleum Affairs in accordance with the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 1980. That was how Prof. Mark Mwandosya became the first Commissioner for Energy and Petroleum Affairs and Head of the Energy Department. Minister Kassum also had another young officer seconded from the Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) to be his personal assistant in following up oil and gas projects and activities. After giving the secondee some experience, he had him transferred to the Energy Department. That was how Patrick Rutabanzibwa became one of Mark Mwandosya’s assistants in 1985 when the Department was established. After Mark Mwandosya was promoted to the position of Permanent Secretary for Water, Energy and Minerals in 1990, Patrick Rutabanzibwa succeeded him as Commissioner for Energy and Petroleum Affairs.
Minister Kassum’s efforts to build the Energy Department’s human resource capacity did not end there. He had other young, capable engineers, Bashir Mrindoko, Estomih Sawe and Shaban Mgana transferred to the division from the Water Department. He also had an economist, Theodore Kapiga, seconded from the Rufiji Basin Development Authority (RUBADA) and another engineer, Vincent Gondwe (now deceased), who had been dealing with energy matters before the department was established, transferred to the department from the Policy and Planning Division of the Ministry.
After being established in 1985 with these few officers, the Energy Department continued to grow and increase its capacity to oversee the implementation of energy sector development policies, strategies and plans. Prosper Victus, Lutengano Mwakahesya, Ngosi Mwihava, Theophil Bwakea and Charles Omujuni are only some of the officers who joined the Energy Department in its early days and who were later transferred to other Government institutions – within and outside the energy sector – where they made significant contributions.
Minister Kassum fostered good working relations with his fellow Ministers as well as his Permanent Secretaries, Frederick Lwegarulila (deceased); Harith Bakari Mwapachu (deceased); Athumani Janguo; Fulgence Kazaura (deceased); and Paul Mkanga. This enabled timely decision-making regarding many of his Ministry’s issues as well as efficient implementation of those decisions. Minister Kassum also drew on his prior experience in international relations to persuade Tanzania’s development partners to finance energy projects and support the employment of foreign experts who were deployed in the Ministry and its parastatal agencies to advise on electricity, oil and gas, and new and renewable energy development issues. Some of those experts – for example Roger Nellist from the U.K. (who had been assigned to Tanzania by the Commonwealth Secretariat); Sigurd Heiberg and Farouk Al Kasim from Norway (Statoil and Norwegian Petroleum Directorate); Dr. Kokitil Narayanan from India (Oil and Natural Gas Commission); and Paul Precht from Canada (Canadian International Development Agency) – continued to be involved in efforts to further develop the institutional capacity of the Energy Division, TPDC and the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) for many years after they returned to their home countries.
The Energy Department developed a culture that earned it the reputation of being among Government departments with officers that were hard-working, transparent and professional. In 1994, when Minister Kassum’s successor, Hon. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, handed over the Ministry of Energy and Minerals to his successor Hon. Jackson Makwetta (deceased), he cautioned that the Energy Division’s staff were very argumentative, but added that his successor will ignore their advice at his own peril. Hon. Kikwete’s counsel to a great extent reflected the impact that Minister Kassum’s mentoring had had on Energy Depertment staff who had worked under him.
It is therefore not surprising that Minister Kassum was able to contribute to the development of the water, energy and mining sectors to the extent that we continue to see today, and to leave a lasting legacy. The following are only some of his accomplishments during his time as Minister for Water, Energy and Minerals:
He oversaw the enactment by Parliament of the Mining Act, 1979 and the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 1980. These laws provided for greater participation of the private sector in mineral and oil and gas exploration and production, respectively, at a time when Tanzania’s social and economic policies were socialist oriented. He thus appeared to be ahead of his time. Andrew Chenge, who was at that time a senior lawyer in the Attorney General’s Chambers, made a significant contribution to the preparation of those laws;
He enabled his Ministry to carry out reconnaissance exploration through airborne geophysical surveys covering virtually the entire country. Ultimately, the surveys facilitated the development and establishment of several large and medium-sized mines during the late 1990s and early 2000s. They also proved valuable in groundwater resource exploration and development;
He vigorously promoted oil and gas exploration. For several years he was also TPDC’s Board Chairman, and he worked closely with TPDC’s Managing Director, Sylvester Barongo, and the corporation’s many experts in the fields of investment, financial management, administration and geosciences. Those experts, who came to be highly respected in the eastern and southern African region, included Yona Killagane, Salvator Ntomola, Halfani Halfani, Lionel Mawalla (deceased), Yete Mwalyego (deceased), Dismas Fuko, Herry Kejo Kajato, Joyce Singano and Flora Mpanju – to name but a few. The high level of expertise that they attained in their respective fields can in part be attributed to their Minister’s efforts to develop human capital in Tanzania’s oil and gas industry. The natural gas at Mnazi Bay was discovered in 1982 under his leadership;
He made a concerted effort, for ten years, to develop the Songo gas reserves for the production of fertiliser by Kilwa Ammonia Company (KILAMCO). Although the effort did not succeed and was abandoned in 1989, it provided valuable experience to the Government institutions that were involved, and thus helped towards securing the success of subsequent gas utilization projects that focused on power generation and the supply of energy to industries;
He persuaded the Government to seek soft loans from international financial institutions (World Bank, European Investment Bank and Kuwait Fund) in order drill gas exploration and development wells around Songo Songo Island in the early 1980s. Those wells facilitated the commercial production of gas starting in 2004. The World Bank had never provided a low income country (as Tanzania was then) with funds for drilling oil or gas exploration wells;
He oversaw the extension of the national electricity grid to serve 15 Regions (on Mainland Tanzania) and Zanzibar, and the extension of the Uganda grid to serve Kagera Region. When he was first appointed Minister responsible for energy, only five Regions were served by the grid. In his efforts to extend the grid he worked closely with TANESCO’s Managing Director, Salvatory Mosha (deceased) and his colleagues Simon Mhaville (deceased), Baruany Elijah Luhanga, Silvan Kimaryo (deceased) and many others. By extending the grid, he ensured the commercial viability of the Songo Songo and Mnazi Bay gas projects by enlarging the gas market for power generation;
He oversaw the original preparations for the implementation of the Stigler’s Gorge hydropower project, which included the detailed design of the dam and other civil works, the power facilities, as well as geotechnical, hydrological and environmental impact studies. Because of the cost of the project and the lack of funding, the project could not be implemented in the 1990s as he had proposed. Nevertheless, the preparatory work that was done has been used, almost entirely, by the Government in its recent efforts to implement the project, now renamed the Julius Nyerere Hydropower Project; and
He initiated the preparation of the first, comprehensive National Energy Policy, which was announced by the Government in 1992. Prof. Matthew Luhanga (deceased) of the University of Dar es Salaam contributed considerably to the content of that policy alongside other Tanzanian experts.
In addition to the achievements he attained as a Government leader, Al Noor Kassum was also appointed by the global leader of the Ismaili Muslim community, His Highness Shah Karim al-Husayni, Aga Khan IV, to be his Vazir and representative in Tanzania for many years. After he retired from Government he was appointed Chancellor of Sokoine University of Agriculture in Morogoro. He also served as chairman of Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation and the National Development Corporation.
A few years ago, Al Noor Kassum’s health began to deteriorate, in part because of his advanced age of over 90 years. In September, 2018 we had the opportunity to visit him at his residence to wish him well. One of us (Patrick Rutabanzibwa) managed to pay him a visit when he was admitted at the Aga Khan Hospital, Dar es Salaam, four days before he passed away, and to thank him sincerely on behalf of all the public servants he inspired, nurtured and mentored during the years he was the leader of the Ministry of Water, Energy and Minerals. He was too frail to speak, but he broke into a smile that indicated the message had arrived.
Rest in peace, Mzee Al Noor Kassum.
From Almighty God we came, and verily to Him we shall return.
25 November, 2021
*Patrick Rutabanzibwa has served as Commissioner for Energy and Petroleum Affairs; and Permanent Secretary of the Ministries of Energy and Minerals; Water and Irrigation; Home Affairs; and Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development
**Prof. Mark Mwandosya has served as Commissioner for Energy and Petroleum Affairs; and Permanent Secretary of the Ministries of Water, Energy and Minerals; Energy and Minerals; and Industries and Trade. He is also a former Minister for Communications and Transport; Water and Irrigation; and Water; and also Minister of State (Environment), Vice President’s Office; and Minister of State (Special Duties), President’s Office