Tanzania’s first female president, Samia Suhulu Hassan

While Tanzania mourns the death of President John Magufuli, Samia Suhulu Hassan has become Tanzania’s first female president.


Conservation, Travel

While Tanzania mourns the death of President John Magufuli, Samia Suhulu Hassan has become Tanzania’s first female president. President Hassan will serve the remainder of Mr. Mafafuli’s term until 2025. This peaceful, orderly, and inclusive transition reenforces Tanzania’s long-held reputation for being among the most stable and peaceful democracies on the African Continent. Thankfully, President Magufuli made a wise choice when he selected Hassan to be his Vice President. She has all the strengths that a country needs in a time of change. President Hassan has exemplary public service credentials. She is forward thinking, politically astute, and progressive in areas of world concern such as conservation, human rights, and gender equality. Though the time is sad, Tanzania is now in good hands.


President Hassan was born on January 27, 1960 in the Sultanate of Zanzibar. Her father was a schoolteacher, and her mother was a homemaker. The President was raised in the islands of Zanzibar, both on Pemba Island and in the City of Zanzibar. President Hassan and her husband have four children. Their daughter, Mwanu Hafidh Ameir is a member of the Zanzibar House of Representatives.

President Hassan rose up through the ranks in Tanzania’s government. After graduating secondary school in Zanzibar city, she took a job in the government’s typing pool. Later, she worked as a project manager for Zanzibar’s World Food Program. In the year 2000, Hassan was elected to the Zanzibar House of Representatives. In the course of her career, President Hassan has held numerous high-ranking offices, including Minister of Gender Development and Children, Minister of Trade and Investment, and Minister of Tourism. In 2015 she was elected as the first female vice president of the Republic of Tanzania

President Hassan values knowledge and holds university degrees from Tanzania, Britain, and the United States. She holds a degree in Public Administration from Mzumbe University in Dar es Salaam, a degree in Economics from England’s prestigious Manchester University, and an MSc in Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University.

Known as Mama Samia in Tanzanian culture, President Hassan is widely praised for her kindness, astuteness, and wisdom. Often described as soft spoken, Mama Samia is no pushover. As she said in a recent speech, “I may look polite, and do not shout when speaking, but the most important thing is that everyone understands what I say and things get done as I say.”


Tanzania is one of Africa’s best wildlife destinations. Having served as the Minister of Tourism, President Hassan will be a strong protector of wildlife and the environment.

When Hassan was elected as Vice President in 2015, Tanzania’s wildlife was in trouble. International criminal syndicates were decimating Tanzania’s elephant and rhino populations. The Great Elephant Census reported that by 2014, Tanzania’s elephant population had declined by an alarming 60% in just five years. The poaching cartels were slaughtering with impunity. Immediately, the Magufuli-Hassan administration went to work, bolstering ranger forces, prosecuting wildlife criminals, and sacking corrupt officials who got in the way.

Vice President Hassan presided over the formation of a paramilitary taskforce with the sole mission of combating wildlife poachers. Magufuli and Hassan took down the poaching cartels and oversaw the imprisonment of ringleaders. In the past, enormous wealth and political influence had insulated ivory smugglers from the rule of law. The likes of Yang Feng Glan, the “Queen of Ivory,” and Boniface Matthew Mariango, “The Devil” reigned like mafia dons. But under Magufuli and Hassan both of the ivory czars were tried, convicted, and imprisoned. Numerous lesser poachers locked up as well. This dramatic disruption of the illegal wildlife trade yielded a significant increase in elephant and rhino populations. As a result, Tanzania is now lauded as a casebook for how other countries can curb wildlife poaching.

Additionally, President Hassan has promoted a wide range of important conservation endeavors including forest protection, water conservation, tourism infrastructure, and the creation of six new national parks. Last December, not knowing she would soon be president, Hassan pledged that Tanzania would “continue to reinforce conservation of wildlife, forests and anti-poaching for future generations.”

Human Rights and Gender Equality

President Hassan’s record bodes well for issues of human rights and civil liberties. Well known as a women’s rights advocate, President Hassan has highlighted that human rights and women’s rights are closely correlated.

Speaking before London’s Commonwealth Women’s Forum in 2018, Hassan stated that women’s economic empowerment is a sound investment, a moral imperative, and central to justice. As Vice president, she urged Tanzanian women to run for political offices and to increase the number of women in the judiciary. She has forcefully emphasized prioritizing higher levels of education for women and girls to close Tanzania’s gender gap.  In 2019, Hassan made a public appearance holding a sign calling for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

After her election to Vice president, Hassan shared that when she first became a cabinet member the men looked down on her, but “I stood my ground and eventually they appreciated my contributions.” Commenting on her elevation to Vice President she said, “I have risen to this position as a result of my competence and not through favors.”

A Strong and Just Leader

When President Magufuli’s passing was first announced there were murmurings of concern, especially outside of Africa. Would the transition be peaceful. Could a woman really be president of Tanzania. But, as the world learns more, those concerns are being set aside. The East African journalist Bob Karashani describes her as “best known for her super-cool, unflappable demeanor and penchant for speaking in a calm manner, whatever the situation.” “But those who know her better are aware of a ring of steel behind that façade,” he adds. Samia Suhulu Hassan may well become one of Africa’s great and transformative leaders.


*Image source - https://www.flickr.com/photos/gospelkitaa/34538118495/