Irene Madeje Mlola Appointed Director General of COPRA: A Turning Point for Tanzanian Agriculture

Kilimokwanza.org Team

The appointment of Irene Madeje Mlola as the Director General of the Cereals and Other Produce Regulatory Authority (COPRA) represents a transformative juncture for Tanzania’s agricultural sector, with far-reaching implications for the livelihoods of millions of smallholder farmers.

Tanzania’s rich agricultural landscape features over a dozen diverse cereal value chains, playing a crucial role in President Dr Samia Suluhu Hassan’s vision of transforming the country into a global food hub.

While Tanzania has achieved leadership status in maize, rice, and beans production within East Africa, there is still considerable ground to cover in other agricultural value chains such as wheat, sorghum, soya, groundnuts, and more.

For example, while Tanzania has made encouraging strides in recent years, increasing its wheat production, it currently meets only about 10% of its domestic demand. However, the country possesses tremendous potential to not only fulfil its own needs but also contribute to regional food security by becoming a wheat exporter.

Meeting the established targets for these crops presents a formidable challenge. Irene’s role, therefore, involves a significant undertaking to elevate Tanzania’s cereals and other crops to global heights, requiring strategic efforts to unlock the full potential of these diverse agricultural sectors.

Mlola’s ascendancy to this pivotal role is underscored by a rich professional background that spans over two decades and encompasses diverse sectors, including finance, telecommunications, digital technology, and development. This multifaceted experience positions her as an exceptional leader poised to guide COPRA through a new era of effectiveness and innovation.

The endorsement of Mlola’s appointment by the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Dr. Samia Suluhu Hassan, reflects a recognition of her substantial experience and unwavering commitment to driving positive change within the country. Mlola’s leadership is expected to be a catalyst for significant advancements in COPRA’s mandate, bringing forth a comprehensive approach that addresses the evolving needs of Tanzania’s agricultural landscape.

Her deep understanding of business dynamics, customer behavior, and the pivotal role of technology in fostering innovation renders Mlola uniquely qualified to navigate the complexities of COPRA’s operations. Beyond her technical expertise, Mlola’s leadership is characterized by a visionary outlook, aligning closely with national initiatives aimed at fortifying the economy and enhancing societal health. This alignment sets the stage for a promising future for the agricultural sector under her guidance.

Mlola’s vision for COPRA extends beyond conventional regulatory functions, embracing a more inclusive and participatory approach. Her ambition is to transform COPRA into a dynamic entity where all stakeholders actively contribute to shaping its trajectory. This strategic shift is designed to benefit not only the regulatory processes but also to create an environment where all actors in the agricultural value chains thrive. COPRA, under Mlola’s leadership, is envisioned as a beacon of excellence and collaboration, fostering positive change throughout Tanzania’s agricultural ecosystem.

The strategic direction set by Mlola is poised to foster transformation, growth, and innovation within the agricultural sector. By strengthening partnerships and actively contributing to the overall development of the country, COPRA is expected to play a pivotal role in shaping Tanzania’s agricultural landscape for years to come. Mlola’s vision of “KilimoBiashara,” emphasizing the integration of agriculture into business practices, resonates with the broader goals of national initiatives such as “Lisha Taifa, Lisha Dunia” (Feed the Nation, Feed the World) and “Jenga Uchumi na Jamii Yenye Afya” (Build Economy and Healthy Society).

As Tanzania continues its progressive journey in agricultural development, Irene Madeje Mlola’s appointment as the head of COPRA emerges as a beacon of hope and promise. Her proven expertise, forward-thinking leadership, and commitment to inclusive development are poised to drive tangible progress, contributing significantly to the sustainable growth and prosperity of Tanzania’s agricultural sector.

United in a New Direction for Agricultural Success in Tanzania

COPRA Board Chairman Prof. Sifuni Mchome and COPRA Director General Ms. Irene Madeje Mlola Collaborate with Hon. Hussein Bashe (MP), Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Dr. Mwigulu Nchemba (MP), Minister of Finance, Hon. Prof. Kitila Mkumbo (MP), Minister for State, President’s Office (Planning and Investment), and Mr. Gerald Mweli, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, in Unveiling the New Authority Logo at the Domestic Investors Conference in the Agricultural Sector. The event took place on December 18, 2023, at the Serena Hotel, Dar es Salaam

The Agricultural Context and COPRA’s Role

In Tanzania, agriculture is not just an economic activity; it’s a lifeline for the majority of its population. This sector, pivotal for food security and economic development, faces numerous challenges, including market fluctuations, quality control, and supply chain inefficiencies. Enter the Cereals and Other Produce Regulatory Authority (COPRA). Established to bring order and stability to this vital sector, COPRA’s role is critical. It oversees the grain and mixed produce markets, ensuring quality standards, fair practices, and efficient market operations. By regulating these key areas, COPRA aims to bolster Tanzania’s agricultural output, enhance farmer incomes, and secure the nation’s food supply, thereby playing a central role in the economic and social fabric of Tanzania.

Establishment of COPRA
COPRA’s inception marked a strategic move to regulate Tanzania’s grain and produce markets. Its establishment involved meticulous planning, where foundational steps included developing comprehensive operational plans and establishing an organizational structure. These efforts were guided by a strategic vision aimed at creating an effective regulatory body capable of addressing the unique challenges of Tanzania’s agricultural sector.

Achievements and Challenges
In its initial year, COPRA achieved significant milestones in regulatory practices and market oversight. However, these successes were met with challenges, including budget constraints, pending regulatory approvals, and infrastructural needs. COPRA’s approach to these challenges involved learning from other regulatory bodies and adapting their strategies to suit Tanzania’s context.

Addressing the Challenges
To overcome its early hurdles, COPRA focused on strategies such as securing necessary funding, optimizing resource allocation, and enhancing staff recruitment. Collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and other key stakeholders was pivotal in these efforts, ensuring a cohesive approach to addressing the challenges faced.

Future Goals and Plans
Looking forward, COPRA has laid out ambitious goals for the 2020/2021 period and beyond. These include the enhancement of regulatory mechanisms, improving stakeholder engagement, and expanding its impact on Tanzania’s agricultural sector. These goals reflect COPRA’s commitment to fostering a more robust and efficient agricultural market in Tanzania.