Amir Jamal Biography – Life, Career, Honors, Awards and More

Amir Jamal Biography – Life, Career, Honors, Awards and More

Tanzanian diplomat and politician Amir Habib Jamal (or just Amir Jamal) was born on January 26th, 1922, and died on March 21st, 1995. He served as a Minister in the government of Julius Nyerere in various capacities. The Morogoro parliamentarian was in office from 1960 – to 1985, and he was Tanzania’s longest-active Finance Minister. He was in charge of the ministry for almost 12 years.

Amir Jamal Tanzania Early life

Amir Jamal was born in Tanganyika, a League of Nation territory managed by the British. He was born in Gujarat, India, to Gujarati parents. He was the child of Kulsum Thawer and wife Habib Jamal, one of the Asian Association’s founding members. He received his primary education in Mwanza and completed his secondary schooling in Dar es Salaam.

Amir Jamal earned a BCom in economics from Calcutta University in India.

Amir Jamal hoped to study medicine at Bombay University, but he was denied admission to the medical faculty despite his excellent grades. In 1942, he participated in an Indian National Congress meeting where Mahatma Gandhi began the Quit India Movement, calling for the British to leave India immediately. After graduation, he came back to Dar es Salaam and joined the businesses owned by his family.

Julius Nyerere was first introduced to him in 1952 at a reception organized by the British Council to celebrate the latter’s return to the country as a grad student of Edinburgh University. He was a soldier of Tanganyika’s independence struggle and “helped to fund for Nyerere’s visit to the UN” in NYC [New York City], USA, in 1955.

Julius Nyerere

At first, Amir Jamal had “leanings for the Fabian Society” but eventually joined the Asian Union. He was voted into the Legislative Council in 1958. Jamal became the first non-African member of the TANU [Tanganyika African National Union] in 1962.

Amir Jamal Career

Amir Jamal Political Career

Amir Jamal was named Finance Minister in 1965. The Arusha Accord was issued two years later, and the country shifted to a socialist path. He served as Minister of Commerce and Industries from 1972 to 1975, during which time he established a number of economic projects in the Morogoro Region. Between 1975 to 1977, he was the finance minister once more. He was reassigned to the Transport and Communication department when the previous Eastern African Community was disbanded in 1977, and he led it for roughly two years. He was tasked with establishing new national corporations as well as agencies, which was a difficult assignment. Between 1979 through 1983, he was the Finance Minister for the third time.

Amir Jamal was Chairman of the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank Group’s 35th Annual Conference in 1980. He was stunned when IMF officials offered him a draft of his inaugural speech just as he arrived in Washington, DC. He declined politely, explaining that he had prepared his speech. The president of the World Bank declined his request as Chairman to welcome the Palestine Liberation Organization as an observer to the yearly conference. He slammed the International Monetary Fund as a World War II relic created to safeguard the West.

During the years 1983 to 1984, Amir Jamal worked as Minister without Portfolio, then from 1984 to 1985, he held the Office of State for Cabinet Affairs.

Amir Jamal Diplomatic Career

Amir Jamal was selected as the nation’s Permanent Representative to the UN Office in Geneva in 1985.

Amir Jamal was the Chair of the Sokoine Institute of Agriculture‘s InterPress Service as well as the Governing Council. From 1978 to 1993, he was the South Centre’s Honorary Executive Director and a board member of the Dag Hammarskjöld Organization.

Personal life

Amir Jamal had one daughter and three sons from his two marriages. He belonged to the Khoja tribe and was a follower of Nizari Ismailism.

Amir Jamal died on March 21st, 1995, at the age of 73, in British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Nyerere’s efforts to get Jamal’s remains returned to Tanzania, according to the accounts of Sophia Mustafa, were in vain. In his homage, Nyerere described him as a “person of total integrity… never a yes guy” and that he was “fortunate to consider him as a friend.”

Godfrey Mwakikagile, a prominent Tanzanian writer and scholar, characterized him as “something of a technocrat than a politician.”

Godfrey Mwakikagile writes about Amir Jamal in another of his works, ”The People of Ghana”: ”Ethnic Diversity & National Unity”, in which he also writes about Nkrumah and Nyerere’s shared Pan-African dedication and uncompromising fight against racism.

Godfrey Mwakikagile, a prominent Tanzanian writer and scholar
Godfrey Mwakikagile, a prominent Tanzanian writer and scholar

“Amir Jamal, aside from Nyerere, was the most educated member of the first independence government and the country’s longest-serving finance minister. He held additional high-profile ministerial positions and was regarded as one of the cabinet’s most competent and respected members… He was Nyerere’s close friend.

Amir Jamal was an independent-minded technocrat of outstanding intellectual caliber and Nyerere’s best adviser. He possessed keen political instincts, yet as a public worker, he never acted in a political manner. His honesty was unquestionable. I knew him when I worked as a news reporter.”

Joan Wicken, who served as President Nyerere’s personal secretary and assistant for decades before and after independence until Nyerere’s death, mentioned this about Amir Jamal:

“Amir Jamal was a close confidante of Baba wa Taifa, also known as ”Father of the Nation”, and had several formal and informal one-on-one encounters with him than all other ministers combined.”

Clement George Kahama, who, like Amir Jamal, was a part of President Nyerere’s first independence government and afterward held additional positions under him, said this about Jamal:

“In the eyes of Mwalimu and we all, his fellow [cabinet] ministers, Amir Jamal was an intellectual powerhouse who was respected for his down-to-earthiness, diplomacy, and forthright attitude to local and international issues. He was always a pleasure to talk to about global affairs.”

Trevor Huddleston, with Julius N., when he was a young guy before guiding Tanganyika to independence, embarked on a global campaign in 1959 in London to boycott apartheid in South Africa. And was himself a very intimate buddy of Nyerere as well as a world-renowned adversary of the apartheid regime and a respected Anglican bishop, stated this about Amir Jamal:

“No one in their life in politics had a more intimate relationship with Mwalimu Nyerere as did Amir Jamal.”

Amir Jamal Honours and Awards

Year Country Order
2014  Tanzania The Order of Union – 1st Class [posthumous]
Honorary degrees
Year University Country Award
1973 University of Uppsala  Sweden Dr. of Science [Economics]
1980 Dar es Salaam University  Tanzania Honoris causa

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