Behind the scenes at the Dutch embassy in Dar es Salaam


The Netherlands has about 150 diplomatic missions around the world, from large to small. Today, we take a look behind the scenes at a vibrant embassy in Africa: the one in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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Image: ©Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken
The embassy building in Dar es Salaam, which is shared with the German, British and EU embassies.

With 17 employees, led by ambassador Wiebe de Boer, the embassy in Dar es Salaam is a relatively small one. The diplomatic mission is home to 4 diplomats, the rest of the staff are locally hired. Tanzania is an important trade and investment partner for the Netherlands. Therefore, a large part of the daily work at the Dutch representation consists of promoting business partnerships between the two countries and increasing visibility of The Netherlands in Tanzania.

Trade partners

Wende Mhidze is the economic and education support policy officer at the embassy. Trade relations between  both countries are a big part of her daily duties, she says. 'When it comes to trade and investment between The Netherlands and Tanzania, our embassy plays a facilitating role. We connect Dutch companies active in the economic and agricultural sector - mainly in the areas of ports and logistics, tourism, animal feeds and seeds - to the local business environment. In these areas, we also facilitate capacity building programs for the Tanzanian government and private sector associations, which we partner with various Dutch universities and companies.'

Initiatives like these come to fruition often at the embassy in Dar es Salaam, and with good reason, Wende explains. ‘There is never a top-down approach on projects we do. When a new initiative starts, everybody has an opportunity to bring forth their own ideas to make it better!’

Political developments

The trade relations Wende works so hard on often require political support. And that is where Chikulupi Kasaka comes in. She is senior political policy officer at the embassy and keeps a close eye on political developments in Tanzania. ‘I track news about the Tanzanian parliament, the laws they pass, and any political reform that might occur. Especially anything that might affect our work at the embassy’, she says. One of my successes is to see the Embassy promoting democratic youth participation in electoral and political processes through its funding to the Tanzania Center for Democracy (TCD).

There are specific topics Chikulupi frequently zooms in on, she explains. ‘As an embassy, we prioritize media freedom and human rights. We try to support that with concrete action. For example, we recently did a project with young female journalists who work in investigative journalism.’

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Image: ©Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken
The embassy staff, with in the front row Chikulupi (second to the left) and Wende (third from the right).

Chikulupi enjoys working at the embassy, she says. ‘There is an open door policy, which means I can walk into any office if I have questions or would like to discuss something. There is also a one team spirit at the Embassy where we want to achieve things together. I enjoy being a part of that.’

Jack of all trades

Just down the hall from Wende and Chikulupi is the office of Patricia Wessels, operational manager at the embassy. She is one of the four diplomates, and responsible for almost everything that does not fall under any of the policy departments. Patricia: ‘I am sort of the jack of all trades around here. My work consists of managing the human resources, building management, security, financial and IT-departments of the embassy and sometimes I am even solving technical issues myself. But I also act as part of the management team and I am the head of the consular department. An important role, because it serves Dutch people in Tanzania who need our assistance. The consular work has changed over the years. This means for example that visa applications are outsourced to an external partner, but we still help people at the consular desk. For example by taking in passport applications and legalizations. And we help Dutch citizens in need. Recently, we were approached by a Dutch person who was robbed. We could focus all our energy on helping him to get home.’

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Image: ©Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken
Patricia Wessels.

Sharing an office

As operational manager, Patricia makes an effort to be the glue between the various departments at the embassy. ‘I try to join as many policy meetings as possible. We are a small embassy, so I find it important to know in broad strokes what everybody is working on. That way I can assist when needed’, she says. Networking is also a part of Patricia’s job outside the embassy wall, she adds. ‘We share an office building, the Umoja House, with the British, EU and German embassies. Together we are responsible for the quality and safety of the building, so that requires regular meetings.'

Just like Wende and Chikulupi, Patricia takes great joy in her job at the embassy. ‘What I like most about my job is the ability to help Dutch citizens. We often notice we make a real difference and people are thankful for our help. To me, that is what it’s all about.’

Click here if you would you like to know more about what the Dutch embassy in Dar es Salaam does.

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