Born in November 1929 in Karagwe (Kagera Region), Sir George was educated at the Ihungu Secondary School and then the Tabora Government Boys Upper Secondary School, prior to undertaking his higher education at Loughborough College in UK between 1952 and 1954. He then returned to Tanganyika to become the First General Manager of the Bukoba Native Cooperative Union Ltd (responsible for the purchase, processing and marketing of coffee, tea and other agricultural commodities) and also to serve concurrently as Chairman of Bukoba District Council.
In 1957, he became a Nominated Member of the Tanganyika Legislative Council (LEGCO), representing the then West Lake province (now Kagera Region) and from 1958 was an elected MP for that Region. In the two years leading up to Independence he served as Minister for Social and Co-Operative Development in the transitional government.
In the three years immediately following Independence on 9 December 1961, Sir George served first as Minister for Home Affairs and then as Minister for Commerce and Industry, Communications, Transport and Works. He then began the first of three career stints overseas, serving in 1965 and 1966 as Tanzania’s Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany and to the European Economic Community.
He returned to Dar es Salaam to become for the next seven years the General Manager and CEO of the National Development Corporation, the largest holding company in Tanzania. It was the period immediately after the Arusha Declaration and, during his stewardship, 89 industrial, agricultural, mining and commercial parastatal enterprises were established (some of them as joint ventures with transnational corporations).
Then for the ten years after 1973 George Kahama had responsibility for the planning, development and building of the new national capital, Dodoma. He discharged these responsibilities concurrently as both Minister of State in the President’s Office and as Director-General of the Capital Development Authority. They were challenging times but today Tanzania’s functioning new capital city stands as a testament to Sir George’s determination to realise Mwalimu Nyerere’s vision.
Next, serving as Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism in 1983 and 1984, George Kahama turned his attention to developing and promoting the spectacular game reserves and national parks for which Tanzania is famed worldwide. Then, for the succeeding five years he served as Tanzania’s Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the People’s Republic of China, with concurrent accreditation to Vietnam, North Korea, Hong Kong and Thailand.
From Beijing he moved to Harare, serving next as the Tanzanian High Commissioner to Zimbabwe in 1989 and 1990.
Then, as the domestic economic reform programmes took root and the Tanzanian government made moves to liberalise the economy and to welcome private and foreign investment, Sir George was recalled to Dar es Salaam in 1990 to establish and run the Tanzanian Investment Promotion Centre (now TIC). He was the Centre’s First Director-General, in the President’s Office.
Between 1995 and 2000 Sir George continued in Parliament as the MP for Karagwe. George Kahama’s last Cabinet portfolio was as Minister for Cooperatives and Marketing, a post he held for five years until his retirement from active politics in November 2005.
Sir George served each of Tanzania’s first three Presidents (Nyerere, Mwinyi and Mkapa). He was a man of many accomplishments, discharging each of his responsibilities with an almost boundless energy. Few people, even those in high office, are as fortunate as he to have such opportunities to lay the foundations for the development of a major new nation like Tanzania. Moreover, as a devoted Catholic, Sir George was honoured with two special Presidential assignments. In 1962, he represented President Nyerere at the inaugural meeting of the Second Ecumenical Council in the Vatican, returning to Rome in 2005 to represent President Mkapa at the funeral of Pope John Paul II.