Thursday, May 25, 2006

I Despise Simplistic Thinking

I am member of a Tanzanian email group here in Columbus, Ohio. On Tuesday, May 23, 2006 one of the email group members sent an article written by one Deogratias Mushi under the title "A ’peanut’ contribution from Tanzanians in the US".

I typically get annoyed by what Bongoland leaders say, but this time I found myself ticked off at a journalist. Anyways, the gist of the story is that Tanzanians based in the US of A managed to collect a meager $4,000 (and some change), way below "expectations" towards the hunger relief fund. I put expectations under quotation marks because I wonder who expected Tanzanians in the US to collect more. The story went on to talk about the general political blah blah...the usual patriotism stuff.

What really got me mad is the fact that the journalist chose to take a very simplistic view in his writing. Furthermore, he failed to investigate and explore some of the realities that transpired around the collection of the contributions before making his final, ill-informed judgment.

The fact of the matter is that mobilization of wabongos in the US was not adequately and appropriately done. Mr Mushi should have realized that the collection idea, in my conviction, was done simply because Mr. Kikwete was coming to the US. The balozi (yes, I am referring to that incompetent Mr. Daraja) knew that there was hunger in Tanzania way back when. He had to wait less than two weeks before Mr Kikwete was coming to mobilize watu. In essense, I think Mr. Daraja just made a political move to be on Mr. Kikwete's good side. As the president's representative, Mr. Daraja is responsible to taking a proactive approach instead of a typical zima-moto style.

If I had a chance to meet Mr. Mushi face-to-face, this is what I would have told him: Life in the US is not like that in Bongoland. If you are journalist getting a per diem from your employer to accompany the President overseas, you're much better my pal. Try living in Washington, DC for three years without the per diem and see. Try hustling for a few dollars at a Wal-Mart's distribution center and tell me if you could dish out $100 dollars to a hunger relief fund on an impromptu message. I am sure you wouldn't, because life in America forces you to plan. See, Mr. Mushi, if you are one of those people in Tanzania who think dollars are just falling out of trees, then I am sorry for you. But what I know is this, you erred in writing a story that was not balanced.

On the economic front this is what Mr. Mushi wrote: " Tanzanians living abroad should show their solidarity by contributing more towards poverty reduction in the country".

Well, Mr. Mushi, the fact of the matter is, Tanzanians living abroad have been contributing to poverty reduction for a long time. May not in the way that through your simplistic thinking could not recognize.

Let me tell you my situatiom: My mother lives in Shirati, Tarime. She is not able to work and as such I am obligated to send her a few dollars now and then. Had she been in the US, probably she could have been drawing from a social security fund or something of that nature. If it wasn't for my few dollars, that poor lady would have been starving.

I am certain that my mother does not keep the few dollars buried under her pillow. She buys dagaa na unga now and then. Since she circulates that money, the dagaa seller is able to buy sabuni, and the sabuni guy is able to buy a shirt from a mitumba guy, and a mitumba guy is able to buy a baiskeli, and a baiskeli seller is able to buy some booze... and because of my few dollars, some otherwise poor folks in Tarime are able earn a living. If that is not an economic contribution, I don't know what it is. Nonetheless, because of your simplistic understanding of economics, ( I presume) you could not see my economic contribution.

If you think that an inflow of foreign currencies done in an informal way is not helping the country, try having a conversation with Mr. Fox, the Mexican president. He would tell you that illegal immigrants who cross the boarder over to the US play a very significant role in the Mexican economy. Billions of dollars that those fellas send home, are pumped into the economy and hence helping to bridge the economic divide within the country. But you wouldn't know that, would you Mr. Mushi?

The bottom line is: I hate simplistic thinking..and this fella Mr. Mushi, just demonstrated that type of thinking.

I hope I wasn't too mkali, but sometimes you have to be Bwana. Watu wengine wanachefua..

Thursday, May 18, 2006

God and National Prosperity: A Working Combo?

Faith plays a bigger role in my life. So don’t get surprised that I am flexing my mental muscles on this subject today. I believe my faith has shaped me a lot – from my spiritual state to my physical state. Living ughaibuni could be stressful, but I am able to I keep me head down and live somewhat stress-free, mainly due to my faith in God…

The American structure, when set by the founding fathers, was purely based on the acknowledgement of God’s supremacy. That’s why God was even placed on the mighty dollar. For ages, America was able to send Christian missionaries across the world and I believe they were rewarded in return. Also, the society was to the most extent conservative in its views and ways of life. My guess is that with advancements in science and technology, the importance of God started to dwindle. I believe that as this society started to explain every aspect of life in scientific terms, God was relegated to lower levels of importance. Also, I believe the rise of celebrities contributed to the replacement of God with tangible “idols” people could easily identify with. We can see that today...

For all y’all in the Northern American hemisphere, you know that the latest talks, particularly in the US of A, has been on removing anything to do with God from governmental spheres. Furthermore, there have been a push, if not pressure to define what marriage is. The underlying objective is for the so-called liberals to legalize homosexual marriages into the mainstream and advance notions that God is not that important.

All of these are happening at a time when the budget deficit is swelling and the war in Iraq is not yielding the “shock and awe” results that everybody in the Bush administration expected. Furthermore, oil prices continue to increase while the ever-increasing Chinese and Indian economies getting fatter and bigger on a daily basis. Oh…what about the Iranian pressure in the Middle East? All of these are putting a mounting pressure on the USA.

From just a logical perspective, these things could be brushed off as political and economic cycles that the world has experienced before. Nonetheless, my mind is telling that these things are somewhat related to Faith, particularly on how the United States is continually and slowly losing its power as its spiritual status. I am convinced the United State's economic power is continually deteriorating.

The main issue to me really in not what is happening in American taken in isolation, but rather to ask a broader question: Does this apply to our beloved Tanzania or any other country for that matter? I would agree with an emphatic YES. My conviction comes from the fact that the country has not faced serious social clashes that the neighboring countries have been through. I know part of the argument, some would say, is that Mr. Nyerere played a role. While I’m convinced that he didn’t “bring” any peace but “maintained” what was there already, I would give him a partial credit on that one.

Besides all that, I am convinced that our country is blessed because we say a prayer every day and night. Please review with me the second verse of the national anthem:

Mungu ibariki Tanzania
Dumisha uhuru na umoja
Wake kwa waume na watoto
Mungu ibariki Tanzania na watu wake

Essentially, the Tanzanian national anthem is a prayer! We might argue that I am just full of blah blah…but I am convinced that this simple prayer has kept the country, despite its problem, far ahead of other neighboring countries. I believe that it is due to this simple prayer; Tanzania will (given we get the right leaders) be the most prosperous country in Africa, if not the entire world.

As for America, which led to this musing, I am convinced that we will start seeing a downward spiral once God is removed from every facet of their life. The spiral has started, but soon it will make this country lose its first place in the world ranking. I have not done a thorough research to conclude that this theory works all the time, but by looking at the US and Tanzania, I can at least theorize that faith in God and prosperity work hand in hand…. may be some day history will prove me right, may be not. But I couldn’t help to wonder…

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Simba and Yanga: Untapped Gold Underneath?

I am a sports fan and that is no lie. My wife would attest to the fact that I watch or attend anything competitive. May be it is a men's thing. When she hopes that the end of NFL football (I mean the American version) after Super Bowl would lead to our endless romantic quality times, the college "post season"- the March Madness carries me away...then comes the NBA playoff in mid to late Spring...Oh what about the summer season when we occassionally attend real football games at the Columbus Crew stadium?

But my reflection today is not about my addiction for sports, but on what could potentially be a gold mine underneath the soccer giants in Tanzania - that is, Simba SC and Young Africans SC - from a marketing perspective.

It is widely believed, statistically, that Simba and Yanga boast the largest fan base in Tanzania than any other soccer club, with Yanga having a slight edge over Simba. The regional soccer clubs only get "flip-flop" fans, that is, those who root for the local team when they are not playing Simba or Yanga, or root for either Simba or Yanga when those team play the local team, depending on the fan's allegiance. For instance, a Simba's fan in Dodoma would root for Polisi Dodoma when Yanga visits Jamhuri Stadium. Likewise, a Yanga fan in Dodoma is likely to boo Simba players when they visit to play Polisi Dodoma. Nonetheless, these fans will unite and collectively be Polisi's fans when RTC Kagera visits town.

Undeniably, soccer is the most popular game in the world. The gozi la ng'ombe game also claims the same position in Tanzania. The popularity of the game is not only vivid by the number of fans who flock National Stadium, particularly when Simba and Yanga duke it out, but by the sheer number of shillings collected during the most popular games. Just to prove my point, The Guardian ran a story that TFF has collected enough loot in the past few game played during the ongoing Kagame Cup. Read on below:

Tanzanian shillings 73m/- in just a few days in not a small change. That demonstrates, from a marketing angle, that fans are willing to part with their hard-earned currencies to be entertained, regardless of the perceived (and for the most part true) poverty in Bongoland. Despite the fact that fans are willing to dish out their money for a soccer game, it has been proven that only Simba and Yanga in Tanzania can command a higher gate fee. That is due to the fact that they have a wider base of fans, but also because they produce a relatively high quality, entertaining kind of game. The reason being their ability to attract and recruit top players from around the country and even from neighbouring countries.

Commanding higher gate collections has over time given these two clubs some clout or power in driving some decisions made by the soccer body, TFF (FAT). You could view it a political clout, but I view it more than an economical power. Practically TFF, National Stadium manager, DRFA, and others do benefit alot from these clubs. At some point even some freelance photographers were benefiting from the power of Simba and Yanga (remember those days when freelance photographers used to sell photos from a previous Simba and Yanga's encounter? I've never seen them sell that many Nyota Nyekundu players' photos, to prove my case). What about those popular Manazi who are not willing to let go of the clubs? It is all about kuganga njaa, a purely economical pursuit. It is through the same clout, being a Simba or Yanga's club leader could give someone some sort of a political edge. I believe any individual who can lead Simba or Yanga to a successful season is more than likely to help someone win a Kiti cha Ubunge contest in his/her constituency.

It is my opinion, however, that both Simba and Yanga has not fully recognized and utilized their full economical and marketing potential. I am convinced that the problem lies in ignorance and fear of change (and fear of change could also be related to ignorance). There are some wazee was kilabu who are not willing to embrace change, simply because they are afraid of losing their traditional roles in the club. But let us look at some facts: If, hypothetically, the Tanzanian population is 30 millions stomachs, then Simba and Yanga are guaranteed of at least 10 million loyal customers apiece. That is a large and guaranteed market share.

That is huge, because even Vodacom or Celtel cannot boast of such a number of subscribers. I believe that Mr Reginald Mengi, in his previous suggestion that Yanga form a Company, had some grand ideas that Yanga didn't want or bothered to pursue. In their ignorance, they only ended up forming two "civil war" groups within the club, namely Yanga Kampuni and Yanga Asili. I can only theorize that Yanga Kampuni saw the vision, but failed to effectively communicate the vision. On the other hand, Yanga Asili were afraid that the club was taking a non-traditional path. In essence, Yanga Asili decided to be stuck in the past, embracing the 1961 view of the Club instead of focusing on being the pioneers of a new soccer direction in Tanzania. But that is the way things are in Bongoland sometimes, not surprising.

I believe that Mr. Mengi saw a marketing potential that could be mind boggling. While most companies fail to launch successfully because of the uphill battle in building a brand name, Simba and Yanga do not have to go through such hurdles due to their already established and strong brand names in Tanzania. In my opinion, all they had to do is launch themselve out and reap the benefits.

If I were a Simba or Yanga's executive, these are just a few strategies I would lead the club to employ in order to reap the profits of our brand name:

1. Owning a Stadium - Uwanja wa Taifa's management is always reaping Simba and Yanga off. Having our own turf would guarantee a steady cash flow, not only from the gate collections, but also through renting of office spaces, concession stands (we would sell karanga, aisikrimu and all that jazz ourselves), and other fees for the use of our facility. There are so many organizations, such as NSSF, with lots of money but no investment ideas. Since earning potential in soccer is almost unbelievable, I would form a partnership and give them the naming rights to the Stadium. I believe in 20 years, NSSF would get the cost of their investment back and we will part ways, everyone smiling.

2. Co-Branding - We don't have build a factory or sell products, but we can surely utilize our brand name in collaboration with other strong brands in the country for mutual benefits. What do I mean? You can get into an agreement with Kilimanjaro Water, for instance, to produce special edition of Yanga or Simba water bottles - in celebration of our winning the national or regional championship. It is a given that fans who identify with the team will also identify with the product. The profits generated from such a marketing arrangements will be divided among the Company and the club as per the contract. No pain.

3. Original Branding - This could be worked out with manufacturers to make original product lines for our club, such as Simba or Yanga sandals, cups, bumber stickers, pens, writing pads, and whatever we can imagine. Again, with the fan base of over 10 million folks, that is a huge market. Fans across the globe like to own memorabilia pertaining to their clubs. As such, writing with a Simba or Yanga's pen is surely guaranteed to make an avid fan proud.

As I pointed out, ignorance is such a heavy burden and that is evident in a way Simba and Yanga have failed to utilize their potentials. I understand that part of it is also attributed to poor leadership that is prevalent in almost all aspects of Tanzanian life. Si TFF wala serikalini. Nonetheless, I believe that if these two clubs can look for consultants like me (just kidding), they would see such a tremendous change beyond their imaginations. The problem, however, is the fact that we have had an attitude of hakiwezekani bwana, labda Ulaya tu.

I was in Tanzania at the end of 2004 and in a random conversation with my brother one day, I hinted on the marketing potential for Simba and Yanga. Guess what? My brother thought I was too ambitious, too Americanized. He thought that my ideas were not workable - "siyo Bongo ndugu yangu" type of mentality. I pointed out that an effective marketing campaign is the one that is able to create even an artifical demand. The same thing Vodacom, for instance, has been able to do in Tanzania. Does anyone believe that poor folks in Tarime need a cell phone? The answer to that is that those poor folks truly don't need a mobile phone due to their economic conditions. Nonetheless, Vodacom and the rest has created an artificial demand for cell phones to the extent that everyone thinks they need one. The same tactic is being used in developed countries like the United States, where companies try to make you think that if you don't use their products you will be incomplete or mshamba. Simba and Yanga's position, fortunately, do not require any extreme marketing strategies, just a change of attitude and a grasp of a grand vision. Arsenal, Juventus, or even Egyptian teams do not apply "Bagamoyo strategies" to win, they've embraced a marketing formula that works -- generating money, money, and more money. Such is possible in Bongoland, if we truly desire that.

The bottom line is - Simba and Yanga are just two pots of gold that nobody has been able to tap. If we keep on hanging to people like Wambura, Semvua or Simfukwe to lead these clubs, we'll never see that gold glitter... Kibaya zaidi, even TFF bosses have not seen, and probably will never see such a vision.


Monday, May 15, 2006

The Diallo's Case: Lack of Quality Leadership in Tanzania?

So I was going through IPPMedia online, as most of Tanzanians in the diaspora do (By the way, I think IPPMedia has done a tremendous job in maintaining a wonderful website, despite the fact that they never publish any news that cover their organization in a negative light. But who would?)

Anyways, back to what I was about to say..yes, about this Diallo guy...The Guardian ran a story on May 10, 2006 under the title "Minister Admits Staff Involvement". For full story you can follow the link below:

Well, the minister in our case is Mr. Anthony Diallo, who is currently reigning over the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism. Now, I don't want to go back into details about his comments, but in a nutshell, he admitted to the fact that illegal logging that the Tanzanian government has long outlawed, was being carried out with the assistance of some Ministry's staff. Sad enough, the Minister indicated that it was difficult to fire those employees.

There have been so many views aired in response to the Minister's comments. Some of comments could be read at IPPMedia. Anyways, I could not agree more with what has been commented by my fellow bongolanders across the world. I do agree with others that it was a stupid move for the minister to admit that the Tanzanian government is unable to sack employees implicated in failing to fulfill their end of the bargain. In my opinion, that was a political suicide, given the President is not willing to grant a room for such under par thinking and/or performance.

Nonetheless, as we both know, I might as well count myself as a daydreamer. Seldom do we get ministers fired for their pathetic comments in an African context, such as the ones Mr. Diallo just gave. So my expectation is that Mr. Diallo will just walk around, shoulders high, knowing that there are no consequences for his comments. It has happened before, and it will happen again, unless Mr. Kikwete proves me wrong.

I am not trying to disrespect the Minister, for I really don't have any details about his abilities. Nonetheless, I feel justified judging him based on his public comments. If I have to take his comments as a measure of his intellectual capabilities and political intelligence, I would rate him as DUMB, or fairly VERY DUMB. The reason for my assessment is that no government official in the world (as politically blah blah as it is..) would admit publicly that his government is incapable of dealing with a non-complex issue such as firing employees who have been violating the law of the land! It almost sounds like Mr. Diallo was drunk or something of that nature.

Such and erratic leadership that has been potrayed by Mr. Diallo kind of prompted me to do a little bit of thinking: Do we really have quality leadership in Tanzania or we just have a bunch of warm bodies collected together as Ministers, given responsibilities that they cannot effectively handle? Are we facing such a shortage of qualified individuals that we cannot only afford to give people like Mr. Diallo leadership roles?

See, my comments are based on the fact that it has been a recurring theme in Tanzania and in most other African countries, that the so-called leaders can just go out in public and rant anything the want without a fear of facing penalties for whatever they say. Furthermore, it troubles me to see that some of these leaders boast of some the brilliant academic backgrounds, such as Mr. Diallo who lists an MBA as part of his academic achievements. My question would be: did he really learn anything in school?

It is my firm belief that if Tanzania has to develop, she must truly and sincerely embark on finding the right leaders. I do agree that educational background is an essential element, but that in itself is not enough to guarantee results. Case in point is Prof. Juma Kapuya and Prof. Philemon Sarungi. These fellas have held ministrial posts, but to be honest, I dont think they have faired better than Mr. Lyatonga Mrema who just got his online degree from unaccredited University. My point being that it is very difficult to distinguish those aforementioned professors, from just performance perspective, from people like Mrema who have no clue where the global trends are taking us.

But it appears the trend of pathetic leaders is here to continue with people like Mr. Diallo in leadership positions. If I were Mr. President, this dude would have been out of the door...but again, I am not Mr President. So I can only dream of a better Tanzania without this type of crappy leadership.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Breakthrough..So I got started


What was I thinking to join the blogging craze? May be I am insane, may be sane, may be... Nonetheless, I guess at times you have to flow with the world. Afterall, change is not that bad. If I recall a wonderful bestseller booklet I read a couple of years ago, this booklet title "Who Moved my Cheese" by Spencer Johnson, M.D. This dude suggested the following about change:

1. Change Happens

2. Anticipate Change

3. Monitor Change

4. Adapt to Change Quickly

5. Change!

6. Enjoy Change!

7. Be Ready to Quickly Change Again and Again...

So I guess that failing to embrance blogging on my part would be a fatal the way, it has started feeling extremely good, having the power to share my thoughts with the entire world! Sit back, relax and enjoy (Sunday Shomari upo hapooo?)