Friday, December 28, 2007

RTF: Those Congested Dar Streets

I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas. Mine was terrific. Got together with some friends, had nyama choma and plenty of other foods. Of course we had a wonderful time just relaxing and having a wonderful conversation. May be it is my “old” age or something, but I don’t get excited about Christmas as I used to when I was a little boy. There was something magical about Christmas time then.

Oh well, I will just let my kids take my place of Christmas enjoyment. May be, as a parent, seeing the twinkle in my kids’ eyes would rekindle something magical in me.

My experience has been that during Christmas, Dar-es-Salaam becomes a “ghost” town. All my friends from the northern side of the country (you know who) always head back migombani for Christmas celebration. May be to show off a few shillings skimmed in Dar-es-Salaam or just to have a good time with friends and family. Regardless, other folks too tend to head “home” for Christmas.

On any other time during the year, Dar-es-Salaam streets tend to be crowded with cars and people. When my brother first came to the United States, he was surprised to learn that downtown Columbus was not crowded; particularly during the hours that Dar-es-Salaam would be going insane. What he missed was the fact that Americans, for the most, part do work. That means you won’t find folks taking long lunch hours, gossiping or running personal errands during typical work hours. Right there, you can conclude that Dar streets gets crowded with folks who could otherwise be sitting at their desk, producing.

Apart from the cultural reasons (work ethic) that contribute to the crowding of the Dar-es-Salaam streets, technical reasons, in my opinion, make a huge contribution. The city’s infrastructure cannot handle the growing population and economic growth that has resulted in an unbelievable number of cars imported annually. Putting aside those statistical numbers, there is unexplainable concentration of businesses in the city center and Kariakoo.

I think it is crazy that someone would board a daladala from Mwenge just to buy onions at Kariakoo! But that is happening. You know what is crazy? The Temeke and Kinondoni municipalities are just letting Ilala run the City! I know probably vigogo in Kinondoni do not want the Kariakoo-type hustle in their neighborhood, but at least that would help decongest Dar city center.

I have just described the internal workings of the City. You what else contributes to the insanity in Dar-es-Salaam? It is the stupid concentration of power within the government. I know these guys talked about Madaraka Mikoani stuff. That is a bunch of rhetoric. The show is still being run from Dar-es-Salaam.

Honestly, I think something of the services that are typically offered Wizarani only could be offered at a regional and district level. Let me give you an example. You want a birth certificate? Good. You have to start from the ward to the district level to process your application, but the actual stinking piece of paper must be issued in Dar-es-Salaam! Try to imagine just one single office serving over 30 million people! Honestly, does it really mean that Vizazi na Vifo folks in Dar-es-Salaam are more qualified to issue birth and death certificate that those at the district level? Try to imagine someone coming all the way from Kigoma, spending about TShs 100,000 for a document that is worth TShs 2,000.

I think that we justify Dr. Watson’s theory of African’s lack of intelligence unnecessarily. Really.

The birth certificate issue is just one simple example. There is a host of other matters that an ordinary Tanzania makes a follow-up in Dar-es-Salaam unwarranted. There are such issues are business registration, issuance of a secondary school certificates, etc that one has to be in Dar-es-Salaam for. The effect of that has been that the City gets crowded. Of all those people you see standing at the new Post Office's daladala stand, chances are that 30% of them are from upcountry, following up something at a government office in Dar!

The most damaging effect, in my opinion, is that concentration of power on one individual at a ministry to serve 35 million Tanzanians leads to only evil – corruption. Sluggishness you see at government offices, especially those charged with offering some kind of service to the general public, is by design. That provides an incentive for kitu kidogo, as customer is typically left with no alternative. One is forced to either wait for 5 years to get a service that would take 10 minutes or part with an incentive that would speed up the process.

I think the three-lane idea to decongest the Dar roads was good, but there is much more that contributes to congestion of the City in general. One of them is the fact that Madaraka Mikoani is just a political hoax, with no practical meaning. If you still have to get some basic services in Dar, then what is the government decentralization for?

Friday, December 14, 2007

RTF: Down The Memory Lane

It is Friday again and I am looking forward to a great weekend. You know, some weekends you just feel like resting. This week, I really need some rest. So I will savor my days off work.

I am not intending to bombard you with anything heavy either. If I have to relax, that has to start with my mind. So I’m allowing my mind to roam and wander around trivial stuff. It is not like I don’t have deeper stuff to muse on, but you would agree with me that life is not only about deep philosophical stuff. There are also minor, but relevant things that make life exciting.

Those minor things could be taking yourself on a journey through a memory lane.

So I couldn’t help myself but wander down the memory lane also. Man, how I miss the good old days! Trust me, there are things I couldn’t go back for in my childhood in Tanzania, but I certainly have good memories to make me nostalgic. How about those chandimu pickup games? You could temporarily shut down the street for a heated soccer game; occasionally being stopped by a passing beat up truck. What about going home all dusty after a long day at a manati factory?

If you didn’t make toy cars and trucks from old empty cans, please don’t think I am crazy. But I know someone out there can relate. Honestly, being creative is where I drew my childhood joy. I know some fellas who were so creative that the entire street soccer team depended on them for a bouncy, well manufactured soccer ball from rugs and old clothes. Of course, that didn’t go without some political power. Occasionally, this fundi would stop the game by threatening to take his ball, if he wasn’t allowed to play or someone, somehow, got them mad. Talking about power play!

Childhood, on the other hand, had its downside. I know older folks were teaching discipline by commanding strict rules on some areas, but I hated the idea that I was subjected to the obedience of every older man or woman in the village. That made me to desire growing up so bad, hoping that I would gain some kind of freedom. Of course I have gotten that kind of freedom now, but boy, little did I know that it was better for someone else to worry about my food and clothing!

Probably what I like the most about childhood is the honest ignorance that goes with it. Just like most of you, I wondered about those people talking in the radio. Just like you, I wondered how they were able to fit in that little box and attempted to open the back of the radio to see them! I also wondered if they even slept. I wondered how they looked like.

And talking about the radio, I always believe that when the program host announced that “Naona bendi ya Mlimani Park wanaanda vyombo kututumbuiza”, Mlimani Park Orchestra was actually in the studio tuning their guitars, trumpets and all that stuff. So when the song came on the radio, I was convinced that the band was performing at that very moment. Don’t laugh at me; that’s what I believed. I am sure you have your own secret stories, where you believed the universe functioned in a certain way, only to realize that you were innocently ignorant as a child.

I also got the idea of rain wrong as a child. In my universe, I believe that when it rained in my village, it was also raining across the globe! Fortunately, I grew out of that scientific theory very quickly. I learned that my theory was wrong as I listened to the conversation between my mom and relatives who resided in some other towns. They would talk about the weather, particularly the rain as it meant so much for the village economy, and in some cases they would talk about how it rained in their town and not ours. Something clicked that I needed to tweak my understanding of the universe.

I still don’t understand why the rainbow moves when you get close to it though.

My best childhood experience is when I learned how to read and write. That tops them all. I can remember vividly one day I was walking with my brother, who was by then in Standard Four. At the time, I had started to put letters together. So on this day, we passed by a dump with TAKATAKA letters on it. I remember putting the ta-ka-ta-ka word together into a marvelous takakata. You should have seen me exploding with excitement. I tell you what; it is like the world opened right before my eyes. I guess I never looked back on reading.

So what’s your childhood story?
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Photo: Mjengwa

Friday, December 07, 2007

RTF: “I Pity The Fool”

Man, it is cold around me. If this is Columbus, Ohio and it is this cold, I wonder what is going on with my friends Jeff and Patrick in Canada. I wonder how colder it is for anybody situated in the northern most part of this globe. Honestly, this is the time I miss Bongoland the most. It is nice when it is snowing, but I am not fond of the extreme coldness and the ugliness that follows.

But guess what? It is appears like it getting colder for our beloved president, Mr. JMK. According to recent polls conducted by the Research and Education for Democracy in Tanzania (REDET) and reported by This Day, Mr. JMK’s popularity has dipped to 44.4 per cent.

The poll’s outcome is not surprising to me. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that the country has no clear vision and direction. Just read Mr. Lusekelo’s musing to get the gist of it.

The poll definitely revealed some interesting information. For instance, 40.7 % of respondents “approved” the performance of CCM, while just 19% picked the opposition parties. That is a bit strange. Wouldn’t you expect 59.3% of respondents to pick opposition parties then? That indicates that folks are neither satisfied with CCM nor opposition parties. In a nutshell, Tanzanians think their political leaders are full of crap!

Let’s be honest, would you elect Mr. Mrema to be the Tanzanian president? Would you elect John Cheyo either? And that’s where the problem is. Opposition political leaders, generally speaking, have failed to bring anything new, fresh and inspiring. The opposition camp is just terribly wobbling. The camp has failed to gain credibility. I guess that's where wananchi feel they should stick with CCM, at least this is a familiar devil.

Despite other interpretations you assign to the poll results, one thing that strikes me the most is this: According to REDET co-chairperson Dr. Laurean Ndumbaro, the researchers found a direct co-relation between those who approve or disapprove of the president’s handling of national affairs and their education level. That is, most educated Tanzanians do not approve of Mr. JMK’s performance, while most of less educated Tanzanians think the president is doing a good job.

So why is this disparity? It boils down to the empowerment and freedom that education brings. And there is nothing as bad as being mentally enslaved.

The educated minds in Tanzania are capable of filtering political rhetoric and buzzwords that don’t mean much. But that is true everywhere. You cannot just walk up to an informed person, who is able to critically think, and just starting shooting your blah…blah. Statistics don’t lie, the poll results have clearly indicated that fact. Nevertheless, for CCM, this is also a scary reality: with an increasing number of graduates in Tanzania, true educated Tanzanians will make CCM extinct. Read my lips…err…my pen. I said true because there are educated folks in Tanzania who are nothing more than a joke.

I seriously think the Tanzanian politicians have been, for ions, feeding wananchi plenty of junk. Unfortunately, the uneducated mass has been consuming this junk left and right. I know this is a critical question – which an uneducated mind would probably fail to answer – but what is it about Mr. JMK’s performance that makes one happy and satisfied?

If you have to know, I stand with the 18.6% of Tanzanians who disapprove of the president’s performance. I would be insane to approve of a president who goes on public, claiming that he was scared of receiving his HIV test results. If we all have to read between the lines, the conclusion we deduce is this: the president gets around, unsafely. And for me, a high moral standard is a requirement for my kind of president.

This poll also tells the story as to why CCM has brought constant beat down on the opposition parties during elections. CCM feasts on the ignorance of the poor people, though the opposition parties have also brought this outcome on themselves by being pathetic. It is not surprisingly then, that there is no true desire from the CCM machinery to improve education in Tanzania. The machinery knows too well that eating off a blind man’s plate requires the victim’s condition to stay constant. Ukila na kipofu....so goes a Swahili saying.

In the very end, the vicious circle continues. Ignorant Tanzanians continually elect politicians who are not really for the people’s welfare.

This gets me sad. In some ways, just like Mr. T likes to put it down, “I pity the fool”. I wish there was some magic I could do to make things better for my people. Nonetheless, there is little I can do to save the uneducated 80% of Tanzanians who are willing to bite any bone politicians throw their way.

How blessed I am to be slightly educated!

Enjoy your weekend.

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Photo Credit: KP via Mjengwa

Friday, November 30, 2007

RTF: “A Good Start” Isn’t Enough

I am sorry for not being here last Friday. You want to blame me? Right, go ahead. But I wouldn’t blame myself. Last week was Thanksgiving. You saw some Tanzanians in Houston, Texas, celebrating in their own way. I did not take that H-Town route, but spent time with family and friends thanking God for his endless blessings. So did you really expect me to have the energy to write after a wonderful bata mzinga feast? Come on! You wouldn’t demand that from a brother, would you?

Let me just get back to what I wanted to muse on.

So I was having a lunch break at work one day and I saw a flash of a commercial clip with an African tune in the background. I couldn’t see the whole commercial, but I definitely caught the last graphics. Tanzania was dangling on CNN!

You can watch the clip here .

I have made a call on this very blog that the Tanzanian government should do more to promote brand Tanzania . I applaud the government for putting this commercial on CNN and other media outlets. That is definitely a good start. Now, don’t take it that I am never satisfied or I simply get gratification out of criticism. I am not. I just like to call out things that folks tend to ignore. I just like to provide an honest feedback.

Doing something that has never been done before definitely deserves an applause. Nonetheless, good start is not good enough in some cases. In this particular case, the Tanzanian government attempted to do something that was long overdue. That deserves some praise, but does that justify doing a sloppy work?

A good start is not enough when you are spending tons of taxpayers’ money. A good start is not enough when you are just toying with competition. I am not a marketing expert, but I have seen enough commercials to tell what works and what does not, especially if you are going to advertise in a country like the United States of America. I have seen the Jamaican government advertisements, and I can only say that those guys know what they are doing.

From my little understanding of marketing, I believe commercials are intended to inform and persuade customers to consume a product or service. As such, commercials are meant to provide adequate information and tell a consumer why they should consume a product or service, and where to get that product or service. And that communication should be accomplished in a shorter period of time possible. Short of that, the commercial is just a waste of time.

Please revisit the Tanzanian government commercial again.

I don’t have any problem with the images and the background music presented in the commercial. Honestly, I think he images and the background music are great and are capturing the essence of the Tanzanian life. Nevertheless, the commercial does not communicate its core objective, which is to lure folks to visit Tanzania. Honestly, who suggested that informing viewers that Tanzania is the land of Kilimanjaro, home of the spice islands of Zanzibar and home to the greatest animal migration is good enough?

Why don’t you go out and say it flat out that “Hey you, Mr. Smith in Oregon or Arizona, come to Tanzania and experience all these things”? I mean, why would someone in Canton, Ohio care that Mt. Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania? You have to have a message for Mr. Smith to care about Mt. Kilimanjaro. The last time I checked, the Internet is full of that general information already. Kenyans have used the Mt. Kilimanjaro bait for so long. Your commercial must have a clear, differentiating point.

Let’s talk about the American market base, which this commercial targeted. It is a general expectation of an American consumer that all businesses have a website, where a customer can visit for further information on the company. Unfortunately, this commercial does not direct the viewer to the Tanzanian government or tourist board’s website. I know those websites do exist, but why in the world were those websites excluded from the commercial for further information and marketing?

I know Tanzanian government is full of bureaucrats who are experts in shoddy dealings, but when you want to play in an international arena, please bring your “A” game. Leave your Kaunda suits behind and know the league in which you are about to play in.

I expected that the Tanzanian government, in its attempt to woo the American tourist, had done their homework to figure out the behavior and general expectation of the American consumer. That is just common sense. Apparently, that was not done. I know the excuse will be that the Tanzanian government is new at this. That is fine, but when your commercial is not free; you better make sure that you are not spending that money on something half-baked.

Uurrgggghhhh! Let me just vent a little. Phew!
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Photo credit: Maggid Mjengwa

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

When The Vision Isn’t Yours…


Well, I guess to err is human. So I am not going to hold Mr. KP, a famous Tanzanian cartoonist, hostage for his sexist cartoon that I previously posted on here. I have see this guy’s cartoon for a long time, and I know he is capable of using his artistic talent to pose some hard, critical questions. I guess he was just carried away or simply rode on a wrong sexist mentality of men around him.

Nevertheless, the above cartoon is a wonderful thought provoking piece of work. Whether the addressed people are paying attention is another topic of its own. It appears to me though; those fellas in power have found some super glue to block their ears from listening to anything meaningful.

I strongly believe that a great leader, at any level, must be a visionary. That is, such a leader must have a clear goal of where he or she wants to take the people and how and when he or she wants to get there. And visions don’t have to be complex or overly intellectual. Take Bill Gates’ vision for instance. The guys dream was to have a computer in every home and at every business office. How simpler can you go than that?

It should be scary to be in a situation where the leader does not have a vision.

In his trying to defend his political party’s promise to establish a kadhi court, a court essentially run by the Islamic laws, President Kikwete contended that the kadhi issue is not his brainchild, rather was handed over to him as part of the CCM manifesto. The president explained that the CCM manifesto is prepared long before the party’s presidential candidate is elected. I didn’t make that up; please check with IPP Media right here.

Let me break that down for you. The president is essentially saying this: he is running the country on a vision that is not personally his. He was just handed a book or something like that, which he is utilizing as a guide.

That, amigos, is ridiculous. I don’t know of any country where the president is visionless.

A vision must be a leader’s own brainchild, and not some ideas copied and handed over for a leader to baby-sit. Please don't ge me wrong, I am not saying a leader can't consult others. But a vision must come from the leader’s own personal and philosophical conviction. Leaders die or thrive with their visions. A leader’s biggest tasks are to share that vision (so that those charged with execution obtain clear understand of the vision) and to recruit quality people to carry out the vision.

Despite my disapproval of Mwalimu Nyerere on some areas, one thing I admire the most about the guy was his ability to create a vision and to stick with it (regardless of how faulty that vision was). The country’s culture, though turned to be full of corruption and ineptitude, is Nyerere’s brainchild. The CCM system itself is Nyerere’s own vision. The ability to create a vision and execute that vision has been the separating point between Nyerere and his successors. You couldn’t tell Mwinyi or Mkapa’s vision. The current president has already admitted that he is currently running a country on a guide, which he did not even take part in preparation.

For lack of personal vision, Nyerere’s successors have embraced everything without taking a closer look. That is acting like puppets. Look at the cartoon again. I believe Nyerere had a vision and plan, which led to the concentration of power on him. Nevertheless, we live in different times and change must come our way. Surprisingly, folks are still blindly following Nyerere’s vision and system. I honestly think it is dumb to do that.

Seriously, no one in the CCM camp intelligent enough to realize that concentration of power on one individual is a guaranteed ingredient for ineffectiveness? Isn’t it ridiculous that one could be charged to execute and evaluate their own performance? Honestly, give me that opportunity and I will tell you how great of a performer I am. And that has been happening in Tanzania for years.

Given that none of the presidents after Nyerere have ever had any visions of their own, ineffectiveness we see in Tanzania shouldn’t come as a surprise. Mr. Kikwete has just confessed that he is visionless. When the president is just handed over a plan to carry out, he or she becomes more of a midlevel executive officer. That is not the way it should be.

Honestly, I wonder where the president gets the inspiration to carry out a vision that is not his own.
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Photo Credit: KP via Mjengwa

Friday, November 16, 2007

RTF: On The Other Hand…

Here go folks. It is another Friday. November 2007 is also about to come to and end. Man oh man, how does time fly this fast?

Anyways, this is Richard Bizubenhout thing is still hot in Tanzania. As a matter fact, I have read stories where the dude is being referred to as a superstar. I don’t doubt that. I know of some reality television super stars that have turned their exposure into some really cool careers. My advice to little Richard, go ahead and soak yourself into this before people forget you. Stars are born everyday.

My stance on the whole BBA show is still the same. I don’t believe for a minute that this show is helping the foster positive outlook on morality. For one, HIV/AIDS cases in Tanzania are high. You don’t want a television show that promotes the idea that a married man can go out, wag his you-know-what for the audience in the name of entertainment. You don’t want a show that does not hold marriage serious, as it should be. My moral campus does not allow me to swallow the idea that for the sake of entertainment, I could compromise everything that I hold dear and true.

Fortunately, I am not the only one who holds those views. I have read comments on various Tanzanian blogs and there are folks who stressed on immorality of the show. On the other hand, there have been those who have endorsed the show. I am presuming that the later group is the one that showed up at the airport to give Richard a hero’s welcome. Obviously, some folks took the opportunity to herald their political ambitions. Some CCM guys went as far as claiming that Richard fulfilled the CCM manifesto. What a bunch of crap!

Regardless of my personal convictions, people flocked the airport. You know what? That got me thinking. There must be something that brought people out. There must be something that made people feel that Richard actually made them proud, regardless of the platform and how Richard brought that pride. Mhh…what could that thing be?

The fact of the matter is that Tanzanians have been and being battered by life. I am not sure if you can find something from a political arena that gives Tanzanians a sense of meaning and achievement. On a daily basis, there is just bad news floating around. It is not wonder then, when Taifa Stars won a couple of games and hope of going the to the African Cup championship was still alive, something in people got stirred up.

There is a natural pride in all human beings. There is a natural desire in all of us to feel important and capable. Nobody likes to be defeated. We all like to be numero uno. Nonetheless, defeat has been a Tanzanian story. Defeat has been a Tanzanian daily experience. When was the last time Tanzania had sense of victory after the Ugandan war? May be Tanzania has experienced little victories, but none that ordinary person in the streets of Dar-Es-Salaam or a remote village in Sumbawanga could relate to.

It is for that reason; Richard’s victory (though none of the people who showed up at the airport would benefit from anything) means something. It brought a sense that Tanzanians can win at least something. It means that Tanzanians are actually capable of achieving something. It is for that reason the morality of the show is being overlooked. It is for that reason, whoever is criticizing the show is viewed a party spoiler. I mean, who would seriously care about “internal affairs” between Richard and his wife, while the dude has uplifted the spirit of the country?

The same feeling of inspiration and meaning also came surfaced with Asha-Rose Migiro was appointed UN Deputy Secretary General. In reaction to her appointment, the whole country went crazy. People look for inspiration. And it appears that Richard has brought that inspiration to the people of Tanzania. Richard has given Tanzanians something to escape the realities around them.

And I can’t blame any of wananchi.

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Photo Credit: Michuzi

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BBA: May Be U, But I’m Not Proud

So the Big Brother Africa is over and the Tanzanian “representative”, Mr. Richard Bizubenhout, is declared a winner. Well, the amount of dough, $100,000 is not a cheap change. That could very well clear a huge portion of someone’s mortgage. So go ahead and spend that money wisely, Mr. Bizubenhout.

The saddest part is how a Tanzanian cartoonist, following Richard’s victory, wants to portray Richard’s “ex-wife” (and women in general for that matter) as cheap and stupid, to the extend that they are willing to sell their values for money. I don’t know if that is how the cartoonist (who recently got married) views his mother, sisters, nieces, and even his wife.

Please see the cartoon above.

What prompted me to write this article is what Richard said in a press conference following his victory. Fred Ogot, the Guardian writer, quoted Richard as saying that he has made Tanzanians proud by winning the BBA top prize. Well, may be he has made other Tanzanians proud, but not me.

You can refer to Fred Ogot’s article here.

I am not a values police, and I am not trying to be. Nevertheless, I believe that there are certain things people would only do if and only if, their moral sensitivity is going down the drain. I am not speaking for all Tanzanians (because there are folks already planning parties to congratulate Richard), but this much I know – the BBA show is nothing more than a product meant for folks who are unable to evaluate values imparted on them through a television tube.

Given my location, I did watch any of the BBA shows. Nevertheless, I can only presume the show was another soft pornography transmitted for unaware Tanzanian minds to wholeheartedly consume. And they did. Well, while Richard is regarding himself as a hero, others are regarding him as a “rapist”. Read on. And that is what Tanzanians should be proud of ?

Folks, television and movie producers will always tell that their work is only capturing life. Well, I got news for you. Movie and television producers want you to see life through their own eyes. In other words, television producers communicate their values through their work. Well, let’s just look at the mind behind the Big Brother show, for instance.

According to wikipedia, Big Brother reality television show is a brainchild of Johannes Del Mol. Del Mol, not surprisingly, happened to be a native of one of the most liberal countries in the world, Netherlands. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that sex and alcoholism is the cornerstone of the Big Brother show.

I know, I know, I sound like a grandpa. Nevertheless, I would rather sound like grandpa than being stupid. You know, sometimes wisdom is needed in discerning what is good from what is a bunch of crap. Television, just like any other medium of communication, could be used both positively and negatively. Television could be used either to build or to destroy values. I wonder if average folks understand how imagery could distort our understanding of life and even who we are.

So for any Tanzanian who is soooo proud that Richard became a winner of the BBA show, just be informed of this: you just made Mr. de Mol a few bucks richer, while consuming his personal values and convictions. And I am not very sure if those values align well with conservative, Tanzania values.

There are plenty of Tanzanian folks out there, doing meaningful things that I am definitely proud of. Richard, unfortunately, does not make that list.
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Photo Credit: Michuzi

Friday, November 09, 2007

RTF: Forgotten Money Source?

It is another Friday. So let my mind wander everywhere. I promise, however, that I will stay within sanity boundaries.

I don’t want to be the person to bring bad news to you, but the most recent CCM general meeting produced nothing but a bleak picture for the future of Tanzania. Honestly, I don’t think that Makamba, Msekwa and all other members elected to the top posts have anything new to bring to the table. It is the same old CCM with no direction. I didn’t originally come up with loss-of-direction thing. Just go verify that with Mr. Butiku .

I have been reading comments on various blogs that covered the CCM meeting. Honestly, some of the comments were plain shortsighted. See, folks got happy that John Malecela was finally voted out as the party’s vice chairman because he was too old, but missed the fact that his replacement – Pius Msekwa – is virtually of the same age! So I guess it wasn’t so much about the age, but about being tired of the meaningless comments that tend to flow from Mr. Malecela’s mind.

Why I am even talking about CCM? I guess it is because they are currently running the show in Tanzania and hence whatever decisions the party makes affect the daily lives of my brothers and sisters in Bongoland.

What I really wanted to say is this: the Tanzanian government has ignored one crucial source of tax revenue. And that is revenue generated by witchdoctors.

I am not losing my mind, if you were wondering about that. I am serious about this. Really, I am. There are plenty of stories to back me up. OK, just recently, some members of the Dar Young Africans soccer club launched a witch hunting attack on the club’s leadership, trying to establish accountability over money dished out by the club’s sponsor. Just reading the story, you will realize than nearly $10,000 of the sponsorship money was spent on the “technical” stuff.

Well, we both know very well that Simba and Yanga encounters are not short of witchcraft . activities. As a matter of fact, witchcraft is rampant in the Tanzania soccer. Honestly, the voodoo craze goes beyond the soccer field. The belief in the “dark” powers is so rampant to the extent that some even made to believe that prosperity could be obtained through witchcraft. Just read this story and see how sad the situation could be.

By no means this should be construed that I am trying to condone witchcraft. I am far from doing that. I am just trying to point out the fact that as long as the there are consumers for witchcraft services, then the government should regard witchcraft service providers as businessmen and women. And with that, “doctors” should apply for a business license and pay appropriate taxes. That is due to the fact that the industry is generating a lot of money.

Just consider this, if Yanga alone spent nearly $10,000 to win a soccer game, how much do you think Simba spent? How much do you think other teams in the Vodacom Premier League are spending on “doctors”? How much do you think ordinary folks in Tanzania spend on non-soccer related aspects of life such as health, promotion at work, love, job security, prosperity, protection from evil spirits, etc? How many kids have you seen dangling charms on their necks or arms? You didn’t think the hiziris come for free, did you?

I am not in a position to come up with an exact figure of how much is generated by this industry, but you can clearly tell from just the two figures presented here. First, Yanga spending $10,000 and secondly, $115,000 swindled by a “doctor” from the unsuspecting mwananchi. That is a lot of money from my perspective.

I know that my suggestion would definitely hit a snag. If the vineyard is supplying accurate information, then some political leaders in Tanzania will not be pleased with taxation on witchcraft services. Story goes that wakubwa tend to flock Bagamoyo during elections. As such, tax on the “doctors” services is likely to hike service prices. Adding that tax burden to the cost of takrima, implementation of my idea could potentially end someone’s political career.

Seriously though, money is being made in the witchcraft industry. For some of us who are not customers, we could benefit from the industry through tax shillings. Let those who prefer the service be served, but let the entire Bongoland get good roads and electricity. Our school kids need teachers and textbooks too.

Enjoy your weekend.
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Photo Credit: davidwallphoto.com

Monday, November 05, 2007

I Ain’t Bragging…

Seriously, I am not. However, when you point out something and then folks in the system pretends like they have an epiphany, one is bound to feel very good. Man, I feel like that right now.

What’s the story that got me all giddy? Well, according to IPPMedia, the Director General of Board of External Trade (BET) Director General, Ramadhan Khalfan, pointed out that education could generate the much-needed foreign currency in Tanzania if improved.

Hello someone, didn’t I say that on November 29, 2006? As I pointed out earlier, this something that I shoud not be bragging about. That is because the potential of education in generating a whole lot of money is not a "revelation". It is as wide and in the open as the Indian Ocean is. It is a matter of principle and reality. Education is a product or service, if you will, just like clothes, cars and food. It could be sold and bought. Honestly, people put concepts and ideas in the bound form (called books) and make tons of money. As intangible as ideas are, people who are endowed with the talent and the ability to put books together, well, make money. The same goes with education.

As far as the potential of education as a money-generating machine, you don’t have to be a genius to recognize that Kenya and Uganda have been exporting education to Tanzania for ions. “Intelligent” and able Tanzania parents figured it out long ago that Kenya and Uganda could provide a better education than Tanzania and hence decided to take their kids there. Whether education in Kenya and Uganda is of high quality than that of Tanzania could be debatable. Nonetheless, this much I know, there are very few (if not none) Kenyan and Ugandan parents sending their kids to pursue primary education in Tanzania.

I think these talks about Tanzania’s potential in this and that is getting old. Don’t you think so? Don’t you get annoyed with some big shot gets up on the podium to share his or her “revelation” on potential things in Tanzania that are actually being implemented in the neighboring country?
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Photo Credit: Mjengwa

Friday, November 02, 2007

RTF: What’s Your Dreaming Lingo?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly like cold weather. Much to my dislike, the temperatures are dipping on a daily basis now that winter is just across the corner. If you are in Bongoland and you have never experienced this, you probably could never relate. I know that I could whine as much as I like, but that won’t change God’s design.

So I have just to zip it up and move on. Besides, there are more than 300 million human beings in the United States of America going through the same. I have to admit it though, this is the time I miss the warm weather in Bongoland. See how our priorities and preferences change? One day I am up and arms against Bongoland, the next I want to go back. I think human beings are naturally conflicted. Sometimes we don’t make sense.

It is Friday and I allowing my mind to wander around. Just yesterday I was thinking of this. Honestly, if you are a Tanzanian, where your first language is Swahili, then regardless of where you are currently stationed in this globe and the language you utilize to communicate with people around you, occasionally Swahili will pop up in your head. So my question is this: which language do you typically dream in? Primarily English? Swedish? Polish? Swahili?

I think it is very funny that when I first came to the United States, I used to solve mathematical problems silently in Swahili and then provide an answer in English. Unfortunately for me, there was only one other Tanzanian in the same school. The other Tanzanian was a junior (third year student) when I was a freshman (first year student). As such, he had established his own social clique. Coupled with the fact that we both had to complete our weekly Labor Program assignments (Berea College, my alma mater, required all students to work a minimum of ten hours weekly as part of the scholarship stipulation) and regular schoolwork, we had very limited interaction.

You can only guess what happened next for me. Being is a situation where I had to choice but to use English on a constant basis led to my diminished ability to process concepts in Swahili fast enough. I am still puzzled at this concept, but I could be true that anything in your body – be it your muscles, brain, bones etc that are not exercised and remains idle for an extended period lose their ability. I am convinced that also extends to even linguistic abilities.

I knew that I was losing my Swahili when I talked to my mom. See, though my situation is not overly unique (as there are plenty of other Tanzanians in the same boat), it presents its own challenges. My mom is located in Shirati, Tarime, where the predominant language is Luo. Well, this much I know about Luos, they are very proud of their heritage, which includes their own language. As a matter of fact, they have a website where there are stories in Luo. Can you believe that? If you think I am kidding, visit http://www.jaluo.com/.

So can you see the social expectations that are upon me? Particularly based on the fact that I am man expected to carry out family traditions and all that jazz that comes with it? Well, on of them is the ability to speak Luo. As a general rule, when I talk to my mom, the conversation is expected to take place in Luo. I have always gotten away with not speaking in Luo sometimes because nimekulia mjini kidogo. I typically use that mjini card when I can’t articulate my position well enough in Luo. So what happened when you can’t even articulate a concept well in Swahili? It is a mess.

See, what happened to me was that I would be on the other hand of the telephone with my mom trying to translate what I wanted to say from English, to Swahili then to Luo. It some cases, I could just jump from English to Luo, but that did not help with the time lag that required to complete the interpretation. That really stunk. Did I mention the unintended “ums” and “yeahs” that flew out of my mouth at unconscious level? At one point my mother was bold enough to tell me that my accent, my voice, or something has changed.

See, I used to be critical of folks who would come home from majuu with certain mannerisms that I thought were a little on the side of kujidai. Obviously, I knew little how one’s social environment has so much influence to the extent that we acquire and assimilate to certain social tendencies. We do that to as a matter of choice, but as a matter of survival. No one wants to be a social outcast. I found out quickly that some social skills that served me well in the Tanzanian didn’t work well in my new environment. Certain habits, like keeping time in the United States are necessary, but trying to do that in Tanzania would definitely get you a quick label of uzungu. See my point?

I don’t remember all my dreams, but I would want to believe that I dream in English now. I know that for sure because I dream in English in the first days I go to Tanzania. Then it switches to Swahili at some point. The same is true when I come back to the United States, dream in Swahili for the first few days then switch to English.

So what language do you dream in? Happy dreaming and enjoy your weekend.

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Friday, October 26, 2007

RTF: Let Me Cry Out…Again


Let me just apologize for not being able to fill this blog with posts during the week. I would like to be regular, but I have work related deadlines to meet. And feeding my family will always take the too spot on my priority list. Would you blame a man for taking care of business? I know you wouldn’t.

I would like to thank Subi and Kifimbocheza for sharing the news that Dr. Watson, that man who made claims that black folks are less intelligent that whites, finally resigned from his post as chancellor of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York state. To me this is not only victory to all black people out there, but to every human who abhors bigotry.

Man, I hope he learned something.

That being taken care of, we can go back to what was on my mind.

Just like most men, I love sports. May be sports fits well in the men’s psych. May men are just naturally born to fight over something. That’s why my wife can’t understand why I watch classics on ESPN. Even if I watched Michael Jordan dunk on someone in 1989, it is sweet to watch the episode over again (besides, men don’t complain when wives fixed their eyes on All Our Children).

Winning is always sweet. If it is not for the ultimate championship, it is just for the bragging rights and our egos. Winning boosts our ego. Surprisingly, even fans that hardly sweat (actually they do when they scream) find something to fight over. Try Simba and Yanga fans. Although fighting between the fans of these teams could end very soon, now that Simba has been chewing Yanga left and right of late.

I know that Simba fans are magego nje for turning Yanga into “regular customers”. Nevertheless, is Simba really winning? Is Yanga really losing? In my mind, both teams are losers. Not small time losers, but big time losers. I know you will start thinking that Metty is going bananas. I am not. I am just taking us out of the box.

The recent “fights” between Dar Young Africans and their “sponsor”, Mr. Manji, is just an indication that even an educated person such as Madega, who is currently the team’s elected chairman, is still missing the boat. I am not going all out on that claim though, because I could be missing some facts on how these teams are run, and why someone like Manji could be willing to spend his money on Yanga. I mean, what’s the catch? I don’t believe that Manji is not getting anything in return.

Regardless of hidden systems that are utilized to run Simba and Yanga clubs, one this is definite – money is needed to run a successful soccer team. My biggest question is this: why do Simba and Yanga always run to some individuals or “friends” to fund the club? I mean, wouldn’t common sense tell someone that if the club has been begging for the past twenty years, with no permanent plans in place to secure funds, the same trend is bound to be experienced for the next twenty years?

I don’t want to talk about a mindset change again, but we must agree that there is a certain mindset within these clubs that must change. I know that of late Simba and Yanga have become just regular clubs – given the fact that “regular” teams have been whipping their tails left and right. Regardless, these clubs have a rich history that cannot be overlooked when talking about soccer in Tanzania. As such, whatever positive trends they set, other teams in the country will most likely follow such a trend.

The biggest question may be, is this: what is really stopping Simba and Yanga from exploiting their own potential? I don’t know about you, but this really startles me. Could Simba and Yanga be winning more in the market place than what little victories they currently celebrate?

Please just read this previous post of mine on Simba and Yanga's economic potential.

Once you finish reading, just let me know what you think. I really don’t know, but something is amiss somewhere.

Enjoy your weekend.

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Photo Credit: Michuzi

Friday, October 19, 2007

RTF: White Intellectual Supremacy? No Way!

It is really my desire to be filling this space with constant posts. Nonetheless, due to other life realities, it is very difficult to accomplish that desire. Just to let you in on a little secret, blogging is not as easy as it seems. Man, you have to scratch your head thinking of what you want to reflect on. You have to make sense, otherwise why expose your limitations to the entire world?

My point is that is difficult to do this. A fellow blogger once admitted that too. The pressure comes from the fact that you have to keep your faithful readers. And doing that is not a tiny little task. Honestly, I wish I had a photoblog at times, where I would let the photos speak for themselves. But just kick back and relax, I will not betray your loyalty. I will stick with what I do.

So it is Friday again. Man, at this speed, it will be 2010 before we know it. Is it just me or what? Life seems to be flying by so fast. I don’t think life went by this fast when I was five years old.

Why don’t we just straight to what I wanted to share? Well, I happened to bump into a story on CNN. In a nutshell, Dr. James Watson, a Nobel Prize winner in 1962 for discovering the DNA double helix (whatever that is for some of us lay folks) claimed that black people are less intelligent than white people. Phew!

Makes you want to kick the heck out of this guy to Mars or whatever planet ignorant people go, doesn’t it? See, I am not one of those folks who would just go into a defensive mode when sensitive issues, such as racial biasness are brought up. I would like to think of myself as open minded to logical explanations and scientifically proven rationale for making certain assertions, such as racial superiority or inferiority. Lack of such scientific proof makes the assertions more bigotry driven than anything. And I think Dr. Watson just proved that being “intelligent” does not really change one’s attitude.

I knew that such a statement would some day come up about Africans. It was a matter of time. Don’t get me wrong, I am not letting Africans off the hook for things they can control but have no desire to. And as such, I can see where Dr. Watson is coming from. As an African, I wonder why Africa is not making any meaningful progress. And honestly, I have tried to provide my own suggestions, based on personal experience of the African mentality and attitude (I still have brothers and sisters in Tanzania, and I know exactly how they see life). Nonetheless, it is ridiculous to make a conclusion that Africa’s problems are based on intelligence and not other factors.

Well, talking about intelligence, it could be true that Africans are less “intelligent”. But the aspect of their intelligence that is lacking is not the one attributed to nature, but more of an environmental factor. If I still remember my psychology well, intelligence is a result of two factors – nature and nurture. So you could be intelligent naturally, but as long as you are in an environment that does not stimulate other senses, you are bound to act less "intelligently", while you are really not that stupid. Isn’t that what they call conditioning?

The environment, which includes our cultural norms, shapes our values, attitudes and the way we view life. An American kid, for instance, has a different idea of what success in life is from what a Tanzanian kid in Kigoma. While an American kids would view having savings in a bank account as a financial security, a kid in north Uganda would consider having a large herd of cows as providing security and a sense of accomplishment. As such, the interpretation and implementation of social policies that has worked so well in the West would be different for an African. And that has nothing to do with natural intelligence.

From my perspective, Dr. Watson’s comments are just plain stupid. May be he is a good student of DNA, but a worse student of psychology and social sciences that as much important in explaining human experience as the DNA discovery. And I can never find any excuses for such a lame, myopic thinking. And how old again is this dude? He is 79 years of age. And from a scientific standpoint, he is hitting the senescence stage. No wonder he is making stupid comments. Some just age badly.

Dr. Watson, let me brag a little bit for you. Despite my blackness, I have appeared, including plenty of other African colleagues I know, on the Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities publication. And just to let you know, we didn’t make the list as a favor from some “intelligent” white person, but due to our academic and intellectual prowess. I have passed one tough professional certification examination on one sitting, while a number of my white counterparts had gone through the examination for more than five years, failing. So go eat that!

Let me stress this point again: the failure social policies that has worked well in the West to take root in the African countries has nothing to do with intelligence, but other social factors that are mainly due to the African environment. And I would expect an intelligent person as Dr. Watson to step out of his stupid prejudice and do a little bit of a social research. My belief is that Africans need an internal paradigm change and not some “intelligence pills” from the West.

For all of you good people, who despise bigotry and prejudice, cheer up. Just know that once in a while, you will come across a stupid person with a doctorate (kind of remind you of all those PhD holders in Tanzania who are looting the country?). Intelligence with a wrong mental attitude could certainly be good for nothing.

No wonder King Solomon asked for wisdom instead.

Enjoy your weekend.

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Photo Credit: BBC

Friday, October 12, 2007

RTF: When The Prez Is Clueless


It is another Friday and another opportunity to go on random thoughts. So bear with me.



Among other things that was on the Internet this week, as far as Tanzania’s issues are concerned, was the interview Mr. JMK had with Financial Times.Well, I don’t know who came up with the “the devil is in details” saying, but trust me, key message could be hidden in obscure places. Just go with me to the following excerpt from that interview:

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FT: There’s a sense from what you’re saying of this tremendous potential in Tanzania. You have great agricultural potential, mining potential, tourism potential, but it’s taking a long time to realize this potential. What do you think is holding Tanzania back?


JK: I don’t know. Of course this is precisely the question that I ask every day, what is it that we have not done? I think we have been leading the continent in terms of attracting mining investments in the mining sector. But we are still working (on attracting investment to other sectors). Maybe the message has not quite reached home.
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I don’t want to scare you simply for the sake of it. But when the president has no clue (or pretends to have no clue) as to why Tanzania is just spinning her wheels on a somewhat stationary position, it is about time to run. To be precise, mguu kisogoni. That statement ought to send chills down someone’s spine.

On the other hand, I am convinced that the President really and honestly doesn’t know why Tanzania is still at the current developmental stage. You could regard me as insane for saying that; nevertheless, my argument is supported by the decisions and actions he has taken since coming into office. I know the guy got into the office and did some remarkable things that no other president in the Tanzanian history has ever done, but then went down the same path of ineffectiveness that his predecessors rode. In essence, the guy is working with what he knows. And I don’t think what is knows is good enough to take Tanzania to the Promised Land.

The president bragged about Tanzania being in the forefront in attracting foreign investment. That is well and good. Nevertheless, is it one thing to attract investors and it is another to manage investors and investment contracts in a way that is beneficial to the regular mwananchi. Let’s take mining industry for instance. If ThisDay’s story (or comparative analysis), which is contending that the booze industry has contributed more in tax shillings than the mining industry is true, then you don’t need to be a genius to figure out that what is plaguing Tanzania is nothing mysterious, but just lack of a culture that puts accountability in the front seat. Just sticking to the mining industry again, what does the president make of his minister’s controversial signing of a mining contract that led to striking out a contract clause that was more beneficial to the country?

As I pointed out earlier, the president is honestly clueless of why Tanzania is not making progress. That is because his operation and thinking mode is drawn from a general and political culture that nurtured him. In order for him to see the issues for what they really are, he would need to see the Tanzanian story from a different angle. Only then would he be able to institute a culture that is effective in realizing the desired goals.

See, when the president asks “what is it that we have not done?” he is missing the key question, which is what is it that he or presidents before him failed to do. He is the main man, so the blame and praise will always fall on him. It appears to me that he has not taken ownership of the country’s development story. From my point of vintage, the president needs to change is perspective and embark on a new mindset in order for him to get the right answers.

The challenge, however, is whether he is willing to change his own perspective. The difficulty is based on the fact that all of us get into a comfortable zone and it becomes harder for us to see life in a different way. At times, we even become defensive of our thinking, because our thinking defines who we are. Nevertheless, for Tanzania to make significant progress, a new way of thinking must be in place. That is because good policies alone without a culture that ensures effective implementation of those policies are just worthless. A very good practical example is the Azimio la Iringa. Despite its good intentions, the azimio never revolutionize agriculture in Tanzania. That is because there was never a culture to back up the policy. See my point?

Honestly, I get scared when someone charged with the responsibility to find answers waves their hands up in the air in desperation. That tells me that either the person has no clue of their responsibility or they are simply not qualified for the job. But the biggest message I get is that the president, and the majority of Tanzanians, believe Tanzania’s development process is different from any other nation. Well, that is true to some extent (due to political and cultural influences), but the truth is that there are certain development principles that are universal across the board.

The biggest question is whether Tanzanians have identified and diligently applied those universal principles. And to me identification of those principles is not that hard. We can just find a model country, borrow their script and gauge whether we have properly followed the script. The problem is, Mr. JMK gives the impression that we have no script. Had we had a script, it would have been easier to conduct an evaluation and pinpoint why we are not achieving our goals and who or what is impeding our development progress.

From what the president is saying, I gather that he has no evaluation mechanism in place. As such, he wakes up daily and start shooting in the dark. In his position, I expected the guy to understand both external and internal factors that are hindering Tanzania from getting anywhere. If not, seriously, how do you tweak your strategy and tactics to achieve your goals?

Are you still surprised that the poor guy can’t tell why Tanzania is not making any strides? I am not. Whether we like it or not, Tanzania has a very, very, very long way to go. Honestly, it is ought to be very scary when the guy in charge is clueless. And again, lets not attribute our problems to some weird white folks tactics. I strongly believe that we have serious issues internally.

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Photo Credit: Mjengwa

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Book Review: Surrogates of the State

It believe in the power of information. As such, I cherish any source of information that could enlighten me on my surroundings, particularly on the Tanzanian life. Well, I just happened to come across a book covering one aspect of the Tanzanian experience, and I am hereby providing a review of the book.

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Surrogates of the State: NGOs, Development, and Ujamaa in Tanzania. Michael Jennings. Bloomfield: Kumarian Press, 2007. 243 pp.

In Surrogates of the State: NGOs, Development, and Ujamaa in Tanzania, Michael Jennings delivers an account of the role NGOs, particularly Oxfam, played in supporting Tanzania's government economic policies. In addition, the author provides an account of the historical background on the Ujamaa policy and subsequent failures in implementation of the Ujamaa policy.

This book is an excellent resource to students, educators and anyone interested in understanding not only the role that NGOs played in the development process in Tanzania, but also Tanzania’s attempt to achieve economic progress in the time period spanning between the late 1960s and early 1980s. In reviewing this book, the main criteria included the organization, content and reference sources.

The author kicks off the book with an account of the role and the history of NGOs, detailing the spirit of volunteerism and charity as the driving force propelling the NGOs. The author then takes the reader on the expansion (both financial and operational) of NGOs through the years. The book shows not only an appreciation of the role NGOs as agents of development, but also accounts for the factors that led to the formulation of the Ujamaa policy, the implementation failures that followed, and how NGOs (knowingly or unknowingly) supported the Ujamaa policy.

Michael Jennings is a Lecturer in international development and East African politics at the Centre for Development, Swansea University. A major focus of his work has been the role of voluntary agency activity in development in East Africa, including NGOs, missions, and faith-based organizations. He has worked extensively on the role of civil society in development and has research interests in health issues in sub-Saharan Africa.

The author has organized the book in somewhat a chronological order, allowing the reader to understanding the origination and development of the NGO movement while deliberately focusing on Oxfam. The author also takes a chronological progression of economic policy formulation in Tanzania, key players, and strategic changes immediately after independence to early 1980s.

Regrettably, it takes the author up to the middle chapters to address the main topic – which is proving how NGOs became surrogates of the Tanzanian state. The author also provides historical details that some readers might find unnecessary. Nevertheless, the author supported such detail by making reference to external sources that could be traced to vouch the author’s arguments and conclusions.

While the author attempts to prove how NGOs in Tanzania, such as Oxfam, essentially became surrogates of the state by supporting the official economic policy (Ujamaa) through narrowing of the opportunities for independent action and reinforcing the official paradigm, the author surprisingly provides an explanation to the reasons behind the authoritarian style of governance that is currently a contention point between the incumbent government and opposition parties, some NGOs (such as HakElimu) and other political activists.


With a current explosion of NGOs in Tanzania, this book is definitely a good resource in understanding the history of NGOs and the role NGOs has played as development partners in Tanzania. It is also a good resource for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of Tanzania’s attempt to attain economic progress through the Ujamaa policy and why the Ujamaa policy failed.
The book is scheduled for release in November 2007.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

RTF: Focus on Latrines? Seriously?

It is Friday, so you can definitely expect me to go off on random thoughts. I will try that, as long as I don’t veer way off the road. I will try to stick within sensible limits.

You know what? This world is full of surprises (But may be there are no surprises since human beings are capable of anything – be it brilliant or stupid). I just couldn’t prove that notion without the help of this wonderful article from ThisDay .

Did you get the story? Isn’t amazing that there is actually a global summit to discuss, among other things, creative solutions for the shortage of latrines in Tanzania? Don’t blink, you read that right.

It is one thing to be rich, but the more I see what rich folks do, I have come to the conclusion that money does not really make one wise. That is clearly depicted by the endless stupidity that little, but rich Hollywood kids, display on a constant basis. But again, we can say these kids act this way because this comes in somewhat easier ways.

Just looking at the list of dignitaries listed by ThisDay as members of this global summit (such as the EU Commissioner, Netherlands PM, Nicholas Negroponte, etc), I couldn’t just wonder: what are these folks smoking? I mean, is shortage of latrines in Tanzania really an issue that these intelligent folks (I’m assuming that they are truly intelligent) could focus their attention on? Who even put this on the agenda?

See, I am not denying that hygiene is important for Tanzania, but who is really responsible for that? Do you really mean to tell me that Tanzanians are not creative enough to solve hygiene problems on their own to the extent that a global summit should be called on to discuss ways to provide latrines for Tanzanians?

Honestly, human beings can lose it at times. Can someone really prove to me that Tanzania is that poor or dumb to the extent that a global summit is needed to help Tanzanians find a “creative solution” to store their own poop? Seriously, how much money does it really take to construct one pit latrine for instance? Besides, isn’t Tanzania a country that is boasting of being the third country in Africa for gold production ? Where does the government hide all the dough? (Oh, I forgot, there are all those BOT and Buzwagi scandals)

Just for the records, let me repeat this: celebrities can’t solve Africa’s problems. That is something that has to come from deep within Africans’ guts. Tanzanians have to have a resolve in taking care of issues that don’t really need some Negropontes or Gates to solve.

I know that Bill Gates and the rest have good intentions. Nonetheless, I believe we are not headed in the right direction. This is a classic example of how rich folks are bored to the extent that they are “finding the meaning of life” even in ridiculous areas. But the biggest concern is not the rich gang’s attitude towards Africa’s problem; my biggest issue is how Africans themselves view their problems. What does it really speak of Tanzanians for a global summit to even talk about latrine shortage in their country?

I know it is boring to repeat this mindset change thing over and over again. But that the issues in Tanzania are rooted therein. For Pete’s sake, we are ranked third in Africa for gold production and we still poop under trees and sprinkle on walls! Our issues have to be deeply rooted in our culture and how we view life. Unfortunately, for our own mindset, we have the Negropontes planning to send us latrines, of all things that we need. How sad is that?

And I bet the summit would be assessed as successful in the end. Isn’t that something?

Enjoy your weekend.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

What Are We Missing About HIV/AIDS?

It is not like cynicism is running through my veins. Hardly. Nonetheless, coming to think of it, my sense of curiosity is stemming mostly from my profession. In order to be an effective “my profession”, I am required to exercise “professional skepticism”. Don’t ask me what that entails, but I hardly end up on the surface when it comes to issues. That is not to say that I am paranoid or anything like that. I am just inquisitive.

I just so happened that Ricci, one of my readers, posted this comment on one of the old posts: “Expose the AIDS fraud. Watch AIDS Inc on Youtube.com”.

Obviously, I was surprised and honored at the same time. That really made feel that this esteemed reader respects my blog enough to trust that I can bring to light some of the supposedly hidden agenda behind the global AIDS drive. Nevertheless, that sense of flattery ended sooner as I started to ponder what I could actually say. See, the truth is that I am as naïve as the next-door neighbor when it comes to some issues.

Despite my feelings of ignorance when it comes to the AIDS, I decided to pay a visit to the Youtube site and watch the video for myself. You can also check the video here.

I am not a scientist, so I cannot sit here and tell you what the guy in the video said about misinformation on AIDS is true. For one, I could have been brainwashed to believe some things about AIDS. For instance, the guy dismissed the notion that HIV is sexually transmitted. That to me is a serious dissenting comment from the mainstream belief. Secondly, I don’t have resources of my own to refute any scientific claims. So go ahead and be a judge for yourself.

I tried, however, to pick some elements from the video that I could vouch against other sources. One of the claims made in the video is a different definition of AIDS in poor countries and that applied in Western countries. In Africa, for instance, the definition of AIDS typically used is a
“Bangui Definition”.

The “Bangui Definition” was decided at a World Health Organization meeting in October, 1985. According to this definition, a patient could be diagnosed as having AIDS as long as they exhibit two of these three symptoms: prolonged fevers for a month or more, weight loss over 10 percent, or prolonged diarrhea, combined with any one of several minor symptoms -- chronically swollen lymph nodes, persistent cough for more than a month, persistent herpes, itching skin inflammation or several others.

The problem, as the Natural Health Information Center website writes, is that many of these symptoms show up from other African diseases. The bottom line is this: it is more than likely that the HIV/AIDS statistics are inflated. The inflation is first due to the visual diagnosis of AIDS under the Bangui Definition and secondly because of the money game behind HIV/AIDS.

Seriously, the number of NGOs establishments in a country has been steadily growing. Most of these NGOs are focused on three main areas – women and children development, HIV/AIDS, and youth development. We must agree that most NGOs have done a pretty good job, but some NGOs have been just personal projects to acquire easy money. Corruption and misappropriation of funds in African NGOs has happened at the expense of HIV/AIDS victims.

And these African crooks would like see the inflated number of HIV/AIDS cases to go higher and higher. Who would like to see their money pipe dry up?

Of course I am trying to ignore the fact that the most beneficiaries in the HIV/AIDS money game has been pharmaceutical companies. Honestly, what do you think is drawing a pharmaceutical company such as Abbott, based right here in Columbus, Ohio to Tanzania? I know they will cite corporate citizenship crap. Nonetheless, the agenda behind corporate citizenship is to create a social rapport for easy rip-off. Companies care more for their bottom line than anything else. A for-profit company is established to generate just that – profits.

What I find to be worth paying attention to is the inconsistency related to what is the regarded as the leading cause of death in Africa, Tanzania in particular. For instance, other sources regard HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of death in Africa, while others put malaria at the top of the list. That should raise red flags all over.

I am not an expert in these issues, but definitely something is amiss. Of course this world is full of opinions and perspectives, but some issues are worth taking a second look at. As such I think it is imperative to question the validity of HIV/AIDS statistics in Tanzania. Furthermore, it is worth to check just to see if we know everything we need to know about HIV/AIDS.

I don’t want to wake up in 2020 only to find I have been taken for a ride.

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Photo Credit: Photoshare.org

Friday, September 28, 2007

RTF: End Times for CCM?

Man, life really is unpredictable. You wake up in the morning expect one thing only to end up bumping into another. I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to muse on this Friday. Nevertheless, I just couldn’t resist this strong temptation to shred the Tanzanian former PM, Mr. Warioba into pieces.

I am not a Dracula. Nonetheless, I have a very good reason for wanting Warioba’s blood. I want to shred this guy into pieces following his recent comments regarding corruption accusations leveled against CCM top dogs. Just the original story here, here or here.

Honestly, I have had so much respect for this guy. In my opinion, this man has held himself to relatively higher standards than the majority of politicians in Tanzania. He has made sense in most occasions. But I wonder, was all that a fake façade? Is the guy just getting to old to think straight?

One of Mr. Warioba’s arguments that got me going was this notion that the president’s evils shouldn’t be brought to light (particularly corruption), since that would diminish the trust in the president. And in Warioba’s opinion, diminished trust in the president would lead to a plethora of problems.

Mr. Warioba has the right to express his opinions just I have the opportunity to express mine. Nonetheless, I strongly believe that Mr. Warioba’s position is just perpetuating a political culture that has brought Tanzania where it is. It is a mindset that tends to afford the president’s seat a godly status. What that has done is to create an artificial notion that a president is actually above the law and that the president should be worshipped.

That is a very wrong outlook. That is a bunch of crap.

You know what? I am glad that Mr. Warioba in the same sitting Mr. Warioba called for a cultural change. Let me just quote his own words:

The country can only manage to flush out corruption if there is cultural and behavioral change among the public in general”.

Unfortunately, Mr. Warioba missed the fact that cultural change must, and always start at the top. It appears Mr. Warioba is clueless of the significant influence that the president has over so many aspects of Tanzanian’s lives. Whoever becomes the president must understand that being Tanzania’s president is not equivalent to personal success (ulaji), but a privilege and a challenge. The responsibilities bestowed upon the office of the president must be understood and respected first and foremost by whomever assumes the office.

In my opinion, the presidency position in Tanzania has not been respected for roughly the past twenty years. And that is not by wananchi, but those Tanzanians entrusted with the office. Much has been documented to support that, and Mr. Warioba knows that a president who didn’t have enough respect for the office shelved his own commission’s report and recommendations on corruption.

If anything, adoration of any president comes out of his or her own respect for the trust and honor that wananchi gives them. It appears, however, that Mr. Warioba is forcing wananchi to respect the president, despite president’s own lack of respect for the office. It is amazing that Mr. Warioba is playing naïve to the fact that some of the very folks accused of corruption are government officials appointed and protected by the same president. Apparently, Mr. Warioba wants folks to embrace a president who has clearly failed to fulfill his call of duty.

The saddest part is that Mr. Warioba is apparently not clearly reading the signs of the times. I am not convinced that someone like Dr. Slaa is that stupid to bring his political career to a halt by leveling false accusations against key government officials. Well, it could be that in desperation Chadema is attempting to gain some political equity, but it might as well be that CCM is coming to the end of the road.

One thing is obvious though; the political landscape is changing in Tanzania and the same old rhetoric is becoming irrelevant. I believe that Tanzanians are getting tired (didn't someone come up with a saying about fooling people for only sometime?) Some conspiracy theorists are contending that Warioba has just been used to put out the fire burning the CCM camp up. Well, think he just sank the CCM ship down, if he was indeed sent the steer CCM out of the mess.

Man, think I am kidding about Tanzanians being tired? Just read some comments posted on Mjengwa’s blog.

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Photo Credit: Mwananchi Newspaper

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

EAC: Can We Handle The Heat?

I believe in cooperation. I strongly believe that Tanzania cannot just operate and exist in isolation. For one, history has taught us that political environment in neighboring countries have a potential of have an impact on Tanzania. Just ask folks in Kigoma and Karega. They have a first hand experience with a refugee influx.

You can never take those experiences lightly. As such any opportunity you have (such as the East African Community) to have a positive influence on your neighbors should be honored and cherished. Nevertheless, I struggle with the idea of just joining hands for political reasons, without considering some practical and significant issues.

A buddy of mine sent me the following message. This was from his father who is currently undergoing some medical treatment in Nairobi. Read on…

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If you want to know how dirty politics could be, come to Kenya. These guys fight using weapons such as arrows. It is amazing that even a minister from one political party goes out to campaign and he gets beaten up. These guys are dangerous.

But they are coming. They know exactly why they want to join the East African Community. Since I got here, at least on a daily basis you will hear about a carjacking or bank robbery. Even worse, these guys are using deadly weapons such as AK47 and others ammunitions. I think they get these weapons from Somalia.

I have come to appreciate living in a peaceful country. The bandits can strike at anytime, anywhere. If I was not aware of this reality, then the majority of people (Tanzanians) have no clue. I was naïve enough to assume that as long as I was living in a peaceful country, other places had the same environment.

I am afraid Tanzanians’ eyes will open while it is too late. For instance, just yesterday, bandits attached Kenya’s flying police and forced the police force to retreat. The bandits were on their way to rob the Bank of India...”

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I am not undermining the importance of the East African Community, but certainly there are plenty of factors that Tanzanians need to ponder before joining hands with the rest of the East African countries. Just go over the above message from a shocked mzee and tell me if you would even think of being a Nairobi’s residence.

One of the mostly cited reasons for calling for East Africa’s cooperation is the commonness of the people. A very simple example is the existence of the same tribes (such as Luo) across the Kenyan and Tanzanian borders. While that could be true, I don’t think that is strong enough of a reason. Language alone is never enough a reason to unite people. Luo in Kenya are conditioned differently from Luo in Tanzania. The Kenyan environment has positioned Luo in that country to have a differing perspective on tribal relationship from that of Luo in Tanzania.

My point is that Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have very unique experiences – both political and cultural – that we can’t ignore simply because Swahili is spoken among these countries.

Despite the obvious tribalism culture that is prevalent in Kenya, I am not convinced that these countries share the same political culture either. Honestly, I am not sure if I want Museveni to be my president. Despite the fact that Tanzanian past presidents have had their black spots, I praise them for respecting the people enough not to demand a change in the constitution so that they could become life presidents. Not only that, I think the guy is overly ambitious, not for the people of East Africa, but for his own personal gains and legacy.

Seriously, are Tanzanians ready to fund about $10,000 that Kenyan’s MPs give themselves on a monthly basis once we become on country? I don’t think so.

In addition, I am not convinced that we are all on the same economic path. Yes, Kenya has led the way in East Africa for a long time. Nonetheless, the country’s recent performance indicates that the country is heading in the wrong direction. It would be very myopic to believe that economic inequality will not bring with it some problems. Wonder why young people are flocking to Dar-es-Salaam? It is because of the imbalance in the distribution of national wealth (farmers produce exports in rural areas, while tarmac roads and skyscrapers are being constructed in Dar-es-Salaam).

I have not studied on how the East African government, once formed, will be run. Nonetheless, the reality is that Tanzanians must be ready for a huge cultural shock. Man, if you have not been to Kenya, please make a “study tour”. We can handle the Ugandans (we did about 20 years ago, plus they are mild mannered), but Kenyans are of a class of their own (I am not saying this to promote separation, I am just letting Tanzanians know the cultural differences).

The text message above from a shocked mzee definitely focused on security issues in Nairobi. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the fact that the rise of banditry is a result of some of other social factors. The question is this: are Tanzanians ready to handle the heat once the EAC is finally here? Are ready to be part of the social problems in Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda? Do we have clear idea of what we are getting ourselves into or we have just let emotionalism blur our vision?

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Photo Credit: BBC

Friday, September 21, 2007

RTF: Poor Business Skills?

I am not abandoning this space. It is just that life happens and you have to be very wise in time allocation. This happens to be one of those weeks where the means through which I pay my bills – that is my job – took a sit on the front row. But I would not let this entire week pass by without sharing my thoughts.

Given this is Friday; I will allow my mind to flow freely. If I don’t get some facts straight or I become incoherent in my writing, just flow with me. But don’t assume I am intoxicated; I am just trying to be human.

Last week I happened to bump into a business proposal from Business in Development Network (BID)’s website. This site has tons of business proposals from various locations in the world, Tanzania included. One business proposal caught my attention – not for its brilliance, but its shortcoming. The following is just the executive summary:

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The Owners

The partnership on XXXX. Is made up with two partners, Whose details follow below:

a) Mrs. XXXX:
Aged 31 yrs and Educated up to college education. Attending Kenya Utalii College where I acquired the certificate in food production courser in which covered among them, The bakery and confectionery, hygienic and nutrition, Food processing and preservation, General Account and Management.


b) Mr. XXXX
Aged 37 years old, Educated up to University level majority in marketing and ntrepreneurship, He has attending several courses and Training in Hotel industry management conducted by Sheraton Dar es Salaam Hotel and Royal Palm Hotel. He has wide experience in running food and beverage services.
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I didn’t alter anything, except blot out the names.

Just imagine that you are commercial loans manager at a bank, where thousands of loan applications pass through your hands on a daily basis. Given that first impression has a lot of influence, would you even pay close attention to this business proposal?

I didn’t bring this out to condemn these innocent Tanzanians, but to challenge all of us to land a hand. I am sure that these good citizens were just doing what they know best. Nonetheless, it is not good enough to have a vision and a strategy, if you don’t have the tactical skills to carry out your vision.

From this very story, you realize that there are plenty of problems in Tanzania when it comes to business skills. The reality is that as the free market economy matures in Tanzania, the business environment, as we know it in Tanzania will change. Those inevitable changes will bring opportunities to those willing to change and acquire the appropriate business skills and attitude, while on the other killing those who want to conduct business in the old ways will find themselves kicked out to the curb.

One of the skills that Tanzanian businessmen and women need to acquire is the ability to present their business in the best way possible. Just look at the above business proposal. Do you honestly think that these innocent people were serious? If they were, why not give this business proposal to a trusted “consultant” to perform a review for grammatical accuracy; given the chosen language was English and the business proposal was intended for the whole world to see?
What I am saying is this: businesses do fail even in the United States of America. So knowing English is not the only factor in building a successful business. There are plenty of factors that have to interact, such as the business strategy, pricing, distribution, competition, etc. However, there is a universal business fact – businesses that succeed tend to do what they do well than the rest, unless such a business is monopoly.

Honestly, I wish I had the opportunity to help these fellas out before they posted their business proposal on the Internet. I wish I had access to plenty of young men and women in Tanzania who are aspiring to be business people so that I can share my thoughts and experiences with them. Obviously, they need more empowerment and more business skills than they currently have.

If you have an idea how I can be of help in the consultancy or mentoring capacity, please let me know. Certainly, if the cited business came from individuals fortunate enough to acquire some college education, what do you think of the rest of the innocent Tanzanians? Our help is certainly needed.

By the way, don’t forget to visit the JUMUWATA’s space to air your views on the constitution and other good stuff. You don’t know what JUMUWATA is all about yet? It is an organization bringing Tanzanian bloggers together.

Enjoy your weekend.

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Photo Credit: Mjengwa

Friday, September 14, 2007

RTF: What A Bang!


It is another Friday. It is another day for me to allow my mind to wander far and wide. So bear with me.

In case you didn’t know this, God takes a center stage in my life. I know that sound would sound stupid to an atheist, but hey, that’s me. So I will talk about God today. I will talk about my faith today. In a world where we want to be politically correct, it would be tempting to hide one’s faith under the rag while allowing others to express their beliefs.

If you are in America, you will understand what I am talking about. There are so many forces that are essentially geared towards muzzling those who believes in God. I have once said this: we all worship. You can either worship high or worship. We can’t escape that reality.

What prompted me to reflect on this is one the program aired by ABC television stations on May 5, 2007 . In the program members of the Rational Response Squad squared off with Christians Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort about the existence of God.

You can google these guys to figure who they are.

I didn’t watch the program, but I heard plenty of discussions about it. I am not a theologian, so I will not reflect from a standpoint of a scholar in theology. Rather, I will do this from a layman’s perspective. I will do this based on my personal experiences.

I don’t think these discussions about God are new. They must have been there for ions. I believe we have these discussions because human beings want to explain and make sense out of life. Secondly, we have these discussions because we are spiritual beings. The difference, however, is how we exercise our spirituality.

That has led to a huge debate on creation versus the Big Bang theory. Honestly, I laugh when I hear intelligent people theorize that human beings evolved from some other creepy creatures. Furthermore, it is ridiculous to imagine that the Big Bang was a result of explosion of primeval atoms. Which begs the question – where did these atoms come from in the first place?

Oh, so the atoms later developed – in some miraculous ways – to the extent that we now have different species. And in some miraculous ways, human beings just got favored by nature to be superior of all the resulting creatures of the Big Bang? Oh what a Bang it was!

I know atheists and the rest of “ists” who do not believe in God would really love for any believer to give them a scientific and logical proof of God’s existence. That in itself is a stupid request. You can never prove for the existence of anything in a way that does not go with its nature or in a manner that does not work.

Apart from the proof of God’s existence which we can see in His intelligent design, we can never prove God’s existence in a scientific laboratory. That is because the materials for proving God’s existence are not litmus papers, microscopes, or any other tools but FAITH. And faith, amigo, is intangible. You would think that atheists and all skeptics of God’s existence are super intelligent enough to understand how different faith and matter are.

Let me ask you this: if you happen to be talking to a laboratory technician who, upon looking at a microscope informs you that he or she is seeing moving bacteria, would you dare ask them to prove the existence of the bacteria through bare eyes? If you are intelligent enough, wouldn’t kindly say “let me see for myself”? See, faith is a microscope through which we can see God. So, if you want to prove God’s existence, why don’t you look through the lenses of faith – which is the right tool for seeing God?

I know a person who sends inspirational emails and at the very end says this - sin makes you stupid.

Intelligent people act intelligently. What is more better – believing God exists and finding out that He does exit, believing God exists and finding out that He doesn’t exist, or believing God does not exist only to find out that He exists?

Enjoy your weekend.
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