Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Stinking Thinking (2)

The slogan of United Negro College Fund goes like this: A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

I am not certain of how one’s mind could be wasted. Nonetheless, the fact remains that we are given our minds to think. As such, the proper use of the mind should be its application to understand and conquer one’s environment. “Wastage” of one’s mind must then the non-utilization or underutilization of the mind. Why the heck would United Negro College Fund use the slogan? I am sure they figured out that almost every aspect of our lives is tied to the mind.

We have covered that already in my previous posts, so I am not going to dwell on it.

The only thing that saddens is the fact that some folks are still struggling with making the connection between an individual’s mindset or attitude and their socio-economic status. I am recognizing the fact that there are natural limitations to what we desire to achieve, regardless of our mental attitude. For instance, I am a not a good soccer player. As such it would be insane of me to just “motivate” myself into becoming the best soccer player ever. So whom I am addressing is actually a talented soccer player, who thinks they are not good enough or can’t be successful due to a twisted mental outlook.

I like to move from this mind thing. Nonetheless, for some reason it appears that the more I think of it, the more I see cases in Tanzania where the core issue is the mindset. I was going through my daily rounds of the Tanzanian media online and I came across a story on IPP Media about the Motivational Talk Show, an event that was organized by the International Platform for Young People to discover and develop their potential in collaboration with Familia Newspaper.

Read the story for yourself here .

One of the speakers at the event was Reginald Mengi. I liked what he said, because his speech highlights what I have been preaching all along. That is, success or failure is tied to the mindset. I am glad Mengi talked about that, because some of the readers of this blog have been questioning the essence of the mindset and I am “wasting my time on it”. He also pointed the fact that God plays a role. For some folks this spiritual aspect might not make any sense, but as a believer, this is 100% true.

I hope I will not be getting more questions about the mindset. Reginald Mengi has helped me settle everything.

Despite all the good things that Mengi said, you couldn’t miss one Tanzanian in the mix with just plain stinking thinking. The culprit, ladies and gentlemen, was this dude called Mr. Eric James Shigongo. I have no adequate information about this dude, but my Internet search revealed that he is or could be some sort of a novelist. This is what Eric said:

Tanzania has a lot of resources that could make it a rich country but propaganda from western countries and the USA that Tanzania is the poorest country was what made people relax in fighting against poverty”.

I don’t know about you, but that is an epitome of stinking thinking. It seriously wonder where Tanzanians got the notion that our problems in 2007 are caused by the western propaganda. I just find it hard to swallow such nonsense. For one, propaganda is just what it is – propaganda. It is difficult for me to find a connection between what CNN shows to the American audience about Africa, for instance, with the failure of Tanzanians to execute our own strategies. If find it hard to believe that CNN’s broadcast in Atlanta, Georgia, is actually making a drunkard out of a villager in Dodoma. Secondly, has Mr. Shigongo looked into the effect of the Azimio la Arusha on the spirit of private enterprise? Let me not even go there.

These are tired and stupid arguments that should be eliminated from the minds and the lips of Tanzanians. Let’s start preaching hard work, innovation, competition, intelligence, accountability, responsibility, etc. That is because success and victory are about overcoming something. This is a man-eat-man world. No one wants to relinquish his or her position. Given that fact, we have to fight. We have to compete. We have to conquer. That is the nature and the reality of the free market, the new wave we have embraced. Forget about the mkoloni in 1945. The game we are playing in 2007 requires more brain than muscles. You have to be tough in the mind.

Taking the same concept to a personal level. Would a neighbor’s “uzushi” in the your “mtaa” that your children are dirty stop you from washing your kids? Wouldn’t that be a motivational factor to prove that your kids are the cleanest in the neighborhood? Better yet, if your children were truly dirty, wouldn’t you find ways and means to clean them up? I really don’t know how what others say about your true situation stops you from change it. It is amazing that we entertain this crap.

Some ideas and notions make a very good political speech in the Tanzanian context, but on a serious note, they are damaging the mindset of the rest of Tanzanians. I wonder what the University students in attendance got out of this, but it is a sad thing that Mr. Shigongo just contaminated the minds of young folks who needed to know the realities. He just fed their minds a political junk that has no logical and intelligent justification.

As much as I want to move away from exploring the effect and the influence of the mindset in connection with one’s development and change, I find it hard to do so. It appears to me that we need to dwell on it some more. It seems that we need to work on this some more to help Tanzanians. As a novelist, I am sure Mr. Shigongo is a thinker and full of imagination. What startles me is this: how did he load his head with this junk? If he is a representative of folks who are influential in Tanzania (given the fact that Mr. Shigongo was invited as a motivational speaker, he should be regarded as influential in Tanzania), then we have a huge mindset problem in Tanzania.

How I wish that Tanzanians (the majority) could see how the wrong mindset is killing them…
Photo: Mpoki

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Please Sell Me Some Shares…

In my last post I talked about desire as another key ingredient in making meaningful economic progress. Obviously, we have taken a lengthy discussion on the importance of the right mental attitude. It is a pity that some folks still struggle with those two concepts. But you know what? We are not created the same. As such, others will always drag their feet, even on those issues that are quite obvious to the rest of us.

It is not my intention to be dwelling and reflecting on Tanzanian issues only from a negative perspective. Nonetheless, I feel compelled doing that given the fact that stuff that happened in 1980 are still happening in the Tanzania of today. It appears like Tanzanians are not growing at all. If they did, you couldn’t do the same crap over and over again.

I am delighted today. I am delighted because on of the issue I blogged about naintin kweusi finally took a beautiful twist.

It appears the government has granted Young Africans Sports Corporation Ltd an official registration . I once reflected on the inability of Dar-Es-Salaam Young Africans and Simba Sports Club to utilize their minds.

Please read my previous blog on the issue.

Talking about a proper mindset? It appears those manazis at Young Africans Sports Club are loosing the battle and are starting to get it. You know what? Sometimes when you resist change, change will just end up giving you a nice little whipping.

See the problem with the wrong mindset is that one will drag their feet on non-issues. One of the readers of this blog once pointed out that education is key to the transformation of one’s mind. I totally agree. It could have been that Yanga Asili got so stuck in outdated thinking, failing to recognize the Club’s true economic potential. Ignorance really sucks. I mean, how awesome could it be to witness your Club whipping the crap out of the other teams, while you end up getting your dividend distribution at the end of the year!

Apart from an economic stride that Yanga is trying to make, it is my opinion this is a psychological boost for the indigenous Tanzanians. That is because for so long Yanga and Simba have been two big soccer clubs that were nothing but a good depiction of the beggar’ mentality. I mean, these two Clubs could beg despite having so many resources. I have nothing against my brothers of the Asian decent, but I can’t tell how their “sponsorship” of these two teams has transformed and improved the quality of soccer in Tanzania. May be they can argue that internal squabbles and get-rich-quick mentality that Club officials and members entertain contributed to the demise of these Clubs.

I just hope that Young Africans and Simba Sports Club, being the top two teams in Tanzania, will lead the way in transforming soccer in Tanzania. While they do, please let me know how I can contact Young Africans Sports Corporation Ltd and buy me some shares. Guess what? As a shareholder, I would have a voice in how the company is run.

I won’t care whether Mzee Yusuf Mzimba yaps gibberish as long as I get my dividend at the end of the year. I won’t care whether Yanga Asili hijacks the team and take to Bagamoyo (or whatever they do do in hope of making the team win), as long as the rental properties or other business ventures generate enough revenue to adequately pay players, I can hold back my verbal jabs towards them. Trust me, the dynamics in the Club will certainly change, but I hope the Club really recruit top-notch business minds.

I am willing to help. Hopefully, this is a new day for the Tanzanian soccer.

The question is, jamani; why did it take so long?
Photo: Msengi

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

It Is Also About Desire...

I have to admit it. I liked the last blog post and the comments that followed. I was delighted to know that most folks agreed that the main issue crippling Africa, and Tanzania in particular, is the mindset.

Looking inward could be hard to do, given our past historical experiences. That experience, in some ways, has pushed Africans into looking outwards for justification of our circumstances. While I could make a good political speech in an African setting by blaming everything on Westerners, I would only be fooling myself by taking such a route. I think it is about time for Tanzanians to have a paradigm change. Lets have a new attitude. Lets do the best from within and then we could be justified to blame some robbers from the West.

Unless we change our mentality, I will continue to challenge and question the intelligence behind a Tanzanian president getting his regular health check-up in Germany instead of building top-notch hospitals in Tanzania. I will continue to cry for change in our thinking unless Tanzanian leaders will get it in their heads that buying expensive cars before building good roads is plain stupid.

Seriously, I am passionate about a change in attitude and mindset. I strongly believe that this will open doors we never imagined.

Despite the fact that a change in attitude is needed, I believe that another key ingredient that is required for true progress is desire. So what’s this thing called desire? My Google search for the meaning of the word revealed that desire is the feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state. In essence, desire is to covet, to earnest wish for. To desire something, one has to passionately long for it and not casually.

The following quote came from my pastor and I liked it because it is right on the money: There are things that we wish for in our lives that will never come to pass until we are desperate enough to earnestly desire for them. It’s the heart’s desire that will fuel passion in you, and passion will overcome obstacles.

As the quote above indicates, there are two things that having a desire for something will bring up: passion and the ability to withstand and eventually overcome obstacles. Looking at the definition of the word and what desire can bring in us, I seriously doubt whether Tanzanians (generally speaking) have a desire to eradicate poverty. I doubt that because we appear to lack neither the drive nor the passion for change.

I know this is a call for self-introspection and it might rub some folks the wrong way (based on my past experiences as some folks would rather find a scapegoat than take personal responsibility), but I believe it is about time we look inside and question whether we, as Tanzanians have the right mind, attitude and a true desire for change. I am challenging that because we do plenty of things very casually. We do things in a manner that indicates the bora liende mentality.

I hate to do this, but I will go back to the kilimo ni uti wa mgongo wa taifa mantra that Nyerere came up way back to highlight the fact that Tanzanians can be truly be a joke. You can agree with that if more than 80% of the population derives employment from agriculture, there would have been deliberate policies and strategies to make Tanzania the best country in the world when it comes to agriculture. Even true, the drawn strategies would have been fully executed. But you know the story; the issue of pembejeo is still the talk in the Parliament. The reason for this blah blah is because nobody, including Nyerere himself, was passionate enough about developing agriculture. It is a joke that we can the name Tanzania could be synonymous to agriculture, yet we still face hunger.

Folks pursue things they are passionate about. Folks pursue things they desire. Folks give priority to things they desire. Folks become obsessed with their desire. I don’t see such a fight in Tanzania. I don’t see a true hunger for progress. All I see is a country stuck in the mud. I see a country that is passionless. I just see leaders who have given up. I see leaders who are hopeless. I don’t see a burning fire for progress. None.

The sure sign that we don’t have a true desire for progress is we don’t yearn for results. I know someone will scream that Tanzanians do yearn for results. Nonetheless, you could not be serious about results, yet hold nobody accountable for failure to produce. Dr. Msabaha and Richmond, anyone? Folks who desire progress will go to the extent of demanding zero tolerance for stupidity and lack of accountability. But we both know that lack of accountability and doing things that don’t make logical sense is the norm in Tanzania. You know what they will call you in Tanzania if you have high expectations? They will call you a mzungu. They will tell you how your ideas and aspirations are not workable. They will ridicule and laugh at you.

That brings us to another attribute of folks with a true desire. They hardly accept the word impossible. This is a word that easily flows in the lips of Tanzania. We are quick to ask why, but why not. If you have desire for change, you will certainly find ways to solve your problems. But we both know Tanzanians are quick to point fingers and tell you why attaining a certain goal is impossible. Honestly, I sometimes look at the simplest things as snow removal in the United States and wonder: hivi hii ingekuwa Bongo si tungekufa?

The impossible attitude is clearly indicated in the way that the Tanzanian government has recently embarked on the hiring of foreign “consultants” to run Tanzanian companies. I know the issue is somebody’s 10%, but on the other side of the coin, it is an insult to wazalendo Tanzanians are painted as incapable of managerial skills. Worse enough, it is confusing, given the fact that the President promised to create 1 million jobs. It is that bad. But may be it is because we have no sense of urgency (which is another sign of people who have no desire for change). or may be it is because we’d rather celebrate the “No hurry in Africa” crap than quickly change.

Regardless of what we do, I know that we ain't going anywhere unless we build a desire for progress.
Photo: Mjengwa

Thursday, February 15, 2007

It Is All In The Mind...(2)

I have tried to explain why I write. Unfortunately, it is appears that some folks have not fully grasped it. So I will go on record again: I don’t write for fame. I don’t like to be paid. I don’t like to get recognition. I write simply because this is something that I feel is a calling. It is a noble calling that I have to fulfill.

As I also said it, I don’t write because I have all the answers. I greatly appreciate comments from readers. Those comments balance my thinking and provide the other side of the coin that I might have overlooked. Had I been dictatorial, I would have been deleting those comments that oppose my views. But I strive for democracy and I would not do that.

So let the best idea win.

Given the long string of comments that have been flowing through the last post, I will extend the discussion in a whole new post. So this post will be a response to the issues raised by a contributor, Dr. Anonymous who said this:

There are over 1,000,000 of problems in Tanzania depending on how you will choose to classify them. The issues of extreme poverty, unemployement, and low output are the ones deserving immediate attention because their solutions would help to raise the standard of living, quality of life, and level of democracy.”

I don’t think so.

Honestly, I have to commend Dr. Anonymous for trying, but those are symptoms or results of an underlying deeper problem.

Let’s take poverty for instance. It is undeniably true that Tanzania has plenty of resources. If that is the case, what is the issue then? The issue is the Tanzanian inability to utilize the resources to improve lives. So when we talk about lack of ability, we are not talking about physical strength here, we are talking about lack of deliberate policies, strategies, discipline, and the attitude to make things happen. Those are issue of the mind. Those are issues that are tied to our thinking.

Right thinking always lead to right actions. You can’t tell me that a government that would rather spend billions on expensive cars instead of improving health care and agriculture is serious and thinking right. A stupid person would always paint a falling house colorfully instead of strengthening the foundation. Our government, in a clear sign of stupidity, has always done something similar to that. If “kilimo ni uti wa mgongo wa taifa" (in this case the house foundation), wouldn’t you do everything you can to strengthen that? Why do we still have hunger despite a huge arable land?

Hear this: I once had a conversation with a guy who has been in the Tanzanian government for a long time. He came to the United States to visit his son. In the conversation, he happened to say this: "Unajua, wanasema bonde la Kilombero linatosha kabisa kuzalisha mpunga wa kulisha nchi nzima". And I said to myself, why isn't Tanzanian government exploring and fully utilizing that potential then?

Tanzania has been a recipient of donor monies for as long as I can remember. As a matter of fact, about 40% of our budget depends on donor funds. The major question is what have we done with the money. The core question is how we have utilized those resources to better ourselves. The fact that billions of shillings are misappropriated by various ministries (that has been consistently the case in recent years according the Auditor General’s report) shows that we are far from having the right attitude and the right mind about accountability and seriousness in alleviating poverty. And that is the issue of the mind.

Let me give a true story to illuminate my point.

Over twenty (20) years ago, a certain American missionary in our small town sought donor funds and established a very cool irrigation system for the village. Since we lived close to Lake Victoria, the mzungu brought solar panes to power water pumps that would draw water from the lake. The irrigation program started with a few mission hospital employees, and the plan was to expand the program to other residents in the village.

As I recall, the irrigation plan ensured steady supply of stuff like rice, vegetables and fruits all year. As a matter fact, the project was so cool that Aboud Jumbe, by then the VP, visited the project resulting in a national attention. You would think folks appreciated what the mzungu did and that they would do everything to protect the investment, right?

Not really. A few and known young men in the village started to steal the solar panes. Despite the fact that everybody knew whom they were, no measures were taken to ensure that solar panes were recouped. Even worse, none of the were culprits severely penalized. I guess that is because none of the citizens spent their pennies to buy the solar panes and establish the irrigation system. Today, the thieves are still alive and kicking, but the irrigation project finally died. The mzungu gave up and is currently back to the United State of America.

The moral of the story is this: A person who cuts the hands that feeds them is stupid. What is really sad is that stories like this are numerous in Tanzania and we all can relate to them. Not only do ordinary citizens do that, government officials also cut off the hands that feed them.

So this is the question: would you pump more money in the village highlighted above or simply help them get rid of stupidity? Or better yet, do you think the problem in the village was lack of capital or lack of better attitude?

With a better attitude, this small village in the shores of Lake Victoria would have been asking this question: Hunger? Unemployment? What are you talking about? Instead, they fell back right where there were before the mzungu tried to show them the way.

It is all in the mind…whether we agree or not.

Photo: Mroki

Sunday, February 11, 2007

It Is All In The Mind...

Some folks have questioned the point of blogging, if bloggers like me are not going back to Tanzania to actively participate in causing a change. I can clearly understand such a point of view, for most folks really desire for true change in Tanzania. I can sense a strong desire for a true leadership in that country. My worry for the most part people who hold these sentiments tend to think that the only way to cause a change is for one to become a politician.

The truth of the matter is this: not all major changes in societies around the globe have been caused by politicians. There writers, poets, artists, activists, regulars Joes that have really played their role well in transforming their societies. Besides, there are all sorts of leadership. I like to call my blogging a “thought leadership”. I have said this once: I could be the best thinker but the worst leader, for various reasons. I like the idea of being a thought leader and I will stick with it for now.

The reason I prefer “thought leadership” over everything else is because I recognize the power of the mind. I can be more influential if I challenge one’s thinking that stepping up on a podium to tell lies just to be elected. I understand that ideally political leaders work for the people, but we all know it very well that in a Tanzanian context, that is a Utopian notion. So I regard my calling as a noble one, and I wouldn’t want to belittle my role.

In my previous post, an esteemed reader left a comment. But what caught my attention was this line: “...there is nothing wrong with the way people think or do things in Africa”. My understanding of that comment is that the way African do things and think is just fine. Then I thought to myself, why are poor then? I mean, Tanzanian has been independent for over 40 years, and some folks have not seen a light bulb (literal bulbs) go on in their huts.

You know what? This reader has the right to the point of view. Besides, what I do here is just share my opinions. I can’t claim to be right and know it all. But this is my deepest conviction, in order for Africa to move forward, Tanzania in particular, there must be a major change in our thought process and mindset. That is simply because by keeping one’s mindset constant, the course of action is guaranteed to stay the same. And we all know it; you will get the same result by doing the same thing. The point is this: in order for us to get rid of poverty, we have to have a paradigm change.

It appears that some folks underestimate the power of the mind.

My spiritual orientation is that of a Judeo-Christian, so I will draw some of my references from the Bible, since that is a spiritual book I am well acquainted with. This is what the Bible says in Proverbs 23:7 “As a man thinketh so is he…” That is deep as deep could be. You could discredit that notion because it is coming from a religious book, but its core message will remain to be true. And that truth is that we are a perfect reflection of our thinking. You can’t go where you don’t think about, nor can you do what you don’t think about.

As Tanzanians, this concept shouldn’t be hard to grasp. That is because it is hard to argue that the Tanzanian experience post independence was and has pretty much been shaped by Nyerere’s thinking. Even across the globe, the power of the mind has brought about both negative and positive experiences. Ask Jews about the result of Hitler’s thinking. Ask Ugandans about Iddi Amin’s thinking. And the list is almost as long as human beings have existed. If a single individual's thinking can change lives, just try to imagine how the right thinking among the majority can change things around.

Given the fact that the mind or one’s mindset is the central point of one’s being, it is scary to imagine that some folks actually believe that there is nothing wrong with the way people think or do things in Africa. My belief is contrary to that. As Africans, our problems are magnified, for the most part, by our mode of thinking (which is of a victim and not a victor’s mentality).

The fact that a country like Malaysia was as poor as Tanzania in 1957, but changed made economic progress over time proves that fact that we truly need to change what we do and how we do it. I can understand the strong patriotic feeling that “borrowing” the Western thinking is some sort of a cultural or economic slavery. Nonetheless, the truth is that we have no way out. Our patriotism is nothing more than impractical, because the last time I checked, every African country is pretty much hawking their country for foreign investments. Guess what happens when foreigners bring their money? They also bring their cultural influence. So whether I say it or not, it is happening anyway.

Most Chinese and Indian kids are plenty in the American universities because they are there to borrow a leaf or two from the Americans playbook. The goal is very simple: learn as much as you can and take the knowledge back to their native countries. If folks still struggle with open and hardcore ideas that I publish in this blog, then I wonder if the Tanzanian society is truly ready for shakers and movers, who happened to be educated abroad.

So my message is this: as long as we keep on thinking and doing the same things in Africa, nothing will change. We need to change. Progress starts in the mind. Period.

Photo: Mroky

Thursday, February 01, 2007

"A Fool Is As A Fool Does"

That is an American saying. I am not sure if I know of any Swahili equivalent. The saying highlights what I have come to admire about the American culture, and that is the strongest and the brightest idea wins. It is not the fastest talker or the loudest in the crowd. Because the American culture believes in making logical decisions, a person who fails to exercise common sense is deemed foolish or stupid, regardless of their age, gender, academic accomplishments or any other social status

I once had a conversation with an old Kenyan college buddy of mine. We just happened to marvel at how changed one’s life become once you step on the American soil. It is not clear when such a mental u-turn happens, but I am sure the change is so gradual that it is difficult to notice.

A change that one goes through hits you when you interact with folks that are “fresh” from Tanzania, for instance, or even going there. A simple conversation that you could have with an American or even a Tanzanian, who has been in the Diaspora for a while, could turn into a huge cultural fiasco that you cannot contain. For example, having a logical conversation with a typical Tanzanian is difficult. That is because you cannot ask for someone to give you a logical explanation for his or her position on an idea or concept. If it is your dad, it is granted that age will be thrown in the mix to thwart your strong logical position. If your parents sense that they are about to lose a mental battle, be advised that threats of curses and stuff will be thrown your way so that you can stop challenging the status quo of your dad or mom’s thinking.

My theory is that we struggle so much in Tanzania, even among seemingly educated folks, because critical thinking is not part of our experience. Feelings and norms tend to be the deciding factor, and not pure intellectual analysis. That is not to discredit feelings and norms, but it stinks when that those elements are taken to the extreme.

The reasoning for bringing this American saying up is simple: there are plenty of education folks in Tanzania who would easily and justifiably fall into the fools’ category. And that is not because they can’t read, write, or hold PhDs. It is because they act like fools. You think I am kidding? Let’s just review this story published by Daily News on January 10, 2007. I had planned to reflect on this way back, but got held up by other issues.

The story is about how the Ministry of Energy and Minerals was optimistic that following the RDC’s ownership swap between the Gire brothers and the Dowan Holding of the UAE, nothing bad would happen. Let me quote the reason for such optimism:

We went to South Africa to South Africa and did the technical inspection and three engines to produce 60 MW were in good shape. We did not, however, do any tests”.

Just stop right there. Notice anything?

Let me break it down for you. These guys went all the way to South Africa to perform a “technical inspection”. Why in the world didn’t they perform any tests? How then did they conclude that they engines are in good shape? By looking at the paint? Reading some materials? If that was the case, why not just send somebody from the Tanzanian embassy in South Africa to go take a look at the engine and fax or PDF some manufacturer’s specifications for the completion of the “technical inspection”? See, I don’t see anything technical about this inspection if they didn’t perform any tests.

See, a fool is as a fool does. So let’s use a car buying experience to highlight my point. Who goes to a car dealership and buys a car simply by looking at the car’s body paint and reading some papers or listening to a salesperson pitch? If you are intelligent enough, and knowing that the car is probably necessary for your economic and social well-being, wouldn’t you take the car for a test ride?

You know what sucks, they Ministry calls this due diligence. Are you kidding me? Let’s be real. These folks went down to South Africa to get their per diem. That’s it. No more, no less. So they came back and handed over a report to Tanesco’s Board of Directors, who also blindly endorsed Dowan Holding due to their “satisfactory financial and technical capabilities”. Well, I can’t say anything on Dowan’s financial capabilities. Nonetheless, we know for sure that Dowan’s technical capabilities stink.

If not, why are Members of Parliament up and arms?

I don’t like everything about America. Likewise, I don’t like everything about Tanzania. But at least for now, I can tell you that Americans recognize that fools are those who do foolish things, regardless of the social position, bank account balance, age, gender, etc. I am yet to find a reason to not to regard these people who conducted a “technical inspection” in a non-technical way as fools.

If there were a pill that folks could take to transform their minds, I would have supplied that in Tanzania long time ago. Seriously.