Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Leadership? What Leadership?

I take time to reflect on my life occassionaly. Given my background (which I would not disclose here, but if you think I am one of those kids who grew up in Oysterbay and Masaki you have dialed the wrong digits), I am very thankful for God’s amazing love and grace. I have been places that I never imagined I would. I have accomplished things I never thought I could, given my background (if I had to follow the prevalent mindset in Bongoland).

Of all the things that I am thankful for is the opportunity to obtain both the Tanzanian (technically sound) and American (critical thinking rich) education. That is a lethal combination. I guess that’s why folks in Tanzania who have never experience this tend to assume that their colleagues educated in the West are just a boastful bunch. I just wish they could listen and learn. I am glad the western education enables me to think “outside the box”. Honestly, I think I was “smart” even before I came to the United States, but I wasn’t able to put issues in their proper context. I wasn’t a critical thinker then.

I believe critical thinking is a struggle among many educated folks in Tanzania. Obviously, they have nailed hardcore, technical stuff down, but once you take them outside that comfort zone, you only get disappointment. A good example is how someone with a doctorate could not give a very good logical rationale for squashing dual citizenship. You know why Dr. Msoka, for instance, made a booboo? There weren’t any chapters to memorize on the dual citizenship thing, just common sense and critical thinking. And he failed on that.

As hard as I try to deny it, I think I am a sports fanatic. May be it is the art involved in sports or just the raw athleticism. I mean what is better than watching a 5’9” tall person like Nate Robinson of New York Knicks block a shot on a super tall player like Yao Ming?. That’s crazy stuff that makes sports fun – at least from my perspective.

I have been away from Tanzania for quite sometimes, but I still follow-up on what Simba and Yanga are doing. I guess that is partly because I was a fan of one of the teams. Or partly because I love sports, period, and I would really love for Tanzania to make meaningful strides.

Not surprisingly then, the news that the recently “hired” Simba’s Brazilian coach – Nielsen Elias – has quit coaching the club , caught my attention. In reading the reasons for his departure, the coach sighted lack of serious and quality leadership in the club. Was it surprising that the coach left? Not to me. The likes of Patrick Phiri and Jamhuri Kiwhelo have seen the wrath of bad management in that club.

See, I am firm believer in that you only accomplish what you have envisioned. I know sometimes we exceed our expectations, but for the most part you can’t pursue goals that are beyond your mental horizon. Bringing that down to Simba and Yanga, it is apparent that the vision that these two clubs have is just overly narrow. It appears that these two clubs – in the minds of their members – exist for a sole purpose of whooping each other. A Simba’s coach, for instance, who manages to make the team the league’s champions but losing to Yanga in both games of the season would likely end up being fired. Success, in the minds of Simba or Yanga fans is to avoid ridicule from the other team. And that is very narrow of a vision, given there are even more lucractive continental tournaments that the clubs should focus on.

I wish the Mwananchi newspaper were keeping prior copies of their stories, I could have linked you to the original story ran by the newspaper on the Brazilian’s departure. In a nutshell, the Brazilian contended that Simba is a bigger club beyond the ability of current leaders to manage.

Did you hear that?

Obviously, the Brazilian didn’t elaborate on what he meant by the “bigness’ of the club. Nonetheless, that does not stop us from presuming that he was making a reference to the club’s size in terms of the number of fans, which equates to popularity. The club’s popularity comes with other potential positives, such as being potentially being a marketing magnet. I have addressed this before.

The problem of leadership, as you might have guessed goes beyond Simba and Yanga.

I really struggle with the core reason for lack of quality leadership in almost every aspect of life in Tanzania. May be the simplest explanation is that the majority of Tanzanians are ignorant. Given that leaders are typically generated from this pool of ignorant members, it is now wonder we end up with less effective leaders. While that could be a very tempting explanation, I will go beyond that and contend that leaders are visionaries who are able to lift societies beyond the minimal expectations. Leadership is about leaving a wonderful legacy and not simply conforming to the status quo. It requires courage to test the uncharted waters.

I can clearly understand the Brazilian’s frustration with the Simba’s leadership. It is rare to find a Tanzanian who is gunning for the next level. The poor guy came in expecting that Simba’s leadership to have a clear understanding of what they wanted to accomplish, only to realize that it is zimamoto and bora liende type of environment. The poor Brazilian found out that Simba’s (just like Yanga’s) leaders are not thinking of building a 21st century club.

Did I tell you that my brother just moved from Tanzania recently? Well, I am learning a lot. Through our conversations, I am learning how the Tanzanian thinking – which is mainly centered on the impossibilities rather than possibilities – is killing Tanzanians. It is like every citizen is paralyzed and none of them is daring to think outside the box. I am also getting a sense that the Tanzania education is not geared towards equipping people with the ability to solve practical things and put issues in their proper context, but centered on theories and “big things” that don’t have practical application. No wonder you have PhD holders who can’t think in practical terms.

It gives you the impresssion that talking in practical terms in Tanzania is not regarded as "intellectual" enough.

As sad as it is, the reality is that we aren’t going anywhere unless we learn how to identify and groom leaders who can formulate and carry out a vision. This Simba case is just a tip of the iceberg. The truth is that we are in deep trouble as a society. And that scares me.
Photo: Mjengwa

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

This Union Thing: I Just Don’t Get It…

I don’t have hatred for Zanzibar. As a matter of fact, my very own young brother lives there. Nonetheless, from a political standpoint, I don’t get it when Tanganyikans are forced forgo everything their own while letting Zanzibaris keep everything theirs. Coming to think of it, I don’t even blaming Zanzibaris for that. They got the best deal out of Nyerere’s utopian dreams of forming a union.

So this is what is really puzzling me, if not ticking me off: why would Zanzibar reject the applicability of the corruption bill in Zanzibar, while members of the parliament from Zanzibar apparently attend and vote during the Bunge sessions (which is an implication of representation and binding of their constituents)? Why don’t they just stay back in Zanzibar, particularly on those bills considered “non-union”? Why do they make their way to the mainland to collect their daily per diem funded by the Tanganyikan taxpayers?
The core question is this, why let Zanzibar members of parliament make decisions for Tanganyikans, while Tanganyikans can't do the same in the opposite direction?

Some issues don’t make sense to me.

If this were a marriage in its true sense, Nyerere courted and married a girl she hardly knew. The only thing I see is unnecessary complexities that we can avoid by either forming a true marriage or calling it quits.

I would prefer calling it quits, quite honestly.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dual Citizenship: There's More To It...

I live in the Diaspora. That alone gives me an experience edge over most of the folks in Tanzania. I know some folks would regard that as bragging, but it is not. It is a matter of fact. Obviously, my experience has helped me grow. Not only intellectually, but as a total person. I have come to see how similar human beings are in terms of their motivations. We all want to be happy, prosperous, powerful, recognized, etc. The only difference, however, is how different society achieves their goals. That to me has been the separating point between the West and Africa, for instance.

I came across this article from Daily News on how the University of Dar-Es-Salaam scholars blasted the idea of dual citizenship. Reading every rationale provided by the scholars, I almost went bananas. Read the original article yourself, lest I get accused of making up stories.

I seriously respect the UDSM scholars’ opinions. It is their prerogative to express their views. Nonetheless, I would like to express my opinions too. And my take is this: the view expressed by most of the quoted UDSM students and professors is myopic.

I can understand tying single citizenship to true patriotism, but that is a debatable argument, particularly in the Tanzanian context. From a practical standpoint, the track record of single citizens – some of whom are holding Tanzanian diplomatic passports – does not give an indication of a serious and true commitment to Tanzania. These are the same folks who have brought us RDC, the radar saga and endless of swindling of public funds. True patriotism goes beyond paying lip service and an abundant supply of meaningless rhetoric. It appears that the UDSM scholars are ascribing citizenship to a very narrow view of what it stands for.

Just a little further, globalization means mobility of labor and resources. Isn’t that’s why Tanzania is trying to lure foreign investors? If that is the case then, fear of foreign “invasion”, which has been cited as reason against dual citizenship, is more than a narrow view. Foreign “invasion”, if anything is imminent. Recently, the Tanzanian president has been trotting around the globe marketing Tanzania. The simple translation to that is the foreigners will flock Tanzania whether dual citizenship is a way to go or otherwise. By the way, Vodacom or Barrick Gold are not Tanzania owned companies. As such, singing patriotic songs will not change the global forces. The only wise thing we can do is to be proactive and manage those trends.

I gather that our “educated” mass at UDSM is still stuck in the Tanzania of 1975 when anything patriotic and Pan-Africanism sounding made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, the world of physical borders is slowing eroding and we are increasingly becoming a global village.

The loss of true Tanzanianship, if I can coin the expression, is about to end anyways. I don’t know what the UDSM scholars are seeing, but from my view point, the introduction of the East African passport will mean the end of Tanzania citizenship. If the EAC thing goes through, we all know that Tanzanians will become Kenyan and Ugandan citizenship, if you will. So why would educated folks fail to see what is actually up close and under their noses?

I guess they were busy being too patriotic.

I really can’t understand why Tanzanians would think that they are all that. The last time I checked, Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world. Let’s put that in capital letters: ONE OF THE POOREST COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD. Check the CIA fact figures . With an estimated $29.25 billion GDP in 2006, Tanzania was below Kenya ($40.77) and Uganda ($51.89 billion. Given those facts, why would an “educated” person in Tanzania think that there would be a mass influx to Tanzania simply because of dual citizenship? Why would we think Ugandans are imbeciles for allowing dual citizenship (despite having the highest GDP in East Africa)?

Just go ahead and look at the list of other countries (including many other African countries) that allow dual citizenship. The truth is that most of these countries are doing much better economically than Tanzania.

Well, some folks have contended that only a minority group is pushing for dual citizenship and therefore eliminating the need of granting dual citizenship. Have the “educated” elite of Tanzania thought about the fact that the majority of Tanzanians are farmers that have never seen a Tanzanian passport? Furthermore, I really don’t understand why an informed minority in a country would be denied a right to choose, simply because the majority group is ignorant.

Well, some Dr. Colman Msoka made this comment, which I honestly think is shortsighted if not stupid: “ If they (I guess he was referring to Tanzanian living abroad) love this country they should come and stay here. Why allow them to come and go?”

Well, Dr. Msoka, staying in Tanzania could be an outward expression of loving Tanzania, but is that truly the only, absolute way that one can express their love for their country? Let’s be honest. Who’s the number one enemy to Tanzania: those Tanzanians who chose to look for employment elsewhere or those Tanzanians in Tanzania who are looting the country left and right?

Deducing that Tanzanians stationed in the Diaspora are sell-outs is more than stupid. For one, it is the prerogative of every Tanzanian to travel abroad. I think that is why Tanzanian passports are issued. Secondly, it is the right of every Tanzanian to look for employment anywhere in the world (provided they don’t break the law in those foreign countries), particularly in this globalized economy. Are the white managers in Bulyakhulu less Canadians because they are stationed in Shinyanga?

It appears to me that Dr. Msoka is undermining the economic contribution of Tanzanians living abroad. I have given this example before, but I will do it again for the benefit of the ignorant likes of Dr. Msoka. I live in the United States. My mother lives in Shirati, Tarime. On a monthly basis, I send money to mom. My mom does not hide that money under her pillow. She circulates my money into the local economy. I know of other folks from Shirati right here in the United States who do the same. I know folks in Dar-es-Salaam who do the same. We keep the Shirati’s economy rolling. So do you mean to tell that a person from Shirati who decided to be stationed in Dar-es-Salaam, for instance, for economic reasons does not love Shirati enough?

There are other cultural reasons to consider also. For instance, I have a son born in the United States. He is an American from a legal standpoint, but a Tanzanian from a cultural perspective. His grandmother is still in Shirati and she pretty much considers him her bloodline. I wonder if the likes of Dr. Msoka are considering such unique situations. There are so many countries out there that are allowing dual citizenship, but my son does not have a reason to be a Ugandan, for instance. He is tied to Tanzania. Unfortunately, there are people in Tanzania who think my son does not deserve a chance to make a connection with both the country of his birth and the land that is housing his grandfather’s grave.

Honestly, I think patriotism without critically looking at all pertinent factors is just stupidity, if not craziness and irrational fanatism.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Brand Tanzania: Please Do More

According to income statistics in Tanzania, tourism is generating almost a third of the GDP. That being the case, one should expect that the government would do all it can to ensure that more tourists or the few that come spends more loot in Tanzania.

I did a little research and came up with the following website,which kind of highlights the tourism profile in Tanzania. The site talks about a few strategies to increase revenue from tourism, but it is full of generalities that do not really tell much as far as strategic actions are concerned.

I will have to dig in so more on what the allocated $70million for Tourism Infrastructure Project will do, but I am assuming it would help get rid of some of the obstacles. My worry, however, is whether the Tanzanian government is serious enough (leaving aside political promises which lack serious focus). My worry is based on the fact that we have so much theories and “mipango ya maendeleo” that have yield little results.

If someone doubts whether Tanzania is serious about tourism, just compare the number of tourists that visited Kenyan in 2005. That figure was a whopping 850,000 compared to a meager 290,000 that Tanzania experienced. That is a joke, given the fact we have more to offer.

What prompted me to write about this is a “postcard” from The Amazing Race reality TV program that I came across on the web. Please view the postcard yourself here.

The card has so much (positive stuff) to say about Zanzibar as a tourist destination, but then at the very core of it, it drops a serious bomb on the Tanzania’s seriousness on tourism. I quote:

Tanzania may be less welcoming to tourists than its neighbor, Kenya – sun is scorching and the wilderness raw – but for seasoned travelers, the country’s possibilities are endless

The quote sends two damaging messages: 1) we just don’t have an environment for tourists to enjoy compared to Kenya 2) Tanzania is for seasoned travelers. Which, means inexperienced tourists could find Tanzania less appealing.

I know folks at the Tanzanian Tourist Board or other government officials will not really grasp the impact of that card. Nonetheless, the card could either promote Tanzania, if the readers will choose to ignore the “shortcomings” part and focus on what Zanzibar has to offer or kill our chances with the American tourists. That is due to the fact that The Amazing Race is one of the most popular TV programs in the United States. According to Reality TV World, the program was able to draw about 12.5 million viewers in one of its programs in 2005.

That is huge.

I am not sure of how many people will or have actually read the above “postcard”, but given that is one of the widely visited websites, the damage could be even greater and the Tanzanian government has a mountain to climb.

My point is this: perception is reality. If the American tourist is being told that Kenya is a much better tourist destination than Tanzania (without even the Kenyan government paying for the message) we have to bring our top game. We have to change our game plan to change the perception that is already out there about Tanzania as a tourist destination.

By the way, do we really know who our tourist is or we just lump him or her in one category of wazungus?