Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Vision 2025: Yeah Right...

I am fighting the temptation to go back on the globalization debate, but I will refrain from it. That is mainly because I don’t see strong of an argument for the claim that African’s pathetic state of economic condition is MOSTLY contributed by the Western tactics and colonialism. I am yet to see a clear and articulated way the Western has contributed to that. I am also yet to be shown why Africa’s own self-destruction is being completely taken out of the picture.

I am a strong believer in the power of one’s mind (mindset, attitude and what have you) of acting as a guiding campus towards one’s goals. I strongly believe that a less educated person who sets him or herself to hard work and perseverance can do wonders compared to an educated person who is lazy. You can clearly tell the difference in mindset when two individuals face similar adversities – one can chose to rise up and the other can elect to crumble.

It is all in the mind and willpower.

So Tanzanians have this wonderful goal of eradicating abject poverty by 2015. You know what? I really commend the CCM folks for having a vision and a goal that is clearly stated. Nonetheless, it is one thing to set goals and another to follow through. It is one thing to draw “intellectual” strategies and it is a different animal to see the practical side of what you are trying to accomplish.

The reason I’m touching on this is because we have only 8 years to 2015. That is a very short period of time given that Tanzanians typically drag their feet. But the most interesting aspect of it all is that the government is showing signs of panic. Just read the Prime Minister’s reaction to the slow pace in achieving the goal. Well, on the other hand the PM’s reaction is sign that the government is “concerned”, but from my end, that is just a bunch of crap. These guys are professional politicians and certainly he is trying to pull some tricks to build political equity.

The government is simply not serious. There is no willpower to make progress.

May be seriousness in Tanzania is equated to coming up with fancy words alone. What about seriousness that is accompanied by deeds? I just think that a serious government would not spend tons of shillings on expensive sports utility vehicles (which are not part of your poverty eradication strategy) at the expense of infrastructure or education, for instance. But again, that is just how I see it.

I would like to hear all those wonderfully crafted excuses as to why Tanzania failed to accomplish her goal of eradicating poverty come 2015. I won’t be surprise if someone will tell us in 2015 that we failed to reach our goal because of colonialism or effects of colonialism. You think I am kidding? Just read the comments in my previous posts. Some folks actually believe that Africans’ problems are mainly due to some Western game, while our own mental attitude has nothing to do with the current state of affairs.

There is no way we can get to year 2015 as a “rich” country. You know why? How can we get there while we are currently struggling with even very basic things? Ask yourself this: how can we eradicate poverty while we can’t even collect trash in our own towns and cities? Seriously, do we need EEU or Japanese help for trash collection? May that is also the effects of colonialism, or may that there are some Western tricks that are prohibiting us from collecting trash and ensuring steady electric and water supply.

Take it from me. As long as we keep on doing the same crap, we will continue getting the same crap. As long as Tanzanians keep electing crappy leaders, nothing will change. The cycle will continue unless we get someone in the State House who has the right mindset. Until that happens, we can continue to be poor year 2025 and beyond. I know the thought of that stinks, but until “miracles” happen, that is the reality.

Vision 2025. Yeah right…
Photo credit: Mjengwa

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

That's Moving Foward...(2)

I’m not trying to be apologetic, but it is not my intention to come hard on my fellow Bongolanders on every corner and on every occasion. I don’t think that everything is so bad in Tanzania. It is just making changes I suggest will make us a much better society. May that is because I don’t just like the minimum. If we can go 10 miles, let’s go there, though 5 could be “adequate”. Successful individuals and societies shoot for improvement.

Let me ask this: what was wrong with the way we used to listen to music in 2003? Absolutely nothing! But Mac folks thought we could have iPods. Of course the reason behind Mac’s innovation was to make money, but the company knew that customers who appreciate something better will consume the iPod. The improvement phenomenon is not confined to Western societies alone, but it happens even in Tanzania. Though we could say that change in Tanzania happens at a very slower pace. So when I give my take, it is just I believe in changing.

That being established, I just wanted to say that I always get thrilled when the right stuff happens in Tanzania. The latest news is that the Tanzanian government will embark on a tourist advertising campaign in the United States and Canada through CNN and various US airports.

You can freely access the article right here.

If anything, this is moving forward. See, I am believer in taking personal responsibility for one’s destiny. I know there have been folks who ascribe to this belief that Africa is not making progress because the West is holding the keys to our breakthrough. To me that is a bunch of baloney. OK, let’s assume the West actually have our keys. What makes someone think that the West will just hand over the keys?

Unlike some folks who are still holding to the “blame the West” mantra, the Tanzanian government is certainly showing signs of maturity. We could ask why it took the government too long to aggressively advertise our tourist attractions, but I will give them credit for taking this first step. I applaud them for realizing that crying wolf against the West will not help, but drawing own strategies is the key.

It is my hope that along with the advertising campaign, the government will embark on a deliberate move to prepare indigenous service providers on the best customer service practices. That is because I think that customer service in Tanzania, generally speaking, needs improvement.

Regardless of everything else, I think spending advertising shillings to attract tourists is definitely moving forward…and in the right direction.
Photo Credit: Mjengwa

Thursday, June 14, 2007

WaTZ and Globalization: Beats Me...(3)

IT is not my objective to prolong the discussion on the globalization and Africans versus the West. Nonetheless, I feel that it is necessary to bring this point home: It is the Africans responsibility to push their course and get where they want to go. That process must start by the definition of a desired destiny, followed by a strategy to get there.

If the West becomes a hurdle along the way, so what? Who said the success comes easily? I honestly think that most Africans are living in this cozy Utopian land, where success is handed like peanuts. I can tell you that there are plenty of Africans succeeding in the United States, while there are plenty of African-Americans living in public housing.

At the core of it, it is a matter of perspective and attitude.

It appears that most Africans are still hung on blaming the West for everything or the majority of our issues. I will change my stance if some can come up with the proof that internally, Africans are doing the best to succeed, except that G-8 is standing on the way. I would like someone to give me a “blame scale”, for instance, 60% goes to the West and 40% goes to Africans themselves, etc. Until that happens, I will blame “us” for not getting where we want to go. Honestly, I don’t think we want it bad enough.

Did I say that we need strategies to get where we want to go? Yes I did. Just to prove what I was talking about, here is an excerpt of the speech given by the Tanzanian Minister for Planning and Economic Empowerment, Hon. Dr. Juma Alifa Ngasongwa to the Parliament on June 14, 2007 (I am providing the English translation as the speech was in Swahili):

Our challenge is to increase exports and to motivate production at quality that meets the world market demands

“…The government will push for the execution of the Export Development Strategy to increase the quantity and quality of goods exported, add value to our products by processing good before export, invest in production of new products for export, and to fully utilize all opportunities afforded to export our products such as through the AGOA and EBA programs and other opportunities in Canada, Japan, China and Korea, and looking for new markets for our products
You can read the entire report here.

Need I add more on that in relationship to he discussion we have had about the developed world ability to penetrate the Western market? I think Mr. Ngasongwa just backed up my arguments.
Folks, it is the responsibility of African countries (including Tanzania) to draw strategies that would enable those countries to enter, satisfy, and capture international markets. So for all my friends who think that G-8 is putting a lid on our attempt to enter the Western market, think again. The ball is on our courts to meet the market standards.
Update: June 22, 2007
Just read the article below to see how the failure of Tanzanian businessmen to penetrate foreign markets is mainly attributed to their lack of business skills. This came from Daily News

Monday, June 11, 2007

WaTZ and Globalization: Beats Me...(2)

As much as I hate dedicating a whole new post as a response to a reader’s comments, I have to do this. In the last post on some Tanzanians’ reaction to globalization, I received yet another comment, which in my view, is another representative of a popular position. Given that my blog is dedicated (for the most part) to providing an alternative thinking, I will try to “educate” a little.

It should be understood that by doing this I am not playing a genius, I am just trying to be honest and stretch our thinking a little. I know I have blind spots somewhere, so I would greatly encourage feedback and comments.

I have to start by providing snippets of the comments from this esteemed reader, so that we can all be on the same page:

In fact the whole concept of globalization or international economy has been designed with giant players in mind and the new roles for action accommodate their best interests. The industrialized countries impose barriers on agricultural products from African countries that are five times higher than the manufactured products from their countries”.

The reader went on to add:

Since the intensification of globalization, the debt burden of African countries has risen tremendously. In 1973, Africa had a debt of $13.1 billion. Currently, the debts of 52 African countries have reached $315 billion...”

That sounds as a serious attack on globalization. That sounds like someone who’s very, very mad at the industrialized countries. The good news is that I will try my best to provide an alternative thinking. That is not because I’m “westernized”, but because as a true African, I feel that Africans, particularly Tanzanians, have to embark on a whole new thinking mode. I can honestly see the above comments being given by sorry African leader who has no clue what is going on. I sincerely hope that my reader is above that level.

So here is my “rebuttal”…

It is the responsibility and the right of EVERY country in the world to do what is best for her citizens. Fulfilling that duty includes having protectionist policies with regards to the quality of products and services that are delivered to citizens. I dare you to name me a country that is just running wild without some sort of policies and regulations geared towards serving the best interest of her citizens. Well, may be in Tanzania.

With regards to market entry –which the reader complained about – the truth is this: regulatory environment is part and parcel of a market condition. As such, it is the responsibility of the African business community and producers (since Africa is pretty much moving towards private enterprise, this goes to the Mengis and the Manjis) to produce what meets the market demand and meets or beats the regulatory environment. Besides, isn’t the entire free market phenomenon based on letting the market decide? The problem is this: we are sooo used to just doing the minimum in Tanzania. When that minimum does not cut it when we get outside Tanzanian borders we start complaining.

But even in Tanzania, don’t we have Tanzania Bureau of Standars, which is charged with putting some major roadblocks on products and services deemed inappropriate or of low standards for the Tanzanian consumer? (Case in point: Tanzanian government has imposed restrictions on importation of used/second hand vehicles) Why then, would a Tanzanian in sound mind, complain that United Kingdom, for instance, is imposing sanctions on fish fillet from Tanzania that the UK government regards as of low quality? It is their prerogative. If a Tanzanian businessman wants to sell fish fillet to UK, they HAVE to produce, package, and price it in a way that meets the demand. I don’t see anything Africans v. Europeans in that. It is simply business.

Part of the reader’s challenge, which I didn’t include here, is that I should provide solution to the problems I identify. I believe I have been doing that. Nonetheless, with regards to barriers to entering the industrialized countries’ market, I don’t have to provide any strategic solution. All the business folks in Tanzania need is to change their attitude. Well, even Tanzania Chamber of Commerce’s chairman, Elvis A. Musiba, thinks that Tanzanian business community has never been serious about business opportunities, including the AGOA opportunities. That is an attitudinal issue, which has nothing to do with strategy.

I am glad that the obversation came from TCCA boss, not from me. Now, some people in Tanzania still think the issue is with the market, and not with the marketer. That is a twisted mentality, which does not make any sense from a practical standpoint.

With regards to ballooning of the African debt, we can’t simply run and attribute that to globalization. First of all, how that does globalization, which is pretty much a free market concept, cause African countries to acquire more debt? I would seriously need more education on that. As far as I know, the expansion of debt is an outcome of strategies, vision and policies. Case in point: the United States’ debt , which has grown over time, but has increased or decreased based on whether Democrats of Republicans are in power. All that is happening while the country is purely capitalist. So why would one tell us the African debt has grown because of globalization?

This is would be my explanation as to why African debt has grown over time. The African population is growing and policies are changing. With that comes the need to expand infrastructure and other services. Question: what was the length of paved roads in Tanzanian in 1973 compared to 2007? Was the paved road expansion done for free? What is the most likely source of funding of such capital projects? You bet it is through acquisition of debt!

Well, leaving aside policies and strategies, we have to take a deeper look internally. Do you know why donors coined the buzzword “good governance” as a condition for financial aid? It is because Africans leaders have failed, by the Western standards, to do the basics for their own people. Good governance does not only translate into such areas as media freedom, it also goes down to fiscal discipline.

Let’s take Tanzania as an example. What can we really show as a “product” of debt that we took, let’s say in 1992? Even, better, did Tanzanians starve because BWM decide to service the prior debts? I strongly believe that the reason African debt ballooned over the years is this: Leaders got the money, but they never used it for its intended purpose. As a result, the capacity to service the debt flew out the window (not to mention lack of a strong will to service the debt in hope for cancellation). If you think I am kidding, just read the recent Auditor General’s report on fund misappropriation. In 2005/2006 alone, ten ministries, departments, agencies and ten regions incurred payments of roughly $67 million lacking proper documentation. Try to imagine how much has been "stolen" in the last ten years.

And then we have the audacity to sit here and condemn globalization for our problems?

This is my point. Africans need to be responsible. We do all the wrongs things, but quick to shift the blame somewhere else, most likely on the Western world. As far as I am concerned, industrialized countries are doing what is best for them – and that is their prerogative. If we truly want it, we have to go get it. Nobody will ever hand you anything, particularly in this era of fierce competition. If you can show me that African leaders and business folks have done the right things, but the only thing that is blocking them is some Western trickeries, then I can honestly shut my mind down. But as far as I see it, a typical Tanzanian thinking leaves a lot to be desired.

As I said it before, I’m saying it again: If we (Tanzanians) don’t play, we’ll get played. It is that simple. Well, it just happened that Kenyans and South Africans are playing us right now, while we are dancing to Bongo Flava tunes. Please ponder this: why can’t Tanzanians penetrate the Kenyan market? IF we can’t even knock at the neighbor’s door, why do we think we can effectively handle the American or European markets?

I am not willing to jump on the “we are not developing because of the West” bandwagon. Not yet. Even more, I cannot blame globalization for African own bad attitude and mindset. That is up to us to solve first. Sadly, it appears we are not willing to take an internal inventory of our own doings.

Photo credit: Mjengwa