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.


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.


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:

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.

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.


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.


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”.

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.


Photo Credit: