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.