Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Change Starteth In the Mind…

For a long time I have been in denial. I just come to grips with the fact that I hate conformity. I love for things to evolve, change, move, whatever. I abhor being stuck on the same spot forever.

It is for that reason, this mwenge thing is driving me crazy…I mean seriously, and why in the world do we still need mbio za mwenge in Tanzania, in 2009? I know, I know, it is the Mwalimu legacy whatever. But, hey, isn’t this just another indication that the Tanzanian society is dormant to the extent that we can’t be creative?

Let’s just review the very essence of mbio za mwenge, if not for a meaningful reason, just for kicks. Mwalimu had an idea. Let’s light this thing up [ I can clearly visualize Mzee Kawawa nodding in approval]. Put it up on Mount Kilimanjaro so that it could accomplish the following: 1) shine beyond Tanzanian borders 2) bring hope to the hopeless 3) bring love where there’s hatred 4) bring respect where there’s plenty of disrespect.

The above really sounds great, brilliant and magnificent. The only problem is this – that’s all political manure.

Let’s ask this practical question – how the heck is an annual torch relay going to accomplish all those grand goals? The answer to that question is obvious. Never.

See, the goals Mwalimu had in mind were great. I’d be insane to discredit the spirit behind the mbio za mwenge. Nonetheless, there are practical sides of things that separate those that should be confined to a mental institution from those that should be consulted for a strategic plan. The practical outcome of mbio za mwenge speaks volume of what Mwalimu could have been.

The most insane of all, if you ask me, are those Tanzanians still running after that stupid mwenge.

My point is this – mbio za mwenge will forever remain a meaningless symbol that will never accomplish anything [please don’t give me the ufunguzi-wa-miradi-ya-maendeleo crap]. That is because the spirit behind mbio za mwenge is about human transformation. And human transformation, honestly, starts in the mind, the heart, and the spirit.

You may not like my argument, but let’s be practical for a minute. How many people do you know got transformed in Tanzania this year, simply because that stupid smoky torch passed through their village?

The point is this; we can transform human beings through other meaningful, practical means. What about education for starters?
Photo credit: Mjengwa

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Older I Grow...

I must admit that the pressure mounted on me to write something. In response to the pressure, I’m writing something, even for the sake of something. Ahadi ni deni, si ndiyo?

I got to work today with a copy of US Today in my hand. “Free” newspapers are one of those perks you get for staying at some hotels. Don’t ask me more questions on that, because I am not telling. I typically don't like to read newspapers that much, because the print media appears to be behind everything else. But occassionally you find some indepth coverage that fast-talking TV hosts won't give you.

The newspaper had an insert covering healthcare, more specifically, highlighting the stories of real people who could truly benefit from the healthcare overhaul. The insert also included a comparison of healthcare costs between the United States and other developed countries.

It wasn’t so much about the stories of people in the insert that got me thinking, but how the whole healthcare debate got out of hand.

Seriously, it is hard to tell the truth when some Republicans call President Obama a liar, while President Obama is also shooting back that the Republicans don’t have a plan. In all of this, I feel like my head is spinning. Is the overhaul about public option, illegal immigrants’ coverage or skyrocketing healthcare costs? You can’t really tell.

In all of this, something is very wrong. Guess what that is? It is politics.

To tell you truth, as I grow older I feel politicians are full of crap. Yeah, some politicians have truly changed the course of history (both positively and negatively), but the rest of the pack is just a bunch of conmen running their mouth.

So Tanzanians recently got thrilled that President Kikwete took his “precious” time to respond to their questions through a television show. Big deal. After the show, how many people really had their lives changed? Nada. Isn’t that crazy that folks get excited for absolutely nothing meaningful?

Or better yet, who’s really telling the truth about the whole vita dhidi ya ufisadi rhetoric in Tanzania? Is it the opposition? Is it hardcore CCM members of the parliament? Is it the House Speaker? It is hard to tell. See my point?

Maybe as you get older, you also get cynical. But politicians really do know how to capture our attention with their meaningless rants.

So this is what I am going to do. Be a good father. Be a good leader of my family. Hopefully, I will succeed in imparting some wisdom on my boys. I truly hope so.
Cartoon credit: US Today

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Month? Really?

I can't believe it has been almost a month since I posted anything here. But you know what? I have been busy with those two guys...Seriously, can you blame me?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Police Mentality and Professor Gates' Arrest

The debate is still raging on about Professor's Gates arrest in his own home. This is what I picked up from a CNN's commentary by Maria Herbefeld, a professor of Police Science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in NY City:

"Police work is about sub-cultural contexts, about war stories, about suspicion, about unpredictability, about danger and fear for one's life. Police officers make their decisions based not just on a given situation but also based on their prior experience, the experience of those they have worked with and the stories they have heard about incidents that happened in the past."

I'm just wondering - given the above observation, isn't it safe to assume that some of those police "prior experiences" leads to some racial biasness, going as far as assuming that any black man is dangerous?

I'm posing that question because if a police officer is not making a judgment based on facts at hand but some prior experiences and stories they hear, what's preventing them from excercising racial biasness or any other form of biasness?
Photo credit:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Kingunge Versus RC Church: Fear of Righteousness?

Like death, change is one of those things that we can’t avoid. Nonetheless, resisting change is also a human thing. It would be ignorant of me to assert that the Tanzanian society is not changing, for the country is truly changing - both in the positive and negative directions.

It is obviously that the Tanzanian society is increasingly experiencing a serious shortage of great leaders. That is a negative change.

It is for that reason I am encouraged by the step taken by Roman Catholic Church in Tanzania to prepare a pastoral document providing guidelines on electing political leaders. I don’t know what the document said, but a guideline is always what it is – a guideline. Once can elect to ignore a guideline. If that is the case, then why is Mzee Kingunge getting up in arms against the document?

I believe it is because the document demands righteousness from elected officials, not rights.

In recent days, the Islamic community in Tanzania has been in a tug of war with the CCM party, demanding the formation of a Kadhi court. I’m not even sure if the Kadhi court is constitutional, but given the fact that my Islamic friends were promised the court – their demands are essentially a quest for some “rights”. Given that rights are hardly afforded in Tanzania, the demand thereof must be less threatening to CCM.

The difference between what the RC church is doing in Tanzania and the demands set forth by the Islamic community is that the RC church is not asking for any “favors”, but giving information and empowering. We all know educated and empowered folks are difficult to manipulate. As such, empowering the powerless, it appears, is more threatening to Mzee Kingunge, CCM and those who have devoured the powerless for quite a while.

If I quote The Citizen’s article, part of the RC document says the country is experiencing “serious leadership problems”. To me that is just short of blatantly saying the country is stinking of corrupt and evil leaders. And who could that possibly implicate? You know the answer. No wonder CCM MPs, including Mzee Kingunge, are running wild.

When the righteous rule, the people rejoice. I think that the RC church is in a better position to gauge that, since the church and all other non-governmental organizations in Tanzania provide services to communities that were supposed to, in the first place, responsibility of the government. The church and other religious organizations are not blind to the fact that the government allegedly lacks capacity, but they also understands that the said lack of capacity is mainly attributed to corruption and lack of accountability.

It would then be ridiculous to ask the RC leadership, or any other religious organization for that matter, to stand on the sidelines simply because someone like Mzee Kingunge stands on the “during the era of Nyerere” crap. If experience has shown that the church and other religious organizations have taken a meaningful and positive leadership role in the lives of Tanzanians beyond preaching, then politicians should only regain their influence by performing better beyond what the church and other religious organizations have done, not spewing criticism laden with fear at religious bodies.

Given the fact that recently a thorny issue for CCM has been rampant corruption, Mzee Kingunge’s phobia - and the entire CCM party as well - is the fact that the RC document is setting the stage for the demand of accountability and righteousness from the elected officials. That is because, if I quote The Citizen’s article, the document “highlights major areas voters should get convincing explanations from individuals seeking public leadership positions”.

Seriously, what’s wrong with the electorate seeking more information from politicians? Even more, how is that divisive?

I have not read the document myself, but I don’t think any of the “major areas” specifically require that an elected leader be a member of the RC church or of a specific faith. If that is true, then Mzee Kingunge must be afraid of one thing that political leaders in Tanzania have failed to be, and that is righteous.

And for that I can only say this: shame on you Mzee Kingunge.
Photo credit:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

If It Ain't Your Forte...(2)

I occasionally come across stuff from Bongoland that makes me happy. Likewise, I come across things that outright make me go crazy. Come with me.

I recently came across an interview posted on Issa Michuzi’s blog, where Michuzi had an opportunity to interview Anna Kahama Rupia of Seacom regarding the fiber optic project that is soon to be operational in Tanzania.

So the following is an excerpt of the interview:

Michuzi: For ordinary Tanzanians, what should they expect out of the fiber optic services?

Anna: They should expect reliability in communication. They speed is faster as well. Because now we are not relying on satellite, it is all fiber optics. So now you can down big files. Imagine downloading a 3 hours movie in a matter of seconds. That’s what they should be expecting.
And then reduction in costs as well, because right now all the carriers are paying about $3,000 to $5,000 per megabyte per month per capacity. With our costs, they will be paying under $100. So there is a reduction in cost.

Michuzi: Now, is that not a threat to our ISP or cell phone companies?

Anna: No. We are a complement to their business. We’re reducing their costs. They were paying more, now they are paying less…

Michuzi: I’m talking about their business…

Check out the entire interview for yourself right here…

Given that I’m not a journalist by profession, I’m disqualified from discussing some deep technical stuff connected to the art of journalism. Nonetheless, as a consumer of journalistic products, I can tell a good journalistic product from a lemon.

I think one of the key ingredients of good journalism/interviewing is listening. Maybe I am missing something, but it appears Michuzi didn’t do a good job at listening or comprehending what the interviewee was saying. As a result, he ended up asking ridiculous follow-up questions that were meaningless in the general business context and the strategic reasons for the Seacom’s project.

And then some folks (see the comments at the Michuzi’s blog) still wondered why the lady was sheepishly smiling? I’m sure she was just playing nice.

I also believe that a good journalist must be technically good at the subject matter. Folks who watch the NBA and other sports programs in the United States can relate to my argument, as most TV analysts are former players or coaches in the particular game they analyze. Michuzi is definitely a great photographer, but I am not sure if he is technically good to indepthly cover IT and business matters. And the interview with Anna Kahama Rupia showed that.

This is really not a knock on Michuzi, because lack of polished communication skills is a general problem in Tanzania. Furthermore, what is reflected in the Michuzi’s interview is something that tells a story about the quality of journalism in Tanzania. If this is the best we can get, then I can’t really get mad at some politicians who have a few nice things to say about journalists in Tanzania.
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

CD Release....

A musical labor of love and faith that’s been a long time coming is completed and you’re invited to the celebration.
A California based artist and minister, Dennis Massawe who is a native of Tanzania, has put his inspirational message of faith into songs and you’re invited to celebrate the release of his CD No More Limbo. His message transcends all faiths and his uplifting rhythms that combine gospel, reggae and soul will move you to get into the spirit of love.
His journey has not been easy but he believes all things are possible when you follow the path you were called to walk on. From childhood to teenage, Dennis grew up in the slums of Nairobi Kenya. He later moved to his native country Tanzania with his father where he started his family at the age of twenty five.
Massawe and his family were lead from Dar-es-salaam Tanzania to Southern California and when you hear his music you too will be inspired, motivated and encouraged to go from your journey of challenges and desperation to one filled with hope and purpose.
For more information go to:
For a copy of your CD go to:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Bunge & Michael Jackson:Misplaced Relevance?

I am trying to imagine what is going through the minds of close relatives of late Michael Jackson right now. I have experienced death in my own family and I know how it feels. Regardless of how each one of us felt about Michael Jackson’s “craziness”, he was human first and foremost. He was a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, etc to someone.

Undoubtedly Michael Jackson was famous. He was gifted. He was entertaining. He had also visited Tanzania. Nevertheless, is any of the above reasons, especially his visitation to Tanzania, compelling enough for the Speaker of the National Assembly to officially recognize Michael Jackson’s death? I am trying to think of any positive impact that Michael Jackson’s visitation to Tanzania had to the overall socioeconomic progress, but I can’t find any.

I come across ordinary Americans quite often that are clueless about Tanzania. Obviously, there are Americans who know more about Tanzania and who have given their sweat to the country through volunteer work, etc. I wonder if, three weeks ago, Michael Jackson recalled anything about Tanzania.

My point is that to the majority of Americans, Tanzania is irrelevant. They could not even locate where Tanzania is on the map. As such, for Bunge to make “big events” in America, especially those that are of relevance to the internal America is equivalent to sucking up. Huko ni kujigonga.

Let’s flip the coin a bit. Didn’t Hasheem Thabeet become the first Tanzanian ever to be drafted to play in the NBA the same week?

While the death of Michael Jackson has this “global impact” connotation to it, I strongly believe it was utterly ridiculous of the Bunge to highlight Michael Jackson’s death while ignoring Hasheem Thabeet’s draft to the NBA.

The reality is this: Hasheem’s participation in the NBA is more relevant to the lives of many Tanzanians, as it will have a lasting impact on the lives of many Tanzanians than Michael Jackson’s visitation to Tanzania or his death. Ordinarily, Mr. Speaker would have been expected to know that.

I discuss Tanzanian politics and politicians on this blog, but I have never fully understood how politicians in Tanzania think. They must be a very special breed. A very weird type.

Photo credit: Michuzi

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tweet: National Assembly Goes Gay?

Boy oh boy.

Do you see what I am seeing?

It appears that our interpretation and therefore reaction to certain things, depends on where and when you live. This would have been crazy in my current world…for the National Assembly to go gay....

Photo credit: Michuzi

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Takrima: Prepaid Obligation?

We are in mid 2009. That means the election bug is just a couple of months away from biting the Tanzanian public. The last time I eye witnessed an election in Tanzania was 1995. I voted for an opposition candidate who went on to lose, but I don’t feel bad for not voting for Benjamin William Mkapa then, because history has come to vindicate me.

Elections are not cheap. I think the spending that candidates do is just enough to stimulate the economy – an economic stimulus package of its own, if you will. The question I have (and this is just wondering aloud from my part) is where the CCM, Chadema and CUF folks, for instance, print their t-shirts, banners and other campaign materials. If they print that in China, shame on you! Please spend that locally, to spur the local economy.

We all know that t-shirts, the helicopters and other pizzazz are public. I mean, how could you sneak in a helicopter to a public rally without being seen? So I’m sure both parties can easily account for spending on such public stuff. The “evil” part of the election spending is the infamous takrima. For that reason, spending on this front will always be a mystery. I don’t think you could vouch this stuff on CCM or CUF’s books.

Takrima is “evil” because it is technically a bribe. Furthermore, the High Court in Tanzania, thought inclusion of the takrima provision in the Tanzania Election Act of 1985, hence legalizing the practice, is unconstitutional. Regardless of the illegality or the unconstitutionality of the practice, “thanking” voters is still prevalent in Tanzania.

The obviously, the main reason candidates like to supply voters with “gifts” is to influence their voting decisions. Nonetheless, given the fact that the majority of elected members of parliament hardly do anything for their constituents, I would regard takrima as a prepaid obligation.

I had a chance to talk with one Kenyan guy who shared this story with me. He had called her sister during the last Kenyan elections. Her sister was so excited on the phone that she got “free” money from this one candidate. But truly, is there free lunch in this world?

Given the level of income and the general social influence that comes with the MP’s position, any greedy monster would make an investment in that political position. The best part, at least from the candidate’s perspective, is that a bag of sugar today releases them of any future obligations to fulfill campaign promises. If you think I am crazy, why then the cycle never ends?

The worst part for the voters is that takrima makes a fool of them. It puts them in a position of selling their future for the now. And that is not always a good trade, because the future in most cases is more valuable than the present.

I have talked about the need for the Tanzanian society to have a paradigm shift. One of those areas that require a change in outlook is the receiving of little gifts from candidates.

So this is my radical proposition. Why don’t communities in Tanzania start identifying good candidates, raise campaign funds for them? Don’t you think that would put pressure on candidates to deliver, knowing that elected officials owe their communities something?

I know someone out there is thinking, “Metty, yaani watu waanze kumchangia mgombea? Si ukichaa huo?” It might seems like I am proposing an insane idea, but the last time I checked, President Obama got campaign funding from the little guys who believed in him. Trust me, from a psychological standpoint, President Obama feel obligated to deliver.

I am not saying the Tanzanian society should be like the American society, but if it takes contributing to candidates’ campaigns for the poor folks to stop trading their future for just a kilo of sugar or a piece of meaningless CCM or CUF t-shirt, why not?
Photo credit:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

TZ: We Are Poor Because…

I must admit that I check Issa Michuzi’s photo and what has become a “debate” blog religiously. Trust me; I “love” the John Mashaka and Dr. Shayo’s economic and development “debates”. I call them “debates” because they are not really debates. That is because it appears Michuzi has deliberately decided (for his own editorial reasons) to give John Mashaka and Dr. Shayo an upper hand.

Such a lopsided representation ain’t truly a debate, but a lecture room with a few hands given an opportunity to ask questions and respond to John Mashaka and Dr. Shayo’s “lectures”.

An example of such lectures from John Mashaka is this one…

I previously said I “love” Mashaka and Dr. Shayo’s “debates” because they just reflect the fact that someone can write a bunch of words and never bring a new discovery to light. Maybe it is just me, but I don’t like reading an article that states the obviously. For instance, who doesn’t know that part if the challenge in Tanzania, or in Africa for that matter, is poor leadership? If you are in Tanzania, do you really need some “wunderkind” in America to tell you that?

It is for that reason, I think, I tend to look for profound ideas in unlikely places.

I the above referenced “lecture” from John Mashaka, what caught my attention wasn’t the main article itself, but a comment dropped by one Mchumi wa Texas. I will just quote part of his or her brief comment:

We are poor because we don't know why were poor. That was the answer kutoka kwa JK alipokuwa Scandinavia, and that is my answer as an economist

Not to spoil Mchumi wa Texas’ moment, I would just like say that I don’t know about Kikwete saying that in Scandinavia, but I know he made that crazy remark during his interview with Financial Times. You can go here…

I would also like to remind you that Mwalimu Nyerere, before his departure, went on record wondering why Tanzania is still poor. Likewise, the Tanzania’s ex-PM, Mr. Sumaye, also went on record as saying that he “discovered” the gravity of Tanzania’s poverty after attending Harvard. [I don't know about you, but comments like that made want to slap Sumaye so bad. That comment was beyond stupid].

Just to support what Mchumi said, we can never solve a problem that is not well defined. I believe poor leadership is a reflection of a bigger issue, because leaders don’t sprout from space. They are part and parcel of the society they lead. As a matter of fact, some of my fellow human beings have contended that people get the leaders they deserve. If that is true, then we shouldn’t wag our fingers at our Tanzanian leaders. We should take a hard look at our own selves.

So go on fellow Bongolanders, join John Mashaka and Dr. Shayo in the development “debates”, but I tell you what? Ufisadi, Wakoloni, Wawekezaji, etc, which are Bongolanders typical excuses, are probably not our biggest enemies. Our biggest enemy is the inability to diagnose our problems properly. And that will cost the country for ages.

If you don’t trust me, visit this blog in 20 years. I will be aged, but Tanzania will still be the same.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Interest Rates: Let’s Stop the Stupidity…

Some American folks are regarding their federal government’s part ownership of General Motors as an outright act of embarking on socialist policies. For someone like me who experienced socialism, I could understand the phobia. Tanzania abandoned socialist policies for a reason – and that governments are bad at running businesses. I worked for a state government, so I know how crippling bureaucracy could be.

As a matter of fact, the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, once admitted on a TV interview that governments are not built for speed. You were right brother.

Lack of efficiency and effectiveness, I believe, is a universal phenomenon that plaques most governments across the universe. Despite all that, it is amazing how some folks in Tanzania are still looking for government’s intervention in every aspect of life. One that I thought was crazy, is the call for the government to curb high interest rates charged by banks.

See for yourself right here.

Shoot me if you like, but I think the majority of Tanzanians are not aware of how things work. I think it is ridiculous to cry for lending ceilings, interest caps, etc, without knowing what drives the interest rate in the first place. So let me help. I might be wrong, so anyone with additional information chip in.

My understanding is that the risk profile of a borrower would drive the interest rate charged. Since banks are not there to dance mdundiko, they have to get a return based on the risk they are assuming. The problem is this – for ages, there was no mechanism in Tanzania to track each individual’s risk profile. Hopefully, this company would change that.

Given lack of a solid historical credit profile (including scoring) in Tanzania, the majority of Tanzanians poses a high risk to lenders. Your good intensions regarding the return of borrowed money must be backed by a clean history of doing so. It is that simple. So if Bongolanders want banks to go under (which will eventually affect their ability to lend even more), then keep on asking for lower interest rates that don’t match risk profiles of borrowers.

I must be dreaming or something, but I think it is stupid to suggest that the Tanzanian government force banks to set aside a portion of their capital for lending. Hello? How do you think banks typically make money? Let’s see what the National Microfinance Bank’s financial statements say. In 2008, the bank’s assets in loans, advances and overdrafts stood at TShs 570.6 million compared to TShs. 436.7 million in government securities. Check that out for yourself here .

The truth of the matter is that other than treasuries and stocks listed at the infant Dar-es-Salaam Stock Exchange; the list of possible investment options in Tanzania is very short. That in itself is a motivating factor, without government’s pressure, for banks to make money through lending. One must be very crazy to even propose a lending ceiling to National Microfinance Bank, given that they are doing more lending already.

Another factor that drives high interests in Tanzania is the volatility in the value of the shilling. If a shilling today does not have the same value tomorrow, prudent banks must set interest rates that preserves the value of their investment, including factoring the anticipated inflation levels in the interest rate. I think I don’t have to say more on that, because we can all see that most banks offer higher interest rates on saving accounts pegged in shillings compared to US dollars. The same is true when it comes to borrowing.

See an example of the Exim’s Bank right here .

I love my Tanzania. Nonetheless, I just hate some stupid things my fellow Tanzanians say.
Photo credit:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Key to Progress: People, Land, Good Leadership and Good Policies?

I simply hate to circle around an idea or an individual. Nonetheless, sometimes the temptation to dance around an idea or a person is so great. I just couldn’t help myself going back to the same old Nyerere thing. Please bear with me. I promise I will make it insightful and meaningful.

As I said before, it is difficult to discuss the Tanzanian experience without being drawn into throwing Nyerere into the mix. My personal belief is that in order for Tanzania to progress, some of the foundational philosophies have to be thrown out of the window, if not debunked so that we can all see their weaknesses.

We can’t build a strong structure if the foundation is weak, can we? And that’s the point.

In setting the stage for his vision, Mwalimu Nyerere once asserted that in order for Tanzania to progress, the country needs four key elements – People, Land, Good Leadership and Good Policies.

The Mwalimu tried, but boy, how “great” his idea was.

Maybe I am missing something, but I never heard of any other speech where Mwalimu Nyerere explained why he was utterly convinced that those elements are foundational elements for development. Furthermore, I don’t know of any speech where he ranked those elements in their degree of importance or gave a definition of those elements. As such, it safe to assume Mwalimu believed those elements to be equal and universal, as I don’t know of anywhere Mwalimu considered those elements be Tanzania specific. I would be more that happy to be if anyone could direct to any sources that contradict my thinking.

My personal conviction is that all those elements are not equal, and in reality, some of the elements are just a subset of a primary element. Let me break that down...

Let’s take land for instance. Where in the world did Nyerere come up with land as a key element for development? The reality is this – every country, be it on an island or otherwise – is founded on some piece of land. Can you have a country without a piece of land? If Nyerere meant a larger or fertile piece of land, then there is no empirical evidence to prove that the size of land is correlated to the degree of progress in any one country.

Given that the size of land is not correlated to progress, the key issue must be what the people of a particular country do with their land.

What people do with their land or other resources is a question of the people's "quality", that is their ingenuity, resourcefulness, attitude, etc. I give Nyerere credit for identifying "people" as a key element for progress, but equating people to land on the degree of importance was crazy or shortsighted of him. See, the truth is this – human capital (that is, people) – trumps all elements. History has proven that great human capital generates great ideas. Look around, do you think Switzerland is ahead of Tanzania because the Swiss have a huge piece of land? Even further, what is size of land do you think Bill Gates needed to be a billionaire?

You get the idea.

I know Nyerere is not here to change his idea, but the current Tanzanian society can reshape some of the foundational principles on which the country is built on. Certainly, that would require us to embrace "people" as the main ingredient to progress. The other two elements – good leadership and good policies – emanates from people. I have said this before; leaders are a subset of a larger society. As such, crazy leaders are just a reflection of the society from which they come from. If you think Kikwete stinks, then that is just a reflection of the entire Tanzanian society, generally speaking. Of course, there are exceptions.

After all that yapping I have done, may I propose to you that lack of quality people, not land, good policies, or good leadership is the main reason for lack of progress in Tanzania?

I’m not an expert on how the Tanzanian society could start producing quality people, but I know the right type of education would do the trick. Can I also suggest that a major paradigm shift is needed in Tanzania, as attitudes, mindset and cultural tendencies are major propellers or hindrances towards progress? All that could work if Tanzanian society is willing to make a change.

And that’s up to my fellow Bongolanders.
Photo Credit:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Leadership: Is Nyerere The Ultimate Standard?

I don’t contribute much to this not because I have little to muse about. Life has just handed me a heavy dose of responsibilities. Sometimes, fighting against the tide ain’t the wisest thing to do. As such, I have just decided to go with the flow.

Maybe it is eccentric of me to see life through different lenses. I’m just trying to be like the rest of Bongolanders when it comes to upholding and cherishing Nyerere, but I struggle a little bit with the idea of holding the man as some kind of an idol.

Just read this article and tell me what you think.

Seriously, I think it is sickness to suggest that Nyerere’s ideas should be “…rubbed on by all—students, workers, farmers, politicians, academicians, journalists, business people, bureaucrats—everybody”.

I have no social science credentials to claim a deeper understanding of why most folks in Tanzania views Nyerere as a mythical figure, but I can make a guess – Nyerere succeeded in infecting (or rather blinded) Tanzanians’ minds with his ideals to the extent that some cannot view life without him! That is fixation. That is a psychological sickness!

I must give it to Nyerere. The dude did well. I mean, great leaders tend to have a great influence on their followers, regardless of whether such an influence is positive or negative. That is charisma that walking down some academic hallways would not provide. Great leader, truly, touches his or her generation greatly.

Despite Nyerere’s greatness, I would be bold enough to contend that such greatness was confined to an era. Besides, we don’t know how Nyerere could have performed in an era of free press, information overload and somewhat a “democratic” Tanzania. We really don’t know. I grew up in an era where there were only three major sources of information – Daily News, Uhuru and Radio Tanzania – all supporting and glorifying Nyerere’s ideals. I didn’t grow up in an era where the press and the society could express opposing views. We know what happened to Kambona when he opposed Nyerere, don’t we?

Let’s visit the Bible a little bit. In the book of Acts 13:36, it is written that “David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died…”. The key point there being “serving or influencing one’s own generation”. That’s what Tanzania needs. A leader who would come along and take the current Tanzanian generation to a higher level.

I seriously don’t want to be soaking all over in Nyerere’s ideals. I mean would you? I honestly think that folks who call for Nyerere’s glorification are missing the fact every generation must produce its own great leader, a leader who is bold enough to take the society to bold new world. For Tanzania, we both know that Benjamin William Mkapa wasn’t that leader. Likewise, we know that Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete has also proven himself to be a weakling. That, however, does not justify crying ourselves to sleep for Nyerere’s comeback.

My call, for all Bongolanders, is for the society to define where it wants to go and search for a leader that could take the country there. Societies grow and die out of ideas. I am yet to see any empirical evidence that the Tanzanian society was greater during Nyerere’s time compared to the present. That being the case, we need fresh ideas in 2009 that are great, not making a U-turn to 1961!

Seriously, you mean to tell me that a society of over 30 million human beings can’t find one good leader, to the extent of crying for a dead one?

I’m nostalgic of some things, but Nyerere ain’t one of them.
Photo credit:

Monday, March 30, 2009

HT: The Towering Billboard?

I once had a post commending the Tanzania’s government attempt to promote the country.
As I pointed out in that previous post, the journey had just begun….

Let me just remind folks that I am not a marketing junkie. As a business student, I took a few marketing classes to fulfill my graduation requirements, but that’s it. Despite my lack of marketing acumen, I still believe I can dish a few marketing pointers here and there. If I make a boo-boo, just bear with me.

Companies use celebrities all the time in their attempt to piggy-back on their recruited celebrity’s social status and visibility. This is not just about Michael Jordan pitching for Nike or David Beckham selling for Adidas. I have seen Masoud Kipanya endorse for some beer company in Tanzania.

So why is the Tanzania Tourist Board sleeping on Hasheem Thabeet, especially during this March Madness season?

Dude, Hasheem Thabeet is the most recognized face of any Tanzanian in the United States of America right now. So why don’t you jump on him, secure an “endorsement” deal before the kid turns pro and start demanding millions of dollars?

For basketball junkies, particularly the NBA, Tim Duncan of San Antonio Spurs is endorsing for US Virgin Islands, in case you didn’t know.

I could be missing some NCAA rules that prohibits student athletes from performing public service for their country, but something like “Tanzania, the land of Hasheem Thabeet” tag line could be more effective currently in the United States of America. That is because American college kids, some of whom could take summer classes or future family vacations in Tanzania identify with Mr. HT, than anything or someone else Tanzanian.

Marketing, I believe, is about opportunities. I strongly believe that there is nothing that can advertise Tanzania better in the United State of American today than the towering Hasheem Thabeet.

TTB, the clock is ticking…
Photo Credit: Michuzi

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'm Staying Right Here, Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,

I know that you and your fellow politicians like to talk about how you desire for folks like me in the Diaspora to come back home. Fortunately for me, I have never attended one of those forums. I have just read of your call through newspapers.

If I were in attendance during one of those rhetorical speeches, I would have just clapped my hands out of courtesy. Deep inside of me, there would have been this boiling anger and a desire to just slap the heck out of you. You guys are full of crap.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not violent but just a little passionate.

Back to this come-back-home cry that you and your fellow African presidents like to make. It appears to me that you have never figure out why your fellow countrymen left the continent in the first place. Since you are not stupid, I presume you know the reasons – only you are so arrogant to face your own selves. Besides, why bother about nameless countrymen you only meet for a couple of minutes overseas?

So I heard your cry, but my answer is a huge “no”.

It is not like I don’t like Africa. I do. It is only that you made me a sweet deal to stay overseas. I bet you are flabbergasted by what that means. Don’t sweat it, for I will break it down for you.

Remember the billions of dollars you and your buddies in the system stole and stashed away in a European bank? Remember the fleet of expensive European and Japanese cars that you and your buddies keep on bragging about? Remember all those crazy contracts you have awarded to “white” folks? Remember all those shopping spree in Europe and America? Remember all those stupid medical check-ups you have overseas?

Well, I know the list is not exhaustive, but the common denominator is this – all those choices you have made are actually destroying the African progress, while building the economies of all those places I’m currently a resident. So I got me employed at a decent salary while receiving better good social services compared to what my aunt gets in the motherland. It is not that I like I'm proud of my aunt's situation - I just feel lucky a little bit.

OK, I didn’t mean to give you a pop quiz, but how many people do you think get employed in Japan when you order eighty (80) expensive Toyota SUVs at $50,000 each? [And that is excluding genuine spare parts that you will eventually order, since you have neglected building better roads].

That is why I think it is hypocritical and hilarious of you to ask me to come home, while the money you have stolen is actually right here, working for me. While it was nice of you to ask of me to come back home, I will continue staying right here. The Bible tells me that where "my" treasure is, my heart will follow. It just so happened that you and your buddies moved "my" treasure from the motherland to this foreign land.

So just move the cheese back to the motherland and I will show up.
Photo credit:

Monday, March 02, 2009

Flyovers In Dar? Ride At Your Own Risk…

I’m glad that innovation is actually creeping up on the mind of Tanzanians. I’m glad that at last some of those Vasco da Gama types of global treks are paying off. Seriously, shouldn’t we be happy that at least the Bongoland government is contemplating building flyovers in Dar-es-Salaam to ease traffic woes?

Well, let me praise on one hand and whip on the other. I can do, can’t I?

This is the saddest part. The Bongoland government has this crucial institution called the Tanzania Bureau of Statistics. Among other areas, TBS is charged with the duty of collecting census data. I stand corrected, but I believe the main objective of collecting census data is planning for the future.

Another important agency that the Bongoland government has is Tanzania Revenue Authority. Well, TRA can tell you how much loot been collected by the government, but I believe (I could be wrong here) these guys can actually tell you how many new cars are registered on any given day.

My point is this – it doesn’t take a load of money or collection of European “experts” to figure out what the projected population and number of cars on Dar roads come 2019, for instance. I mean, you can simply plug the historical numbers on an Excel spreadsheet and wham! You have your projected numbers for proper planning. It is not like traffic jams and population increase caught anyone by surprise.

I guess I am just living on a different planet.

Though reactive in nature, the construction of flyovers is a good idea. With the city planning being what it is, you can’t go anywhere other than creating roads on the open sky.

The only thing is this – anyone riding on those flyovers will have to do that at their own risk. I have been around long enough to know that anything is possible in Bongoland. I’m sure some contractor or his vibarua will deliberately shortchange the structures when it comes to cement or other construction elements.

Seriously, if someone can cut corners on their private building why not do that for a public structure?

What I am saying is this – don’t laugh at me for being cynical. When the flyovers are finally here (if the Bongoland government actually walk the talk on this), riders should beware. If you happened to join the unpleasant statistics, don’t say you didn’t get warned.

There are things you can trust in Bongoland. Some are obviously a no-no. I’m not sure if I can trust flyovers in Dar. Seriously.
Photo credit:

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cell Phone Effect: Twisted Priorities…?

Last summer I made a trip to my beloved Bongoland. I obviously shared my thoughts on various topics, mainly pertaining to life. One of the issues I touched was the use of cell phones, particularly on how the device has revolutionized, if you will, some areas of the Tanzanian life.

As with everything, we could never have a perfect world. My mom, as I alluded to previously, is of the view that cell phones provide an ample opportunity for promiscuity.

What really got back to this topic is the photo provided herein, is the other side of cell phone utilization. Please, I stand to be corrected, but I had a sense that some folks in Bongoland use cell phones as a social status symbol.

That kind of remind me of when mabrazameni would be standing at a daladala stand, with a video cassette openly displayed, just to let folks know that they have a kideo at home…

Now, let’s get back to the cell phone issue.

I know that, as human beings, we have the prerogative to spend our hard earned money the way we so choose. Nonetheless, common sense tells us that some choices are irrational.
I know the lady (in the photo) could be making a ton of money, just by hawking bananas. Nevertheless, (and this is just me thinking aloud and I could be wrong) why not spend money first on a cart – that could make the mobility of the banana merchandise easier – instead of enriching Vodacom, Tigo or Zain first?

But the story really goes beyond this lady, as this picture is just a symbol of a Bongoland society which is either moving forward or failing to prioritize.

I’m not against cell phone use, especially when vijisenti ain’t an issue.
Photo Credit:

Monday, February 02, 2009

Pinda: Passionate Men Do Cry

My son, Jedrick, found this little game of power. He thinks it is so cool of him to order people around to cry. Now and then, when we are in a playful mood (and where fimbo is not involved as a way of bringing some order and discipline); he would order me to cry. I’m typically ordered to cry when I ask for one of his toys. My cry, it seems, becomes enough to receive his mercy.

So I oblige much to his amusement. But that is just me playing with my boy.

Recently, the Tanzanian Prime Minister, Mizengo Pinda shed some tears in the parliament for some serious reasons.

Honestly, that’s almost unbelievable. And I’m not trying to be sarcastic about that. It is simply hard to see men in the African context express their emotions. Well, almost all men across the board feel that expressing emotions is wimpy.

Personally, I found a hero in Pinda. Of course, assuming the tears weren’t some political ploy to keep his sweet job.

I found a hero in Pinda for two reasons – one, it takes a lot of courage to defy social norms (like a belief that men don’t cry). And courage, trust me, is a quality lacking in most Tanzanian’s leaders. Mr. Pinda didn’t whack someone in complicated judo maneuvers to acquire heroism, but handled himself with a lot of grace.

The second reason for hailing Mr. Pinda is that he expressed humility. Maybe it is just me, but political leaders in Tanzania got so pompous, to the extend they made you believe they were above reproach. Truth is – we all err, but it is so refreshing to see a person in a higher public office humble himself.

Granted, Mr. Pinda still me owe me a ton – like the Rorya thing – but I can definitely give him some kudos for walking a path that many Tanzania leaders have failed to walk, which is the ability to express their genuine passion and humility. And for that I applaud him.
Photo: Michuzi

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Rorya HQ: Blah Blah Continues…

I wish I had this wonderful magic wand that I could just swing around. Trust me on this – the first folks that I would have wiped out, or turn into little creepy creatures would have been Bongoland politicians. Man, I hate them.

And talking about Bongoland, did you know that witchdoctors are licensed by the government? Honestly, that was a huge revelation to me. I thought all you had to do was to find a mat and a shade at Mnazi Mmoja in Dar and walaahh!

Seriously, since these things are supposedly done in the “dark”, how would government’s regulatory body know which doctors are qualified? Or could it be that the process is so easy, since most of the government officials are customers anyway, putting them in a great position to gauge the effectiveness of the doctors?

I’m just kidding, but October 2010 is not that far. Just watch out for the heavy traffic on Bagamoyo Road.

Sorry for the digression.

My talk really was this Rorya headquarters thing. I know for some of you, this is a nonissue. I can understand that. Nonetheless, to me this is a classic case of how folks in Bongoland will NEVER see progress in a short while. I mean, if the government can’t decide on a newly established district’s headquarters, what makes you think they are capable of managing other complex and scientific endeavors?

Think about that.

News is, folks in Bongoland are waiting for the president to decide on the Rorya HQ.

The saddest part is that I reflected on this on January 28, 2008. That was exactly one year ago (that is discounting the fact that the whole saga started in 2006). Essentially, it is going to take the government more than 365 days to decide something that could be done in a day!
How I wish for that magic wand!

Seriously, something is very wrong in Bongoland.
Photo Credit: Me

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Africa: Are You Listening?

In one of my previous postings, I cautioned Africans of treating President Barack Obama as their own. That is not completely ignoring the fact that on some levels, he is. As a leader of the most powerful nation, his Kenyan roots give a reason for the level of optimism currently flowing through Africa.

Nonetheless, that’s where it starts and ends.

I have always said this and I will not shy away from repeating it – progress and regression are both built on certain principles. The progressive principles do not look at color, creed, social status and whatever category one would want to throw into the mix. Nonetheless, those principles reward those who are willing to embrace them. Likewise, regression principles will always work for those who fall in love with them.

In the inaugural speech, President Obama reminded not only the American people, but the entire world of the principles on which the Americans society has managed to build a powerful nation. Furthermore, he reminded the world that the United States of America will not change its core principles. Just to quote him: “We will not apologize for our way of life nor will we waver in its defense”.

I cautioned Africans that Obama will be the president of the United States of America first. Though he talked about partnering with poor countries, I didn’t get any indication that in so doing, the United States of America will embrace the regressive principles that most African leaders tend to uphold. I wonder if regressive African leaders paid attention to the following remark:

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict or blame their society's ills on the West, know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy

Robert Mugabe, are you listening?

I told you, Obama will whack Africa and no evil African president will ever cling to the old Western imperialism rhetoric. If the inaugural speech was the indication, then let’s get ready for change we can believe in.

And I love that.
Photo Credit: Me

Friday, January 16, 2009

RTF: Early In the Morning...

Way back when, I took an Educational Psychology class. In that class, I learned that our intelligence is a combination of two things – nature and nurture. Nature, obviously, is self-explanatory. It is those inert qualities that God has bestowed on us. Nurture, on the other hand, is just the environment which shapes us.

The argument is that if you take two people with equal “natural intelligence”, a separating factor could be the environment that influenced their perception and interpretation of concepts. I guess that’s what makes siblings to be different, for instance.

I believe that culture is one of those things that act as a nurturing agent.

See, one cold winter morning, I received a call from a fellow gentleman. This gentleman happens to be also from Bongoland. In a thousand ways, we share the same background.
The call came in it at around 6:30AM. When I looked at the caller ID, I identified that person who was calling. From my experience in the United State, you typically don’t get calls that early, unless it is something serious. As such my expectation was there was something serious, only to realize it was just a matter that I could have been informed of at 10:00am!

I was ticked off, but that got me thinking….

See, the cultural realities of the American life have affected my reception, perception and interpretation of certain things. From an American perspective, I could have just berated this caller, not for the message but for the timing. I mean, seriously, why would you wake up someone for stuff that could have been discussed later in the day?

That, however, is from one side of the coin.

See, where I grew up (precisely, Shirati, Tarime, Mara, Tanzania, East Africa) it is not surprising for folks to pay a visit to you (especially if you are in a position to resolve their “problem”) early in the morning. The reason, as I got thinking, is that folks in place like Shirati take life on a daily basis. No long term plans, because even if they wanted to have long term plans, life just does not allow it.

Given lack of resources leading folks to live day-to-day, timing is everything. Timing matters. If you have an issue and you know a certain cousin can lend a hand, you better go early before the cousin receives requests for the day!

As I thought of that, I just laughed, for I know that my caller was operating on a default mode. Seriously, how could one shave off a natural tendency acquired in a period of over 40 years in less than five years? It is difficult…and I think those psychologists who identified nurture as a factor in our actions are right.
Photo credit: