Friday, May 29, 2009

How about the badinage...why not, it's friday!

At laast, (reminds me of the first slow song on jan the 20th., danced by the first couple, and at last, our President got to meet with the first african american president of the United States. A lot of expectations already? of course, but we need to quit that behaviour and learn to be dependent. It was an amusing week for a lot of people out here but for Mr cool himself, (prez kikwete) he was as calm as always and just retained a sense of equanimity. Am guessing he got exhausted just by people talking about that week. Not the first time but once again Prez Kikwete was in the heezy!

So, after that loong week and after six months of the year, I wont mind reminiscing, anecdoting and badinaging over a bottle of vintage bubbly. Thank God it's friday. I found this okay place to go for a drink, relax once in a while and some weekends, It's called, 'Recession special'. Their food is amazing, too greasy though and that's why it's amazing!, ah! bwana, who cares if add that avoirdupois, I'll blame on 'Recession' special and not my own laziness and cheapness. Talking cheap, save and all those valuable words especially now, I've been pretty creative during this Recession time. I've been able to slow down on my spending, Yea!, microwave a lot, saves time too, watch TV free online and most important choose Obama stocks. Anything to do with his name, is a good investiment. (don't ask me how this works in Tanzania) share your thoughts.

Also, I realized that learning a foreign language saves more than movies. (Am serious people, the vintage isn't in my head yet) why not get ahead of the Geopolitical curve and study Korean? north korean to be exact, if they have two different languages. North Korea is again doing some muscle flexing, albeit much more modest than in the past. What's up with that Kim dude with his pantsuits? and he looks like he's in the grave already. But, mastering the tongue of Mr Kim could well come to regain some cachet. And if not, you still can order some vintage in Pyongyang.....if you can make it there.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Way Forward

When it comes to the US and Africa, as always, it’s the high drama that’s stealing the headlines. Navy SEAL snipers shot down three Somali pirates and rescued a hostage. Most recently, the first Guantanamo detainee to be tried on US soil happens to be Tanzanian, Ahmed Ghailani.

These stories and the issues that underlie them deserve rigorous in depth discussion perhaps on this forum another time. For now, however, what I have long been wondering about concerning the United States and Africa concerns the bigger picture.

How will US policy toward Africa change under the Obama administration?

This issue was addressed recently at a forum entitled “US-Africa Policy: The Way Forward,” which was hosted by the African Presidential Archives and Research Center (APARC) at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, New York.

Tanzania received exemplary representation from the honorable ambassadors to the US and UN respectively Ombeni Sefue and Augustine Mahiga. (Other distinguished academics, diplomats, and dignitaries also attended, including the former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae.)

Ambassador Sefue noted four points he believes will be critical for the Obama administration’s policy on Africa:

(1) Placing a core group of people who know Africa in key positions
(2) Putting an end to the Washington Consensus and being more multilateral with less ideological conditions placed on trade and aid
(3) Harmonizing coherent defense, political, and economic policies toward Africa
(4) Expanding and improving upon AGOA

On the first point, the administration has already made significant moves, including the appointment of the new US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnnie Carson, a former ambassador to Kenya, Uganda, and Zimbabwe who has also served in numerous other African countries. After attending inauguration of South African president, Jacob Zuma, Carson, as has been widely reported, met with both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to express his deep concern for deteriorating security in Kenya. Other significant appointments include Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, who was a diplomat for Africa during the Clinton administration.

On the second point, Obama has, in general, taken a more multilateral approach in foreign relations, and he quickly lifted the abstinence-only restrictions for funding HIV/AIDS programs. There have also been proposed increases in funding for PEPFAR, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and other organizations. However, the expansion and reform of AGOA and a more cohesive overall policy remain to be fully articulated. Similarly, during a discussion on Somalia, Darfur, the DRC, and Zimbabwe, Ambassador Mahiga noted that past administrations have not adequately addressed conflict resolution in Africa. Nevertheless, he said he remained more than hopeful and confident in the current Obama administration.

“What is dear to Africa is also dear to the United States,” said Ambassador Mahiga at the forum. “We are very encouraged by the sounds and the signals of support we are receiving from the administration.”

Some critics have accused the Obama administration of dragging its feet when it comes to Africa policy. Simply put, some of their expectations may too high as it is so early in his administration and during a time when the US has been facing its worst economic crisis in some 75 years and such daunting foreign issues in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan. As indicated by Mahiga, Sefue, and concrete measures by the administration, a new policy is slowly taking shape. The administration has also announced plans for Obama’s first visit to Africa (Ghana) as president in July.

As I write this entry, President Obama is meeting with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania. We can look ahead to the report of their meeting just as we can look ahead and hope for a new way forward.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Hero?

Africa has to find its own road to prosperity

By Paul Kagame

At recent meetings of the Group of 20 and the International Monetary Fund, world leaders have gathered to discuss the global economic crisis. Unfortunately, it seems that many still believe they can solve the problems of the poor with sentimentality and promises of massive infusions of aid, which often do not materialize. We who live in, and lead, the world’s poorest nations are convinced that the leaders of the rich world and multilateral institutions have a heart for the poor. But they also need to have a mind for the poor.

Dambisa Moyo’s controversial book, Dead Aid, has given us an accurate evaluation of the aid culture today. The cycle of aid and poverty is durable: as long as poor nations are focused on receiving aid they will not work to improve their economies. Some of Ms Moyo’s prescriptions, such as ending all aid within five years, are aggressive. But I always thought this was the discussion we should be having: when to end aid and how best to end it.

Aid has not only often failed to meet its objectives; it has also rarely dealt with the underlying issues of poverty and weak societies. We see this with our neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, 17,000 United Nations peacekeepers – the largest and most expensive presence of its kind in history – treat the symptoms rather than addressing the issues of capacity, self-determination and dignity.

Often, aid has left recipient populations unstable, distracted and more dependent; as Ashraf Ghani, the former finance minister of Afghanistan, has pointed out, it can even sever the relationship between democratically elected leadership and the populace.

Do not get me wrong. We appreciate support from the outside, but it should be support for what we intend to achieve ourselves. No one should pretend that they care about our nations more than we do; or assume that they know what is good for us better than we do ourselves. They should, in fact, respect us for wanting to decide our own fate.

At the same time, as I tell our people, nobody owes Rwandans anything. Why should anyone in Rwanda feel comfortable that taxpayers in other countries are contributing money for our well¬being or development? Rwanda is a nation with high goals and a sense of purpose. We are attempting to increase our gross domestic product by seven times over a generation, which increases per capita incomes fourfold. This will create the basis for further innovation and foster trust, civic-mindedness and tolerance, strengthening our society.

Entrepreneurship is the surest way for a nation to meet these goals. Michael Fairbanks’ book, In The River They Swim, which uses Rwanda as one of its examples, highlights the need to respect local wisdom, build a culture of innovation and create investment opportunities in product development, new distribution systems and innovative branding.

Government activities should focus on supporting entrepreneurship not just to meet these new goals, but because it unlocks people’s minds, fosters innovation and enables people to exercise their talents. If people are shielded from the forces of competition, it is like saying they are disabled.

Entrepreneurship gives people the feeling that they are valued and have meaning, that they are as capable, as competent and as gifted as anyone else. Asking our citizens to compete is the same as asking them to go out into the world on behalf of Rwanda and play their part.

We know this is a tremendous challenge given our status as a land-locked nation emerging from conflict, with few natural resources, little specialized infrastructure and low historical investment in education. But, in fact, we have reasons to be optimistic: we have a clear strategy to export based on sustainable competitive advantages. We sell coffee now for high prices to the world’s most demanding purchasers; our tourism experience attracts the best customers in the world and market research reveals that perceptions of Rwandan tea are improving.

This has resulted in wages in key sectors rising at more than 20 percent on an annual basis. We have cut our aid as a percentage of total GDP by half over the past decade, and last year we grew at more than 11 percent even as the world entered a recession.

While this is encouraging, we know the road to prosperity is a long one. We will travel it with the help of a new school of development thinkers and entrepreneurs, with those who demonstrate they have not just a heart, but also a mind for the poor.

The writer is president of Rwanda.

(Source: The Financial Times)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Awuleth’ Umshini Wami

Bring Me My Mashine Gun. The dawn of new era or the end of South Africa's exceptionalism?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Now We’re All Journalists (or are we?)

After some spirited discussion about the role of the media in Tanzania after my last posting, I thought I would follow up and recommend that everyone read the opinion piece, “The American Press on Suicide Watch,” written by op-ed columnist, Frank Rich, and published in the New York Times May 9.

Here’s a link to the entire story:

Here’s a telling quote: “….news gathering is not to be confused with opinion writing or bloviating — including that practiced here. Opinions can be stimulating and, for the audiences at Fox News and MSNBC, cathartic. We can spend hours surfing the posts of bloggers we like or despise, some of them gems, even as we might be moved to write our own blogs about local restaurants or the government documents we obsessively study online.

But opinions, however insightful or provocative and whether expressed online or in print or in prime time, are cheap. Reporting the news can be expensive. Some of it — monitoring the local school board, say — can and is being done by voluntary “citizen journalists” with time on their hands, integrity and a Web site. But we can’t have serious opinions about America’s role in combating the Taliban in Pakistan unless brave and knowledgeable correspondents (with security to protect them) tell us in real time what is actually going on there. We can’t know what is happening behind closed doors at corrupt, hard-to-penetrate institutions in Washington or Wall Street unless teams of reporters armed with the appropriate technical expertise and assiduously developed contacts are digging night and day. Those reporters have to eat and pay rent, whether they work for print, a TV network, a Web operation or some new bottom-up news organism we can’t yet imagine

Many media watchers have long forecasted the death of the American press as we know it. Rich makes a convincing argument that void will not completely be filled by bloggers and citizen journalists however critical their roles have become.

In the wake of newspaper closings and shrinking mastheads, I have several colleagues who have begun to work for online non-profit news sites. Such sites have sprouted up in numerous cities throughout the country. One example is MinnPost ( in Minnesota. They raise funds just like any NGO. Of course, you have to question if their reporting is biased to the perspectives of their donors. But hasn’t the news always been biased one way or another anyway?

It would be fascinating to see such an enterprise launched in Tanzania.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Random Thoughts

1. Before the political crisis in Kenya last year, Kenya did not have Prime Minister position in its constitution. Instead, the Vice President was the leader of the government business in the Parliament. That position, now held by Raila Odinga, came out of political deal in February 2008. In Zimbabwe, soon after independence, Mugabe reinstated the executive Presidency and Zimbabwe did not have a position of Prime Minister in their books. The position of the Prime Minister, now held by Morgan Tsvangirai, came out of a political deal as well. In South Africa, they do not have the Prime Minister position. The Deputy President or a senior Minister handles government business in the Parliament. Even in mature democracies, it is the the US, the VP handles the Senate. In the UK, only the PM suffices. In our system, we have the Prime Minister and the VP, and of course the executive Presidency. There has been a suggestion that, between the VP and the PM, one could easily accomplish all the tasks of the other.

2. This brings me to the second point: does the posture of the government matters in terms of delivery and fostering a better society. I think it does matter to an extent that all else - particularly, the basics - are settled. And the basics here have nothing to do with [economic] policies but the consensus on our heritage and values and a definition of our common thread, as well as the legitimacy of the institutions of the state, and the agreement over the direction of the country. And these cannot be brought about by a legislation or a constitutional conference. This consensus is found and entrenched in the process of nation-building. It seems to me that Mwalimu, and the generations that came before us, did not finish the process of nation-building. Therefore the hard work of nation-building is still ahead of us. If we are experiencing confusion at the moment, in which everything we have known to be quintessentially Tanzanian is being challenged, we must not worry: these are birth pangs, not death throes. A nation of 50 years is still infant. We may still need to break an egg to make an omelet. Still, we may have to continue to talk about dumping and climate change.

3. 78 percent of Tanzanians do not trust each other, according to a survey taken in 2007. Now, what does this mean? For one, we are missing one of the most important fundamentals of a modern society. Trust enables the cost of "social transactions" between individuals and sections of the society to be minimal - for the markets to develop, for entrepreneurship to thrive, and for "a civil society" to [locally] emerge and play a meaningful role. Without this, we can forget about development. And, linking up to my second point, trust arises based on the commonly shared norms and values. You trust one because you can correctly predict that they will never do what society has deemed unacceptable. The law of the land, however good, is not sufficient to build trust and foster a prosperous society. Honesty, reliability, cooperativeness, hard work, frugality, rationality, a sense of duty to others. Let us work on these - through religion and through family. And let us then dream of a better Tanzania.

4. A few years ago, I was stopped by a traffic police. I had all the papers and everything was okay...except for the "triangle" - that little reflective thing you put on the road, a few yards behind your car, when it breaks down. The police asked me to go with him to the station to pay a fine (20,000 shillings) for not having a triangle. I obliged. But, along the way, it was made very clear to me that I could actually escape the 20,000 fine for, say, 2,000 or 5,000 or 10,000, without a receipt. I did not budge, we went to the station and I paid the full 20,000. Then I told the story to around 9 people - family and friends. 7 of them thought I was an idiot. That I wasted time going to the police station and pay 20,000 while I could have settled the matter right there and then for 2,000 or 5,000. And I know that these 7 individuals are among the noisiest in condemning corruption in our country.

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Economist Took the Gloves off and Went One-One With Tanzania

Yesterday while I was browse on different website tried to find anything new apart of global recession, I found article titled “Waiting for that great leap forward” on the website of The Economist. As I was reading the article I asked my self many questions concern foreign aid. The author start by throwing a punch on Tanzania and foreign aid, “THE country already gets 40% of its government budget in aid, but now it wants even more foreign cash to help it through the economic downturn”
To my humble opinion i found some of the arguments are straight bias, however i strong believe we will not find our way out through foreign aid.
Anyway read the rest below.

Waiting for that great leap forward
May 7th 2009 DAR ES SALAAMFrom The Economist print edition
Worries about one of east Africa’s steadier economies

THE country already gets 40% of its government budget in aid, but now it wants even more foreign cash to help it through the economic downturn. How much is enough? Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete, smiles grimly. “We’re trying to bring down our dependency, but we’re grateful for what we receive.”

With 44m people, Tanzania has often been given the benefit of the doubt simply for being the gentler twin of harsher Kenya, which has 40m. What it lacks in dynamism it makes up for in placidity and a common national identity. It is unlikely to fall apart at elections or any other time.

Its founding party of independence, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM, the Party of the Revolution), formerly the Tanzanian African National Union, known as TANU, still suffocates the country’s ragtag opposition parties with its size and ponderous propaganda. Mr Kikwete is a CCM man; his breakthrough job was as the youthful head of political indoctrination for Tanzania’s armed forces. He will almost certainly be returned to office with a big majority in elections next year. He still charms would-be investors with his sales patter.

Yet those who set up shop in the country are often disappointed. Tanzania, many complain, is a “slow” or even “terrible” place to do business—and “ungrateful” for foreign aid or investment. Even its boosters admit it is wrapped in red tape and lacks skilled workers. Almost everyone says Mr Kikwete is spending too much time burnishing Tanzania’s image abroad and not enough fixing problems at home. Last year he chaired the African Union.

In any event, he hopes that aid will keep Tanzania afloat long enough for its economy eventually to make a great leap forward. Shiny new buildings even in provincial towns, along with new roads and water projects, signal optimism. Politics are stable. A rowdy separatist movement in the island of Zanzibar is quiet for now.

By Tanzanian standards there is a new sense of urgency. The energy ministry says it wants tenders “immediately” for a power station to cover a paralysing shortfall in electricity. Mr Kikwete turns up unannounced at state-owned outfits such as the port and the railways to demand efficiency and rail against corruption. He has also lambasted the country’s “Wabenzi” (those who drive a Mercedes-Benz).

But Mr Kikwete turns mournful when he spells out the effects of the global recession: missed government revenue targets; a cancelled sovereign-bond issue; projects for a nickel plant and a vast aluminium smelter put on hold; revenue from coffee down; cotton hit even harder; tourism suffering as well. An exception is gold, with new finds still to be exploited and the price holding up fairly well.

Tanzania may already, in some respects, be falling behind. A recent Chinese state visit failed to bring much investment. The government in Beijing thinks Kenya, not Tanzania, is the gateway to the mineral wealth of Congo. Tanzania’s two main railways are rickety. The port of Dar es Salaam failed to pinch business from Kenya’s port, Mombasa, when Kenya was in turmoil a year ago. No one seems to know how Tanzania’s main port will hit its target of a tenfold increase in goods traffic by 2030. Tanzania is not even spending all the aid it is given. Last year, $2.4 billion of pledged funds were not disbursed.

Tanzania must also decide whether to integrate more closely into the East African Community (EAC), which includes neighbouring Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. It has dragged its feet over opening its borders and moving towards a common currency, though it recently insisted that a common market would get going next year. It suspects Kenya of using the EAC as a way of grabbing arable Tanzanian land on the cheap. And the country’s tiny middle class fears being swamped in a common market by better-qualified Kenyans and Ugandans. Moreover, the world crisis may bolster old socialists in the CCM who want a return to ujamaa, a failed model of rural collectivisation propounded by Tanzania’s founding president, Julius Nyerere. That would set it back even further

Monday, May 4, 2009

Watching the Watchdogs....

My good friend, a Tanzanian of American descent, Ndugu Jeremia, sent us this fantastic piece about the role of press in our society. His article, which evoked my reflection of the state of our press, reminded of what the great Walter Lippman said nearly 100 years ago, "There can be no liberty for a community which lacks the information by which to detect lies."

I read in this blog an explanation by one Mwanakijiji for the corruption in our press: that it was corrupted by politicians! Interesting stuff. If we let all molesters go free because once upon a time they were molested, we would be living in a strange society, devoid of citizens' responsibility for anything.

Anyway, enjoy Jeremy's piece:


Who will Watch the Watchdogs?

By Jeremy O’Kasick

It’s getting hot. Hotter than a hot season afternoon in Bongoland.

Man, every morning I scan seven news sites and innumerable blogs about Tanzania, and the number of sizzling stories and scandals is staggering. BoT. Richmond. Dowans. DECI. The Zombe trial. Troubles in Tarime. That radar rip-off keeps coming back to bite. Mengi sounds off every other day about corruption.

Almost ten years ago, I spent a year at Habari Corporation while researching Tanzania’s media as a Fulbright scholar. As some may recall, those were the days when Jenerali Ulimwengu blazed the trail of independent media. Each week, we read the Rai and debated the country’s pressing issues. As a thank you for his efforts, of course, Ulimwengu received the shocking and bogus news that, indeed, after a lifetime of service for his country, certain Tanzanians determined that he wasn’t Tanzanian anymore.

By the skin of his teeth, he survived that debacle and went on to form a new company, Raia Mwema Publications, which is now just one of many strident independent news and opinion sources. Tanzania’s media has emerged as having more press freedom and voices than all of its East African neighbors.

In the United States, we often call the media “the fourth estate,” and truly investigative publications sometimes go by the name, “the watchdog press.” These days, especially with the proliferation of blogs, online rants, and media that inundates us from every possible angle 24 hours a day, I often explore sources that analyze and criticize the media as much as I read established and emerging news sources themselves.

It raises a question relevant to Tanzania’s press today: Who will watch the watchdogs? What sources, absent of bias, as much as that is actually possible, will truly examine news stories and even news blogs and take them to task if they are at fault? If anyone can point me to some examples, I will be overjoyed to take a look at them. Such media is becoming all the more critical, especially in the run up to the 2010 elections.

What I love about Tanzanian blogs and emerging news sources is how they have furthered critical debates about the country, uncovered corruption scandals, and given a voice to young energetic people who couldn’t have dreamed of freely expressing their ideas twenty or even ten years ago.

What boils my blood is the self-righteousness of many bloggers and their convictions, as some believe they have the answers to all our ills and condemn anyone who disagrees with them in the slightest. Other tabloids seem to have sprouted up for the sole purpose of slandering groups and individuals. Sometimes the facts are drowned out by the increasing and deafening noise of ten thousand opinions. We listen less and less and create clamor more and more.

The true power of the media has never been in answers and opinions. It all starts and comes down to the questions and the facts. Question your government. Question the opposition. Question the media. Question me. Question yourself. We’re all flawed and full of foolishness. Find the facts.

Almost every night, I watch the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He made a career out of turning news and social analysis into comedy and satire. During the Bush administrations, he became a media icon for standing up against what many believed to be gross injustices but felt impelled to follow the in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

In his media analysis, Stewart has never pulled punches whether it’s CNN or FOX, the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. His guests range from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia to actor and singer, Jaime Foxx, from the most conservative to the most liberal members of government. He would be the first to admit that his show is about comedy and entertainment with a left-leaning bias.

Everyone wondered when President Obama took office, would Stewart run out of jokes and be out of job? Not at all. Stewart has kept up the scrutiny and the laughter at the expense of everyone, especially the sensationalist media but starting with self-deprecating jibes aimed at himself. He watches the watchdogs and makes us laugh at them using facts and their own words against them.

Such voices have always been alive in Tanzania. (Who hasn’t cracked up about the political cartoons in Mwananchi or Nipashe?) So I look forward to the mornings when we can read about more corruption being exposed and more in-depth analysis of the press its biases. Maybe we can all have a good laugh about it, too.