Monday, July 29, 2013

Times in the Presidency: The Teleprompter Magic

January Makamba
July 29, 2013

In 2004, I was working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in the Department of Africa and Middle East (before it was divided into two departments) as Foreign Service Officer II. I was an eager civil servant Рoften taking initiative to write unsolicited and unassigned analyses about what is going on in Africa and the Middle East. When I got a wind that our Minister intends to run for President, I took upon myself (with a mix of naivet̩, graduate-student idealism and a bit of courage) to write to him about how he should organize his campaign. I wrote an analysis, put together a campaign organizational chart and so forth. Then I forgot about it and went on about my work.

One day, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, back then Mr. Philemon Luhanjo, who would later become Chief Secretary, called me to tell me that the Minister wants to see me in Arusha (he was travelling to Arusha for East Africa Community meetings). My heart pounced. I took a flight to Arusha and, upon landing, I attended with him the East African Legislative Assembly meeting (and got to see Hon. Harrison Mwakyembe, back then EALA Member, perform on the floor of the Assembly).

Later in the evening, I had a meeting with him. He brought out the papers I wrote and asked me to do a presentation for him. I was very nervous. It was easier to write than to talk about what you have written. Nevertheless, I braved the nervousness, and did my best. He liked what I had put forth.

I was then asked to take a leave of absence from civil service and join his campaign as a campaign aide. I was extremely thrilled.

My main task during the campaign was to accompany him throughout the country, write statements and speeches, organize his correspondences, contribute in strategy, serve as sounding board, do research and so forth. We were only two assistants. I found myself carrying an office in my bag – a laptop and printer, which became battered after the trail in every corner of Tanzania.

It was such a rewarding experience and I cannot be grateful enough to the President for the opportunity.  I got to see EVERY corner of my country. Even more, I got to learn about the challenges we face as a country (one of my roles was to prepare background notes for every rally that the president did. This involved summarizing local issues in ALL of districts of Tanzania so that whenever he speaks, he touches major national themes but also local issues where the rallies were taking place – for instance, if you are in Maswa, you need to mention cotton, cotton ginneries and cotton buyers and how they ought to provide correct weights for farmers’ cotton that they bring there). So, sleep time was work time for me. And I fully enjoyed it.

After the election, the President appointed me as one of his aides. I was sworn-in the cabinet room, during the cabinet meeting, in front of all Ministers. But my work had started even before the election: to participate in preparing his first major speech in the Parliament. The speech was written over time, during the trail, in evenings, where he would speak aloud his vision and I would take notes and share them with others who participated in the speechwriting, and we would fashion together a draft.

We decided that he would use the teleprompter for the speech – the first time ever in Tanzania. Almost everyone in the team was against it but the President was keen. So, on the big day, I went and set up the teleprompter in the Parliament (the old chamber back then). Almost nobody knew what it was. Many people in the team thought that the President was ill-advised to use it. What if it gets stuck? What if something goes wrong? The whole country was watching. Pressure was on me as a champion of teleprompter. But we had a contingency plan, including a hard copy of the speech at the podium. The President was ready. And he delivered a masterpiece.

After the speech, as a custom, one Member of Parliament would give a vote of thanks. This time it was Hon. John Momose Cheyo from Bariadi. In his statement, he said he was gratified that the President talked to the nation – from the heart – for 90 minutes without reading. I slept like a baby on that day. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

TImes in the Presidency: No Cereals Mistakes

Times in the Presidency: No Cereals Mistakes
January Makamba
27 July 2013

Tanzania colors in streets of Riyadh during our visit

In April 2009, the King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, invited the President Kikwete for a visit.

As an aide and speechwriter I was part of the visit and attended meetings as a note-taker. The President arrived in Riyadh around 6pm. Normally, the 89-year old King does not go to the airport to receive his visitors, he instead sends one of the senior Princes.   But, on this occasion, the King came to receive President Kikwete and was standing at the foot of the plane as the President disembarked.

Before the arrival, the advance team had arranged a stay at a Riyadh hotel but we were told that the King had ordered that we stay in one of his palaces. I have never seen such tight security…dogs, armored-vehicles, etc. and I had a butler I did not need.

The visit centered around trade and investments. Saudi firms were keen to look at Tanzania. So, the President did what he does best: pitching Tanzania as an investment destination. He was honest about the challenges and convincing about the opportunities.

We then went for state dinner hosted by the King at the main palace. The dinner was preceded by official talks. It was surprising and refreshing that the dinner was very small – almost private – with about 20 people. The curved walls of the dinning room were literally a single fish and shark-tank – from floor to ceiling. There was no mistake that you were in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  

The later discussion amongst us who advice the President was how to go about with repeatedly expressed interest by the Saudis and later the Qataris to seek huge chunks of land in Tanzania for large investment in agriculture.

Almost all Arab countries, with their fast-growing population and without land for agriculture, were looking into Africa for growing food. The Saudis are unlikely to face oil crisis anytime soon but cereals crisis is beckoning. They grew wheat in the desert but that was depleting desert fresh water aquifers very fast.   

In the next 25 years, world demand for cereals will more likely increase by 50 percent. There are two ways in which this food can be found: by increasing yields in the currently cultivated land or by cultivating new areas. Of all the continents, only Africa has suitable and sizable tracts of uncultivated land.

Food is now a globalised commodity, meaning that its price and supply are dictated by dynamics independent of the whims of sovereignty (not least the weather!). And indeed taste and choices in food depends on many other things beyond necessity (increase in income by the Chinese, as a result of the Chinese economic boom of the last two decades, has made the Chinese eat more meat, which has increased the global demand for feedstock for pork, chicken and cattle which in turn has increased demand and prices for cereals, leading other people to remain hungry). Consequently, the production of food for the global or "local" markets, just like cars and computer chips, follow where inputs are readily cheap (read Africa).

So, as Presidential advisers, if the Saudis and Qataris ask for what amounts to 0.5 percent of 100 million acres of arable land in Tanzania, under which circumstances would you say yes. It is important to note that out of 100 million acres of arable land that we have, only 25 percent is under use, of which 80 percent is under subsistence agriculture.

And you are considering this question at the backdrop of a fall of Madagascar’s government because of a land deal with South Korea, and in the backdrop of a new catchy phrase, “land-grab”, thrown around with gay abandon by everyone.

In recalling my personal notes back then, I wrote that there should be some parameters under which these land-for-agriculture deals should stay within:

1. There should not be displacement of people or dispossession of land as a result of these agreements.

2. It is true that our landownership system (leasing) is seen as anti-investment. But we should not change it to freehold system just to accommodate these deals.

3. There should be local value addition processes (if it is wheat or rice, at least kukoboa and packaging should be done locally by locally-owned factories).

4. There should be development of physical and social infrastructure in and around the farms. CSR projects by farms – a well here, some desks there – will not cut it.

5. There should be some backward and forward linkages - some out-grower activity should exist. We also must insist that the production of fertilizers and other inputs for these farms should be done here and should not be just for exclusive use of these farms.

6. Agricultural research and transfer of agricultural technology and skills should be the main components of these deals.

7. Eventually, as a result of number 6 above, together with access to agricultural financing, locals ought be able to do large-scale commercial farming. Large farms in Tanzania should not exist to create farm laborers. They eventually create large-scale farmers.

8. Finally, the scenarios you do not want to have is that of containers shipping out wheat or rice abroad while you have long lines of people waiting for food in some countries where you see oil rigs offshore but long queues at the petrol stations.

Lesson: in advising the President, honesty and open-mindedness are key attributes. It is a challenge because (i) in working with the President, you know how he thinks and his preferences – so it is so easy to fashion your advice along his line of preferences. That is a huge disservice to him; and (ii) in working with the President, everything is political and the instinct is to protect him and this may cause you to close your mind and not explore other potentially politically risky but high reward ideas.

I was fortunate that President Kikwete is very open-minded. But you will have to be very well prepared to defend your arguments, as he will challenge you – sometimes with angles you hadn’t seen or facts you hadn’t considered. If you withstand the challenge, he will take your views on board.

BTW, on this trip, I flew to Jeddah, drove to Mecca and got to pray there. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Life and Times in the Presidency: When I met Colonel Ghadafi

My Life and Times in the Presidency: When I met Colonel Ghadafi in 2009

January Makamba

July 25, 2013

During my time working for President Kikwete as an aide, I met Colonel Gadhafi aka Brother Leader three times.  One particular occasion was interesting.

It was the beginning of 2009 and President Kikwete was Chair of the African Union. We were heading to Davos for the World Economic Forum and the Colonel asked us to pass by Tripoli (the previous time we saw him at his home town of Sirte – in that trip I managed to buy my Dad three Kanzus which he proudly wear until today and tells everyone that they are from Libya! LOL!).

We landed in Tripoli at about 8pm and were scheduled to see Brother Leader next day at 9am and then depart straight to Davos after our meeting. After checking at the State villas that were organized for us, we got a word that Ghadafi wants to see us that same evening (mostly he works at night, and I am told it is typical of Arab leaders).  So, we went to see him at one of his magnificent houses. I attended the meeting a note-taker. For the most part I failed in the task because of the amazement about the stuff he had to say.

In the meeting, he was consulting President Kikwete in preparation for the next African Union Summit which would take place immediately after Davos. In that Summit, Ghadafi was to take over from President Kikwete as Chair of AU. He wanted President Kikwete, who was to Chair his final Summit, to support the idea of immediately announcing the United States of Africa and the formation of African government. So, he had a list of 54 African Ministers (that is, his fellow Presidents) that were to be announced at the Summit. Mali was to have the Ministry of Culture, Congo Ministry of Forestry, Egypt Ministry of Water and so on. Clearly he had put some thoughts into the idea. And Libya? Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs! The President proved to be a skillful diplomat in patiently listening to all this and disagreeing with his host without seeming so.

After the meeting, which lasted until after midnight, the Colonel offered the President to stay at his residence, saying that he will go stay somewhere else, as he wanted to show respect. Unfortunately we had already checked in the President (and had set up all the necessary support) at another place and it would prove very inconvenient to accept the offer.  We ended up not taking up the offer in a way that did not offend the Colonel.

So, we went back to our place thinking that the next morning is just going to be departure. Not to be. The Colonel wanted to meet again. He asked us to see him at his residence, which was bombed by the Americans in 1980s.  He had pitched a tent in the yard. So, we had a meeting – to carry on with the nights chat – at the tent. Tea was served. He suggested we stay for lunch. We had to stay no, again, without seeming offensive.

Lesson: diplomacy is tough and as President you have to be on top of the game.  In my time working for President Kikwete I was amazed everyday at how good a diplomat he is. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Dear President Obama: A New Africa is Beckoning

A New Africa is Beckoning

By January Makamba - 28 June 2013

Dear President Obama,

Welcome back to Africa – where all humanity began.
You are visiting the continent at its most exciting time. We are in the middle of a transition from the old Africa that most Americans know todate to the new Africa that Africans all along believed it was possible.  The narrative of a Hopeless Continent – a supplicant people in need of saving - has given way to that of a Rising Africa.  GDP has doubled over the past 10 years. Africa’s GDP per capita has crossed the $1,000 threshold for the first time in history. More children are in school than at any time in history. Dictatorships are dwindling. Infant and child mortality rates have been cut by half. The continent has more mobile phones than Europe and North America combined.
 As you arrive here, you will see a lot of things – colours, bright sun, wide smiles and a certain new dynamism. But, as you think about America’s partnership with Africa, please consider how the following trends should shape the partnership between Africa and America:
One, there are many of us: about one billion - a little fewer than the Chinese and Indians. By 2050 there will be 2.2 billion of us, surpassing China and India by far. Also, of the one billion Africans today, seven hundred million are under 30 years old. The median age here is 18.5 years. This scale of growth – about 2.2 percent per annum compared to global average of 1 percent – will have implications on almost everything, and not only in here but also in your own country where the politics of global population control is intense.  

 Some see this demographic reality as scary. We see it as an opportunity – so long as we make smart investments in our people. And there is no smarter investment than education.  As you think about partnership with Africa, a partnership with lasting legacy, think education – skills and competencies to contend with the challenges and requirements of the new millennium.  You have done it before.
 Second, the association of Africa with a village is gone. Africa is leading the world in the creation of a new Urban Millennium. Within our lifetime, Africa will have more people living in urban areas (1.24 billion) than its entire population today (1 billion). Dar es Salaam, where you will visit, will double its population in the next 15 years whereas the Gulf of Guinea will become home to three hundred cities, each with over 100,000 people. Why is this important? Urban Africa provides the fulcrum of Africa’s growth. The 40 percent of Africans living in urban Africa produce 80 percent of its GDP. Cities provide hotbeds for political and social progress or instability. As you think about partnership for Africa’s growth, think cities. The United States is best poised for partnership with Africa in urban creation, planning, and renewal and investments in urban systems – transport, housing, energy and sanitation.   
 Third, you will be photographed more by cellphone cameras than actual photo cameras. This would not have been the case just a decade ago. In 1994, 70 percent of Africans had never heard a telephone ring but, today, of one billion Africans, there are 700 million mobile phone subscribers. This has enhanced financial inclusion, facilitated service delivery and helped lower the cost of doing business. While the mobile revolution has been truly inclusive, broadband access has not. As you push for expansion of broadband for Americans, partnership with Africa in this area will see Africa leapfrog into a new digital age. For every 10 percent increase in broadband penetration, the economy grows by 1 percent, and doubling of internet speed yields an additional 0.3 percent GDP growth. 
 Fourth, as you drive around, you may notice a lot of Chinese people and signage in our streets. Yes, they are here – in big numbers. In the last 10 years, for better or for worse, over one million Chinese moved to Africa – to settle and do business. Why? Because first, they ignored how Africa is covered in the Western media and secondly they saw something that Americans were late in seeing:  Africa is not just a destination for volunteer work and suntanning. It is also a place where returns on investments are almost guaranteed. We are delighted that you will be bringing along with you planeloads of American business people. American businesses can lead the way in showing that foreign investments is not a zero-sum game and that it is possible for businesses to succeed in Africa without paying bribes.
Fifth, you will hear a lot about natural resources and Africans’ quest to benefit more from them. You will hear murmurs that Americans and the Chinese are competing in Africa over Africa’s natural resources. These suspicions may be unfounded but they are a result of history. Not long ago, when America was already free and a democracy, there was an open scramble – among foreign powers – for Africa’s resources; there was King Leopold in the Congo; African countries were business companies owned by dukes in Europe. Some in the continent see this exploitation continuing in different forms – a notion facilitated by the fact that very few Africans have seen the benefits of extraction of natural resources in their countries. Partnership with America should be grounded in building the capacity of Africans to harness their own natural resources responsibly and for the benefit of their own people.   
Finally, over the past 10 years we have seen some good initiatives by American Presidents related to Africa: President Clinton’s Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and President Bush’s President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), to name a few. We are delighted that you have decided to continue some of these. But we are also happy that you have decided to take on some critical issues for Africa’s progress: transparency, through Open Government Partnership (OGP); energy through Power Africa; and agriculture through Feed the Future. The beauty about these new programs is that they can be executed without significant new money from the US government. OGP is about getting African leaders to do what is obvious and that doesn’t cost anything: letting people be informed, as much as possible, about what their governments are up to and giving them a greater voice in influencing government choices. Power Africa and Feed the Future can leverage the experience and capacity of American agriculture and energy firms in partnership with African businesses and governments to do what is clearly profitable and socially good.
 While the general trends of the continent are encouraging, the reality remains that you are visiting a continent that is still the last frontier of human progress. Our economies have grown fast but absolute poverty and inequality stubbornly present. Over a span of 30 years – between 2000 and 2030 - our share of global GDP will climb from a meager 2 percent to 3 percent. Many people are still dying from preventable diseases. High unemployment, particularly among the youth, even the educated ones, endangers social and political stability. There is a huge skills gap. More children are in school than at any time in African history but 50 million children are out of primary and secondary schools. We erect shiny skyscrapers everyday yet 60 percent of city dwellers in African cities live in slums.  Governance institutions still need strengthening. The good news is that there is an emerging crop of new, young African leadership – in politics, private sector and civil society - able and ready to take on these challenges. They are the midwives of a new Africa - a new Africa that understands that aid may be necessary but should not be permanent, and that trade and investments is the future, and that installing a fairer international trade architecture should be our common objective. And we are glad that you have chosen to meet with some of these leaders.

For what it is worth, America’s global leadership remains robust – at least for now. One way to retain and strengthen it in the face of insecure world and a deepening economic and cultural competition is to project it for the good of humanity. And this is the expectation of most Africans – that America shouldn’t befriend a country just for security or strategic concerns but because of advancement of shared values – of freedom, equality, tolerance and human progress.
The Romans used to say ex Africa semper aliquid novi, meaning, Out of Africa, always something new. So, Mr. President, welcome to our Africa.
Mr. January Makamba is a Member of Parliament and Deputy Minister of Communication, Science and Technology in Tanzanian government. He is also the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader and Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow.