Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tanzania: Stories of Life

Ambassador Andrew Young will be discussing his new documentary about Tanzania on CNN's Inside Africa program. The documentary is part of the series known as “Andrew Young presents.” The quarterly series of television specials are syndicated across the U.S. and focus on positive stories overlooked by the mainstream media.

Ambassador Young describes the latest edition as a documentary that showcases one of Africa's most beautiful countries, quite literally the cradle of civilization... a nation with a functioning Democracy that has enjoyed over four decades of uninterrupted peace since independence.

Click here for more information on the documentary

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mwalimu celebrated in scotland

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hon. Bernard Membe (MP) is at the Edinburgh University, Scotland for the commemoration ceremony of the 10th anniversary of Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere's death.

This commemorative event was attended by tens of African dignitaries including H.E Ali Hassan Mwinyi, former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Mr. Joseph Butiku, Chief Executive Officer of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, H.E Mwanaidi Sinare Majaar, Tanzania High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, the vibrant Tanzania community in Scotland, scholars, academicians from Edinburgh University and other invited guests.

Participants discussed Mwalimu Nyerere’s life, his time as a student at the Edinburgh University, legacy and the inauguration of the Nyerere scholarships at the Centre of African Studies.

Hon. Membe (MP) also launched a publication that contains a diverse range of articles about Nyerere’s legacy titled Julius Kambarage Nyerere: Life Times Legacy published to celebrate the life of Mwalimu Nyerere by the First Magazine Publishers of London. Amongst articles in that publication are Mwalimu Nyerere as I knew Him by H.E Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Second President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
Others are Memories of Julius Nyerere by H.E Benjamin W. Mkapa, third President of the United Republic of Tanzania; Beloved Son of Africa, by H.E Joachim Chissano, former President of Mozambique; Mwalimu Nyerere and African Unity, by Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim, Chairman of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation and former OAU Secretary General.

Others who contributed articles in the publication are Mzee Rashid Mfaume Kawawa, Mr. Joseph Sinde Warioba, Judge Mark Bomani, Brig. Gen (Rtd) Hashim Mbita, Dr. Thomas Molony, Dr. Andrew Coulson, Mr. Pius Msekwa, H.E Mwanaidi Sinare, Dr. Maria Kamm and many more.
Afterwards, Hon. Membe (MP) will unveil the Millennium Plaque in honour of Mwalimu Nyerere.

Today the University of Edinburgh will host an Edinburgh-Tanzania day in the Chrystal Macmillan Building (CMB) to showcase some of the exciting research and teaching relationship that exist between the University and the United Republic of Tanzania.
Tomorrow, Wednesday 11 November, the University will also host a Marie-Aude Fouéré of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, from the Centre for African Studies, who will be talking about Mwalimu Nyerere and commemoration in the contemporary Tanzania.

mortgage financing in Tanzania, is it the right path to alleviate abject poverty?

Dear all,

Could you read and assess and if possible debate how property and land ownership could be used as collateral for mortgage financing in Tanzania and whether it is the right path to alleviate abject poverty.I wrote this article to establish other perspectives on development challenges.

The act, unit title act number 16 “The mortgage financing (special division provision )” act Number 17 of 2008 was enacted . Later this year,financial processes will start under the supervision of bank of Tanzania.

The act enables interested indigenous Tanzanians and others to acquire loans from banks and financial institutions for mortgage financing. This shows that we are entering or have entered into an era of property and credit markets.(credit cards?)

Could the property ownership be the answer to problems of a poor country like Tanzania? Are people really poor as they look? The problem here is not to have secured legal title to our homes and Land.

Without legal title to your home, you can not use tittle deeds as collateral to borrow money and if you can not borrow money then you can not raise capital you need to start up a business for example. Part of the problem for a poor country like Tanzania is bureaucratic nightmare to secure legal title to your property. It can take months sometimes years.scarcity of financial infrastructures,experience and skills and poor financial and enterpreneur knowledge among people eg APR,.etc

Most people use alternative ways for that purpose by lobbying the government and become freeholder ,some on leasehold(100 years?) where on lease term maturity ownership is attained. Find out more about our Land registry rules and it the time to overhaul the system?.Will Kenyans exploit advantages on this?

Now,to empasize in bringing finance life to our dead capital is key to providing the poor with prosperous future.However,there seem to be flaw on the theory that owning a property could ritually make it easier for people to borrow money. It is evidently seen that very few manage to get mortgages and seemed unfair at times.

Indeed,the reality is owning a property does not give you a financial security but that of your creditors/lenders. Real security comes from having regular stream of income example employment income,dividends,savings etc. So for this reason, it is probably not necessary for every entrepreneur in our country to take out mortgage on their homes.

Infact,property ownership may not be the key to wealth generation at all. People could borrow money with or without security. This led to a personification of an extraordinary new financial movement know as Microfinance.Have you heard of JK billions?these are somewhat concessional loans however,do they prepare them competatively?ie with commercial loans(30%APR from CRDB).

Nevertheless,Microfinance is regarded as economic magic bullet since one could assess transformation it brings to entrepreneurs of third world countries.

Most business and people could access loans provided by financial intermediaries although there are complaints on the credit approval systems,too long tedious process. The problem is differences in credit ratings and credit worthiness of people. The risk of non repayment(toxic debts?) of a loan among men is higher than women the study shows. No offence,sometimes microfinance is regarded to have female traits as lenders realise women promptness.

This is when most people say it is time to change a catch phrase that as safe as a house to as safe as housewives. Likewise, it could be a mistake to assume that microfinance as a magic bullet that just giving out loans will not necessarily consign poverty to a museum but betting everything on the house will not do that either.

All financial literacy may be rampant but some how people in the west were confined to a branch of economics which is Property market as they regarded as one way betting except that it was proven wrong. we saw and still see house prices fluctuating the world over, from London to New York to Tokyo.

Therefore, encouraging home ownership may well create political constituents for capitalism and may well distort capital market by persuading people to bet their houses. It is true that people need to borrow money let say to start up businesses,to finance their projects, buy expensive assets looks dangerous to lull them to stacking everything as far as risk free property is concerned. The key is to strike a balance between debt and income.

We were on the brink of financial meltdown which was started buy problems on housing market in the US. Someone could remember firms like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac which eventually were recapitalised to avoid total property collapse.

Therefore, Tanzania on the verge of embarking into property market, should have every tool to avoid consequences .I know we are donor dependent country and west(IMF) has significant influence and the goverment finds it hard to account to its people as their independence is subjective due to overdependency.It is unlikely Tanzania will be prone to any crisis on its own except when her microeconomics policies are not integral with west.

(John) UK

Monday, October 12, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

You don't have to have a title or be "fulani" to make a difference.

How a Malawian teenager harnessed the power of the wind.

(Article by Mark Frauenfelder of make magazine)

William Kamkwamba’s parents couldn’t afford the $80 yearly tuition for their son’s school. The boy sneaked into the classroom anyway, dodging administrators for a few weeks until they caught him. Still emaciated from the recent deadly famine that had killed friends and neighbors, he went back to work on his family’s corn and tobacco farm in rural Malawi, Africa.

With no hope of getting the funds to go back to school, William continued his education by teaching himself, borrowing books from the small library at the elementary school in his village. One day, when William was 14, he went to the library searching for an English-Chichewa dictionary to find out what the English word “grapes” meant, and came across a fifth-grade science book called Using Energy. Describing this moment in his autobiography, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (co-written with Bryan Mealer), William wrote, “The book has since changed my life.”

Using Energy described how windmills could be used to generate electricity. Only two percent of Malawians have electricity, and the service is notoriously unreliable. William decided an electric windmill was something he wanted to make. Illuminating his house and the other houses in his village would mean that people could read at night after work. A windmill to pump water would mean that they could grow two crops a year rather than one, grow vegetable gardens, and not have to spend two hours a day hauling water. “A windmill meant more than just power,” he wrote, “it was freedom.”

For an educated adult living in a developed nation, designing and building a wind turbine that generates electricity is something to be proud of. For a half-starved, uneducated boy living in a country plagued with drought, famine, poverty, disease, a cruelly corrupt government, crippling superstitions, and low expectations, it’s another thing altogether. It’s nothing short of monumental.

William scoured trash bins and junkyards for materials he could use to build his windmill. With only a couple of wrenches at his disposal, and unable to afford even nuts and bolts, he collected things that most people would consider garbage—slime-clogged plastic pipes, a broken bicycle, a discarded tractor fan—and assembled them into a wind-powered dynamo. For a soldering iron, he used a stiff piece of wire heated in a fire. A bent bicycle spoke served as a size adapter for his wrenches.

Months later, in front of a crowd of disbelievers who had scoffed at him for behaving strangely, William lashed his machine to the top of a 16-foot tower made from blue gum tree branches. As the blades began turning in the breeze, a car light bulb in William’s hand started to glow. In the weeks that followed, William went on to wire his house with four light bulbs and two radios, installing switches made from rubber sandals, and scratch-building a circuit breaker to keep the thatch roof of his house from catching fire.

He begged his parents to send him to school—he had big dreams for modernizing his village and needed to learn more math, physics, and electricity to realize them—but they barely had enough money to feed him and his five sisters.

William and his windmill remained a local curiosity for a number of months, until the head of a national teacher’s organization saw the windmill and recognized the boy’s accomplishment as something extraordinary. A media firestorm ensued, with newspaper articles, blog posts, radio stories, and a presentation at TED Africa in Tanzania (TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design), where William, who didn’t know about laptop computers and had never heard of Google, discovered airplanes, mattresses, hotels, air conditioning, and the mind-boggling concept of having as much food as you wanted whenever you wanted it. Befriended by Tom Rielly, TED’s irrepressible and well-connected partnership director, William was taken on a tour of the United States, where he met many high-tech millionaires who were charmed by the instantly likable underdog who never complained about the lousy cards he got dealt in the game of life. They happily contributed to William’s plans to electrify, irrigate, and educate his village, as well as pay his tuition at the prestigious African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg.

With so many tales of bloody hopelessness coming out of Africa, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind reads like a novel with a happy ending, even though it’s just the beginning for this remarkable young man, now 21 years old. I have no doubt that William—who is rapidly becoming a symbol of promise and possibility for the people of Africa—will be leading the way.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Kadhi courts debate in Tanzania and the ‘primacy’ of the secular state in East Africa

The state and religion in East Africa have never been completely separate. There is a Judeo-Christian heritage in common law and a strong faith-based education and socialization process of post-colonial elites, and development processes. However, religious leaders in Kenya and Tanzania are demanding more and more explicit acknowledgement of religious institutions in their national Constitutions.

In recent months various religious leaders have made a case for explicit creation of religious courts in Tanzania or the removal of constitutional guarantees on Kadhi courts, or the creation of a Christian equivalent of a Kadhi’s court in Kenya. Both demands have been made in a significant political context: constitution-making process for Kenya, and post-election politics in Tanzania.

During the 2005 election campaign Tanzania’s largest party, CCM, promised that should they be returned to government by the voters, they would get to work on establishing Islamic Courts in the country. CCM won the vote. Tanzania’s Muslims are still waiting for this pledge to be fulfilled.

In his ministerial budget presentation for 2009, the Minister for Constitutional Affairs and Justice, Mathias Chikawe, announced that while the government has been trying to incorporate ‘Islamic principles’ into existing laws, Kadhi courts did not feature in the government’s agenda.

This provoked an angry reaction from the Islamic community with some accusing the government of flip-flopping on its campaign promise. The Tanzania Muslim Council threatened CCM with a loss of votes in future elections. During a Parliament question and answer session, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told legislators that his government would not be pressured, especially since the issue may lead to divisive debates in the country. Nevertheless, Muslim organizations maintained their push for what they believe to be a just demand with plans to protest against the government’s decision.

While publicly demonstrating resolve, privately senior figures within CCM were concerned that the groundswell of anger amongst Muslims may cost the party in the local elections to be held in late 2009 this year. Such fears proved well founded after news broke that leaders within the Muslim community were mobilizing for nationwide protests.

The government engineered what appeared to be a truce by announcing the formation of a joint committee of Muslim leaders and civil servants to find ways to resolve the issue. This followed a meeting between the Prime Minister and the country’s most influential sheikhs in the country, after which Chief Mufti Issa bin Shaaban Simba urged his fellow Muslims to be patient and not to allow anger to govern their decisions.

However, parliament continued to be rocked by debate, with several MPs warning against the inclusion of religion in legal matters arguing that such a decision could lead to a Rwanda-style bloodshed. Speaking at a campaign rally in Mwanza, the Civic United Front (CUF) Chairman Prof. Ibrahim Lipumba attacked President Kikwete, saying that the government’s u-turn led to a rancorous and divisive tone in Tanzania on the Kadhi courts issue. Various senior figures within CCM added fuel to the fire by telling reporters that those who read into the 2005 election manifesto a promise to establish Kadhi courts were confused and in the process they revealed the divisions this issue has exposed within the party itself.

The European Union injected itself into the middle of the debate after the head of the EU Commission in the country, Ambassador Tim Clarke, implored the government to remember the secular foundations laid down by Mwalimu Nyerere when contemplating the Kadhi courts issue. Ambassador Clarke went on to hope that Tanzanians will retain the strict separation of Church and State as envisioned by Mwalimu Nyerere, for it has served the country well by making it the beacon of peace in East Africa. Kenya’s High Commissioner to Tanzania also advised against the establishment of Kadhi Courts.

Are East Africans tired of living under secular states? Do religious courts erode national unity in East Africa? What is the significance in the region of the Muslim demand for Kadhi’s courts and the Christian backlash against such demands? Are these demands by religious leaders an explicit call for a religious state?


Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Danger of a Single Story

We featured her in this blog last year. She continues to be an inspiration. Listen in.

Friday, September 18, 2009

God Bless Kenya!


-World Economic Forum on Africa 2010 will take place in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
-The 20th meeting on Africa of the Forum will be held from 5 to 7 May 2010

Geneva, Switzerland, 18 September 2009 – The World Economic Forum announced today that Tanzania will host the 2010 World Economic Forum on Africa in Dar es Salaam from 5 to 7 May.

“The World Economic Forum on Africa is an important opportunity to take the pulse each year of the most influential of Africa’s stakeholders. We look forward to holding the meeting in Tanzania at a time when the whole East Africa region is expected to experience stronger growth,” said Andre Schneider, Managing Director, World Economic Forum.

President Jakaya M. Kikwete of Tanzania echoed his enthusiasm: “It is an honour for Tanzania to host the 2010 World Economic Forum on Africa. We are looking forward to welcoming the community, which I am confident will continue to make important contributions in our collective quest for a better world. It is heartening to see the positive impact that the World Economic Forum has on key issues of global concern. This unique gathering regularly convenes a very diverse group of friends of the continent who are united in their optimism of what Africa can, must and will achieve.”

Katherine Tweedie, Director and Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum, placed the development in its historical context: “2010 is a special year for the community. Not only will it be the 20th anniversary of the World Economic Forum on Africa, it is also the first time that the Forum’s Africa meeting will be held in East Africa.”

“The World Economic Forum on Africa has historically brought together the most respected and influential leaders in business, government, civil society, media and academia, and enabled them to contribute towards making Africa a better place and to improving the lives of all Africans. We are excited and supportive of the move to take the community to Tanzania, and we are confident that it will be a success,” added Patrice Motsepe, Executive Chairman, African Rainbow Minerals Ltd (ARM) and a member of the Forum’s International Business Council.

Motsepe is also a member of the Forum’s Africa Circle which includes leaders who have taken part in the Africa meeting for 10 or more years. Other members of the Africa Circle include former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki; Trevor Manuel, Minister of the National Planning Commission (NPC) of South Africa; Reuel Khoza, Chairman of the Nedbank Group; Former President of Mozambique and current Chairperson of the Africa Forum for Former African Heads of State, Joaquim Alberto Chissano; Maria Ramos, Chief Executive Officer of Absa Group; and Simba Makoni of Makonsult who is a former Minister of Finance for Zimbabwe.

The World Economic Forum on Africa takes place over three days and is renowned for its informal style that engenders frank and open conversation among the most influential leaders with a stake in the region. The 2009 gathering was hosted in Cape Town by newly elected President Jacob Zuma of South Africa.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Norman Borlaug

In reading about agriculture and agriculture revolution, I severally stumbled upon the name of Norman Borlaug. The Atlantic Magazine did a brilliant profile of him in 1997. You can read it here

Prof. Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work on hunger, has died at the age of 95. His work and his methods has led to an interesting debate for those interested in agriculture policy. His legacy will forever remain with us. Below is his obituary by the New York Times. In understanding his work, we can better understand the challenges we face in dealing with hunger and in transforming our agriculture.

Norman Borlaug, 95, Dies; Led Green Revolution

By JUSTIN GILLIS - The New York Times

Norman E. Borlaug, the plant scientist who did more than anyone else in the 20th century to teach the world to feed itself and whose work was credited with saving hundreds of millions of lives, died Saturday night. He was 95 and lived in Dallas.

The cause was complications from cancer, said Kathleen Phillips, a spokeswoman for Texas A&M University, where Dr. Borlaug had served on the faculty since 1984.

Dr. Borlaug’s advances in plant breeding led to spectacular success in increasing food production in Latin America and Asia and brought him international acclaim. In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

He was widely described as the father of the broad agricultural movement called the Green Revolution, though decidedly reluctant to accept the title. “A miserable term,” he said, characteristically shrugging off any air of self-importance.

Yet his work had a far-reaching impact on the lives of millions of people in developing countries. His breeding of high-yielding crop varieties helped to avert mass famines that were widely predicted in the 1960s, altering the course of history. Largely because of his work, countries that had been food deficient, like Mexico and India, became self-sufficient in producing cereal grains.

“More than any other single person of this age, he has helped provide bread for a hungry world,” the Nobel committee said in presenting him with the Peace Prize. “We have made this choice in the hope that providing bread will also give the world peace.”

The day the award was announced, Dr. Borlaug, vigorous and slender at 56, was working in a wheat field outside Mexico City when his wife, Margaret, drove up to tell him the news. “Someone’s pulling your leg,” he replied, according to one of his biographers, Leon Hesser. Assured that it was true, he kept on working, saying he would celebrate later.

The Green Revolution eventually came under attack from environmental and social critics who said it had created more difficulties than it had solved. Dr. Borlaug responded that the real problem was not his agricultural techniques, but the runaway population growth that had made them necessary.

“If the world population continues to increase at the same rate, we will destroy the species,” he declared.

Traveling to Norway, the land of his ancestors, to receive the award, he warned the Nobel audience that the struggle against hunger had not been won. “We may be at high tide now, but ebb tide could soon set in if we become complacent and relax our efforts,” he said. Twice more in his lifetime, in the 1970s and again in 2008, those words would prove prescient as food shortages and high prices caused global unrest.

His Nobel Prize was the culmination of a storied life in agriculture that began when he was a boy growing up on a farm in Iowa, wondering why plants grew better in some places than others. His was also an unlikely career path, one that began in earnest near the end of World War II, when Dr. Borlaug walked away from a promising job at DuPont, the chemical company, to take a position in Mexico trying to help farmers improve their crops.

The job was part of an assault on hunger in Mexico that was devised in Manhattan, at the offices of the Rockefeller Foundation, with political support in Washington. But it was not a career choice calculated to lead to fame or honor.

Indeed, on first seeing the situation in Mexico for himself, Dr. Borlaug reacted with near despair. Mexican soils were depleted, the crops were ravaged by disease, yields were low and the farmers could not feed themselves, much less improve their lot by selling surplus.

“These places I’ve seen have clubbed my mind — they are so poor and depressing,” he wrote to his wife after his first extended sojourn in the country. “I don’t know what we can do to help these people, but we’ve got to do something.”

The next few years were ones of toil and privation as Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues, with scant funds or equipment, set to work improving yields in tropical crop varieties.

He spent countless hours hunched over in the blazing Mexican sun as he manipulated tiny wheat blossoms to cross different strains. To speed the work, he set up winter and summer operations in far-flung parts of Mexico, logging thousands of miles over poor roads. He battled illness, forded rivers in flood, dodged mudslides and sometimes slept in tents.

He was by then a trained scientist holding a doctoral degree in plant diseases. But as he sought to coax better performance from the wheats of Mexico, he relied on a farm boy’s instinctive feel for the plants and the soil in which they grew.

“When wheat is ripening properly, when the wind is blowing across the field, you can hear the beards of the wheat rubbing together,” he told another biographer, Lennard Bickel. “They sound like the pine needles in a forest. It is a sweet, whispering music that once you hear, you never forget.”

Norman Ernest Borlaug was born on March 25, 1914, in his grandfather’s farmhouse near the tiny settlement of Saude, in northeastern Iowa. Growing up in a stalwart community of Norwegian immigrants, he trudged across snow-covered fields to a one-room country school, coming home almost every day to the aroma of bread baking in his mother’s oven.

He was a high-spirited boy of boundless curiosity. His sister, Charlotte Culbert, recounted in an interview in 2008 in Cresco, Iowa, that he would whistle aloud as he milked the cows, and pester his parents and grandparents with questions. “He’d wonder why in some areas the grass would be so green, and then over here it wouldn’t be,” Mrs. Culbert recalled.

At the time, most farm boys dropped out of school. But Norman’s grandfather Nels Borlaug, regretting his own scant education, urged his grandson to keep going. Norman worked his way through the University of Minnesota during the Great Depression. More than once in those desperate years he encountered townspeople in Minneapolis on the verge of starvation, which sharpened his interest in the problems of food production.

He first studied forestry, but fell under the influence of a legendary expert in plant diseases, Elvin C. Stakman, who encouraged him to switch to the broader field of plant pathology. After earning a doctorate in the field, he took a job with DuPont in 1942 and worked on chemical compounds useful in the war. But Professor Stakman helped persuade him to join the Rockefeller Foundation’s Mexican hunger project in 1944.

Dr. Borlaug’s initial goal was to create varieties of wheat adapted to Mexico’s climate that could resist the greatest disease of wheat, a fungus called rust. He accomplished that within a few years by crossing Mexican wheats with rust-resistant varieties from elsewhere.

His insistence on breeding in two places, the Sonoran desert in winter and the central highlands in summer, imposed heavy burdens on him and his team, but it cut the time to accomplish his work in half. By luck, the strategy also produced wheat varieties that were insensitive to day length and thus capable of growing in many locales, a trait that would later prove of vital significance.

The Rockefeller team gradually won the agreement of Mexican farmers to adopt the new varieties, and wheat output in that country began a remarkable climb. But these developments turned out to be a mere prelude to Dr. Borlaug’s main achievements.

By the late 1940s, researchers knew they could induce huge yield gains in wheat by feeding the plants chemical fertilizer that supplied them with extra nitrogen, a shortage of which was the biggest constraint on plant growth. But the strategy had a severe limitation: beyond a certain level of fertilizer, the seed heads containing wheat grains would grow so large and heavy, the plant would fall over, ruining the crop.

In 1953, Dr. Borlaug began working with a wheat strain containing an unusual gene. It had the effect of shrinking the wheat plant, creating a stubby, compact variety. Yet crucially, the seed heads did not shrink, meaning a small plant could still produce a large amount of wheat.

Dr. Borlaug and his team transferred the gene into tropical wheats. When high fertilizer levels were applied to these new “semidwarf” plants, the results were nothing short of astonishing.

The plants would produce enormous heads of grain, yet their stiff, short bodies could support the weight without falling over. On the same amount of land, wheat output could be tripled or quadrupled. Later, the idea was applied to rice, the staple crop for nearly half the world’s population, with yields jumping several-fold compared with some traditional varieties.

This strange principle of increasing yields by shrinking plants was the central insight of the Green Revolution, and its impact was enormous.

By the early 1960s, many farmers in Mexico had embraced the full package of innovations from Dr. Borlaug’s breeding program, and wheat output in the country had soared sixfold from the levels of the early 1940s.

Urgent queries began to pour in from other poor countries, for they were caught in a bind. After World War II, the introduction of basic sanitation in many developing countries caused death rates to plunge, but birth rates were slow to follow. As a result, the global population had exploded, putting immense strain on food supplies.

On the Indian subcontinent in particular, a crisis developed. The population was growing so much faster than farm output that it was not clear how the masses could be fed. In the mid-1960s, huge grain imports were required to avert starvation.

At the invitation of the Indian and Pakistani governments, Dr. Borlaug offered his advice. He met resistance at first from senior agricultural experts steeped in tradition, but as the food situation worsened, the objections faded. Soon, India and Pakistan were ordering shiploads of Dr. Borlaug’s wheat seeds from Mexico.

One vital shipment through the Port of Los Angeles was delayed by the Watts riots of 1965 in that city, and Dr. Borlaug spent hours yelling on the phone to get it through.

Indian and Pakistani farmers took up the new varieties, receiving fertilizer and other aid from their governments. Just as in Mexico, harvests soared: the Indian wheat crop of 1968 was so bountiful that the government had to turn schools into temporary granaries.

As with the Mexican effort, the Rockefeller Foundation and other donors set up a project in the Philippines to work on rice. It led to the creation of semidwarf varieties that also caused rice yields to soar. Chinese scientists ultimately followed in the footsteps of Western researchers, using semidwarf varieties to establish food security in China and setting the stage for its rise as an industrial power. And Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues helped spread the new crop varieties to additional countries of Latin America, notably Colombia, Ecuador, Chile and Brazil.

Dr. Borlaug’s later years were partly occupied by arguments over the social and environmental consequences of the Green Revolution. Many critics on the left attacked it, saying it displaced smaller farmers, encouraged overreliance on chemicals and paved the way for greater corporate control of agriculture.

In a characteristic complaint, Vandana Shiva, an Indian critic, wrote in 1991 that “in perceiving nature’s limits as constraints on productivity that had to be removed, American experts spread ecologically destructive and unsustainable practices worldwide.”

Dr. Borlaug declared that such arguments often came from “elitists” who were rich enough not to worry about where their next meal was coming from. But over time, he acknowledged the validity of some environmental concerns, and embraced more judicious use of fertilizers and pesticides. He was frustrated throughout his life that governments did not do more to tackle what he called “the population monster” by lowering birth rates.

He remained a vigorous man into his 90s, serving for many years on the faculty of Texas A&M and continuing to do vital agricultural work. In recent years, he marshaled efforts to tackle a new variety of rust that is threatening the world’s wheat crop.

Dr. Borlaug’s wife of 69 years, the former Margaret Gibson, died in 2007. He is survived by a sister, Charlotte Borlaug Culbert; a daughter, Jeanie Borlaug Laube; a son, William Borlaug; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren.

Gary H. Toenniessen, director of agricultural programs for the Rockefeller Foundation, said in an interview that Dr. Borlaug’s great achievement was to prove that intensive, modern agriculture could be made to work in the fast-growing developing countries where it was needed most, even on the small farms predominating there.

By Mr. Toenniessen’s calculation, about half the world’s population goes to bed every night after consuming grain descended from one of the high-yield varieties developed by Dr. Borlaug and his colleagues of the Green Revolution.

“He knew what it was they needed to do, and he didn’t give up,” Mr. Toenniessen said. “He could just see that this was the answer.”

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Big ambitions, big question-marks

Article off The Economist regarding EAC.

The idea of a United States of East Africa is less far-fetched than it was

WHAT exactly is “East Africa” these days? Certainly, the parts of old British East Africa—Uganda, Tanzania (first a German colony) and Kenya. They have trodden very different paths since colonial days. Uganda has had coups, turmoil under Milton Obote, bloody convulsions under Idi Amin, and long spells of civil strife. Under Julius Nyerere, an incompetent or saintly authoritarian (depending on who you ask), Tanzania strove for a socialist ideal that kept its people plodding and poor but united and peaceful. Kenya was more dynamic and worldly, but more violent and corrupt. It may now be the least stable of the trio.

In 1967 these three founded the East African Community (EAC) with a view to federation. Little progress was made; the EAC collapsed in 1977, to general rejoicing among Kenyans, who reckoned they were carrying the other two. In 1999, however, the project was revived. In 2007 it even expanded to include Burundi and Rwanda. Many still doubt whether a European Union-style federation can ever be achieved in the region, despite the EAC’s promise to create a single currency by 2015 and to make a customs union work. But recent developments have made further integration more likely.

Tanzania has usually been the one to put the brakes on the EAC, fearing it will be overrun with land speculators and better-educated Kenyans and Ugandans. But Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete, now says his people should stop moaning and prepare for a common market. The head of Tanzania’s tiny stock exchange reckons there could be a single east African version in a few years. Work is already under way to create a common trading system.

If Tanzania has lagged behind, Uganda has usually encouraged the federal idea, not least because its president, Yoweri Museveni, has long nurtured a wish to end his career as the EAC’s first president.

Paul Kagame, president of tiny, landlocked Rwanda, is also keen to press ahead. His recent rapprochement with Congo, Rwanda’s vast, ramshackle neighbour to the west, was made in the hope of increasing trade via the fledgling EAC’s market. He is now intent on adding value to Congolese raw materials and shipping them to the world market through the EAC, too.

Congo’s government seems willing. China, by some counts the biggest investor in the region, plainly wants Congo’s timber, iron ore and other minerals shipped across the Indian Ocean via the EAC.

For that and other reasons, Kenya, for its part, wants to build a new deep-sea port near the island of Lamu, close to the border with Somalia. Kenyan officials have so far brushed aside concerns for the mangrove swamps and nearby marine sanctuary. They say the port, refinery and new city will be built on the mainland to preserve Lamu’s heritage and tourist industry. The hope is for roads and railways to Mogadishu, Addis Ababa and Kigali and a pipeline bringing in Ugandan and south Sudanese oil. Funds would flow in from Kuwait and other Arab investors. This would link up east Africa as never before, and a single currency and a customs union would then make much more sense.

And why should an East African federation stop with the club’s existing member countries? If defined by the area in which the lingua franca of the Swahili language is used, the range of lorries heading out of the Kenyan port of Mombasa, and the magnet of Nairobi as a hub, east Africa spreads into Ethiopia and includes a chunk of Somalia, a swathe of east Congo, a strip of northern Mozambique and all of southern Sudan, which could become an independent country in 2011, if its people vote in a promised referendum to secede.

The EAC already has 126m people. If it expands, it could add as many as 120m more to that number, making it more than twice as populous as Africa’s 28 smallest countries combined—enough, its backers argue, to make a bigger EAC very attractive to foreign investors. The EAC says it would negotiate better deals with the rich world than individual African countries can.

Local businessmen are still sceptical. They argue that the EAC’s dream of federation could be botched by a trade row, tribal violence or strangled at birth with red tape by venal politicians and bureaucrats. So the mood is mixed. Could east Africa take off as a regional trading bloc? Or will the idea disappointingly fizzle once again? An early test of the EAC’s earnestness will be to see if it can get its member countries jointly to look after Lake Victoria, a common resource that scientists say has been overfished and poisoned by the sewage running off its overpopulated shores.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


One of the things that I am very proud of is being able to assist, albeit in modest ways, young and upcoming artists. I am member of the Advisory Board of Tanzania House of Talent - an organisation that provides home, refuge, mentorship and training for young people who desire to be performing artists. The successes of THT since its founding are evident. Praise go to Ruge and Seba who founded it and Rebecca Young who is running it on day to day basis.

It is heartwarming to see young kids coming to THT with absolutely nothing but determination to succeed, but now have houses, cars, and steady income. One of these kids is Marlaw. When Marlaw stepped into the doors of THT (straight from Iringa) few years ago, he distinguished himself for discipline and humility, and of course talent and quiet ambition.

And he has succeeded. Now, he is fully booked until end of September. His song PiiPii is now an anthem in Dar. But, for me, this tune, Rita, recorded last year, is the best....and the story is heartbreaking. The production was done by the talented Marco Chali and the video was made by my friend Adam who has moved videography in Tanzania to the next level. Enjoy!

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Idea of Justice

Book Review: The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen

The Times of London

Polymathic brilliance among scholars is now generally agreed to be a thing of the past. The advance of knowledge means that providing intellectual leadership in economics, political theory and ­philosophy, as John Stuart Mill did, is not possible. Academics need to pick a subject and burrow into it as deeply as possible. But someone forgot to tell all this to Amartya Sen.

An accomplished mathematician, a brilliant economist (he won the Nobel prize in 1998) and now a giant of contemporary philosophy, Sen has also worked for the UN on human development. As a young man, he kicked off by reshaping welfare economics. One of his earliest and most famous claims was that famines do not occur in properly functioning democracies with a free press, because the pressure of public opinion forces the fairer distribution of food. As so often with great public philosophers, a childhood experience profoundly shaped his outlook. As a nine-year-old, Sen witnessed first-hand the 1943 Bengal famine, when hundreds of thousands died in the British colony under the cover of a news blackout.

Democracy, especially in the shape of public argument and debate, plays a key role in Sen’s latest work. Public reasoning is the “primary hero” of The Idea of Justice. It is up to individuals to determine their own course through life, based on their own reasoning and reflection — in this sense Sen is an indefatigable liberal — but the tackling of injustice and the shaping of progress rely on a constant, engaged public conversation. For Sen, democracy is not, at heart, a set of institutions and rules. “The working of democratic institutions, like that of all other institutions,” he writes, “depends on the activities of human agents.”

It is clear that this volume is intended to be the “Essential Sen”. All the primary themes of his previous five and half decades of work are here, in synthesis. For those who know Sen’s work well, there is a strong sense of déjà vu about many of the chapters. But anybody sufficiently motivated to have read Inequality Re-examined or the doorstop treatise Rationality and Freedom will probably not mind.

The Idea of Justice, though, wouldn’t be a book from Sen if it did not also provide something fresh. And the most important new intel lectual notion here is a working through of the fundamental distinction between two competing approaches to justice.

Most modern political philosophers are concerned with finding the right rules, institutions and social contracts for a just society. This school of thought — dubbed “transcendental institutionalism” by Sen — found its greatest 20th-century exponent in John Rawls, who built on foundations laid by Kant and Rousseau.

Sen characterises the institutionalists as engaged in a “long-range search for perfectly just institutions”, and a hunt for “spotless justice”.

For Sen, these philosophies are ultimately regressive, because societies full of actual human beings will never agree on a final, perfect set of institutions and rules. He quotes his old friend Bernard Williams, who wrote that “disagreement does not necessarily have to be overcome”. More immediately, the search for a perfect set of arrangements for society can distract us from tackling real-life, immediate injustices such as access to education for women in the developing world or action on climate change. The perfect becomes the enemy of the good.

The competing vision of justice Sen prefers is a “comparative” one, which examines “what kind of lives people can actually lead”. The heroes of the comparative pantheon are Condorcet, Wollstonecraft and Mill. For them, as for Sen, abolishing slavery or giving women the vote would free people to lead lives of their own choosing, even without creating a perfectly just society. The keystone of judging the lives people can actually lead is an assessment of what Sen has labelled their “capabilities” — or, as he explains, “the power to do something”.

Freedom, in Sen’s eyes, does not consist merely of being left to our own devices. It also requires that people have the necessary resources to lead lives that they themselves consider to be good ones. The focus on the individual has led some critics to accuse Sen of “methodological individualism” — not a compliment. Communitarian opponents, in particular, think that Sen pays insufficient regard to the broader social group. In response, Sen — usually an unfailingly courteous writer — becomes a bit cross. He points out that “people who think, choose and act” are simply “a manifest reality in the world”. Of course communities influence people, “but ultimately it is individual valuation on which we have to draw, while recognising the profound interdependence of the valuations of people who interact with each other”.

Nor is Sen easily caricatured as an egalitarian: “capabilities”, for example, do not have to be entirely equal. Sen is a pluralist, and recognises that even capabilities cannot always trump other values. Liberty has priority, Sen insists, but not in an absurdly purist fashion that would dictate “treating the slightest gain of liberty — no matter how small — as enough reason to make huge sacrifices in other amenities of a good life — no matter how large”.

Throughout, Sen remains true to his Indian roots. One of the joys of the volume is the rich use of Indian classical thought — the debate between 3rd-century emperor Ashoka, a liberal optimist, and Kautilya, a downbeat institutionalist, is much more enlightening than, say, a tired contrast between Hobbes and Hume.

Despite these diverting stories, the volume cannot be said to fall into the category of a “beach read”: subtitles such as “The Plurality of Non-Rejectability” provide plenty of warning. But for those who like their summer dinner tables to be filled with intelligent, dissenting discourse, the book is worth the weight. There’s plenty here to argue with. Sen wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Idea of Justice by Amartya Sen
Allen Lane £25 pp496

Monday, August 17, 2009

Economist: Asia's astonishing rebound

the Chinese govt just announced that they would focus on maintaining growth rather than reducing inflation. That means they'll keep buying US debt to allow them to maintain the renminbi peg where it's at now.

Re: dollar as reserve currency...where would FCB's put their money other than the US? Euro...I don't think so...EU has worse deficits, bigger inflation problem, and is recessionary, along with demographic time bomb. Yen...nope...everyone's been shorting the yen and yields on JGB's are zilch. Plus Japan's national debt is sky high.

Interesting article on this week's Economist.

IT NEVER pays to underestimate the bounciness of Asia’s emerging economies. After the region’s financial crisis of 1997-98, and again after the dotcom bust in 2001, outsiders predicted a lengthy period on the floor—only for the tigers to spring back rapidly. Earlier this year it was argued that such export-dependent economies could not revive until customers in the rich world did. The West still looks weak, with many economies contracting in the second quarter, and even if America begins to grow in the second half of this year, consumer spending looks sickly. Yet Asian economies, increasingly decoupled from Western shopping habits, are growing fast.

The four emerging Asian economies which have reported GDP figures for the second quarter (China, Indonesia, South Korea and Singapore) grew by an average annualised rate of more than 10% (see article). Even richer and more sluggish Japan, which cannot match that figure, seems to be recovering faster than its Western peers. But emerging Asia should grow by more than 5% this year—at a time when the old G7 could contract by 3.5%. Western politicians should brace themselves for more talk of economic power drifting inexorably to the East. How has Asia made such an astonishing rebound?

Out of smoke and mirrors, say some Western sceptics. They claim China’s bounceback is yet another fake. The country’s numbers are certainly dodgy: the components of GDP do not add up, and the data are always published suspiciously early. China’s economy probably slowed more sharply in late 2008 than the official numbers suggest. But other indicators, which are less likely to be massaged, confirm that China’s economy is roaring back. Industrial production rose 11% in the year to July; electricity output, which fell sharply last year, is growing again; and car sales are 70% higher than a year ago.

And surely the whole of Asia cannot be engaged in a statistical fraud. South Korea’s GDP grew by an annualised 10% in the second quarter. Taiwan’s probably increased by even more: its industrial output jumped by an astonishing annualised rate of 89%. India was hit less hard by the global recession than many of its neighbours because it exports less, but its industrial production has also perked up, rising by a seasonally adjusted rate of 14% in the second quarter. Output in most of the smaller Asian economies is still lower than a year ago, because they suffered steep downturns late last year. But at economic turning points, one should track quarterly changes.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Financing Kilimo Kwanza: Commodities Markets or Agriculture Bank

In his search for the agriculture development in Tanzania, President Kikwete (JK) has been trying all the tricks in the bag. He first called for the change in the law in order to introduce lease financing so farmers can purchase equipment, especially tractors. Then he went through many initiatives in his monthly speeches to the nation, including introducing seed research center. Recently he unveiled “Kilimo Kwanza” program – an expected holistic way of introducing green revolution in the country. The program is supposed to give access to farmers on research, sustainable market, credit – from the soon to be created Agriculture Development Bank, and many other promised goodies in the bag.

His heart is in a right place, and God bless him, but the path that he is taking is historically well ploughed with dismal result and an anemic economic growth.

The main deficiency here is that as hard as this administration tries it has not fully abandon its state sponsored economic development model in favor of a full private sector driven one. Kilimo Kwanza – or the New Impetus for Agriculture— as per the Daily News, is a model which begins with a thought that the state knows what the farmer’s problems are and therefore it is going to make the solutions readily available to them in the form of services given. This idea is a common mistake in the development arena. Like Mkukuta and Mkurabati before it, the Kilimo Kwanza bag of goodies from the government will only make a small dent.

The Kilimo Kwanza program has many aspects: research for better yielding seeds, providing market access to farmers, using old Nyumbu factory to produce tillers etc. In this piece I will focus only on agriculture financing part of the program. In facilitating credit to farmers there are two ways to go about it, first a dedicated agriculture bank and second a market based capital distribution – commodities market.

Government sponsored credit system led by an agriculture development bank by nature can not efficiently utilize information about the utility of the program. The information that the bank gathers from its clients will not be disbursed to the population at large. When a bank provides a loan to the farmer, the information that it collect will immediately be filed away in the drawer for safe keeping; and it becomes private information instead of it directly becoming public information.

Furthermore, in order for banks to add value to their portfolio and hence survive, they have to lend responsibly. For that to happen, they require collateral – that eternal elusive specie to any farmer in a poor country. And if banks lend without collateral, maybe due to the political pressure of lending to the farmers, the fate of that bank is clear.

For argument sake, let’s assume the long promised title deeds will come true and farmers are going to be able to use them as collateral, banks will still have to figure out how they will get paid back. No bank in the world lends with an intention of confiscating collateral at the end of the credit process. In order for the bank to be paid back, farmers will have to sell their products and therefore gain income first. So the quandary here is that farmers need capital during planting season but they can only pay back after the harvest. Unless there is a way for a bank to be able to estimate how much will the farmer’s income approximately be, there is no way to know how much can it safely lend to that farmer.

Therefore, based on the above mentioned reasons and many others, one can pre-tell the demise of the agriculture bank before it is established. It is not because I can see the future but because agriculture banks in poor countries are hardly successful.

And that is where the power of capital market and its information comes in.

The alternative to the government owned agriculture bank is commodities market. Commodities market is a type of a market which buyers and sellers of agriculture and mining products gets to trade their goods. However, this market due to the nature of agriculture business is a unique market. The market is structured in such a way that solves the farmer’s cash flow timing problem. The market allows farmers to issue a paper – technically in the form of IOU contract — during planting season that let them payback after a specific period of time that will coincide with their cash flow intake. This process most of the time gives farmers the much needed working capital to buy seeds, pay helpers and sustain themselves while the food silos are empty. There is no need of collateral in the commodities market as the market act as an independent third party between the buyer and the seller.

In addition if the farmer does own the land, this market mechanism can be stractured in a way so that the farmer can use the land to raise funds– assuming he does get the title deed—for a capital expenditure like buying a tractor, a harvester, or building an irrigation canal.

This arrangement will give the farmer both types of financing: short term working capital to bridge the cash flow and therefore sustain the production cycle while at the same time allowing access to a long term capital expenditure which will boost the quantity and the quality of his product.

A well function commodities market biggest addition to the society is not just movement of capital from the savers to the users; but also the ability it has to accumulate information from its participants and at the same time making that information readily available to any interested party. Markets normally have many buyers and sellers who come from different backgrounds with different knowledge bases and interests. When these market participants pull their motives of buying and selling the same (or similar) products they technically act on the information that they have accumulated. The act of collective buying or selling at particular price level reveals what market participants think of the value of the good that they are buying or selling at that point in time.

So for example, bwana Mkulima Maridadi who is trying to plant cassava walks into the bank branch and applies for a loan, the branch manager can access the market for the information. The market will allow the manger to quickly ascertain what the current expected value of the cassava that will be harvested three months from today. That way the banker can decide to give Mkulima Maridadi a loan that is not only suitable but at a fraction of the value that he would have estimated that the farmer will rip after harvesting thus increasing the likelihood of profitable repayment.

In addition, Bwana Mkulima could have walked in any bank and not necessarily the government agriculture’s bank to ask for that loan. Because now any bank can quantify, monitor, limit and therefore understand the risk of lending to the agriculture sector. Therefore, what the market would have done technically is to move the agriculture sector away from the opaque informal sector to maybe a translucent area if not a complete transparent formal economic zone. In so doing, the market will disperse the risk of a whole agriculture sector – which in Tanzania is 40% of the GDP, a considerable one—to different banks and not to concentrate it in one institution. The disbursed credit risk will increase the sustainability of financing of the agriculture sector.

Though I am advocating commodities market in place of the agriculture bank, I am not doing it blindly. Markets normally are as good as participant’s knowledge. Therefore, they are susceptible to the highs and lows driven by the risk appetites of its participants. Those who will be borrowing from this market will have to do so responsibly or risk losing everything. Therefore, an education program of how the market works and how to best utilize the funds from the market will have to be in place. Furthermore, in the long run markets normally have more highs than lows and since the rational commodities market participant factors the expected future inflation in today’s prices, the cost of food tends to increase over time. However, if the funds are indeed used wisely, higher food prices do come in tandem with the higher production and quality of food. But since food is a vital resource, commodity markets normally, to certain extent, disfranchise the poor especially the urban poor by making food relatively more expensive.

This last point brings me to the tangent, a line that I don’t want to cross now because it will deviate to a much wider topic: the relationship between food production and hunger or I should say famine. That will be a subject for a next write-up. But just to leave you with a sense of that debate, research has shown that there is no fixed relationship of any sort between the amount of food available and the breakout of a famine.

However, there is a very high correlation between a country’s economic growth and a vibrant financial market of a sector which represent a considerable part of the country’s GDP. Henceforth, JK’s Kilimo Kwanza program should use its limited capital pool to start a commodities market instead of an agriculture bank. Once there is an efficient market, then let all banks, saccoss, and other financial institutions do what they do best: give responsible loans to those who can add the most value to the economy.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What is your Developmental Leadership Quotient?

When I was 10 ten years old my parents sent me to a Christian Leadership Camp on the shores of Lake Michigan (USA) where I was indoctrinated with “The Fourfold Way” of becoming a leader by growing Mentally, Physically, Religiously, and Socially. The acronym for this development theory was thus MPRS, for which the Bible text was Luke Chapter 2: “And Jesus advanced in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.”

Fifty years later, when I became president of the World Institute for Leadership and Management in Africa, WILMA claimed that the four key attributes of leadership for national development are Character, Charisma, Know-how, and Vision. WILMA’s first website, now online at, featured a PowerPoint show that illustrated this point by four clear-eyed gnus that were leading “The Great Migration” of Africa out of dependency on foreign aid. Rarely are these attributes combined in a single person, and when the exception appears, we can only say “Wow.” For example, Barack Obama is such an exception, and so is his wife, Michele.

An individual’s development as a leader by balanced growth of her MPRS maps into a country’s Great Migration with those gnus in the lead:
· Character is the religious dimension: the passion within empowers a person to lead.
· Charisma is the social dimension: leaders are empowered by inspiring love in others.
· Know-how is the physical aspect: leaders are good at engineering social change.
· Vision is the mental aspect: leaders see ahead and, though uncertain, ask “Why not?”

The capacity to lead social transformation (Joseph Stiglitz’s definition of development) can be measured by a person’s ratings on these four dimensions, which in principle can be tested and combined statistically as his/her Developmental Leadership Quotient (DLQ). No such test presently exists, and inventing one would be material for a Doctoral dissertation. A parallel test is the Myers-Briggs test. (You can Google Myers-Briggs to find many services offering this testing of a person’s likelihood of success in various occupations.) The prevalence of high DLQs in a given affinity group (family, tribe, community, or nation) would then be a measure of that group’s capacity to transform itself—socially, economically, culturally…whatever the dream may be.

If we had such statistics measured across countries and across time, outside investors could gauge where to place their bets on successful development. Governments could measure their progress in providing an “enabling environment” for development. The private sector could assess its potential for change.

Many Tanzanians, especially young professionals, seem to feel that Tanzania’s DLQ has declined—that some sort of “social engineering” may now be needed. Where have the clear-eyed gnus of Tanzania’s Great Migration gone? Who can restore the salad days of the Revolution, with its faith, hope, and passion? Where are the Oscar Kambonas of Tanzania’s future?

In my view, the “Cheetah Generation” of Africa is alive and well in Tanzania. For example, Oscar’s daughter, Neema, has just published the second issue of “StartUPBiashara: A magazine promoting small businesses, offering inspiration and empowerment to local businesses.” This is a point of light for the future, and there are many more like it, including WILMA’s program for Tanzania.

Future contributions to January’s blog might well reflect on how to raise Tanzania’s DLQ. I myself have some views about this question and look forward to sharing them.
Paul Armington, August 11, 2009

CDCF: When they want it, they get it.

The Constituency Development Catalyst Fund (CDCF) essentially provides additional resources for development at the local level by channeling money to constituencies under the management of Members of Parliament. The introduction of CDCF to Tanzania is thus supplementing the existing funding mechanisms for local government. Importantly, it may not represent an increase in funding, since funds may be taken away from other parts of the budget in order to finance the CDCF.

Your Member of Parliement just passed the bill last month, in case you didn't know. Article 63. (2) Of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania states “The second part of Parliament shall …have the authority on behalf of the people to oversee and advise the Government of the United Republic and all of its organs in the discharge of their respective responsibilities in accordance with this Constitution”

The CDCF will seriously undermine the ability of Parliament to perform its oversight function independently and thus effectively, since a legislature that is involved in introducing and/or implementing spending proposals compromises its ability to question these initiatives and therefore to hold the executive to account.

The CDCF also creates a parallel structure alongside the existing local government structures and this increases the burden on the already overwhelmed local government officials. This parallel structure also increases the cost of administering local funds by using money which could have been used to increase the resources available for the projects themselves.

MPs claim that they act as ‘ATM machines’ in their constituencies because citizens assume that they have the resources to solve many of their problems. They claim that their income is not sufficient to cater for expectations from voters and that CDF will relieve them of this burden.

However, the role of MPs is to work with citizens to hold the government at central and local level accountable for resources allocated to solve development problems in their constituencies. MPs are not obliged to address these problems themselves unless they choose to do so willingly and have the necessary resources. This is the job of the executive. To take on the role of the executive will compromise their ability to perform their legitimate role.

MPs argue that they are expected by their constituents to deliver development projects despite the fact that they do not have control over where these projects are allocated.

Again, they get it wrong. MPs should work in collaboration with CSOs to educate citizens on the role of MPs. MPs should not make philanthropic promises to voters during elections unless they are sure of their ability to deliver these promises once elected. Normally campaign promises should either be in line with the candidate’s party manifesto or promises that the candidate intends to implement from his or her own sources of funding as philanthropic activities.

MPs claim that TASAF is not democratic hence CDCF will provide a more democratic means of empowering communities at the grassroots level to take an active role in their own development.

But MPs should seek to improve whatever challenges exist in the implementation of other local funding mechanisms, such as TASAF and the Local Government Capital Development Grant since they already seek to address the core purpose that CDCF seeks to address without the additional problems likely to result from the CDCF.

The challenges facing the very concept of CDCF and its implementation make it a highly risky venture for government to undertake. Further, evidence from different experiences at community level, and from previous studies like PEFAR, indicates that the poor quality of service delivery at the local level is not due to lack of funding, but more to systemic weaknesses, poor capacity, political interference, low civic competency etc. This establishment of a CDCF is likely to make this situation worse rather than better.

Additionally, given the existence of other development funds which serve the same purpose as a CDCF in Tanzania, it is recommended that the systemic and systematic challenges compromising the efficient and proper implementation of these devolved funds are contended with, rather than creating an additional fund which is likely to only exacerbate existing challenges.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Needed: Social Engineering?

You will recall Mwalimu's summation for what we need for development: watu, ardhi, siasa safi na uongozi bora - people, land, proper ideology and good leadership. I was thinking about the simplicity and the idealism in this summation. But, you will notice that in these four "necessities" for development, only two are prefixed by adjectives (uongozi bora - good leadership; and siasa safi - proper ideology). These four necessities I think are still relevant. We can replace "proper ideology" with "proper vision", we can see "land" as indicating "resources" in general terms. The point about good leadership has been amply dealt with here. Let us talk about people now. I think that we need, not just people, but good people: honest, hardworking, law-abiding, and thrifty.

But people, in their "natural occurrence", cannot be the agents, the manifest or rather the end of development, and certainly cannot act as a community and for the collective good of the community. So, socialisation - to get the "good people" - is needed. The development of man himself - his attitude, his psyche, his character - is critical before we expect him to be an agent of development or before we think of him as the end of development.

Enter the idea of social engineering. I came across this concept a while ago, in school in fact, but never so much explored it. In thinking about some of the contributions in this blog, and in imagining solutions to what many point as moral decadence in our society (which breeds corruption, dishonesty, fatalism, etc.), I thought about social engineering. The definition from wikipedia refers to efforts to influence popular attitudes and social behavior on a large scale, whether by governments or private groups.

The Cultural Revolution in China from 1966, in which the language, arts, culture and indeed the Chinese national identity was reconceptualised, was in fact an exercise in social engineering. It was sort of a middle-course correction to anchor the 1949 Revolution as a reference point for the modern China's social and political life. About two decades after what was essentially a peasant Revolution, they were beginning to see decadence and corruption. The idea was to entrench a new Chinese social outlook. We also know that after the overthrow of Czar in Russia, the Bolsheviks sought to create a new identity for the Russian people, indeed creating "a new Soviet man", as the campaign was called, with fundamentally different ideals.

Now, come to think of it, our own Azimio la Arusha (Arusha Declaration), Vijiji vya Ujamaa, compulsory National Service, and so on, were exercises in social engineering. To some of my friends, we are what we are as a nation, the good and the bad, because of the collective impact of these initiatives and many other state social experiments. Of course, after the colonial rule, which also engaged in its own social engineering to get the natives to acquiesce to, or at least live with, subjugation, social engineering was necessary in an effort to build a new nation. But these social engineering initiatives were undertaken in the context of a certain era in global political and economic alignment. That era has ended, we have embraced a different socio-economic philosophy but still haven't undertaken to undo the psyche developed by the socialisation of that era.

Now, do we have to undo it or are we okay and this is not an issue? If we do, what kind of social engineering interventions that would create "a new Tanzanian man" with a new ethical outlook? Obviously, the kind of social engineering that can take place is limited by the prevailing political dispensation. Democracy, and whole panoply of activists, limits the kinds of interventions one can undertake. Authoritarian regimes - for better or for worse - have more room to undertake extensive social engineering initiatives. Of course authoritarianism is not option. Political scientists talk about "democratic social reconstruction" in which it is possible to transform outlooks and attitudes in the frame of a democratic dispensation. But there has to be a consensus on the ingredients of an ideal society we all want to build. This is one of our challenge.