Within the last 3 years, I have had a really good chance to visit, live and even work in Tanzania. A great country I must say in a lot of ways. The friendly people, great views on the roads as you drive on their highways, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Serengeti National Park and probably one of the cleanest towns in East Africa, Moshi, just to name but a few. I lived in Dar es salaam, the fastest growing coastal city in East Africa for about 18 months. It was lovely, nice white beaches, really friendly people and all their 3 clubs (then). I happened to find myself close to people in high offices and even had a chance to play a role in president Jakaya Kikwete’s campaign in 2010 – a successful role for that matter.
During this time, I happened to meet great people, both at heart and in might. Tanzanians have the biggest hearts. The nicest people to work with and fun to be around. I specifically cannot forget the footsteps I walked in courtesy of one guy named Rahim Kangezi Zamunda. A guy you can easily write off at first but one of the most resourceful people in Tanzania (story for another day). I could go on and on in and the good side of Tanzania is massive. I humbly congratulate the people of Tanzania on this day as they celebrate 50 years of independence. I know I always have a home in Tanzania.
For Tanzania to remain this good and for everyone else to keep seeing the positive, I would like to point out a few things that Tanzania could do better and make life better for it’s people.
Media Freedom & Corruption:
While Tanzania claims to have media freedom, there is still a lot of government control in the media, including private media which risks its business operations if it went against the wishes of the powerful government. One classic example is when the live broadcast of (opposition leader) Dr. Slaa’s campaign launch was shut down when he started exposing corruption initiated by CCM leaders.
Tanzania in my view after staying there for 18 months and interacting highly with the powerful, is one of the most corrupt countries in Africa – probably worse than Kenya. Kenya’s media reports openly and is allowed to vet and investigate
without with less interference from the government while also publishing their findings without fear. I cannot say the same for Tanzania. Rushwa (Kitu Kidogo, Bribe) is a way of life in Tanzania, pushing further poverty levels in a country full of resources and denying justice and basic services to people who cannot afford to buy their way around. The media has a role in exposing these scandals and putting the government on spot on issues it can address.
The media has also played a huge role in this by agreeing to be bought off. Most small private media houses survive on sold headlines and “news” that is paid for. This in turn is the worst kind of deception to the people of Tanzania who in turn take the news as bible truth.
Another thing the media should do is give celebs and their private lives a break. I specifically remember talking to a former news anchor who was once married to a rich and powerful man at the port of Dar es salaam. She was frustrated at home and she could not dare leave the abusive man due to fear of the media. Eventually he threw her out and as if that was not enough, the story was all over the cheap dailys. This is the case with every other celeb and the worst thing is that the media makes up stories trying to explain each little bit.
Streamline Tax & Labor Laws:
Dar es salaam, the country’s commercial capital has about 65% foreign professional workforce. Like everywhere else in the world, expatriates earn way more than the locals and when tax laws are not strict, all these money ends up going to build other economies. I know a lot of foreigners working in Tanzania with great salaries but no work permits which means no tax remittance. With all the resources Tanzania has, including gold, diamonds, tanzanite, tourism and its huge population which could translate into human capital, Tanzania’s economy is still weaker than Kenya’s. I would say that most of the wealth that would be building Tanzania’s economy is building other countries. Tanzania’s GDP is still way too low and with the resources it has, lack of proper management is the only possible explanation why its growth is still very slow.
Enrich the Education System
I did not take much study of the education system in Tanzania but in my mind I tend to wonder, why do most companies go for foreign management? Most CEOs and senior managers in Tanzania are foreigners. This in turn translates to more posts for foreigners even on the junior ranks than the locals. I would say this has something to do with the education system. First of all, you cannot teach me everything (including sciences) in Swahili all my primary school life and the moment I get to secondary school, you switch to English and expect everything to just translate automatically. I will first be trying to catch up with the language before even understanding what you are teaching. I think all subjects should be taught in English all the way. Tanzania has a lot of universities, I still wonder where the graduates go. The number of foreigners in the professional community in Dar is worrying.
Africa/Tanzania is Able
This is a mentality across Africa. Most of us have been brainwashed to think that our solutions are coming from the west (or Europe). We have unexplored natural resources that compares to no other continent. We have a population filled with energy and we have all it takes to drive our own economies. One thing I have realized is that no one will give you anything for free. There is a good reason why Somalia is still unstable while Kenya is not. The west has their interests where they have something in return. Africa can be self dependent. While I did not agree with how Gaddafi handled Libya in his last days, I think no other African leader has shown such confidence in Africa. We need to realize that the west also needs us. It is not a one way traffic.
In conclusion, I still think Tanzania is still one of the greatest countries I have been to in Africa. The people are definitely the best. Happy independence day, reflect on what independence you have, what it means to you, to this generation and future generations. I challenge young people to view things beyond the eyes of our aging leaders. Congratulations again. Long live Tanzania and its people.