Most African countries have in their state-owned universities think tanks which are referred to as economic research bureaux (ERB).
Thus, just like any other African country under the sun, Tanzania has also one at the University of Dar esSalaam which goes by the same name - ERB.
Therefore, if the Tanzanian government wants to get answers to a given economic problem, whoever represents the government simply gets in touch with the ERB for an appropriate answer.
However, in Tanzania things have for some years changed, according to whispers, as the majority of the people who used to work at the ERB are no longer active.
Otherwise, most of them have physically moved out and are now working for private non-profit organizations such as Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA) and Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF).
According to whispers, when the economic experts were working for ERB, whatever was earned as a result of their joint academic and professional endeavours was somewhat shared among them equally, with part of the money going to the institution.
It was more or less a socialist way of earning one’s living and which finally appears to have led to the experts’ flight to REPOA and ERSF.
Now, the differences between the two non-profit organizations and ERB at the University of Dar es Salaam, the rumours say, are at two levels. At the first level lies the nature of funding.
At REPOA and ESRF, donor funding is quite considerable, call it mouth-watering if you like, while at ERB things have very much changed in the sense that there are no longer any Uncle Toms, leading to the almost non-existence of ERB, financially speaking.
And, as they aptly say, mkono mtupu haulambwi (nothing goes for nothing!).
This then explains why the poor ERB has been reduced to an orphan, so to speak. The experts it had trained over the years with hard-earned taxpayers’ money have left it for greener pastures at REPOA and ESRF.
Of course, no one in their right senses would blame them for doing what they have done. But the main problem certainly lies with the Dar es Salaam University administration for lack of creativity. Yes, if ERB was making lucrative money for the institution, why not take care of those bringing in the money in the first place?
Both REPOA and ESRF conduct training and research in various economic fields. What is more, they give salivating allowances for the lucky few who are selected by the institutions to undergo various training programmes, and that is where, according to whispers, the problem starts.
Rumours have it that it is extremely difficult for one to get a place for such courses, partly because of the salivating allowances given out, but mainly because of the cut-throat competition among those qualified for such courses.
And on a more serious note, there are rumours which have been making the rounds in Dar es Salaam in the last few weeks. They are related to many years of support that Tanzania has been giving to the people of Western Sahara, a desert land wedged between Algeria and Morocco.
Since the days of the first phase government of the founding father of this nation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Tanzania has supported to the hilt the liberation struggle of the Saharawi people under the leadership of their liberation front, Polisario.
For the past four decades the Saharawi people, under Polisario, have been waging a war of attrition against Arab colonizers, the Moroccan government which annexed it from Spain. However, the beauty of the Saharawi’s struggle is that they have all the while been supported by the African Union and its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, OAU.
But the Moroccan government, for its part, has not been staying put. It has frantically worked behind the scenes trying to get on its side the support of politically influential African countries which have for years supported the Saharawi people. And Tanzania, according to whispers, is reported to be one of those countries which were a few months ago approached with cash to the tune of US 10 million to change its stance – and this is what makes the rumours quite exciting!
What is however not known, which explains why it is still a rumour, is whether or not the alleged amount of money was accepted by the Tanzanian government. There are rumours, though, to the effect that the Moroccan government is demanding its money back.
In fact, further rumours have it that the Moroccan government recently hosted one of Tanzania’s oversight parliamentary committees. And the proverbial million-dollar question is: Was the House committee briefed by the Moroccan government about the touchy issue?
Further whispers have it that a senior government official who had been on a visit to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, apparently got whiff of the visit to Rabat of the Tanzanian parliamentary oversight committee and immediately flew there! The same official is reported to have a few weeks back flown to Algiers, in Algeria, where he pledged Tanzania’s support for the Saharawi people.
Now, what is not known is Tanzania’s present stand on the Western Sahara question; that is, should Tanzanians go with the pronouncement (re-affirmation) of support said to have been made recently by Tanzania to the Algerian government and Polisario or should Tanzanians start believing in rumours that their government has changed sides. If it has, then at what political cost to the credibility of the nation’s foreign policy?
The latter question is pertinent because it is central to the Tanzanian government’s foreign policy which has supported oppressed and exploited people the world over since it attained its independence on December 9, 1961.
In fact, it is for the same reason that Tanzanians have been racing around the country every year with the Uhuru Torch, having first lit it and placed it on Africa’s roof-top, Mount Kilimanjaro, on the stroke of midnight on December 9, 1961 for the express purpose of lighting up where before there had been hopelessness and despair.