When the country attained independence in 1961, we are told there was only one indigenous doctor. The rest worked as subordinate staff in the few hospitals then in the country.
As we celebrate 50 years of independence, major strides have been recorded in training indigenous professionals in various fields.
In some sectors more experts have been trained than are actually employed in the economy. But we have also lost some after expensive training due to inadequate remuneration.
What is encouraging is that the indigenous professionals have over the years greatly contributed to the development of the country in many critical areas. Some of those contributions have been recognised, but it also true that some have been grossly underutilised.
That is why the concerns by some of the professionals are relevant and deserve a hearing. For they consider themselves as a scarce resource, that the nation has chosen to willfully ignore, after spending huge sums to mould.
Worse still, that same government has been relying on foreign experts, who are hugely costly to tackle some of the work that could have been easily handled by the indigenous professionals.
It is therefore a major consolation to hear the government state clearly that it is stepping up interventions to ensure maximum utilisation of indigenous professions and that it was doing so to reduce the current dependence on foreign experts.
President Jakaya Kikwete said in a speech to the Tanzania Professional Network (TPN) meeting in Dar es Salaam that the government has already established a department on Diaspora matters in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, to draw on the skills of the indigenous professionals, many of them currently working abroad.
The TPN President, Falles Magessa said Tanzania had sufficient number of professionals capable of addressing various development challenges in the country.
He said the network has already worked on project designing, consultancy, and other aspects that were fundamental to the country’s development, calling on the government to adequately tap their resourcefulness in various aspects of policy making and legal reviews.
The network needs to do a bit more in order to ensure these professionals are integrated into the national development undertaking. This including creating a proper database of the professionals, which would enable the government and other public institutions to draw on it as need arises.
The government would have to ensure that it directs public institutions to tap the skills first, before seeking any outside intervention.
Where possible, the government should negotiate with development partners to give the indigenous experts priority in implementing donor-funded projects, so as to retain as much of the aid money as possible.
We are sure that such a strategy would ensure that the country benefits more from indigenous resources, while the professionals become more empowered.
But as President Kikwete warned: “I should emphasise the government’s commitment to closely work with local professionals… but professional ethics need to be adhered to.”
We trust that the professional network members will ensure that they do not betray the country on this score and will exhibit the highest level of integrity in whatever they are entrusted to do.