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Tanzania`s mis-managed resources...from apples to diamonds!

20th February 2012
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Jambo for the start of another steamy week, as the last one for me began with a double dose of irritation.

On the B.B.C. programme Network Africa last Monday, the female announcer said “I don’t know about you, but I’m still reeling with shock at news of the death of Whitney Houston”.

Given the U.K’s predominantly tabloid culture, “reeling with shock” at the demise of a pop singer, excellent though she was, are sentiments which would have been echoed all over the country, yet a major disaster wouldn’t have elicited a similar response. Lightweight Britain…..and increasingly lightweight world.

When did the west’s conferring god like status to pop singers and entertainers start, with the unworthy and mediocre elevated above all else?

Years ago I wrote… . “let’s hope Tanzanians never

fully surrender to celebrity led lunacy and worship, with Hollywood actors defining the limits of their interest or knowledge”…..but they’re getting there, as the local media increasingly report on celebrity trash issues not of their own…self inflicted cultural imperialism…..masquerading as progress!.

…….. some years ago, when a certain over-hyped U.S singer wanted to adopt an African baby, the child’s father said…. he’d never heard of Madonna…...a culturally unsullied African….wonderful!

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Running parallel to this on the l4th February, was valentines day. Another example of third world nations adopting the worst or silliest customs and habits of the so called developed ones.

Interviewed about it, some Kenyans said…..”there’s only one day to celebrate love”…..(really, I wonder why the birth rate in their country is so high then?!)

…..”we care about this, it’s a special time”…….”it lets your partner know your feelings”…….and another talked of “romantic candle lit dinners and flowers.”

They’ve bought into the whole commercially led exercise even more than Tanzanians. But does it have relevance for rural peasants in the darkened recesses of both countries, for whom candle light or similar, is just a daily necessity, possibly minus the dinners of course!.

…..Anyway, those readers here who capitulated to this nonsense, should say every day till the next February l4th……”TAKE THE BEST FROM THE WEST AND REJECT THE REST”……and by then your intelligence credentials should be re-instated….though you might have lost your sanity!.

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Very much sane and citing Tanzania as an example, Finance Minister Mkulo, at an inter-governmental meeting last week, asked why mineral rich African countries don’t play a more prominent role in the global economy.

A good question, but if they did, how well would the benefits translate into local enrichment.

It’s not just minerals ineffectively utilised, but the whole spectrum of resources from the hides industry (exported raw at low profit, and imported tanned at high cost) to milk on sale from all over the world, in a country with vast cattle herds…..etc.etc.

The list is endless, right down to the humble apple. Except at 600/- each, and coming from South Africa, they’re a luxury item here, though they can be locally grown successfully.

In February two years ago, Elisha Mahenge the owner of an ailing apple project started in Makete in 2003, told a local newspaper that the terrible roads stopped them hauling their hundreds of tons of produce to market.

They called on the government to save the 30 million/- investment, when they couldn’t even sell the fruit for l00sh each. Shameful, with ‘Kilimo Kwanza’ loudly touted.

I failed to discover what eventually happened, and now refuse to buy a monopolistic South African apple!..

The 80% of rural peasants here, described as ‘the backbone of the country’, should form a powerful dominant majority given their crucial role. But the term ‘backbone’ and those it represents, seems just a useful descriptive peg for leaders to hang their commitment from, and make empty declarations about.

How much neglect of this sector contributed, I don’t know, but two years ago, the then German Ambassador Dr. Guido Hertz citing the abundant resources here, asked “why all this poverty in Tanzania”?

Many sectors apart from agriculture could strengthen the ‘economic backbone’, and a Guardian article in March 2009, explaining why they don’t, gives a partial insight into why the country is poor, and what might keep it so.

Writing in 2009, Tanzanian Benjamin Nkonya attending an investors meeting in Germany, says he was surprised they knew so much about his country. Logging on to their research website, he started learning also.

As a child, he says Jatropha seeds in his area were used for lighting, and the plants as livestock hedging etc., but a German entrepreneur he met, was processing these in Rukwa region, and exporting them home as biofuel. Ignorant of this potential, he likens it to natives of Shinyanga playing games with ‘stones’, that later became the stock of the Williamson diamond mines.

……..but today, after all the wealth the ‘stones’ have brought to foreigners, locals remain as poor as before.

Mr. Nkonya said the long established Sokoine University has a broad base of specialised experts, but their findings often lie dormant, when government fails in their role of transforming them into action.

The vacuum thus created is filled by foreigners, who come here, take their findings to their entrepreneurs, then return to profit from the results. The ‘stones’ to diamonds syndrome without benefit to the stones owners!

The solution he thinks, is to link research and training organisations directly to entrepreneurs and financial institutions, but is anybody listening?

……helloh J.K. honey I’ve just remembered you were vote hunting in Makete when the roads were impassable, can your buddies find out if the apple projects collapsed?…..I’ll call at Ikulu to find out.!

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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