As we mark 57 years of Independence, poverty is still a key issue

09Dec 2018
Guardian On Sunday
As we mark 57 years of Independence, poverty is still a key issue

TANZANIA Mainland has now clocked 57 years as an independent country which, in social political terms, means we ought to stop talking in terms of aspirations, as we are more or less retiring from the scene to become an ordinary,-

not just a mature country, but that which has reached its potential and crossed it.

That is what would be the case if a country was a person, as ordinarily people retire at 60, as beyond that they may have occupations but are mostly through with their careers.

There are ways in which this is also true of a country, as 25 years mark a silver jubilee, 50 years a golden jubilee and 60 years a diamond jubilee.

Even if there are limitations in comparing countries to individual persons, there are certain things that are common and can’t be denied, for instance the fact that a country has a spirit in like manner as a person,  that people in a country are constantly talking to one another as in a family.

They constantly examine what they are doing in this or that aspect, and if after 50 years they still don’t know what they are doing, or how to go about doing the right thing, there is something abysmal about that person, or family as it were. What this implies is that as a country we are running out of excuses about development, at 57 years.

This discursive reflection isn’t irrelevant for us because a recent report by a multilateral development agency named Tanzania as one among the ten least developed countries in per capita terms.

Other countries that were listed in that group are Congo Democratic Republic (DRC), Mozambique, Uganda, Tajikistan, Haiti, Ethiopia, Yemen, Uzbekistan and Kirghizstan.

In the previous decade the level of education of the girl child in Tanzania was at the bottom five in the world, grouped along with Niger, Afghanistan and two others, just to underline the records of global underperformance to which we belong.

Albert Einstein is famed to have said that the height of madness is to continue doing things in the same way and expect that in future, one is going to get different results.

What makes us Tanzanian in the first place and what makes Africa what it is, and a few others around the world, is that they continue doing things the same way, and expect to obtain different results in future.

We have always scored ourselves highly in the past 10 or 15 years, the famed 7.0 per cent growth, but as the data illustrates, we remain among the bottom ten poorest countries in GDP per capita earnings, which we evidently can’t explain.

On a visit to France in 2007, fourth phase President Jakaya Kikwete was pointedly asked by a journalist, ‘Why is Tanzania poor?’ to which he is reported to have answered, ‘I don’t know.’

Einstein would have wished to know why he ever sought to be elected president if he didn’t know why Tanzania is poor, and if he doesn’t know the cause of poverty that means he isn’t solving a problem he doesn’t know. Is it different now?

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