The growth rates have been so impressive that if you move around the major cities of Dar e s Salaam, Arusha, Mwanza and Mbeya you will find very impressive buildings, recently made “ state of the art technology” motor vehicles, super markets that are full to the brim.
Indeed, you will forget that you are in Tanzania, in particular if you have just returned from a long stay overseas.
If you move to the shanty areas of these sprawling cities and around the rural areas, you will quickly realize that you are in Tanzania if not in Tanganyika. There you will see that poverty is still here in modern Tanzania. Of course, that is how countries the world over started the economic development process.
The central question here, of course, is who owns all these modern glittering show cases of economic growth? It must be the people who are strategically placed in the economic pipeline of money flows.
How many of those who are in this strategic position are Tanzanians? Thanks to the EPA funds money pipeline, the answer to my question should be obvious. A reasonable number of Tanzanians are there!?
How many are there? I cannot venture to answer. In any case, even if there may be a reasonably few Tanzanians who are there or have been there, EPA funds was only one of the temporary money pipeline that was used to get money from the country’s money machine into the hands of a reasonably few lucky ones.
The permanent money pipelines, and the major ones to boot, include our natural resources, like minerals, forests, national parks, game reserves and parks, fertile agricultural land, a vast land mass that requires profitable investments in telecommunication gear, etc.
How many Tanzanians are participating effectively by investing in these areas for their own prosperity? The answer is anybody’s guess.
That is where the cause of the country’s continuing poverty starts. Had the majority of Tanzanians been participating effectively in harvesting our natural resources, the impressive economic growth rates that the country has been experiencing over the past years would have shown up in the improved economic well-being of the majority of them.
Now, this is not to say that Tanzanians have had their wealth that has been generated over the period of impressive economic growth stolen from them.
That is far from it. It is not the first time for such a problem to occur. Let me tell you a story from ancient Babylon (the Biblical Babylon) on a similar problem. One day the king’s Minister of Finance and the Economy informed the King that after many years of prosperity that had been brought about by the construction of many important projects that included great irrigation canals, mighty temples of the Gods, etc. the economy had no money.
As a result, unemployment was high, retail business was sluggish, farmers had no market for their produce and people in general had no money for buying food.
The King who was genuinely puzzled and concerned asked his minister as to where all the money that had been spent on those major projects gone. The minister gave an intriguing answer to the King’s question. He explained that the money had found its way into the possession of a few very rich men of the city.
It had filtered through the fingers of most of the common people as quickly as the goat’s milk goes through the strainer. And since the stream of money from the king’s tills had stopped to flow, most of the common people had nothing to show from their earlier earnings.
After giving some very serious thought to the answer from the minister, the king asked as to why should so few men be able to acquire all the money.
His able minister answered him that the rich men knew how to acquire the money. He went on to advise the king that the rich men should not be condemned for succeeding through their knowledge of how to acquire money. He further counseled that it would have been unfair to take away money from the rich men that they had earned through fair means and give it to those who had no knowledge of acquiring money.
This exceedingly sound advice made the king sit up and ask as to why couldn’t all the people learn how to accumulate money and therefore become themselves rich and prosperous.
The able minister again answered the king that it was possible for the people to learn how to accumulate money; but he did not know who could teach them how to accumulate money because the priests who were the main teachers of the time, were themselves poor.
The king, still very keen on the issue, then asked his able minister as to who knew best how to accumulate money.
The able minister gave the king the name of the man who had amassed the greatest wealth in Babylon. The king then commanded that the wealthiest man of Babylon be brought before him the following day so that he could instruct him to teach the rest of his subjects how to accumulate money and become rich.
The rest of this story is as interesting as this introductory part has been. However, what is important is that the people of Babylon had a problem very similar to the problem that the country is facing right now.
The king was very concerned by the problem that was facing his subjects. This is confirmed by the tough questions that he was asking his able minister. The king was keen to find a solution to the problem.
Essentially, the rest of the story shows that the king found the solution to the problem by getting the richest man in his kingdom to teach others who did not know how to acquire and keep money how to do it; and Babylon began to prosper.
The moral of the story of the king of Babylon is: are we in Tanzania asking the serious questions as to where does the money go and as to how to make that money go into the hands of Tanzanians.
The solution that the king of Babylon found was to teach all his subjects, through the wealthiest man of the city, how to acquire and keep money.
Do we in Tanzania want to see all the money flowing into the hands of the majority of Tanzanians? If the answer is yes, then we can borrow a leaf from the king of Babylon.
Educating the people on the principles of conducting business is an important step in the direction of empowering Tanzanians to become wealthy.
To start with, this means that the school curricula from secondary school level upwards should have a strong bias towards teaching Tanzanians the basic principles of doing business.
If we will make Tanzanians effective participants in the Tanzania economy through proper training in doing business, we will enable them to tackle poverty.
Dr Damas Mbogoro was Planning Commissioner in the President’s Office 1989 to1999 , Commissioner of Population Census 1997 to 2004.Private consultant working with FISEDA 2004 to 2010.
Lecturer in Economics at University of Dodoma 2010 to 2014. Currently, Lecturer in Economics at Archbishop James University College (AJUCO), Songea, from January 2014 to date.