NEEC right in focusing on skills, tools even as special groups hope for funds

The Guardian
Published at 06:52 AM Jun 20 2024
Tanzania National Assembly
Photo: Courtesy of National Assembly
Tanzania National Assembly

WHILE the legislature and in a visible manner various government agencies have of late been making efforts to sort out institutions or situations where people, chiefly women, take unaffordable loans and finish getting sequestrated by lenders, one potential source of funds is drying up. The National Economic Empowerment Council (NEEC) says that it offers tools and skills to women, youth and special need groups in its uplift programme rather than issuing funds. A NEEC top executive availed this stance at the weekend before target groups.

Looking at positions outlined by the top executive, it appears the wish is to assist start up move up, by strengthening skills or making available a range of tools, depending on actual specifications. The programme, either by altering its position or by making its original intention public, is not meant to provide funds but empower businesspersons already involved in economic activities. A pundit could say that someone already ‘involved’ in economic activity is someone who has already succeeded, whereas ‘empowerment’ meant to actually bring it about.

Another area for querying is how far there is need for a programme that seeks to strengthen existing businesses to be more productive. The big hurdle in business is to start a project and make it stand up, which means a minimum positive balance sheet across a usable time frame say six months or one year. Once this has been attained the issue at that point is less empowerment but strengthening, and there is a plethora of sources.  The problem is that at the public level the wish is to be able to conduct a business rather than being able to run it, as even the skills, tools must be there in the first place for the business to actually start.

It is possible that NEEC is targeting to mainstream current empowerment initiatives like ‘building a better tomorrow’ which so far is being monitored by central government a bit closely. But as it becomes more commonplace it will decline in its standing to become fairly ordinary or routine needs, and thus NEEC could step in to fill in this or that skills gap for newcomers or providing tools when the need so arises. It is unclear how far this shift changes the focus from its original mission but institutional duplication could explain the issue, as BBT wasn’t set up under that institution and it is easily the flagship project now.

The details appear to relate to taking over from initiators of BBT units once they ‘graduate’ from incubation, as it is possible no institutional set up is clearly available for the second stage of the BBT programme. From a commercial point of view that auxiliary stage is outside the bill as after ‘graduation’ they are supposed to register in the formal sector and start paying taxes. Yet authorities know that the government will not stand idle and trust to luck that the second part of the BBT run stands rather than fails. NEEC is explicit, intuitive, about it.

 That casts wider the sort of groups NEEC is ready to look at, instead of funding its own start up groups as many would wish. Women and youth involved in farming, fishing and livestock keeping are the ones now targeted, in explaining that empowerment is tied to existing priority areas. Making this explicit implies that there is no dearth of existing groups that may routinely need to be assisted.