TANZANIA IN THE INTERNATIONAL MEDIA

NEW AFRICAN in its May issue included an interview under the heading ‘Jakaya Kikwete – SADC cannot abandon Zimbabwe.’ The first question was: “You have been to Europe twice in recent months. Did Zimbabwe come up in your discussions with European leaders?” Reply: “Oh yes. Everywhere. The US, Europe, the Nordic countries. Zimbabwe is a big story of huge interest. There is a lot of dissatisfaction in Europe and beyond on what is going on in Zimbabwe and they see President Mugabe as some kind of devil. They think that we in Africa should have done something to have him removed….. But we have been saying: fine, you can condemn when something is not going right but our approach has been to say let’s talk about the issues”.
The interview was given a day after the African summit in Dar es Salaam at which the Zimbabwe problem was discussed. Kikwete said: “The discussions inside the closed sessions were very frank on the things that we think the Zimbabwe government is not doing right and our view on what could be done right. And also on the things that we think the opposition is not doing right.” President Kikwete went on: “The answer is dialogue…..at the end of the day we will come up with an acceptable arrangement. South African President Mbeki will be the point man for this and the troika of SADC members for which I am the chair, will work with President Mbeki….” The President went on to discuss in some detail the bad economic situation in the country and the need for free and fair elections. He expressed surprise that although there had been some 100 killings in the Congo at the time, the Western world had shown little or no interest.

Nick Gordon writing in the DAILY TELEGRAPH (August 11) reported on visits he had paid to Beho Beho on the northern edge of the Selous wildlife reserve in the 1980s and again recently. The 1980s was a time when thousands of East African elephants were being gunned down on an industrial scale for their ivory. … “I also remembered the down-at-heel grave of the great white hunter Frederic Selous – the prototype of H Rider Haggard’s hero of King Solomon’s Mines who was killed by a German sniper during a skirmish in 1917. Now the ivory wars are over and the elephants look relaxed….. The grave of Selous is now as neat and emotive as any you might see in a Commonwealth war cemetery. The game is in fine form. The threadbare little lodge has been replaced by a new camp built on the side of a natural arena with a magnificent millenium stadium view of the plain below…. There are dynamic guides too, an inspired chef and an underlying feeling of confidence and well-being. ….What brought about this change? I put it down to the Mugabe factor. How can the tyrannical Robert Mugabe bring about such marked improvements in Tanzania? It’s simple. By denying human rights to some of the brightest and most energetic of his nation, he has forced them to seek employment elsewhere. Beho Beho is managed and run by Zimbabweans…..” Thank you John Sankey for sending this item – Editor

The EAST AFRICAN (May 22) reported that Tanzania has introduced a grading system for hotels, restaurants and tourist establishments to conform to the internationally recognised star-rating system. The hotel classification and standardisation criteria were developed by a group of EAC experts and approved by the Council of Ministers in November 2006. The government has already completed an inventory of all hotels and testing was complete by April this year, he said. The inventory classified town and country hotels depending on their locations. “But in the case of establishments that were not specifically attracting holiday visitors – such as motels and town hotels – it was suggested that they be classified under the general term ‘hotel’ and individual operators determine their segment in the market.” The grading, which is being done under the auspices of the East African Community, is aimed at attracting more tourists to the region. It is estimated that the country earns more than $740 million in foreign exchange from international tourism, and receives just over 525,000 tourists annually. The tourism industry in Tanzania contributes nearly 25 per cent of the growth domestic product (GDP) and offers direct employment to some 200,000 people.

Is the East African Region moving East – to China and the Arab world – in terms of new investments and large contracts asked the Kenyan NATION in its issue of May 16. The evidence may be anecdotal, the paper wrote, but the broad picture is that of gradual replacement of Europe as the main source of new investments and implementer of major contracts in the region. The article went on: ‘Indeed, besides China and the Arab world, the only other major player in the investment arena in the region is South Africa whose companies have been clinching one privatisation deal after another in Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and to a lesser extent, Kenya. The South Africans have been very strong in the infrastructure and banking sectors, running privatised electricity and telecommunications utilities, and controlling some of the largest commercial banks in the region.’
‘Still, the most remarkable activity is coming from China and the Arab world. For example, a company from Kuwait is involved in upgrading the Tanga harbour. As countries of this region negotiate the so-called Economic Partnerships Agreements (EPAs) with Europe, we must not lose sight of the realities that are emerging: that in terms of trade and investment, European firms are gradually being supplanted by other players. True, ACP countries will have to open their markets to Europe on signing EPAs. Indeed, it will mean an unprecedented change in the way we have done business with Europe for decades. Several dangers loom, however. If the deals are negotiated without well thought-out asymmetric arrangements, EPAs will end up hurting most of the countries in the region in terms of reduced tax revenues, substantial diversion of trade from third party countries, and possible surges of substandard imports from Europe. The saving grace is that non-dutiable products make up a large percentage of exports from most of the countries in this region.’

UCLA California’s publication AFRICAN ARTS (Spring issue 2007) included a 6-page illustrated article by Barbara Thompson, under the title ‘Namsifueli Nyeki – a Tanzanian Potter Extraordinaire’. She wrote: ‘Even to the untrained eye in local markets, the unique pottery of Namsifueli clearly stands out from that of other potters. Although her work is grounded in the long-standing pottery traditions of her ancestor’s, Namsifueli’s interest in experimentation, new designs and individualised detailing lend her work the distinct touch of an artist unconstrained by the limitations of cultural tradition. As such, she poses an interesting contradiction to notions of anonymity, conformity and conservatism in African pottery…. Namsifueli is celebrated as the most accomplished and innovative potter in the Usambara Mountains. For her and her potting neighbours, selling their vessels in the main market town of Lushoto, means a four-hour trek carrying a heavy load of pots along narrow pathways, up and down the valleys and peaks of this mountainous terrain…. During a week-long visit I observed that this charismatic woman performed her daily tasks and back-breaking pottery chores with seeming ease and constant joy.’ “I love my work” she said “which is why some other potters are jealous of me.” …..’Today, as in the past’, Thompson wrote, ‘ceramic production is closely associated with the cosmologies of human genesis in north-eastern Tanzania. Pottery often serves as a metaphor for the womb, the vessel from which life emerges ….with the help of traditional healers, sacred ceramic vessels can embody ancestor spirits or harness their transformative powers’ Thank you Elsbeth Court for sending this item – Editor.

The UGANDA MONITOR (May 25) reported that a $200 million 60-80 megawatt hydro electric power station is to be constructed at the Rusoma Falls on the Kagera River to supply electricity to Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda. Design of the project is being financed with African Development Bank and World Bank finance and construction work is expected to finish in 2011. The power line will provide electricity as far as Biharamulo. The project will be carried out under the ‘Nile Equatorial Lakes Subsidiary Action Program (NELSAP)’ a subsidiary project of the ‘Nile Basin Initiative’.

‘Last week, I was touring northern Tanzania when we passed the small town of Karatu and suddenly came upon an open field splashed with colour so bright and varied it looked from afar as if someone had painted a 30-colour rainbow on the landscape’. So wrote Thomas Friedman in the HERALD TRIBUNE (April 23). He went on: ‘As we got closer I discovered that it was Karatu’s huge clothing market. Merchants had laid out blankets piled with multicoloured shirts, pants and dresses and were hawking their goods…. Scenes like this remind you that Africa is neither all tragedy nor all renaissance. It is a diverse continent struggling to find its way in the global economy which has both of these extremes but is much more in a middle place that looks like that field in Karatu: a wild, unregulated, informal, individual brand of capitalism which we need to channel into formal companies that can grow, even with corrupt governments. Africa needs many things, but most all it needs capitalists who can start and run legal companies even with corrupt governance. More Bill Gates, fewer foundations….

A good example of what happens when you combine patient capital, talent and innovation is the Nairobi company Advanced Bio-extracts, headed by Patrick Henfrey, which is cultivating the green leafy plant Artemisia – a botanical extract that is the key ingredient in a new generation of low-cost, effective malaria treatments commonly known as ‘Artemisinin-based combination therapies’. The factory is not only processing the feedstock for the drug but has also contracted with 7,000 small farmers, including many Tanzanians, to grow Artemisia – a crop that gives them four times the financial yield of maize…. Thank you Doreen Woodford for sending this information – Editor.

As part of the commemoration of the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade 200 years ago, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London put on an exhibition, under the title ‘Uncomfortable Truths.’ Amongst a group of specially commissioned ‘interventions,’ Zanzibar-born Lubaina Himid’s contribution ‘Naming the money’ consisted of life-sized cut-out paintings of slave servants. The exhibits were sometimes propped up behind the barrier ropes of the displays, sometimes in the corner of a gallery so that only the truly vigilant would notice them. Reporting on the exhibition Thomas Sutcliffe in the INDEPENDENT was highly critical of this arrangement. ‘Truths’ he wrote, ‘should not have been dispersed throughout the corridors to lurk in corners. The exhibition should have been a blockbuster.’ Thank you Elsbeth Court for this – Editor.

In a highly critical front page article followed by comment, the communist paper, the MORNING STAR (17th April), quoted World Development Movement Head of Campaigns Murray Benham on the subject of the controversial $102 million, ten-year contract between the British company Biwater and the Tanzanian Government, aimed at improving Dar es Salaam’s water supply. The agreement was cancelled by the Government two years after it began on the basis that the company had failed to make even half the investment agreed and was not meeting its targets. (See earlier issues of TA). Biwater is suing.
“Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case, it is the Tanzanian people who will be the losers” Benham said. “There is no justification for claiming millions from a country that is among the 20 poorest in the world…. On its comment page the paper said that the Tanzanian government did not seek this failed privatisation. It was thrust upon the country by the IMF and imposed as a requirement of a structural adjustment programme and as a condition of debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative. Biwater had rejected a request by the Tanzanian government that the case be heard in public and had also opposed the tribunal taking place on African soil….” Thank you Jerry Jones for sending this item – Editor.

Fresh from promoting his latest film, the actor Bill Nighy travelled to Tanzania to see how the G8 could help some of the world’s poorest people. He had only been to Africa only once before – to Kenya for a film called ‘The Constant Gardener’. In an article in the INDEPENDENT (June 5) he described his visits to a number of Oxfam projects in Ngorongoro district. He expressed his suspicion of people who say that there is a lot of corruption. They say that people in the developing world have to learn to look after themselves which I agree with. But, he continued “I also believe that we need to provide aid from the international community so that they can”. In one village the people were asked what the day would have looked like if Oxfam had not been involved in their lives. They all said they would be dead. The villagers showed him a ‘grain bank.’ “It might not sound much to us but it’s radical to them because it has freed them from what used to be a 10- day walk for one bag of maize….. Moving on to a village called Malambo, we were again met with great charm and generosity. The primary school here is a success story as a result of what has been happening with aid and debt relief. Free primary education was introduced in Tanzania in 2001 which is fantastic in many ways. But class sizes have exploded (an average of 100 pupils per class) and while aid helped build further classrooms there is still much more to be done. It’s a boarding school because the distances are so great between homesteads and school – sometimes a three-hour walk each way.”
Nighy met a women’s group and saw their bead jewellery business. “This was an extremely satisfying place” he said. “Their jewellery has been selling well – 60,000 pieces – the majority in white-bead ‘Make Poverty History’ bracelets – giving a sense of symmetry. It has revolutionised their lives…… it was marvellous to see how much dignity this whole enterprise had given them. Now they have money to spend. Some have constructed secure homes, others have bought clothes, goats or been able to provide their children with that all important secondary education…..”
His journey convinced Nighy of the need for the G8 to stick to the promises of Gleneagles. “Aid does work. It gets through and it does make an incredible difference. We could actually save a generation. We haven’t got round to it yet but hope that Gleneagles will. There is absolutely no reason on God’s earth that they can’t solve this problem and I just hope that it can go to the top of their agenda so that one day no one will have this conversation again.” (Thank you Keith Lye for sending this abbreviated version of the Independent article).

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