by Donovan McGrath

Bamboo: Africa’s untapped potential taking root in Africa April 2016 edition of New York-based United Nations’ Africa Renewal magazine published a feature, with individual subheadings for the handful of African countries involved in the cultivation of bamboo for the growing global market. Tanzania is one of the countries featured under the subhead­ing Tanzania: New income for 5,000 rural women. Extract: Bamboo has been increasing in importance as a non-timber forest product in Tanzania over the last two decades, according to INBAR [International Network of Bamboo and Rattan]. Locally bamboo is sought for handicrafts, residential fencing, flower farming, farm props for banana plantations, furniture and other minor cottage industry products like basketry and toothpicks… INBAR, in partnership with the International Fund for Agricultural Development, helped to establish 100 bamboo nurseries and set up micro-enterprises, and trained 1,000 locals in a specially created Bamboo Training Centre. Today some 5,000 women in these rural communities produce handicrafts and desks for local schools and sell charcoal briquettes.

Tanzania featured in a number of articles published in the Financial Times (UK), which included comments on mobile phone technology and President Magufuli’s handling of the economy and the political situation in the country. The following are extracts of these articles. Thanks to Carol Wilcox and Jeremy Jones for sending these items – Editor

Tanzania’s new president shakes up east Africa’s ‘sleeping giant’:
Extract: Mr Magufuli, 56, embarking on his first five-year term, is creating a buzz of expectation that at last Tanzania has found a leader capable of awakening the “sleeping giant” of east Africa, one with huge, largely unexploited, gas and mineral resources. “He walks the talk,” says Samuel Wangwe, principal research associate at the Economic and Social Research Foundation in Dar es Salaam. “When he says something, he follows through. He’s not a liar.” The presidency commands huge constitutional power – and Mr Magufuli has not been afraid to use it… He pressed ahead with a highly flawed electoral process in Zanzibar, semi-autonomous island, which deprived the Zanzibari opposition of what looked like victory. Nor has he been shy of using sweeping cyber crime legislation to silence critics. This month, a court sentenced a man to three years in jail for insulting the president on Facebook… He scrapped normally lavish independence day celebrations and, borrowing a stunt from Narenda Modi, India’s prime minister; took to the streets with a broom, declaring he would spend the money saved on sanitation. He has clamped down on foreign travel for officials, personally vetting all trips. His predecessor, Jakaya Kikwete, was so fond of foreign tours he was christened Vasco da Gama, after the Portugese explorer… Mr Magufuli’s supporters argue that he must first use his authority to take on a system corroded by corruption and complacency before he can rebuild institutions. But even advocates worry about his tendencies to run government by fiat and take snap decisions without, they say, thinking through the consequences. A crackdown on illicit sugar imports has led to shortages. Last week, his government demanded, with no consultation, that foreign-owned telecoms companies list on the local stock exchange within six months [see following item]. One Lawyer accused the president of hypocrisy, saying he talked about fighting corruption while encouraging the police to steal tyres of illegally parked vehicles… (FT 27 June 2016)

Tanzania wants foreign-backed telecos to list: Dar es Salaam aims to keep tabs on revenues and widen share ownership
Extract: An amendment to a new finance bill will require the eight operators in Tanzania, one of Africa’s fastest-growing telecoms markets, to float 25 per cent of their shares on Dar es Salaam’s thinly traded stock exchange. Johannesburg-listed Vodacom, a subsidiary of Vodafone, Stockholm-based Millicom and India’s Bharti Airtel will need to list part of their business alongside five local operators. The mandatory listing, which appears to reverse an informal agreement with the main operators, is part of a government strategy to squeeze more revenue from the private sector. An executive at one of the foreign operators, who did not want to be named, described the move as a complete surprise given it had been made without any consultation. Phillip Mpango, finance and planning minister, has told the national assembly that the measure would “help the government trace the exact revenue generated by these companies”, as well as allow Tanzanians to hold shares in telecom companies. He denied that the bill was a reversal of policy, saying it merely enforced a stipulation in the Electronic and Postal Communication Act of 2010 for foreign telecoms companies to list locally… John Magufuli, Tanzania’s new president, has accused some foreign companies, particularly in the mining sector, of seeking to avoid local taxes by declaring losses in the country and repatriating profits and dividends overseas. (FT 30 June 2016)

Tanzania’s fintech and mobile money transform business practice
Extract: Ramadhani Saidi Gereza is a barometer for the way the mobile phone technology is changing Tanzania. The engine oil seller in Dar es Salaam’s Kariakoo market says mobile money has transformed his business. “People from upcountry used to send cash by bus and I had to go further to collect their money,” he says. “Now I don’t have to. It’s much more efficient.” Yet it is not all good news. The country’s eight mobile operators offer various incentives to attract customers, but they do not always deliver, Mr Gereza says. “Bonus payments [for custom­ers] are delayed or we don’t get them so I tell my city customers to go and get cash and pay with that [instead].” These glitches are a result of the continuous innovation the operators feel compelled to adopt as they compete in one of the most promising markets in sub-Saharan Africa. Johannesburg-listed Vodacom, which is majority owned by Vodafone, is the largest mobile operator by subscriber numbers. Its main rivals are Tigo, a brand name of Stockholm-listed Millicom, and India’s Bharti Airtel. Together, the three operators control some 90 per cent of the market of 34m active mobile contracts out of a population of 55m. The GSMA, a global body representing operators, predicts Tanzania will be among the top seven subscriber markets in sub-Saharan Africa in the next five years. Mobile money is the main battleground. While Kenya’s M-pesa has won international plaudits for its groundbreaking mobile money system, Tanzania has arguably overtaken its northern neighbour in the depth of its mobile money market… The World Bank reported last year there were more mobile money accounts per 1,000 adults in Tanzania than anywhere else in Africa… “Mobile money is so successful because the competition is cash, not the banks,” says Diego Gutierrez, Tigo’s general manager for Tanzania. Some 60 per cent of adults have mobile money wallets in the country, while only 15 per cent have bank accounts, Tigo says… (FT 13 July 2016)

Tanzanian president’s tough tactics alienate political opponents
Extract: When John Magufuli became Tanzanian president in November it was widely expected that he would shake up government. He campaigned under the slogan “It’s all about work” and had garnered a reputation for action in his previous role as works minister. Less clear was how he would handle the nation’s politics… Western diplomats argue he failed his first political test soon after being inaugurated. He backed the decision by the Zanzibar electoral commission chairman to annul the semi-autonomous region’s October election results based on unproven claims of irregularities. The opposition boycotted the re-run in March and US and EU diplomats boycotted the inauguration of the islands’ president… Of more concern, according to Ms Anyimadu, is the opposition MP’s decision to boycott parliamentary sessions overseen by deputy speaker Tulia Ackson. The action was prompted by their belief that she was mistreating them and stifling democracy at the behest of Mr Magufuli, who appointed her. Opposition MPs were further incensed by a speech Mr Magufuli gave last month in which he ordered opposition parties, for the sake of developing the nation, to confine their political activities to parliament and not engage in campaigns that could obstruct the government until the 2020 election. Freeman Mbowe, chairman of Chadema, called the move “regrettable”. “[The president] should know that he can’t and won’t silence us,” he said after the speech. Elsewhere, the new government also appears to have curtailed Tanzanians’ democratic rights. The police have banned opposition rallies … (FT 13 July 2016)

Zanzibar – where ‘politics is like religion’
In Stone Town, the historic centre of Zanzibar City, people are still talking about politics months after the elections were supposedly set­tled… Zanzibar, which joined Tanganyika in 1964 to form the union of Tanzania, has been seething with political tension for years… In 2000, some 35 people were killed after police shot into a crowd following a contested poll. There were further fatal clashes in 2005. Tensions bubbled to the surface again last year when the electoral commission annulled October’s election on the grounds of alleged irregularities. The main opposition candidate for president, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad of the Civic Unite Front, declared himself the winner… Internationally, the election is regarded as a serious blot on Tanzania’s copybook. Most foreign diplomats refuse to interact with Zanzibar’s new government… The stand-off has raised fears of radicalisation of Zanzibar’s Muslim majority population… Fatma Karume, granddaughter of Zanzibar’s first president, says the situation is explosive. “Zanzibar has never wanted to lose its identity. Now we are being swallowed up.” (FT 13 July 2016)

Superstition is fuelling a grisly trade in human body parts. Tanzania
shows how it can be curbed This article, published in The Economist (London), is a fairly recent addition to the publications concerned with the treatment of people with albinism in Tanzania.
Extract: To be born with albinism is hard luck. This genetic condition, in which people lack pigments in their skin, hair and eyes, affects on in 20,000 worldwide and is more common in Africa… For centuries people have believed that albinos are cursed. In parts of Africa babies born with albinism were once routinely killed. That ghastly tradition has died out, but others persist. In Swahili many people call albinos zeru (ghost) or nguruwe (pig). Children with the condition are often bullied at school and forced to eat separately from their peers… Women are at higher risk of rape because of a myth that sex with an albino can cure HIV. Worst of all, many albinos are murdered by people who think that their bones contain gold or have magical powers … Some witchdoctors claim that amulets made from albino bones can cure disease or bring great wealth to those who wear them. A gruesome trade in their body parts has spurred killings in Tanzania, Burundi, Mozambique, Zambia and South Africa. Sometimes family members sell their albino nephews or cousins for cash… Superstitions die hard, in any part of the world. Yet the senseless killing of albinos can be curbed. Tanzania, once one of the most dangerous countries in Africa for people with albinism, has sharply reduced the number of murders by clamping down on demand. It has banned unlicensed witchdoctors and increased penalties for those caught trading in body parts. It investigates albino murders energeti­cally: in recent years it has arrested and convicted several “albino hunt­ers”. The police have issued mobile phones to many albinos so that they can call an emergency number if they feel unsafe. The recent appoint­ment of an albino lawyer to the cabinet may also have helped reduce the stigma attached to the condition… (11 June 2016)

Tanzania Breweries now partners with traditional liquor outlet owners

Published by The East African (Kenya). Extract: Tanzania Breweries Ltd (TBL) plans to expand the market for its traditional liquors Chibuku, and Nzagamba, by using existing “drinking dens” as outlets and the owners as agents. TBL managing director Roberto Jarrin said integrating tradi­tional beer makers in the business would save the brewers some of the costs of making the liquor… But not all traditional brewers are excited about the programme. “I once bought Chibuku from agents for sale, but it was not profitable because the people are not used to it,” said Aurelia John, a traditional liquor brewer. “I don’t mind the hard work it takes to make my own product, which people are used to.” … Aisha Khalid, who used to brew skadi from sorghum, sugar and yeast, says she used to make a profit of Tsh10,000 ($4.6) in four days after investing Tsh15,000 ($7). When she started selling Chibuku, her profit dropped to Tsh7,000 ($3.2). However, she says being an agent is not as tedious as brewing, and the liquor is guaranteed to be safe for consumption… According to a study by CanBack, traditional beer accounts for 50 per cent of the alcohol consumed in Tanzania. Homemade brews from more than 120 tribes make up almost 92 per cent of that segment. Mr Jarrin said that in order to ease replacement of traditional beer with TBL brands, they are considering making it in traditional flavours taking the cue from popular local brews like banana beer (mbege) from Kilimanjaro, palm wine (mnazi) from the coastal areas, bamboo wine (ulanzi) from the southern highlands, and maize beer (komoni) from the central zone… (11-17 June 2016)

Success of Mkuki na Nyota

Walter Bgoya

Walter Bgoya

This is a very interesting profile, by the Ugandan writer A.K. Kazia, of the Tanzanian publisher Walter Bgoya, published with the heading A luta continua! in the July 2016 edition of the New African (UK). Extract: [Walter Bgoya was born in 1942] in the placid northwestern Tanzanian district of Ngara, on the border of Rwanda and Burundi … Leaving Ngara extruded him, as with so many of his generation, into the wider world of black struggle… The years he was a civil servant, from 1965 to 1972, would be the most intense years of his life… In his 20s, Walter would meet and become friends with founding Angolan president, Agostinho Neto, get on first-name basis with Samora Machel, and beyond expectations, find himself, as Tanzania’s Charge d’Affaires in Addis Ababa, playing host to the warring parties of the Biafran war … [H]ow does one characterise a publisher, in East Africa of all places, that issues Tax Dispute Resolutions under the same logo as War and Peace in Contemporary Eritrean Poetry? Add to these a war-chest of titles covering topics from anthropology, law, children’s books, culture and arts, health, political economics, biography, history. The common thread that connects all these, is the idea of Africa. There are the titles that overtly say so: New Imperialism by Wole Soyinka, and The Long Road to Socialism by Samir Amin (both based on the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere lectures) … Straight up, Mkuki na Nyota is a refuge for liberation-era thinkers in East Africa scarcely able to find a publisher in Kampala or Nairobi. The subject matter of these books is what the University of Nairobi’s Dr. Tom Odhiambo calls “local knowledge.” “Even when [Bgoya] was at the [Tanzanian Publishing House], the idea was that whatever you publish has to be the local in conversation with the global.” The white hair, the stately bearing, and the crackly, charismatic voice punctuated with French and Kiswahili expressions and inflected with Nyerere aphorisms, a Tanzanian pastime, do not conceal the youthful energy of Bgoya, now 73. For the 18 years that he ran the Tanzania Publishing House, books became an extension of the struggle, the years in which the dives of Dar es Salaam jumped to the sounds of liberation: these were the acronym-days of FRETLIMO, FRELIMO, SWAPO, MPLA, FRITLIN, POLISARIO, ZANU, ZAPU, ANC… Mkuki na Nyota was conceived in crisis. Structural Adjustment Policies, the austerity programme to which indebted African governments signed up under duress, gutted the Tanzania Publishing House (TPH) … Out of a job and still not fifty, Walter decided to go it alone. Employing his daughters as secretaries, he issued a children’s book, Karibu Tusome (Let Us Read). As luck would have it, a new literacy project in Tanzania, promised to buy two-thirds of the titles produced to promote reading. They took 2000 copies of the book, and hence launched Mkuki na Nyota… Tanzania offered more opportunities for a publisher than many African countries. Its language policy favouring Kiswahili, was perhaps its greatest strength… Tanzania made Mkuki na Nyota; Tanzania needs Mkuki na Nyota. To remain the Swahili nation, it needs publishers like Walter…

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