by Donovan McGrath

Meet the Chinese ‘tambi’ noodle-makers of Zanzibar
(Al Jazeera (Qatar) – online) The story behind a popular Ramadan dish of fried vermicelli noodles and dark raisins in sweet coconut milk. Extract continues: In Zanzibar, Ramadan is not complete without the sweet promise of tambi (noodles in Swahili) at iftar – the evening meal to break the daily fast… The noodles, made in small batches by Chinese-owned noodle factories on the sister islands of Unguja and Pemba, are a testament to Zanzibar’s long-standing history of trade with China dating back to 1000 AD. Amid the buzz and boil at the Kariakoo Noodles on Unguja, Howingkao explains: “I was born in Zanzibar … I started working at the noodle factory as a young man … Howingkao’s father, Hojofat Howai, was born in southern China in the Cantonese port city of Guangzhou. In the early 1930s, he travelled with his father (Howingkao’s grandfather) by sea to the island of Pemba, where the family found work trading cloves and sea cucumbers… With a grow­ing family of four sons, Hojofat Howai and his wife decided to stay and establish a noodle-making factory in Chake Chake, Pemba. When Zanzibar’s 1964 revolution triggered a mass exodus … [t]hey relocated to Unguja to open Kariakoo Noodles, which Howingkao and his older brother Hing manage today. Five different Chinese family-owned noo­dle factories with generational roots in Zanzibar currently operate on Unguja alone, with a few other noodle shops on Pemba. “The Chinese introduced tambi [noodles] to Zanzibar,” Howingkao explains, “but Zanzibaris made it their own.” … Mrs Chen, Howingkao’s cousin in her late 60s, believes it was her father, Chen Nang, also from Guangzhou, who first popularised the flour-based noodle in Zanzibar. In the 1920s, Chen Nang travelled by sea to Zanzibar to make a living in the sea cucumber export business. He moved around Unguja a lot and noticed Swahili villagers labouring to make small batches of rice flour noodles by hand… In the 1930s, Chen Nang returned to Guangzhou, got mar­ried and returned to Unguja with his wife and a hand-cranked noodle machine… “Everyone started asking for this tambi. And the rest is his­tory!” says Mrs Chen… (12 June 2018)

The crop that put women on top in Zanzibar

Seaweed farmers in Paje (BBC online)

(BBC World Service (UK) -online) Seaweed has been hailed as the new superfood, and it’s also found in toothpaste, medicine and shampoo. In Zanzibar, it’s become big business – and as it has been farmed prin­cipally by women, it has altered the sexual balance of power. Extract continues: When seaweed farming was first introduced in the early 1990s, men thought it wasn’t worth their while. They preferred fishing or jobs in tourism. But some didn’t want their wives to farm either. Mohamed Mzale, a community leader in the east coast village of Paje puts it bluntly: “I thought this seaweed business was a kind of family planning because after hours on the beach and work in the house our women were very tired – they had no time – you know… to make babies.” Mohamed initially refused to let his wife go with the others… Seaweed farming has proved a liberating force on the overwhelmingly Muslim island. Until recently most women in the villages only left their houses to go to a funeral, a wedding or to visit a sick relative. Their isolation was even reflected in the architecture – many houses have stone benches along the outside wall to allow men to receive visitors at home without compromising the privacy of their women indoors. “At the beginning some husbands threatened divorce if their wives went out to farm seaweed,” says marine biologist Flower Msuya. “But when they saw the money women were making, they slowly began to accept it.” … Safia Mohamed, a seaweed farmer from the village of Bweleo on the south-west coast, has done exceptionally well for herself. She has a shop where she sells seaweed soap, jam and chutney. With the proceeds she bought her sons a fishing boat, a scooter and built a big family house… [However the] women have … [a] problem to deal with – climate change… [I]n Paje seaweed stopped growing for three years from 2011. It gradually returned, but only the low-value spinosum vari­ety which contains less of the substance – carrageenan – which is used as a thickening agent in foods, cosmetics and medicines. As a result, the business is less lucrative. To make matters worse, for a while the warmer sea temperatures encouraged a form of blue-green algae that gave the women painful rashes and blisters. Many in Paje gave up the business – out of 450 seaweed farmers working in the town 20 years ago, only 150 are left… [W]omen who used to farm seaweed on the beach are now making [fried samosas and] handicrafts which they sell to sunbath­ing tourists. Still, the fact that they are at work outside the house is one of seaweed’s legacies… (3 July 2018)

Karate biker nun takes the fight to HIV

Sister Kate Costigan with Maasai pillion passenger – Telegraph online

(The Guardian Weekly -UK) New campaign of mass checks aims to tackle disease in Tanzania. Extract continues: … [I]n a field in Tanzania, a meeting about HIV has turned into an impromptu karate lesson. Families laugh as people take turns to practice with Sister Kate. This is not how most nuns do community outreach. It’s more than 30 years since Kate Costigan—a motorbike-riding, karate black belt—left her home in Tipperary, Ireland. At 19 she entered the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, travelling first to Nigeria and later Tanzania… Today, Costigan is at the forefront of an HIV campaign that could be a template for other low-income countries. The programme—run jointly by pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences and the Vatican—is pro­moting mass checks, with treatment offered to anyone who tests posi­tive, regardless of their clinical stage. The World Health Organisation believes this approach, offered alongside other prevention methods, could prevent 21 million deaths globally … Costigan rides a motorbike to deliver HIV care to local villages quickly, while churches invite health experts to give seminars on getting tested… In Tanzania, two-thirds of the population are Christian, and the church has the power to shape attitudes. Thirty years ago, in the Mwanza region in the north­west, Pope John Paul II gave a speech that made the Vatican’s fierce and controversial opposition to condom use clear. Since then, its stance on prevention has been widely criticised by HIV experts, including the WHO. On the ground in Tanzania, people take a pragmatic approach. Costigan follows church teachings but says: “We don’t give out con­doms but they know where they can get them and they’re always given proper information.” … Elsewhere others are more outspoken. “Even the priest himself advised I use condoms,” says one woman, who is now an HIV counsellor and advises everyone to use protection. Across Tanzania, there are still more than 30,000 Aids-related deaths a year… (27 July 2018)—Thanks to Roger Bowen for this item—Editor

Twitter now speaks Swahili. Poa sana!
(CNN (USA) – online) Extract: After years of hashtags and outcries, Twitter now recognizes Swahili, one of East Africa’s most common languages. And that’s poa sana – or as Twitter would tell you, pretty awesome. The social media platform now offers translation for the language spoken by tens of millions in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and some parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It’s unclear when Twitter started recognizing Swahili. Before that, it described Swahili tweets as Indonesian and translated them into a mumbo jumbo of inco­herent words… The recognition comes after a campaign by Kenyans on social media, who regularly used hashtags #SwahiliIsNotIndonesia and #TwitterRecognizesSwahili on the social media platform to demand recognition… (15 May 2018)

Joseph Mbilinyi takes Tanzania to court over rap song ban
(BBC (UK) – online) Tanzanian MP Joseph Mbilinyi says he will sue the government for banning his rap song about state prisons. Extract contin­ues: Basata, the country’s arts council, banned the song for using words that “incite public violence.” The song was leaked after the opposition MP, popularly known as MC Sugu, was jailed for allegedly defaming President John Magufuli. The ban comes amid complaints about restric­tions to freedom of expression. Basata said in a press statement that the song, which it dubbed #219, had generated numerous complaints from the public and “brings into jeopardy the reputation of the arts industry in composing songs”… The opposition Chadema party MP has asked lawyers to begin the process of taking Basata to court “to ensure that the agency desists from interfering, censuring and destroying the works of artists,” Mr Mbilinyi said. Tanzanian authorities banned 13 local songs deemed obscene in March after receiving a list from Basata… (22 June 2018)

Kenya, Tanzania mark 20 years since US embassy bombings
(AP (USA) – online) Extract: Kenyans and Tanzanians … marked the 20th anniversary of the al-Qaida bombings of the U.S. embassies in their countries that killed more than 250 people, with hundreds of local sur­vivors calling on the U.S. government for compensation. The explosions on Aug. 7, 1998, were the first major al-Qaida attack on U.S. targets… “There immediate purpose was to kill and destroy, but they had more in mind. They sought to divide us, to divide friends … to undermine the values we hold dear, to destroy civilization itself and replace it with a nightmare of oppression,” [U.S. ambassador Robert] Godec said… The embassy bombings brought al-Qaida to the attention of the U.S. public and the world three years before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York and Washington that killed nearly 3,000. (7 August 2018)

Tanzania Wants to Build Pipeline to Pump Gas to Uganda
(Reuters (UK) – online) Extract: … State-run Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) said … that the pipeline would start from its capital Dar es Salaam, then pass through Tanga port on the Indian Ocean and to Mwanza, a port on Lake Victoria before crossing the border to Uganda… Tanzania boasts estimated recoverable natural gas reserves of over 57 trillion cubic feet (tcf), mostly in offshore fields in the south of the country… (6 August 2018)

Prisons crackdown launched
(The Guardian Weekly – UK) Extract: The Tanzanian president John Magufuli, has ordered that prisoners be made to work “day and night”, that conjugal visits be ended, and that lazy inmates should be “kicked”. The leader, who has come under fire from human rights groups over his authoritarian leadership style and a crackdown on freedoms, was speaking at the inauguration of the new prisons chief, Faustine Martin Kasike. He said underemployment of prisoners encouraged drug use and homosexuality in prisons… (27 July 2018)—Thanks to Roger Bowen for this item—Editor

George Jonas: Tanzanian who contributed in producing Air Tanzania’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
(BBC Swahili (UK) – online) When the new ACTL corporation Boeing 787-8 plane landed at Julius Nyerere airport … few people would have thought that a Tanzanian is among those who manufactured the plane. Extract continues: Even so, the fact is George Jonas, who comes from the Mbeya region, is among the technical officials involved in the pro­duction of the 262-seater aircraft named Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The aircraft’s engines have been built by special methods in order to reduce the sound inside and outside the plane by 60 per cent while its windows are 30 per cent larger than those on other aircraft of the same size. Jonas, whose father was a Tanzanian soldier, told The Citizen in Tanzania that he has been involved in the construction of the plane since 2015 as a worker for the American Boeing company, which constructs, manu­factures and sells aircraft, rockets, Satelites and missiles… [At] Ilboru secondary school in Arusha … “I studied science and participated in the studies of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics”, said [Jonas]. He was chosen by a group of American citizens who were looking for a young Tanzanian who had credentials in order to work in Amercia for three months. “I felt fortunate. I didn’t know anyone at this time, and my parents didn’t have the money to send me to study overseas.”, said Jonas … In America, he sent out applications to study at univer­sity and was successful in being enrolled at the University of Wichita where he studied for a degree in electrical installations engineering along with mathematics. These studies were expected to send him on to the Bombardier firm, a Canadian aircraft transportation company in Montreal, Quebec. He did his training at the Bombardier Wichita branch in 2005 while involved in the manufacture of private and mili­tary aircraft. He worked in the company for four years before joining Boeing in 2011 as an aircraft electronic installations engineer. He was involved in all the systems of flying this plane. At one time when he was on the internet, he came across a Boeing advert and decided to send an application. “One day, when I was at work, I received a phone call from Boeing telling me that I was among 50 people who were listed for a job interview. They sent me the plane fare. I went to the interview without worry because I had been employed by Bombardier”, he said. Later, he received the good news that he got the job and that it would be good for him to move to Seatle state to work at Boeing. (11 July 2018) – This item was published in Swahili, which I have rendered into English. Any errors in the translation are entirely my own – Donovan McGrath

Tanzania Plans to Suspend Naspers’ Multichoice Telecoms License
(Reuters (UK) – online) Extract: Tanzania’s telecommunications regulator intends to suspend the license of Multichoice, owned by South Africa’s Naspers, for continuing to carry free-to-air channels. A notice issued by Tanzania’s Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) said Multichoice had been instructed in June not to carry the channels on its platform, but the de facto Africa pay-TV monopoly had persisted in doing so. It did not say when it would suspend Multichoice’s license. The authority also issued an intention to suspend notice to Simbanet Tanzania Limited, another pay-TV channel, Philip Filikunjombe, TCRA’s acting Head of Enforcement and Compliance Affairs, told Reuters … The announcement follows the suspension of Chinese multinational media company StarTimes’ subsidiary in Tanzania which the regulator said had not met its license obligation to provide access to free to air content services (8 August 2018)

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