Monday, February 26, 2018

Of textbooks, teacher guides in TZ schools



School books on display. PHOTO | FILE

School books on display. PHOTO | FILE 

By Abdullah Saiwaad

Mr Ajaib Singh was our class and mathematics teacher. In those days, we had to do some mental arithmetic. Mr Ajaib would call up a student and throw a question from the textbook. What surprised me then was that whenever anybody answered, the teacher would look into his book, then shout, “Correct” or “Wrong”. I was surprised because I thought that since he was a trained maths teacher; shouldn’t he be able to do the calculations mentally? Why had he to refer to another book? I never asked. Unfortunately, I never met Mr Ajaib after finishing school.

Ten years later, I became a teacher. I taught physics and mathematics. There were a lot of problems to be solved. When I instructed a student to solve a question, I would later look for the answer in the teacher’s guidebook. This is the book that Mr Ajaib used.

A couple of years later, I was employed as an editor in a publishing house. Editing textbooks was an arduous task, still is. Again as an editor it was my duty to make sure that all the problems in the learner’s book had their correct answers in the teacher’s guide. This meant cross checking the answers in the teacher’s guide.

Editing textbooks was also tedious because at the page proof stage one had to make sure that all the references in the teacher’s guide corresponded to the exact page in the learner’s book.

The teachers’ guide provides answers, and is almost a minute-by-minute manual for teachers. The guides identify the aim of the lesson and gives advice on the teaching methodology. It recommends tours and visits. The teacher’s guide was something that no teacher would be without if he wanted to make sure learning takes place.

In the past, the government set aside funds for purchasing each published textbook and teacher’s guide book. The later were distributed to teacher training colleges (TTCs). Every teacher would know before graduation what she or he would teach and which books will be used in the teaching process.

Then one day the government decided not to buy textbooks and guides. This was a blunder.

Before the formation of the Eductional Materials Committee (Emac) in 1999, the Publishers Association of Tanzania (Pata) suggested that every Emac approval should be accompanied by a commitment to purchase. There were three advantages: First, TTCs would have all the textbooks used in schools. Secondly teacher resource centres would be supplied with all new approved textbooks and guides. Thus in-service teachers would get information of new books. Thirdly, the commitment to purchase would mean that Emac would work within a budget. They would not be able to approve too many books for the same subject and for the same class. Emac would have also profited from the criticism of the books from tutors and teachers before the books reached the classrooms. Unfortunately this request was not accepted.

In 2013, the open-ended approval system was tabled in Parliament. Politicians condemned Emac. The truth of the matter is that less than 5 per cent of books approved by Emac that contained errors were used to condemn Emac, leading to its scrapping. Three years later, an Emac was quietly born again in the Tanzania Institute of Education (TIE).

The Commissioner of Education produced Circular No 4 of August 2014, which gave responsibility to produce textbooks to TIE. It took TIE three years to produce poor quality textbooks unfit for human consumption. In May, 2017 Parliament was in uproar over the books. They were withdrawn. But TIE, did not produce even one teacher’s guide for all the textbooks!

We were told this February, that the textbooks have been revised and are being printed and will be delivered to schools. What will the teachers be teaching during the waiting period?

The new books also do not have the teacher’s guides, how will the teachers cope? I fear for my fellow mathematics teachers, as they will have to do the questions in the pupil’s books to obtain the answers, so that they can shout “Correct” of “Wrong” as my teacher Mr Ajaib Singh and myself used to do.


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Monday, February 26, 2018

TOUGH JUSTICE : Surveillance capitalism: one more reason to frown at tech



Justice Novati Rutenge



justice@idev.co.tz

Justice Novati Rutenge justice@idev.co.tz 

By Justice Novati Rutenge

It was captivated by a speech by a Zimbabwean-cum-South African friend named Fikile Magadlela, who is well versed in the ‘big concepts’ that govern our existence on the planet. Invited to speak about equality, ethics and opportunity in business and entrepreneurship to a group of young African leaders, the very eloquent comrade enunciated the below words, which I found very profound:

“When I was young, I wanted to change the world, but I didn’t know what the world is. The Earth is the planet that we live in, but the world is a man-made collection of systems… and these systems govern how we exist on this Earth. To change the world is to have your own ideas influencing these systems.”

There is a lot of talk about how technology is changing the world, and this is an undeniable fact. But when we think of it, we often think about the ubiquity of technology, and the impact this has had on the manner in which we access and exchange information and carry out day to day tasks.

In doing this, what we often forget to account for is the nature in which the broader system within which we operate, capitalism, seems to be evolving side by side with technology. To anyone with a mind as curious and conscious on the bigger questions about life as my friend Fikile’s, the intersection of technology and capitalism is one to be extremely engrossed in.

For instance, have the millions who enjoy free Facebook through our local telecoms thought about the catch inherent in this magnanimous giveaway? They, and the rest of us see such moves as charity, which we often take at face value.

Of course, someone may ask, for instance, about the clothes we wear; the soap, toothpaste, cars and everything else that characterizes the modern life.  Aren’t capitalist forces at play in those things as well? So why should technology be any different?

My answer is that, unlike other ‘commodities’, technology promised to save us all from capitalism. Case in point, what in the name of Mike happened to the “open source” movement and the bigger “public interest” ideas behind it? Few years ago I was completely sold on the idea that technology is bringing about the democratization of (basically) everything. I am now well cognizant of the naiveté in my earlier assumption.

I had placed my confidence in the fact that, unlike in ‘traditional’ consumer capitalism, new technology confers upon us the power of choice. However, the debate is never about choice, but about informed choice. And since most of us hardly go through the terms of service when joining popular online platforms, we unknowingly give these platforms the right to surveil us online (and offline, as I came to learn) and make our data available to whoever is willing to pay an arm and a leg for it.

By relying on advertising, new technology has failed to disentangle itself and its users from the dark side of capitalism. Tech giants collect and exploit ‘big data’ in the guise of value creation to consumers, which in itself is a classic capitalist pretext. We need to question whether the tech giants are really learning about us to serve us better, or simply surveilling us to control our behavior and consumer patterns. Recognizing the dangers that come with surveillance which are more than I have space to explain here, we must draw a line between capitalism and greed, and refuse to let the profit-goaded tech giants cross it.

I must not be misconstrued to be technophobic and techno-paranoiac. Even with stern warnings such as those offered in Netflix’ magnus opus, Black Mirror, I’m not about to discard any devices I have that can connect to a data network, for that’ll be shooting myself in the foot. What I am instead advocating for is a debate about surveillance aimed at keeping ourselves as consumers safe as we enjoy the multitudinous benefits technology has to offer.


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Monday, February 26, 2018

National dialogue needed to end violence

By TheCitizen

The term ‘dialogue’ means “an exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue – especially a political or religious issue – with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement…” And a ‘national dialogue’ describes “an increasingly-popular tool for conflict-resolution and political transformation. A national dialogue can broaden debate regarding a country’s trajectory beyond the ‘usual elite decision-makers…’”!

Having noted that, we at The Citizen call for a national dialogue on issues of safety and security as they’re already adversely impinging upon the rights, freedoms and lives of Tanzanians.

The latest such reverberating calls was made in Arusha on February 24 this year by the ‘Strong Leader’ of the political opposition party ‘ACT-Wazalendo,’ Zitto Kabwe.

Speaking for some 105-strong group of political, religious and other civil-society-based leaders, Mr Kabwe stressed a national dialogue to thrash out a lasting solution to what’s a seemingly endless spate of deadly violence in Tanzania, including beatings and torture leading in some cases to maiming and death.

The dialogue route’s being orchestrated by the Tanzania Centre for Democracy, chaired by James Mbatia, national chairman of the opposition political party NCCR-Mageuzi.

The idea is to corner the government into seriously addressing and surmounting Tanzanians’ concerns about their security and other freedoms and rights – doing so even as it investigates past incidents, identify the culprits, and judicially act by way of penalisation and deterrence.

It’s indeed of little or no consequence to claim – as some government officials and partisan politicians are already claiming – that the abductions, maiming and murders AREN’T politically-motivated.

What Tanzanians – and their development partners, as exemplified by the EU in its noble statement of Feb. 23 – sorely need is for the deadly violence to end soonest, and Tanzania’s traditional status and reputation as a ‘haven of peace’ restored.

This, we believe, is within the government’s capacity, capability and ability to do.

LINK  DIPLOMACY TO GROWTH

Tanzania has had a long history of cultivating good international relations. As such, it opened a number of diplomatic missions across the globe. Such relations are crucial for the attainment of socio, economic and political development. Often times, it is good ties that result in increased foreign direct investments. Last week, newly appointed and sworn Tanzania’s envoys Dr Willibrod Slaa and Muhidin Mboweto, met Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa at his Dar residence. During the meeting the latter instructed the duo to work hard, diligently and smartly. Most importantly, he instructed them to woo investors from the countries they would be working in—Sweden and Nigeria respectively.

By issuing this directive, the PM was not only addressing Dr Slaa and Mr Mboweto, but all envoys representing Tanzania out there.

However, it is equally important for the government to ensure that it simplifies the job of its envoys. To attract substantive investors, the government must put in place good business environment.

The government only needs to address shortcomings pointed out in the ‘Ease of Doing Business Index’ and similar research reports. Fixing these challenges will not only attract investors but simplify the job of the country’s envoys overseas.

Back home, the government must improve safety and security of people and their property. Improving civil liberties is also an important component for the country to develop. Tanzania can do better.


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Sunday, February 25, 2018

STRAIGHT TALK: Towards a just society: a step forward, two backwards ...



Ally Saleh

Ally Saleh 

A series of unpleasant events have continued to engulf our beloved land in the past couple of months. This does not augur well with government efforts to build a democratic and just society. Furthermore, it paints a bad image for Tanzania.

The unfortunate incidents mostly target opposition members, but from time to time, people not linked to politics, like Akwilina Akwiline, end up paying the ultimate price. Akwilina was shot dead by the police as the latter were dispersing members of the Opoposition Chadema. She was not part to the peaceful demos. She was a passenger in a commuter bus.

At the centre of matters were the by-elections for constituency and ward levels. And, again delays by the National Electoral Commission to issue relevant documents ahead of the polls caused the opposition party to go to the demonstrations.

The developments only show that there is a huge deterioration of the state of security in the country--leading to deaths and people getting maimed.

A lot of Tanzanians both in their private capacity as well as politicians have talked about this threatening state which stifles democratic growth and prosperity as Tanzania moves to build an industrial-based economy.

Evil incidents started in Kibiti. The public was confident that the state would clean up the challenge soon. But, it took too long to contain. Some elements involved in acts that threatened the security of the people.

Later, it emerged that there were bodies being found along the Indian Ocean. These were being placed in bags. Some linked the deaths with political animosity. This became especially evident after an assassination attempt on firebrand politician and lawyer Tundu Lissu.

Unbeknownst to most Tanzania is the fact that such incidents have been happening in Zanzibar for a long time. But, for some unknown reasons, nothing much has been done to try and end the problem.

It was raised in Parliament. Nothing tangible was done. And, the trend in Zanzibar has almost been the same--killings and attacks happening in weeks towards and election.

For over five decades, Tanzania has been a peaceful land. With these happenings, more efforts and commitment would be required to foster peace and tranquillity. We all pray that all these bad incidents of people being killed, others maimed would be ended so that we will live in a stable country, fearing nothing. There are calls from all quarters including the clerics--like Sheikh Mussa Kundecha--, civic bodies, human rights advocates, analysts, and commentators who opined that the country was heading towards anarchy.

Local human rights organisations including the Tanzania Legal and Human Rights Centre and Tanzania Human Rights Defenders Coalition which made a detailed presentation on the issue, have raised their voices, and we hope it has been heard by the powers that be. Recently, United States embassy in Tanzania showed its concern on what has been happening and advised the Tanzania government to address the issue for the good of the country. And only over the weekend the European Union has also raised the same concerns.

This means our friends and as well as development partners would like to work with us when we are at the best of peace and understanding as a nation. They would like to see their money goes down to help the entire population where a government of the day can reach out to the whole population regardless of their political affiliation.

But even without the call by our development partners, we as the citizens of this country are calling for our government, which we believe listens to its people, to act and act fast on this. We would like to live in one, strong society and that can assure peaceful process all the time and for the whole country.

We believe the government in power is able to take care and control the situation so that people can continue to have confidence in the organs of the state. People must enjoy the freedom of movement and expression as well as that of assembly.

Our social, cultural and political differences should never be the source of our division. Ultimately, we’re all entitled to the basic rights. No one should take them away just like that.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Lessons for our politicians

By Erick Mwakibete

In a week, Africa witnessed resignations, a coronation and a death. At the face of it, these developments are separate but are tied by the same forces and offer some lessons to our politicians especially those in the opposition who accuse the government of being “dictatorial” in the way it handles political opposition.

After a rambling interview in which he refused to resign until he was told why they wanted him to go, Jacob Zuma’s presidency came to an ignominous end when it became clear that his party, the ANC was willing to work with their political nemesis to end his presidency.

Zuma had pretty much followed Robert Mugabe’s playbook who resigned under the cover of darkness after failing to do so in a televised speech.

South Africans were elated, as the presidency that had been described by the media as a long nightmare had come to an end after nearly a decade in a frustrating process. No one could be bothered to remember the few things Zuma got right like the HIV/Aids programme which was a total departure from his predecessor in office.

Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane pointed out that South Africa’s problem was not Zuma but the ANC which had protected him through all the motion of no confidence brought against him over the years as his presidency was mired by mismanagement, allegations of corruption and systemic weakening some critical state institutions.

The ANC’s logic in stubbornly refusing to cooperate with opposition parties in ousting Zuma is a familiar one to liberation parties in Africa, and when they do change their minds, the end game is the same.

The voices which pointed out that ousting Zuma was not the end of South Africa’s troubles drowned in the celebrations of his political demise and the legal troubles waiting for him and his allies, some of whom are on the run.

As Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn into office, they pointed out that he too, is part of the problem and that he has flaws of his own as a businessman and as a politician. As in Zimbabwe following the ouster of Robert Mugabe, where there were those who dared to dream the impossible of power being shared in a unity government.

Few cared about the flaws of the messenger. It was not the right time for uncomfortable questions.

In Zimbabwe, Morgan Tsvangirai, the longtime opposition leader was praised in death by those who had mistreated him, tortured him in life while those he stood with to fight against Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s grip on power are falling apart at the seams and their differences played out in the open during his burial in his home village as opposing factions vie to succeed him.

Despite his flaws both as a man and a politician, he inspired a country that there was a credible alternative to Zanu-PF’s rule.

In Ethiopia, following continuous unrest in some parts of the country, the Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn resigned in a move that surprised many. However, with tensions rising among allies within the ruling party, and a realization that their grip on the country might be slipping through their fingers, he offered his resignation to allow his party to find a more assertive leader and one who will be seen as addressing the major fault line through which the anger of underrepresentation of some regions, demands for more autonomy and human and political rights have come to the surface and even the recently declared state of emergency for half a year is unlikely to faze protesters.

In all these developments, some things are clear.

There has to be a messenger who can be inspirational enough despite their personal flaws and appeal to a wider, diverge group of people and not what is currently witnessed in our politics where each political side is doing very little to cross over the political divide. Most of those at the forefront of our politics today lack the charisma of the likes of Dr Wilbrod Slaa or Zitto Kabwe’s yesteryear version.

One has to know when it is time for the curtain to come down. There are lifetime serving opposition leaders with their parties lacking properly groomed individuals to take up the mantle of these veteran leaders.

Some completely do not bother with succession plans as most of these political parties are one-man affairs or dominated by a small clique of politicians.

In a continent where power is monopolised even when shared, our politicians can use all the lessons they can get to better themselves in difficult political circumstances.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Graft war: no resting on laurels for Tanzania yet

The ‘Corruption Perception Index’ for last year (CPI-2017) by Transparency International (TI)ranks Tanzania at Number 36 out of 100 on the global corruption scale.

TI corruption surveys annually rank countries by “their levels of public sector corruptions as perceived’ by businesses and experts.”The Index uses a scale of 0-to-100, whereby a zero-rating indicates a “highly-corrupt” country, while a 100 rating is accorded to “very clean countries” in the corruption stakes.

For Tanzania to be ranked at 36 in 2017 – compared with 32 in 2016 – implies thatit jumped four rankings upwithin a year rising from being among highly-corrupt countries like Somalia (ranked at number-9); South Sudan (12); Syria (14); Afghanistan (15), and Yemen (16).

In other words: Tanzania is gallantly nosing its way towards highly-performing countries the likes of New Zealand (ranked at 89, the highest in 2017); Denmark (88);Finland, Norway and Switzerland – all three ranked at 85!

Incidentally, New Zealand, Denmark and Finland were better-ranked in year-2012: at 90. Norway and Switzerland were also higher-ranked, at 86, in 2014. Thus, all did worse in 2017!

If nothing else, this means there’s no such thing as a 100 per cent corruption-free country on Planet Earth this side of Heaven! TI defines ‘corruption’ as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It can be classified as grand, petty or political – depending on the amounts of money lost, and the sector where it occurs!”

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

Hence the adage that power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely! We’re told that the 2017 CP Index“highlights that the majority of countries are making little or no progress in ending corruption, while journalists and activists in heavily-corrupt countries risk their lives in effortsto speak out” against the malady.

In the event, more than two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed by TI were ranked below 50!

In the East African Community bloc, Tanzania was assessed as “the second least-corrupt country, after Rwanda. Kenya was ranked the third least corrupt – followed by Uganda, Burundi and South Sudan!”

In sub-Saharan Africa,Tanzania was ranked at number 17, while Botswana was assessed as the least corrupt country in this part of the African continent.

Going by TI’s latest survey,it means that the 5th phase government of President John Magufuli – inaugurated only on November 5, 2015, and which is manifestly against corruption – is squarely behind Tanzania’s leap four stages up the rankings, from 32 in 2016 to 36 in 2017.

Whatever is the case, Tanzanians mustn’t rest on these laurels, as they still aren’t quite dark-green and glossy as they should be! Instead, we must double and redouble our efforts at surmounting the hydra-headed corruption monster, consigning it to the dustbin of History once and for all.

As TI notes, “this is an important moment for Africa (and Tanzania in particular) to take stock of the current situation whereby many countries are still making little progress against corruption.”

We all should adopt and act on AU’s theme for Year-2018: ‘Winning the Fight against Corruption: a Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation

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Friday, February 23, 2018

A CHAT FROM LONDON : Prostate cancer, Oxfam, phone zombies and London’s latest...

Fredy Macha is a writer and musician  based in

Fredy Macha is a writer and musician  based in London.Blog,www.fredymachablogspot. 

By Freddy Macha

Last week a group of us males sat in a pub chatting about regular health checkups. Most repeated topic was the current number one man killer – prostate cancer. A recent theme - the best way to avoid fatality is to identify symptoms and dealing with ailment. We kept laughing about one lingering question...

How do you feel when a doctor inserts a gloved finger up your backside to deduce the size of your prostate gland? Apart from a blood test – this tends to be best option to ensure early, correct diagnosis.

And thus we conversed.

Heatedly.

“I do it ...once a year.”

Several nods.

“Me, too. I used to feel embarrassed, but I don’t mind, anymore.”

More nods.

“I have become used to it. Safety, brav. Safety.”

A loud laughter, crass, contemptuous, disagreed: “I am a black man. There is no way I would let someone stick a finger up my...”

Silence. Laughter. Silence.

Uncomfortable shuffling.

We looked at the guy. In his mid 50s...an age when signs and indications of prostate problems begin. Frequent urination, painful ejaculation, erectile dysfunction...

Prostate--is alongside lung and breast--considered the top three cancers.

An article by respected BBC presenter, 83 year old Michael Parkinson last Saturday’s Mail, cautioned:

“There is still a taboo about discussing our genitals: no man feels comfortable admitting ... he’s had difficulties down there. That doesn’t apply to women. Thanks to the good sense and courage of many female stars, discussion of all sorts of breast treatment, beginning with a regular self examination for lumps, is open and normal. That has saved countless lives...”

Statistically female deaths from breast cancer have shrunk since 2015- while men’s continue to soar, explode and rise. Every now and then we hear someone famous, left us, due to the prostate menace. In January, we lost South African jazz musician, Hugh Masekela to what? Prostate. That word.

Ongoing campaigns in the UK insist that while we are happy with the slowing down of female fatalities (from breast cancer), something need be done for guys. One of this is awareness and regular examinations.

Item two is also about men....

During the 1970s till mid-1990s, a known football coach is alleged to have sexually abused young boys under his care. These youngsters were entrusted into his filthy paws by parents keen to have sons become future sporting stars. Barry Bennell (pictured) is currently in prison serving several life sentences. At least 43 counts of indecent assault were mentioned in court. Lately.

The surfacing of Bennell’s behaviour exploded after 86 men (majority in their 50s onwards, now), reported to the police. And it is not only Bennell – legal plans against the Premier League and Manchester United club have been reported. Allegedly because complaints against the then charismatic trainer were pulled under the carpet by these organisations...

We are living in intense times. Not a week passes without some major revelation of past evilly committed acts. Both victims and perpetrator are Wazee. Meaning justice eventually, wins. Crime does not pay.

Third item is of a sexual nature too.

The much respected international aid charity, OXFAM, has been beset with a scandal resulting in UK ministries and international companies vowing to cut off funding that helps poor countries. This is a result of revelations that underage women were allegedly used as prostitutes in Haiti after the January 2010 earthquake. 123 incidents of sexual misconduct were investigated. Among those involved are senior and junior stuff including the boss himself, Belgian born, Roland Van Hauwermeiren. This gentleman worked in Liberia, Bangladesh and Chad. It was also revealed that the normal procedure of doing criminal police checks to Oxfam staff was not followed. A whistleblower made several serious allegations that keep on rumbling.

It made me question how NGOs operate in developing countries. How are local vulnerable personnel treated? If a jobless, ill educated young African is looking for employment and faces corruption who will help? Can those in power be trusted?

Last are phone zombies.

On several occasions I have highlighted how the mobile phone generation is so attached to 21st century gadgets. To the older guard there is a mixture of traditional (speaking, shaking hands, etc) and up to date ways (social media and computers), while the younger ones just adore online communication. Phone zombies describes those walking while texting and not being aware of immediate surroundings.

As a warning, police issued clips showing how thieves on mopeds (small motorbikes), blitz and grab phones from unsuspecting victims. Figures issued through BBC indicated 291 offences during October 2016 to November 2017 in highly commercial area of Oxford Circus, only. Usually phone zombies get angry when they bump into someone or other objects. No “sorries” said. The “out of control” attitude is still growing, blossoming and mushrooming.


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Friday, February 23, 2018

Tackle social barriers in oil pipeline project

 

By TheCitizen

Some reported misunderstandings in villages where the 1,445 km Hoima-Tanga oil pipeline is earmarked to pass through should be fully addressed. Granted, complaints coming from these areas should not strike as a big surprise considering the magnitude of the project. It’s only a proactive approach that will prevent the hard-won multimillion dollar project from degenerating into a source of conflict.

The move by Total to dispatch an independent team of experts recently to investigate complaints over the $3.55 oil pipeline project is, therefore, commendable. This is an important step towards stemming some of the social problems associated with mega projects in the bud. A report by the team is expected to play a crucial role in how the project is going to be rolled out, vis-à-vis its social and environmental impact.

Total has said once the team is done with looking into all possible barriers that may stand in the way of smooth operations, a meeting will be scheduled with Tanzanian and Ugandan authorities. Already, the experts are said to have held meetings with some villagers, local government officials, the district commissioner and representatives of non-governmental organisations.

One of the most critical issues to be discussed is land – in itself a sensitive matter that the government needs to fully address. Total said it would be looking into how the country’s land policy influenced the process to compensate those affected. More so, to be investigated are the challenges that might have arose during the relocation and compensation processes. This is commendable – hopefully all the pending issues will be sorted out in time to allow the project’s speedy implementation.

At the laying of the foundation stone last year, President John Magufuli reiterated his commitment to seeing the project to an early completion. Targets can be met with minimal stumbling blocks.

Invest in voter education

Several political pundits have attempted in the past few days to explain the poor turnout in last weekend’s by-elections for the Kinondoni and Siha constituencies. There seems to be consensus among many observers that the apparent voter apathy is normal for a by-election – and the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has also partly attributed the problem to the decision to field defectors.

However, commentators have urged the electoral body to consider investing more in voter education as a continuous process, as opposed to a once-off programme ahead of a general election. Concerns that this trend could go on and on are not misplaced. Tanzania is not the first, let alone only, country in the world to increasingly face the threat of voter apathy. It’s happening all over the continent, in the US and across Europe. Apparently, it’s a global trend. This is why NEC should think outside the box, and do things differently to ensure that all eligible Tanzanians exercise their constitutional right to choose their leaders, even at the ward level. This is important for stability in any country. Poor funding has been a major factor hindering voter education. The need to ensure that the electoral body is properly funded cannot be overstated.


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Friday, February 23, 2018

LOVE LETTERS TO TANZANIA : Did you buy any poison lately?



SABINE BARBARA_ sabinebarbara@yahoo.co.au

SABINE BARBARA_ sabinebarbara@yahoo.co.au 

By Sabine Barbara

We warn children to be wary of venomous creatures like snakes, but do we see our modern homes as places where they might encounter deadly poisons? We should. As our standard of living grows, so does the number of toxic substances to which families are exposed.

As humanity’s understanding of the toxicity of widely used chemicals improved, many hazardous substances were removed from workplaces. A number of pesticides found to be harmful were also banned. We discovered that even though insecticides and chemical fertilisers increase yields, excessive use can lead to water pollution and harm to consumers of agricultural products.

In general, we trust legislation to protect us from excessive use of harmful agricultural chemicals and other toxins in our environment. However, to assume that current regulations are failsafe would be naïve – and it is not always insufficient legislation which allows toxic or even banned chemicals to pollute our environment, homes and bodies.

Initially, paints used privately and commercially in Europe and the US contained toxic metals like lead, mercury and arsenic to ensure colours would not fade over time. Some famous artists suffered the consequences: poisoning which caused physical and mental illness or even death. Today, such paints are banned in some countries but still widespread in others where manufacturers and importers rely on the public being unaware of health risks. Naturally, producers of potentially harmful products are unlikely to spoil their profits by conducting research or education campaigns which could ruin their business.

But even studies conducted by reliable government and non-profit organisations rarely measure how chemicals in homes, workplaces and our environment interact with one another to damage our health long-term. Trustworthy organisations may determine safe levels of exposure to common chemicals, but individual citizens may still be at risk of serious harm if exposed to higher levels due to personal lifestyle circumstances or if regular contact with other toxins increases their health risks when toxic substances combine.

Even some glazes and paints on coffee mugs, ceramic cookware and items used to serve food contain lead which can leach into the food and become a health hazard, especially for small children and pregnant women. Because lead accumulates in the body, frequent exposure to small amounts can lead to lead poisoning later.

Our own initiative may be the most important strategy to protect ourselves. We should seek information about harmful substances and avoid them via everyday shopping and lifestyle choices. Becoming informed, critical consumers can reduce our families’ exposure to poisons – at least in our own households.

Many toxic chemicals in cleaning products, air fresheners, cosmetics and personal care products like fragrant shampoos and conditioners have been linked to allergies, infertility, asthma, cancer and other serious illnesses. Do we really need such products - or could we revert to old-fashioned, harmless alternatives?

Ladies, our pursuit of unattainable standards of beauty may increase our risk further, especially if we buy cosmetics laden with harmful substances. Surprisingly resilient is the bizarre and dangerous practice of skin-whitening, which has been causing lead poisoning over centuries and is believed to have killed Queen Elizabeth I. Many hold onto the misconception that “whiter” is generally considered more attractive. It clearly is not, or Europeans would not roast themselves in the sun or even spray fake tans onto their skin to appear darker.

We should view all chemicals which dramatically change our appearance with suspicion and prioritise our health. Modern skin lightening-creams still contain toxins like mercury, titanium dioxide, and steroids which cause serious health problems after prolonged use – especially to unborn children. Fake tan ingredients are thought to cause DNA damage. While laws and policing have not stopped the supply of toxic, sub-standard products, a lack of demand due to smarter consumer choices certainly could.


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Thursday, February 22, 2018

WHAT OTHERS SAY: Death of Tsvangirai and strange world of opposition politics

 

By Charles Onyango-Obbo

Zimbabwe opposition stalwart Morgan Tsvangirai died on February 14, after a battle with cancer. What followed, was not exactly expected.

Described as “a man of immense personal courage”, Tsvangirai, who formed the influential Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in 1999, took on now ousted Robert Mugabe when the fellow was at his most dangerous.

It’s unsettling reading how many times Tsvangirai was arrested, beaten, tortured, and humiliated in the most egregious ways. He never gave up or gave in. In 2008 Tsvangirai won the presidential election, but was robbed of victory by Mugabe and his goons. In the end, he settled for what Kenyans famously call nusu mkate (half a loaf) in an unhappy national unity government marriage.

As happens with many high-flying opposition parties in Africa, it all ended in heartbreak. MDC in the last 12 years split in four little things, with Tsvangirai leading the biggest, but still ineffectual, rump. Tsvangirai endured criticism and ridicule, partly because his own highhandedness contributed to the opposition split.

By the time he took ill, he had fallen from grace – or so it seemed. However, the scenes in the capital Harare this week, were awe-inspiring. Hundreds of thousands, most in the MDC’s red, turned out to honour him.

Zimbabweans, clearly, recognise that Tsvangirai sacrificed a lot, and he took blows for democracy that few men and women can. Looking at the crowds, one couldn’t help but wonder how come, even if the Mugabe machinery unleashed violence and stole the vote, Tsvangirai didn’t overcome it all to triumph.

My own reading that there are some peculiar things about opposition politics in Africa for which we still do not have the tools to analyse properly. One of them, is that many people support the opposition parties not primarily so they can unseat and replace incumbents. They do so because they want them to only be an irritant; to give the governments hell; and to exact some form of political revenge on rulers whom they hate.

But most of all, the people who benefit most from a strong opposition, are constituencies allied to the ruling parties.

Let’s illustrate. In Uganda in the 1990s, though president Yoweri Museveni’s ruling National Resistance Movement was deeply entrenched and popular in the eastern, southern and western parts of the country, it was battling a long-running rebellion in the north.

The intelligence services, however, kept running into indications that financial and logistic support for the northern rebellion was coming from the south, from sources that had done well from Museveni’s rule and supported him.

They considered this illogical and a betrayal. It wasn’t. To keep the rest of the country united behind it in the face of a rebellion in the north, the Museveni government made it worthwhile for them by giving elites in their strongholds more patronage, and being generally nicer to them. Demonstrations in these regions were, for example, handled gently by anti-riot police.

The moment the northern rebellion was defeated at the start of the 2000s, all these goodies ended. All these areas now face brutal suppression when they challenge Kampala. Now that it could compensate vote loss in the south, with new sources of support in the north bought by reconstruction expenditure, the government had fewer incentives to shower old strongholds with patronage.

A strong opposition, allows supporters of the government to extract a higher premium for their loyalty. As Kenya has historically proved, opposition politics creates its own currency.

Where political divisions are deep, and electoral margins wafer thin, betrayal is lucrative business. A high profile cross-over from the opposition in Kenya during the KANU days, for example, to the government side, would invariably result in a juicy appointment or a lot of money.

In Uganda, cross-overs from the old independence party Uganda People’s Congress (UPC) to the ruling NRM became so prized, that a commentator in the weekly newsmagazine, The Independent, wrote that the Museveni government had been “taken over by the UPC” because an unusually high number of them had been rewarded with plum government jobs.

In many of these polities where crossing over from the opposition to the government side is very profitable, standing up to the state can be very costly. Only a few can take the heat. Tsvangirai was one of them. He will be heartened from his grave, to see that it was not in vain.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

THINKING ALOUD: Tanzania’s status of the law on dual citizenship



Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

By Prof Zulfiqarali Premji

It was very good and welcoming news, early February 2018 when President John Magufuli launched the e-passport.

The Department of Immigration should be congratulated and I give credit for this initiative. The e-passport will tremendously improve security and misuse with evil intention of this important document.

Another long-standing issue within the department that needs to be resolved is about dual citizenship. There is a need to close this matter. When you are outside the country there is a tendency to informally meet with your fellow Tanzanians and East Africans. In most of these gathering the Kenyans always ask us why Tanzanians are not granted dual citizenship, and we have no substantive answer. The Tanzanian Diaspora in America is huge and there is a lot of potential of development but I think it becomes very difficult psychologically to invest in your birth country as a foreigner.

The issue of dual citizenship has been thoroughly researched thus enacting a law on dual citizenship is accompanied by evidence from the study done since 2004.

The Law Reform Commission undertook an in-depth study and it is almost 10 years since the report and recommendations were submitted to the government. The big question is: are the ten years which have elapsed since the government received the Law Commission recommendations on this matter, not enough time for that purpose?

This comprehensive study was undertaken because the World Commission on the Social dimension of Globalisation recommended that dual citizenship by countries of the South, as one of the ways through which the nations of the South could equitably share the benefits of globalization.

The Law reform commissions recommended that dual citizenship should be accorded only to Tanzanians who are citizens by birth, and not to those citizens belonging to other categories.

They contended that most Tanzanian citizens who acquired foreign citizenship did so primarily because it was necessitated by the need to improve their economic well being by working in the relevant foreign countries, while their allegiance to Tanzania remained intact. This trend of Tanzanians to go to foreign countries will continue and whenever our youths are given such opportunity they will relocate.

Perhaps till today the report has not been discussed in Parliament. The annual meeting of members of the Tanzania Diaspora, which was being held in Zanzibar in 2016 this issue was raised but till to date there is no outcome.

Today, globalisation has given rise to a significant increase in the Diaspora. Dual citizenship does not mean having conflicting loyalties or does not reflects any less patriotism. Dual citizenship is now less about excluding foreigners and more about including your own people who now live abroad and are part of the highly skilled international workforce.

Some 24 countries in Africa now have allowed dual citizenship including our neighbour Kenya.

In the wave of independence in Africa, many African countries decided not to allow dual citizenship. The primary reason for this was because the newly independent African nations wanted to ensure loyalty to their countries as part of a nation building activity. They also wanted to control the demographic composition of their countries.

Post independence laws were passed to targeted those within the country that were not of “African” origin. Many of these laws, which specified “race”, gender or ethnicity as a qualifier for citizenship were also discriminatory and have become out dated. There is a fear that dual citizenship will amount to increased immigration of outsiders, high crime rates, less employment opportunities for their citizens, and a general socio-cultural imbalance in the society hence the hesitancy.

On the other hand, countries that promotes dual citizenship feel it increases the competency level of their citizens, opens the doors for free and liberal trade, thereby increasing job opportunities and helping the country to make a global impact.

The government perhaps lacks the political will and is dragging its feet but it is undeniable that many countries in Africa and many successful countries, especially the liberalized economies have agreed to dual citizenship. Its time the Tanzanian Diaspora is seen as equal partners in the development of this country and should be given an opportunity. Individual or personal rigidity and obstinacy should not be entertained and the interest of the country should come first.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

EAC should change Tact to end refugee crisis

 

By TheCitizen

For decades, the East African region has been hit by wave after wave of refugees. This has been mainly due to unending political crises bedeviling nations across the region.

Presently, Tanzania hosts nearly 350,000 refugees from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo alone. This is no small number by any standards. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) early in the week said it needs over Sh600 billion to help take care of the refugee population in Tanzania.

The money will be spent on health and nutrition, food, education, security, energy, shelter, legal assistance and protection. Meanwhile, more refugees keep entering Tanzania because of the sad realities back in their home countries.

Humanitarian assistance during crises is crucial for the protection of human life and dignity. However, as the world mobilises money to assist, it’s also high time the bloc itself took more sincere steps towards addressing the root cause of the refugee problem.

And interventions by the international community should not only focus on providing refugees with basic needs, but also finding a more permanent solution to the crises in troubled countries. This is where regional diplomatic and economic bodies like the East African Community (EAC) come in. As the EAC heads of state meet in Kampala later this week, it is time for them to put the question of refugees high on their agenda.

The bloc has every reason to try and put a stop to the political turmoil in the DR Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia. The excuse often given, that condemning political violence is equivalent to meddling in the internal affairs of a state, is lame.

Governments of member states that are in conflict must be told openly and in no uncertain terms to put their houses in order. Otherwise the refugee crisis will remain a vicious circle.

The EAC and African Union should break this misplaced culture of silence on the political crises in the DRC, Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia. They have to act. It’s the only viable solution that will put a stop to the problem of refugees. Money only will not work.

Waste management crucial

Some civil society organisations (CSOs) have raised concerns over potential environmental hazards associated with mismanagement of waste. This is waste produced from oil and natural gas activities. It not only poses a serious health threat to humankind, but also to wildlife and aquatic species.

The CSOs are spot on. The need for relevant guidelines and regulations on the management of waste is long overdue. Needless to say, if the government turns a blind eye to the repercussions of mismanaging waste from extraction activities, some species will certainly be extinct before long.

This is why the Parliamentary Friends of Environment who met with the CSOs in Morogoro recently should take the advice seriously and act on it. The meeting came at the right time because Tanzania is currently implementing multimillion dollar projects, yet whose side effects may be fatal for both human beings and wildlife.

We must mine uranium and we need the Stiegler’s Gorge yydroelectricity as well as the oil pipeline project from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga. These are some of the major projects the country is banking its economic development on.

Nonetheless, in the absence of proper waste management regulations, these projects will come with huge environmental and human costs. The government should, therefore, come up with newer regulations and guidelines that will ensure Tanzanians stay safe and healthy.



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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

WORLD VIEW : All change in southern Africa



 

  

By Jonathan Power

It’s been an odd couple of months for southern Africa. No one predicted last year that in almost the same breath the long-serving dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, and the super-corrupt president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, would be soon overthrown- and non-violently to boot.

In Zimbabwe the army did trigger Mugabe’s demise, but it was a sort of passive coup, a non-violent withdrawal of support. In South Africa Zuma was compelled to stand down as leader of the African National Congress because of a majority vote against him in an assembly of the ANC, the party of black protest against former minority white-led rule. Again, all done non-violently.

What is more, in South Africa, although violence had played some part in black liberation, the negotiations that took place in the closing years of the apartheid regime were accomplished without violence. There were peaceful negotiations between the black and white leadership that led to a new constitution that allowed free elections and thus the accession to the presidency of the ANC leader, Nelson Mandela.

Compare this with the violence and intimidation that has plagued the recent Kenyan elections, the imposition of dictatorial rule in Ethiopia and the ongoing mayhem in the Congo and Somalia. It is as if there are two different worlds in sub-Saharan Africa.

Of course, there are other countries in black Africa that are increasingly democratic and have regular non-violent elections- Tanzania, Botswana, Senegal, Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Mozambique, Liberia and Nigeria among others.

No sub-Saharan African countries, apart from Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya, achieved their independence by use of the sword. It was done by negotiations with the metropolitan power in Europe. (Ethiopia and Liberia were not colonized.) Apart from Kenya and Cote d’Ivoire, there were not large numbers of white settlers to complicate matters, as in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Both Zimbabwe and South Africa have frittered away a good part of their inheritance. In Zimbabwe, the Marxist president created massive inflation, impoverishment of the masses and a silver platter for his associates.

In South Africa it has been more complex. White South Africa, dominated by the Afrikaners, Dutch settlers, was exceedingly corrupt, as well as rich. The new black elite stepped into their shoes, despite the leadership of Mandela, a leader of probity and integrity.

Mandela, and his successor, Thabo Mbeki, seemed unable to stem its tide. Zuma made it far worse. He and his associates creamed off hundreds of millions of dollars. It is this corruption that finally undid Zuma. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the $650,000 he paid out of state funds for a swimming pool and other delights on his magnificent homestead.

A majority of the ANC, albeit a slim one, could not abide this. Indeed such was their agitation that he was compelled to pay it back.

Zuma might well face prosecution for alleged bribes he was supposed to have taken some years ago, paid out for a defence contract. During his presidency he managed to undermine the independence of the police, the public prosecutor and the tax authorities. Now they can move against him.

Cyril Ramaphosa has taken over. He started life in politics as a student. Then he helped establish a powerful union of miners. He was Mandela’s favourite for successor but lost out to Mbeki. He left politics and went into business and became rich without apparently becoming corrupt. Next he became Zuma’s deputy.

His intelligence and negotiating skills are legendary. It has been said that in a negotiation he removes his opponent’s trousers but the man only finds this out once he leaves the room. Meanwhile, Ramaphosa has walked away with the agreement he wanted.

He is charismatic and exceedingly popular among the black masses. Yet while deputy president he kept his mouth shut about his boss’s excesses.

He now has to restore the authority of the police and prosecutors. (Senior judges, mainly black, have done a sterling job of keeping the courts independent. The printed press has kept itself almost free.) He has to reverse plans to take away the independence of the central bank.


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Monday, February 19, 2018

New health initiative good for EAC citizenry

 

By TheCitizen

Meeting recently in Kampala, Uganda, the 15th East African Community (EAC) Sectoral Council of Health Ministers approved the setting up of a facility for young health researchers. Titled Year’s Forum, this is a virtual platform to empower young health experts from all EAC states.

In that regard, the facility promises significant transformation in the health sector for it is meant to improve health research and the wellbeing of people in the region.

Indeed, we at The Citizen consider the establishment of such a programme long overdue. The health sector has for far too long been grappling with many challenges, most of them caused by little or lack of appropriate research.

Fortunately, there is now a ray of hope that some of the challenges – if not all – will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history when the initiative becomes operational. It is up to the East African Health Research Commission (EAHRC) to enroll young researchers with the potential to undertake research that will impact positively through their findings and innovations.

Our countries almost invariably come up with good initiatives intended to improve their people’s welfare, but not many of them lead to the intended outcomes – mostly due to poor implementation of the initiatives.

If implemented well, Year’s Forum should produce competent researchers, and help build a research culture that would identify solutions to health problems across the region.

Young health researchers earmarked for this programme include those pursuing PhD studies as well as those in academic or related institutions in East Africa. The EAHRC is among new EAC institutions which, we sincerely believe, will perform well in the best interests of the community’s 150 million citizenry

Much as we already envision a better healthcare system within the regional socio-econo-political bloc, it is still important that EAC governments provide support for the envisaged young up-and-coming experts.

WHY THIS EXCESSIVE FORCE?

Police are once again in the news for all the wrong reasons after a student was shot dead in Dar es Salaam on Friday. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Akwilina Akwiline at this difficult moment after the life of the 21-year-old National Institute of Transport student was cut shot by a stray bullet fired by police, who were ostensibly trying to break up an illegal demonstration by opposition supporters in the city’s Kinondoni area.

It is just as well that President John Magufuli has ordered an inquiry into the incident and appropriate action be taken against those responsible for Akwilina’s death. Now that the President himself has spoken, we hope that the matter will be accorded the weight and seriousness it deserves.

While it could take time to establish who exactly fired the fatal shot, one thing is crystal clear – the Kinondoni incident was the latest in a series of cases where police have used excessive force in situations that do not warrant the use of live ammunition.




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Sunday, February 18, 2018

Give functional answer on ‘mitumba’ imports

What has for long been seen as a proposed ban on imports of secondhand clothing by three of the six member-nations of the East African Community is said to be a complete misunderstanding of the real situation.

Hitherto, it’d been generally ‘understood’ that Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda plan to ban outright secondhand clothing imports. This was ostensibly considered “essential to efforts at developing domestic industries for clothes production.”

To that end, four EAC states – Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – reportedly agreed in 2015 to ban used clothing imports over a three-year period beginning in 2019.

Apparently, the US has been disputing this, arguing that the proposed ‘ban’ would stifle free trade – and is against the May 18, 2000 ‘US Africa Growth and Opportunity Act’ (Agoa).

Extended to year-2025, Agoa significantly enhances access to the vast US market for eligible sub-Sahara African (s-SA) countries.

To so-qualify – and remain ‘Agoa-eligible’ – an s-SA country “must (among other criteria) be working to improve its rule of law, human rights, respect for core labor standards” – and “eliminate barriers to trade with the US!”

So, when the four EAC states first raised the issue of ‘banning’ used clothing imports in 2015, Kenya – which benefits the most under the Agoa arrangements, including relatively substantial exports of Kenya-made textiles to the US – just as soon withdrew from the agreed proposal.

Virtually left in the lurch by Kenya

Virtually left in the lurch by Kenya, the other three EAC proponents of the used clothing imports ‘ban’ apparently nursed the proposal – and were reportedly planning to finally decide whether or not to proclaim it at the ‘EAC Heads of State Retreat on Infrastructure and Health Financing and Development’ in Kampala next week.

But, speaking in an interview with Business Daily – The Citizen’s sister paper in Nairobi – the acting head of Economic and Regional Affairs Unit in the US State Department’s Africa Bureau, Mr Harry Sullivan, reportedly said Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda have until next week’s meeting in Kampala to reverse the banning proposal – or face the consequences.

Fortunately, much of the misunderstanding has now been cleared up by the Tanzania Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr Augustine Mahiga – who said on Friday that there’s no question of banning imports of secondhand clothing.

Instead, the countries involved will simply “phase in and phase out importation of used clothes and shoes, while building domestic manufacturing capacities…” he stressed.

By ‘phasing in’ – the minister explained –the countries involved would build the domestic capacity to make clothes to be used in place of imported secondhand clothing… And, imports would be phased out gradually, as “the local market still demands the product.”

That said – and the air having finally been cleared by the Tanzania government regarding the virtual antipodes that are ‘banning mitumba imports’ and ‘phasing them in and out’ – we all expectantly look forward to the decision in Kampala next week.

This should hopefully set the stage and pave the way to EAC countries that are self-sufficient in locally-manufactured, affordable clothing – and, by parity of reasoning, free of used clothing imports.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

Being EA’s top tourist hot spot is an attainable goal

 

By TheCitizen

For quite some time now, neighbouring Kenya has been the biggest economy in East Africa – and the region’s leading tourist destination. If by “tourism” we mean “the commercial organisation and operation of holidays/pleasure, business and other visits to places of interest”, then Tanzania is finally turning the tables on Kenya, heavily breathing down its neck in the economic and tourism growth stakes.

Take tourism, for starters. While Kenya had 1,342,899 international tourist arrivals in 2016 (up from 954,335 in 2006), Tanzania hosted 1,284,279 tourists in 2016, up from 622,000 in 2006,

Clearly, then, Tanzania is on the heels of Kenya, and is about to overtake that country in tourist arrival numbers and related earnings.

So, when Kenya’s Tourism minister Najib Balala publicly admitted as much, he wasn’t far off the mark. Mr Balala says lack of adequate world-class hotels in Kenya has made Tanzania a better proposition for tourists in East Africa.

In any case, Tanzania’s redoubled efforts at growing its economy via such potential sectors as tourism must not be overlooked.

It must be said that a lot has been done in the past decade or so. Tanzania has for many decades been viewed as a sleeping giant as far as tourism potential is concerned.

But the country must not rest on its laurels because of the ongoing positive developments. Encouraged as we are by the progress – and taking into account that tourism is Tanzania’s leading foreign exchange earner ($2.3 billion last year) and contributes 17 per cent of GDP – we must strive even harder to become the top tourist destination – and cling to the top.

COMMENDABLE MOVE, BUT...

Measures announced this week by the Police Force aimed at curbing accidents on a notorious section of the busy Chalinze-Segera highway in Tanga Region were long overdue. Unfortunately, it took the loss of the lives of five people killed earlier in the week when a bus collided with a minibus in Kabuku, Handeni District, for police to be jolted into action.

Traffic police chief Fortunatus Musilimu said officers equipped with speed guns would be stationed at one-kilometre intervals along the 10-kilometre stretch, where motorists, particularly bus drivers, tend to speed despite the winding and hilly nature of the road.

This decision is commendable, but the inevitable question is: what will happen at night when traffic police are usually not on duty to check speeding on major roads? It is not a secret that buses travel at insanely high speeds after dark as drivers seek to make up for time “lost” observing speed limits during the day. They do this safe in the knowledge that there are no speed gun-totting traffic police officers lurking among the bushes by the roadside at night.

Traffic police and other road safety stakeholders need to come up with ideas that will ensure that road safety rules are strictly adhered to around the clock, and not just during the day.


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Friday, February 16, 2018

LOVE LETTERS TO TANZANIA : Can we afford to fall asleep at the wheel?



SABINE BARBARA_ sabinebarbara@yahoo.co.au

SABINE BARBARA_ sabinebarbara@yahoo.co.au 

By Sabine Barbara

Most of us know people who brag about how little sleep they get. Often, they present themselves as active, energetic people who succeed despite very little rest, like purportedly some highly successful entrepreneurs and political leaders – past and present.

If their undertone makes you feel inadequate or lazy for seeking a solid eight hours’ sleep per night, if you now wonder whether you are genetically inferior to those who claim to never sleep more than four hours a night, ignore them! Instead you should be proud of yourself if taking your quest for enough sleep seriously.

Very few people tell the truth about needing very little sleep – less than three per cent of the population, according to scientists. Many self-proclaimed “short sleepers” actually force themselves to stay awake because of societal pressures and the misconception that surviving on four hours sleep per night denotes supremacy. For many, voluntary sleep deprivation is simply a desperate attempt to stay ahead of the competition.

Boasting about being sleep deprived has become a badge of honour for modern executives who glorify long working hours. Politicians too, brag about sacrificing sleep, expecting us to be impressed. However, sleep deprived leaders should not be celebrated as exemplary citizens. They are setting a bad example for the rest of society and one wonders if some of their decisions would be more measured and judicious if made after a good night’s sleep.

Becoming competitive about sleep can be dangerous and is therefore not the hallmark of a good leader, efficient executive or top surgeon. Research into the effect of inadequate sleep on the human brain shows that sleep deprived people are at increased risk of physical and psychological illness and may pose a risk for others, in particular in occupations where human error or poor judgement could kill someone. Who wants an overtired air traffic controller, emergency room doctor or truck driver?

Fatigue is often a contributing factor in airplane and train crashes. US researchers say up to 40 per cent of accidents involving heavy trucks are caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. The rising popularity of dash cam’s (small video recorders which motorists attach to their windscreen to continuously record traffic while the vehicle is in motion) delivers a shocking truth: a frighteningly common cause of fatal accidents is drivers of passenger cars nodding off.

Even in low risk occupations sleep deprivation leads to workplace accidents, some of which result in loss of life. Sacrificing sleep to add a few hours to the working day may be unavoidable during times of crisis, but can have devastating effects if practised long-term.

Lack of sleep undermines rational decision-making and adversely affects our health, memory, ability to learn and emotional stability. It causes mood swings and poor impulse control. The chronically sleep deprived age more quickly and are more prone to disability and premature death. Apparently even short-term sleep deprivation results in some brain tissue loss.

The existence of entire organisations with the sole purpose to educate us about sleep, like the non-profit National Sleep Foundation in Washington DC, highlights its importance. In 2017, Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation estimated the cost of inadequate sleep to the national economy to be A$66.3 annually, including health system costs, productivity losses, tax losses and welfare payments to people debilitated by regular lack of sleep.

We should thank anyone trying to get sufficient sleep every night, making our roads, workplaces and hospitals safer. Every insomniac who reduces lifestyle factors which interfere with healthy sleep, such as smoking, obesity, lack of exercise and excessive alcohol consumption, should be applauded.

Sadly, not everyone can afford the luxury of eight hours sleep per night. Life circumstances may demand more waking hours to feed the family or to work while completing formal studies. But those who can sleep, should.


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Friday, February 16, 2018

A CHAT FROM LONDON : Brilliant Africans and the struggle against injustice

Fredy Macha is a writer and musician  based in

Fredy Macha is a writer and musician  based in London.Blog,www.fredymachablogspot. 

By Freddy Macha

Online description says Anele Mdoda is “effervescent”. I had to look it up. Bubbly, jovial, lively, charming, buoyant is what the South African TV presenter for Real Talk is. In November 2016 she was interviewing another effervescent personality, a brilliant comic.

Trevor Noah.

Ladies and gentlemen.

Effervescent.

For those who have seen his lively shows on TV or YouTube, Noah makes us all proud. He is not just funny, he is intelligent and, at last, we have an African entertainer of a high calibre.

Effervescent.

Apart from media skills, Trevor Noah is multilingual (Khosa, Zulu, Tswana, Sotho, German, etc) - another skill we Africans tend to possess effortlessly. Hey! Watch out! We are the most polyglot speakers on earth. Whenever I tell people overseas that on average an African speaks three languages (tribal, national – e.g. Wolof, Swahili, Somali or Lingala, plus European) they go “Woow!” – So Kudos to the 33-year-old Noah.

To continue...

Effervescent Anele Mdoda wanted to know what the effervescent comedian misses being away from home in South Africa. According to Wikipedia, the funny man had to move to the USA after being threatened by his stepfather, Ngisaveni Shingange, who allegedly shot his mother in 2009.

“What do you miss being away?”

No.

Noah did not mention the sunshine, food, smells and certain physical things that most of us are expected to lay bare about missing Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, Khanga and Matoke.

“It is the ability to grow... “

I was surprised.

This is typical positive thinking. An overseas African looking at the brighter side of developing Africa. Growth.

Now. Compare that to this.

Years ago when I was growing up we used to be very proud of Mwalimu Nyerere’s foreign policies. In 1967 Biafra pulled away from Nigeria. Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu led an uprising against the Nigerian federal government. I do not recall African Presidents supporting Ojukwu. But Nyerere did so openly. To this day I meet old Igbos (Biafrans) who on realising I am Tanzanian, clap hands, and admit adoring Mwalimu.

“Nyerere had guts to stand up for others,” one always declares loudly.

Meantime, Tanzania supported liberation movements in Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, morally and materially. Those were, nevertheless, colonial problems.

Nyerere equally supported civil groups fighting against injustice. Biafra was one. Eritrea and Western Sahara another. The best, though, was Uganda. We know what happened in 1979. Tanzania helped rid Amin’s genocide that left a quarter of a million dead. Guts, yes.

Moral courage.

Who else on the continent?

Whenever an African dictator has trounced his own people, other leaders have either remained silent or pretended it is not happening. Non-interference. Protocol. But this protocol was sidelined by Nyerere.

It has become acceptable – so much that when leaders break the silence, it is news. Like recently.

African Leaders Great Inspirational Speeches. A channel on YouTube is dedicated to memorable talks. The new “disco” is dedicated to Africa and among its special documentaries is a four minute footage of oldest, ten independent African nations.

Cameroon (1960), Guinea (1958), Ghana (1957), Tunisia (1956), Morocco (1956), Sudan (1956), Libya (1951), Egypt (1922), Liberia (1847) and Ethiopia - most ancient on the motherland.

Peaceful nations are named as Equatorial Guinea, Tanzania – (ranked 55 worldwide – with pictures of mostly Dar es Salaam’s buildings and skyscrapers), Namibia, Ghana, Sierra Leone ( surprisingly ranked 43 – despite having civil disorder not so long ago), Zambia – level 40 globally, Madagascar no 38, Botswana no 28- and finally-Mauritius – which is 23 on the planet. There is a bit of bias on Mauritius. Tourist and major, attractions beamed. Not just skyscrapers in the capital city of Port Louis.

A speech by Ghana President, Nana Akufo- Addo alleges that despite all these years, Africans continue to beg, beg, beg and depend on aid.

Next is Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.

He is addressing an African Development Bank forum.

Posted December 2017. The speech criticises fellow leaders for not sitting down and discussing troubles. They “wait until they are invited overseas.” They are made to sit down and address our problems. That the image we give is “we are not there to solve problems but for a photo opportunity...”

He exemplifies north and south Sudan.

South Sudan wanted independence. They fought to achieve that. And then another war after the feat, occurred.

These issues could have been resolved – by fellow African leaders. But it was not the case.

“...We must take responsibility and accept our failures in dealing with these matters. We should invite each other to tell each other the truth...”

This, he claims, would avoid the catastrophe that has happened in Sudan. And those who suffer in this are mainly poor innocent children, women; even men, he says.


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Thursday, February 15, 2018

WHAT OTHERS SAY: How Somali and Zimbabwe social media revealed Africa’s secrets

 

By Charles Onyango-Obbo

While we tend to focus on the ugly side of social media - the hate speech, bullying, fake news – a silent but exciting revolution has happened in it.

Type “African history” in Twitter search and Google, and you will be surprised at which offers the more user-friendly, though not richer, experience. If you are researching the popular art movements in Africa, especially hyperrealism, the best two places to find it are Twitter and Facebook.

Interesting things also happens if you just stare hard at social media, and ask “what is the big story here?” You will see a fascinating social laboratory.

For those interested in the shifts in Africa, two very good cases are what happened with the Somalia legislative elections of October and November 2016, and its presidential election in February 2017.

And then last November, when the Zimbabwe army and ruling ZANU-PF choreographed a velvet coup, and ousted strongman Robert Mugabe, after he had been in power for 37 years, long enough to bring a once prosperous country to its knees.

Mugabe’s 94th birthday, by the way, is coming up on February 21, and this time, there will probably will be no national cutting of a giant birthday cake, and hundreds of cows, goats, chicken, and wildlife will get to live because the days of feasting that accompanied the ticking of the clock on Uncle Bob’s long-life are gone.

Social media can be a very good indicator of the state of mind of a country’s people. The people of Botswana are rich, don’t endure police beatings every day, and don’t worry that a president will change constitution and cling to power.

They are generally laid back, satisfied, and not shrill on social media.

Somalia has been blighted by war, famines, and fanatic militia for decades, though it has seen considerable since the African Union peacekeeping force, AMISOM, set up shop there from late 2007. The Somali elections, went off remarkably well, and served up Africa’s most unique legislature.

A third of its 275 members of Parliament hold foreign passports. But most dramatically, nearly 60 per cent were between the ages of 25 and 50, the youngest on the continent.

Then the number of women in Parliament rose to 24 per cent, putting it ahead of countries like Kenya, and above the sub-Sahara of 22 per cent. That made Somalia the Muslim country with the highest number of elected in a legislature, if my additions are not shaky.

Then, the Somalia Parliament elected a dual American-Somali citizen, Mohamed Abdullahi “Farmajo” Mohamed, as president, and Hassan Ali Khaire, a Somali-Norwegian as prime minister. It’s the only country on the continent where both the president and PM are dual citizens.

Somalis seem to see themselves as a window into what a young, diaspora-shaped African society, might look like, and to hold of the possibilities for women in politics in poor Muslim countries.

That sense of euphoria is still clear in the tone of Somalis on social media. Many men changed their profile photos to ones where they appear in sharp suits, and a lot of women took off the chadors, the al-amiras, and in came with the shaylas – and, oh yes, brighter makeup.

The change in post-Mugabe has been even more dramatic. First, Zimbabwe tweeps are less angry. They are prouder. But the most noticeable shift is the sheer number of them who took down photos of footballers, models, movie stars, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Sankara for their profiles and put up their real selves. There are many obvious insights we can glean from this. But the less obvious one is what it says about the architecture of national pride.

It seems that it harder, and more humiliating, to see your country go down the drains through the incompetence and corruption of its leaders and officials and you are helpless to stop it – or even able enable through tribal voting.

It is easier if it goes down because of civil war, prolonged drought, or a massive invasion of locusts, anything but the folly of your fellow citizens. At least that way, you have a good excuse, and can rely on the sympathy, compassion, and understanding of strangers.

Economist Robert Coase famously said, “if you torture data long enough it will confess”. It seems if you stare at social media long enough, it will confess its secrets.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Divorce rate alarming

 

The family, as an institution, remains the single most important building block of society. When families are strong, society is most likely to be stable.

The opposite is also true. This is why it is both saddening and alarming that this key institution is in jeopardy in Tanzania.

This can be deduced from what is reportedly happening in Zanzibar.

Zanzibar, for years, has been considered a conservative society, especially when it comes to upholding moral and family values. Yet a story published in yesterday’s edition of The Citizen revealing rising cases of divorce leaves one with a different impression.

Zanzibar’s House of Representatives heard that last year alone there were a total of 1,218 such cases. The causes range from financial stress, infidelity to domestic violence.

This trend should serve as a wakeup call. It is a tip of the iceberg. And it shows that the building block of our society is weakening, hence, more people seeking divorce.

We should be concerned because the weakening of the family will affect the upbringing of the children and how they are prepared to become responsible citizens.

While there cannot be simple answers to this situation, it is high time religious leaders stepped in and help rescue the family institution.

Relevant authorities in government should also work with religious leaders in addressing the problem.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

More initiatives needed to boost agriculture

Agriculture remains the mainstay of Tanzania’s economy. The sector contributes close to 30 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is also the source of livelihoods for more than three-quarters of the population.

However, the sector still faces a number of challenges, including low productivity, post-harvest losses, low investment and climate-related risks like droughts.

Tanzania’s agriculture is dominated by smallholder farmers, most of who unfortunately depend on seasonal rains. Thus, they are easily affected by climate changes. However, the news that Tanzania is among the four eastern Africa states set to benefit from the global programme on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), through partnership with research and donor agencies, is refreshing.

The Climate Smart Agriculture is an approach for transforming and reorienting agricultural systems to support food security under the new realities of climate change. Threats can be reduced by increasing the adaptive capacity of farmers, as well as increasing resilience and resource use efficiency in agricultural productive systems.

These are the kinds of initiatives that will help sustain agriculture and ensure not only food security, but also economic development. But more needs to be done. For example, it is high time the issue of insurance was taken seriously to help, especially smallholder farmers.

Most of them do not have access to insurance services because they are normally themselves considered a huge risk.

Tanzania can borrow a leaf from other African countries where farmers are covered against poor yields resulting from adverse climatic conditions, disease and damage by insects.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

WORLD VIEW : Donald Trump’s beefed up economics



US president elect Donald Trump.

US president elect Donald Trump. 

By Jonathan Power jonatpower@aol.com

Donald Trump is changing the right wing’s economic spots. He is doing what Franklin Roosevelt did at the time of the Great Depression by increasing government spending- although it was the rearmament brought on by entering World War II that was an even more important factor in lifting America out of the doldrums.

He is following what Hitler did so successfully before World War II when he rebuilt Germany’s economic strength with autobahns and industrial subsidies (not rearmament in the beginning, as is often said). He is walking in the footsteps of President Richard Nixon who when he changed course with a new economic policy said, “We are all Keynesians now”.

John Maynard Keynes was the greatest economist who ever lived. For reasons that were shameful politicians have not listened to his advice as often as they should. The Germans, with their urge to austerity, have gone the other way, carrying ( or pushing) nearly every European state with them, apart from Poland and Sweden which did not follow the herd and now have the best economic growth record of the last few years.

But Obama has certainly been Keynesian. Inheriting an economy totally messed up by President George W. Bush and the collapse of the big bank, Lehman Brothers, he set about being a hands-on Keynesian. He has achieved a lot although he would have achieved a lot more if his ambitious spending plans hadn’t been constantly opposed and thwarted by the Republicans in Congress. The US in recent years has by the year outshone the Europeans in economic development, apart from Sweden and Poland.

It is ironic that Trump wants to follow in the footsteps of Obama rather than the Congressional Republicans. He wants to prime the pump even more with a massive investment in infrastructure. Even building his “wall” (now to be a fence) on the border with Mexico will produce plenty of jobs! The Republicans will be compelled to support him.

What will the Europeans now do- refute him or emulate him? Mrs Angela Merkel is holding firm, even as I write chiding Greece to continue with its debilitating austerity program. Germany with its amazing successfully exports can afford to make big mistakes by imposing austerity at home. Other, less successful, economies can’t. Most economists agree on this. Most politicians including the top echelon of the European Commission have ignored their advice. Why the politicians in power all over Europe did this no one seems to have a satisfactory explanation. But, like lemmings, they took Europe over the cliff. Not even Obama could persuade them to turn back.

Austerity, a profoundly false concept, argues the Nobel Prize winner for economics in the New Statesman magazine, “has been pushed by politicians who have frightened people- orchestrated fear- with the idea that the economy could not but collapse under the burden of public debt…..Austerity in the days of the Great Depression could do little, since a reduction of public expenditure adds to the inadequacy of private incomes and market demands, thereby tending to put even more people out of work. Keynes in 1936 with his book “General Theory” ushered in the basic understanding that demand is important as a determinant of economic activity, and that expanding rather than cutting public expenditure may do a much better job of expanding employment and activity in an economy with unused capacity and idle labour.”

In Europe over the last few years the austerity policy did not help in the announced objective of reducing the ratio of debt to GDP (national income), indeed, sometimes quite the contrary. Neither was it necessary in order to get necessary reforms such as longer working hours in some countries, raising the retirement age in all and the elimination of institutional rigidities such as labour markets in order to impose austerity.

These are quite separate things from the policies of austerity but politicians have mixed them up. Hence, for example, they have pushed in Greece and a number of other countries for pensions to be reduced rather than encouraging people to work more years. (Indeed that would help in other ways- by reducing the demand for immigrants.)

Mr Power is a columnist on international affairs,human rights and peace

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Let’s keep politics out of Dar-Lusaka economic ties

By Citizen

Tanzania and Zambia have agreed on strategies that would make the two country’s joint projects work for the benefit of their people. Agreements signed during the three-day state visit by Zambian President Edgar Lungu aimed at revitalising Tanzania-Zambia Railway Authority (Tazara) as well as Tanzania Zambia Mafuta (Tazama) projects.

In his speech at the State House President, John Magufuli noted the sorry state of the two companies, saying to a large extent, they were failed by politics. It is encouraging that at last, our top leaders have seen the reason why such projects, which used to be vibrant, failed when similar projects elsewhere were prospering.

It is hard to understand why, at a time when the transportation sector has become a vibrant and key component to economic development, Tazara be on the verge of total collapse. It is incredible why Tazama should be struggling while oil is deemed a key ingredient in economic development.

This experience serves as a warning to us that in future, we shouldn’t allow politics to mess us up.

The truth of the matter is that politicians had been allowed to reign supreme in the running of economic projects. Now instead of treating them as they are–economic blueprints–politicians used the opportunity to make decisions which benefits them or their political hangers-on at the expense of the projects.

We fully support the plans to revitalise these projects and establish more similar plans. If Tanzania believes that building a standard gauge railway will stimulate its economy, then we expect Tazara, which is of the standard gauge variety, should do wonders.

And then, Zambia’s assertion that it needs a gas pipeline connecting it to Tanzania, is a testimony that Tazama’s relevance will continue.

Our assertion there is: Zambia and Tanzania should continue with their economic partnerships but the concerned should ensure politics isn’t allowed the two entities again.

IT’S RAINING, BEWARE CHOLERA!

The rain season is here and before us is the start of another farming season. Since some 70 per cent of Tanzania’s working population engages in agriculture, many households will be out farming. Agriculture requires practitioners to be of sound health. When a household member falls ill, it affects family’s agricultural productivity.

Often, the rain season comes with its challenges, one of which is the outbreak of waterborne diseases like cholera. This is an infection of the small intestine by some strains of the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

The chief symptoms include vomiting, muscle cramps and diarrhoea. The disease leads to severe dehydration with loss of energy. The attack may last for a few hours up to five days after exposure.

Prevention of cholera involves improved sanitation and access to clean water. Efforts to control and prevent the disease should be hinged on these two conditions.

It is unbecoming for leaders and key players to take action only after people have been killed by the disease. That is a clear sign of slackness in leadership.

There is a need to have in place proactive measures to prevent the disease from messing up people and economic productivity. That should include campaigns to educate the people on how to check the scourge.

With proper plans, we can stop cholera outbreaks.

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

TALKING POINT : Not enough being done to address urban squalor in Africa

Deus Kibamba is trained in Political Science,

Deus Kibamba is trained in Political Science, International Politics and International Law. 

By Deus Kibamba dkibamba1@gmail.com

As 2016 draws to a close, I am looking back at my travels across Africa during the course of the year. In total, I was able to visit about 30 countries this year.

Wherever I went, I witnessed problems related to the widespread problem of “informal settlements”, especially in urban areas. Statistics point to a looming crisis if appropriate measures are not taken as a matter of urgency to address the situation. Accordingly, figures show that more than 70 per cent of Africa’s urban residents are slum dwellers.

While in Zambia in January, I saw how the poorly planned Chawama suburb in Lusaka was a headache to President Edgar Lungu’s newly elected government. Having been a resident of Chawama for years himself, the situation must have bothered Mr Lungu. Hopefully, something will be done now that he is president.

In Chibolya, another unplanned, slum-like settlement in Lusaka, the situation was even worse. Services such as power and water supply, garbage collection and health care were hardly available.

It was the same story in Misisi, another locality in the Zambian capital. I was told that safe and clean water and sanitation have been virtually non-existent in the area for many years. It is estimated that about half of Lusaka’s population lives in areas such as Chawama, Chibolya and Misisi.

It was more of the same when I visited Uganda in March. My visits to Kabalagala, Bukasa and Ggaba in Kampala were both eye-opening and unsettling. On a positive note, goods sell at rock-bottom prices in these areas. Also, the people are warm and welcoming, at least during the day. Kabalagala is particularly known for its vibrant nightlife, pubs, shops and moneychangers, but is also notorious for its disproportionate number of prostitutes – both female and male.

On my way back home, I made a stopover in Kenya, where I visited a number of places in Nairobi, including the sprawling slum of Kibera, which is home to anywhere between 500,000 and 1 million people, depending on which source you trust. Despite being only a couple of kilometres from Nairobi’s central business district, Kibera has neither running water nor electricity.

Also on my itinerary was River Road in Nairobi city centre. This is one of the areas in the Kenyan capital that never sleep. Bustling River Road probably has the highest concentration of bars packed on a one-kilometre street in East and Central Africa. The common thing about these bars is that music is played at ear-splitting volume, making River Road easily the noisiest street in East Africa. I wondered how people could spend a few hours in the bars and still retain their sanity.

As Easter beckoned, I joined two colleagues in visiting Blantyre and Lilongwe in Malawi. Lilongwe’s Area 47 is tranquil during the day, but is completely transformed after dark, and we were lucky enough to savour the city’s nightlife in this corner of the city. It is in this area that one finds places where popular Congolese and Malawian music is played. One of the city’s most popular joints is the Chez Ntemba International Night Club. I have to admit that you can have a bit of fun even in an extremely poorly planned suburb!

But the fact remains that we must strive to plan our cities to make them livable.

In Tanzania we also have our fair share of slums and unplanned settlements, particularly in Dar es Salaam where there are over 20 such areas. In fact, unplanned development can be seen all over the city.

Most of Africa needs to address the problem of unplanned settlements. Even South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy, has not been spared, what with townships, nay slums, such as Old Soweto, Deepsloot, Alexandra and Hillbrow. Ethiopia and Ghana have Gondar and Jamestown, respectively. Where in African can one not find an unplanned settlement? I bet nowhere.

Tanzania must institute measures to address challenges posed by informal and unplanned settlements in urban areas. The way out of unplanned housing is for the government to increase the pace of surveying undeveloped land on the outskirts of cities and major towns.

Consequently, people wishing to build houses will have to acquire title deeds and develop their plots in accordance with urban development regulations. Short of this, slums will continue to be part and parcel of Tanzanian cities and towns in the foreseeable future.

Deus Kibamba is trained in Political Science,International,Politics and InternationalLaw

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Why Donald Trump deserves to be congratulated for his win

Donald Trump won the US presidential election

Donald Trump won the US presidential election after a bitterly fought and divisive campaign. PHOTO | FILE 

By Benji Ndolo

It was quite a campaign. One-and-a-half years of utter madness.

It was a terrible journey for those who followed the presidential election in the US.

Unlike 2008, it was not about optimism and possibility. It was about fear, anger, and revolt.

Barack Obama broke records and expectations, becoming the first black man to win the White House.

His message and demeanour were full of hope, enthusiasm, and decency. America was a better place and a world of possibility was born.

But after the talk must come the walk. While Obama saved the country, and the world, from economic collapse in 2008, the expectations about him were super high and went largely unmet.

From Obamacare to global affairs, health premiums went up as Isis roamed the globe wreaking havoc.

It is my feeling that the president was too diplomatic and his political party, including the Hillary Clinton election machinery, a bit out of touch.

It seemed Mr Obama could only give a good speech and shed a tear as police became unruly and rioted, leading to the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

Health insurance premiums soared on an initiative that gave cover to 40 million people.

His record has been decent, not golden, even though his personal conduct has been exceptional.

Like Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders connected with the electorate, especially the rural folk.

He sensed their despair, their frustration with the Washington talk and gridlock.

People everywhere are increasingly insecure, populations are growing, resources are dwindling, suspicions, hate, and terrorism seem to be on the rise and politicians are walking around in suits and ties, talking a lot and doing little to change things.

Sanders began what looked like a sure political revolution.

Although he seemed angry and old, he effortlessly connected with young people and inspired hope and optimism for change against the establishment.

He railed against the status quo. But he was knocked out during the primaries.

One thing about politics and public life is the importance of favourability.

And, unfortunately, women are held up to a higher standard than men.

As the campaigns progressed, it became clear that the two frontrunners — Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton — were the two most unlikely picks of both party formations.

The Republican Party openly revolted against its candidate.

And in the Democratic corner the pressure continued to mount on Clinton.

The anger against her grew, as did the attacks. But the media loved her and were openly biased against her adversary.

So it was that as the Americans went into voting on November 8, it was a most poisoned atmosphere, full of anger, despair, and disillusionment.

But even the complex electoral college mathematics could not stop Donald Trump.

The world was stunned and there were demonstrations on the streets.

They say every cloud has a silver lining. Well, for me the lesson is that it is possible to come from outside the political establishment and win — as long as you can persuade people and connect with their needs and problems.

So, Donald Trump deserves to be congratulated for winning after a hard-fought campaign.

We should wish him well as he begins the tough task of leading his country and the world.

The writer is a commentator and strategist and the founder/director of ON, based in Nairobi.benji@onekenyagroup.org

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Why data could lead to Africa’s recolonisation

 

By BITANGE NDEMO

In the 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte said, “War is 90 per cent information.”

At the time, very little data was generated, and little was known about its future role in refining information for better decisions.

In today’s world, terabytes of data are produced per minute. However, in Africa, we rarely translate it to information that can help us make better decisions.

Many outside Africa see big data as a solution to tackling poverty on the continent but as Bruce Mellado, professor of physics at the University of the Witwatersrand, says in his recent article The big data challenge and how Africa can benefit, Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to embracing data-driven innovations.

This is tragic. Advanced countries are piling up so much data on the continent that the thought of Africa’s recolonisation using the same data is not far-fetched.

Colonial hegemony

if you think I am out of my mind to imagine another colonial hegemony in Africa. consider the following story.

I was watching Profit Point, a CNN programme on Africa, one evening and a clip on Victory Farms, a Lake Victoria-based fish production and marketing company, was shown.

One statistic attributed to the Government of Kenya startled me. The fish deficit in Kenya stood at 800,000 tonnes.

I woke up the following day trying to validate the number. It tuned out that nobody within government had any idea where the number came from.

Both the National Bureau of Statistics and the Fisheries Department had only production figures, which they quickly admitted might not have been accurate.

Demand data

later, I discovered that the data came from research organisations specialising in demand data. Total production of fish in Kenya stood at about 180,000 tonnes.

This is being boosted by Victory Farms’ close to 200 tonnes a month and Chinese imports of about 16,000 tonnes.

While total production hovers below 200,000 tonnes, the total addressable fish market is in excess of 1 to 1.2 million tonnes.

Victory Farms have done a commendable job in introducing industrial production of fish and transferring knowledge and technology to locals.

Unlike the local random fishing, Victory Farms have a standardised production methodology that makes it easier to price the output.

China, on the other end, is working round the clock to develop the market and be able to fill the deficit.

Fisheries policy makers

The fisheries policymakers, however, are not using the data to recognise opportunity to fill the deficit, create jobs and wealth and make the country competitive.

The beef industry has similar problems. A study conducted by Agritrade in 2014 says Kenya has a beef deficit of more than 4,500 tonnes.

A United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report says our consumption in 2000 was 287,000 and that will rise to 511,000 tonnes by 2030.

But as of 2012, consumption had shot up to 411,000. I trust these numbers because many butcheries in Nairobi have no cold storage. Their daily supplies are always depleted by evening. But nothing is being done to address the insatiable demand for protein.

Exploit opportunities

without recognising such data, we become vulnerable to exploitation by those who have it. Those with the data will also undoubtedly exploit opportunities as currently happening in the fisheries sector.

Yet many young people waste away in poverty and unemployment. When foreigners export to Kenya, very little employment is created, compared with when we invest locally and develop capacity.

Further, in order for Kenya to keep pace with the rising appetite for chicken and pork, the USDA report says that the country must increase its production by close to 400 and 300 per cent, respectively by 2030.

In the meantime, Kenya imports thousands of tonnes in chicken and pork to satisfy demand.

Strangely, some farmers fail to access the market due to a chaotic supply chain that favours only those with information.

Without embracing emerging transformative digital technologies that will define the fourth industrial revolution, Africa will still be vulnerable to domination by those who have the data.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

We must develop capacity especially around artificial intelligence (analysing data beyond historical information) and begin to predictively use the available data to make cognitive decisions.

Imagine this: Through social media, Russia has managed to have the US and Italian presidents to be their evangelists, with a huge following in their respective nations.

What will happen to resource-rich African countries and their vulnerable citizens, with policymakers who have failed to build capacity to counter such moves?

If supply is to meet demand, we must develop efficient supply chains and build commodity exchanges and regularly conduct surveys to determine demand.

This is an area that is neglected by national statistics offices.

The focus on production without supply channels has little help in an imperfect market (when perfect information is not known to all market actors) where only a few benefit from information, a case in point being the recent maize scandal at the National Cereals and Produce Board, where a few crooks had prior knowledge of maize requirements to the detriment of real farmers.

DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

In essence, as Napoleon said, War is 90 per cent information. Indeed it is partly through control of information that the West won the war against Russia as the West was able to convince the majority of people that Russia was as bad or worse than most developing countries.

Well the just completed World Cup surprised many, who saw modern and beautiful cities in Russia.

While Russia has found ways of changing its narrative, Africa innocently waits to be told what to do by whichever superpower controls the data.

With satellites, machine learning and deep learning, too much of Africa is in the hands of non-Africans and the only way to salvage the continent is through massive capacity development around data collection, storage, manipulation and predictive analytics.

In the absence of data, planning is useless and vulnerable to manipulation of the kind that we are seeing in fertiliser, sugar and maize importation.

POOR PRODUCTS

Everyone thinks they know the numbers and in the end we find ourselves in a crisis when the market is flooded with poor products.

Data is an integral part of economic development that we can only ignore at our own peril.

The worst perhaps will be domination by other nations if we fail to build local capacities and embrace data-driven decisions.

Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University, said “Big Data is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it, so everyone claims they are doing it.”

Let us stop fooling ourselves that someone is doing it for us and desist from claiming that we are doing it.

Let’s become active users of data and demand that decisions are based on data. That way we begin to be owners of data for our good.

The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Bringing down the Ivory Towers

Ms Terry  Ramadhani is a senior manager in the

Ms Terry  Ramadhani is a senior manager in the Human Resources Department, East Africa Aga Khan University 

A friend of mine is by personality the kind of person that demands very little from others. You know the kind of person that is content with very little for themselves and everything else for others. For him there are no pretenses or shows, that’s just the way he is. Often I have wondered how one can be so selfless; but truth be told, we are amazingly different as a human tribe. You can imagine how surprised I was when this friend one day announced that he would leave the job he held.

This was totally off character and when I had picked my jaw off the floor, I had the sense to ask what drove the sudden shift. This friend of mine narrated a story of a particularly unfair practice at their workplace and though he had tried to endlessly rationalise he had come to the conclusion that it was a hopeless situation in which the boss seemed hell bent to keep their head deeply buried in the sand and serve their own interests.

Now, I must say whenever I met my friend’s boss, I thought they were wonderful and I admired them immensely, so I was quite taken aback by the revelations, that blow by blow demonstrated how short sighted and ill-focused the boss was. I almost all but lost the admiration I had held for them through the years.

This experience got me reflecting on how often we have heard the phrase that people do not leave institutions or companies they leave their bosses. Cliché, yes but you know, I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that it holds significant substance. To be fair there are often a myriad of reasons that make many bosses or supervisors terribly poor at their job. Primarily, I believe most of them do not quite understand or recognise their own blind spots or limitations. Somehow some imagine that because they have some qualification or achieved certain success in previous roles, any other assignment will be a walk in the park. Often you will hear them brag about how complex their previous assignments were in comparison to their current role. This particular statement sometimes is proven entirely more fiction than factual.

Many times I think such behaviours are driven by a lack of belief in their own ability or competence. I cannot imagine a conversation for example where a global magnet say for instance Bill Gates or any other massively successful business owner brags on end about how great he is as an entrepreneur. That would beg many questions.

Another major reason that drives such behaviours in leaders is simply because they may not be very healthy. They like everyone else, maybe struggling with battles that no one knows about. I am not trying to excuse the terrible behaviours that we no doubt have all been in the receiving end of on occasion, I am offering a point of view that allows us to understand that leaders also struggle with existence and leading. They are after all 100 per cent human, irrespective of how horrid behaviours demonstrated get; they too deserve grace and mercy.

The question we as leaders must ask ourselves when we are confronted with such circumstance is; how do we ensure that we do better at leading than the poor examples we have experienced? Here are three suggestions;

1. Learn to listen more and talk less – recognising that everyone has something to offer irrespective of whatever prejudices we may hold, is the ultra demonstration of humility.

2. Deeply respect people. Ensure that your position, role or title does not get into your head to the extent that you become dismissive and intolerant. If you are the type of leader who never listens for a minute without interrupting, that you literally have to hold your hand over your mouth when others talk, heed oh thee, I am addressing you here.

3. Value your people. By this I don’t mean the lip service we often experience in workplaces that speaks a great message but under scrutiny fails the test. This means having a deep appreciation of the people around you in their total and complete humanness. It means understanding that all have fallen short of glory and none is perfect.

It means demonstrating a compassion that stubbornly refuses to constantly kick others in their gut, that resists the urge to persistently complain about the shortcomings of others. A conscience that deeply examines itself and appreciates its own imperfections.

From the beginning of time, I would like to imagine that we all agree there exists no human above reproach, so, get off your high horse and remember they say, if serving is below you, leadership is beyond you.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

TV operators vs regulations saga

Kasera Nick Oyoo is a research and

Kasera Nick Oyoo is a research and communications consultant with Midas Touché East Africa 

By Kasera Nick Oyoo midastea@gmail.com

Inevitably, where news is scanty and hazy, the public tends to turn to creative speculation.

A section of consumers have already concluded that the regulator Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) and its parent ministry are hell-bent on controlling what the consumers hear and watch on television, hence the implementation of what they see as restrictive laws. “Otherwise why is TBC still allowed to remain on the private operators channels when it, too, is free to air?”

Caught in the vortex

Sadly, consumers have been caught in the vortex. We are not strictly focusing on the on-going saga between television operators and the government.

This also presents us an opportunity to examine and throw some light on the challenges facing doing business in, and the Blue Print on, Enabling Business Improvement in the United Republic of Tanzania.

When all is said and done, the regulator (whatever agency of and the government) always has to have in mind that regulation is not about money-making conduit-because if it is, it’s like killing the goose with the golden egg.

Regulatory environment

The Blueprint this column has seen acknowledges that the regulatory environment is “characterized by high compliance costs in monetary terms and time in starting and operating businesses. There are multiple often over-lapping and cumbersome pre-approval costs and high enforcement costs.”

A cursory glance at the on-going TV content operator’s saga will tell you that here is a case where the law is kind of in conflict with what truly competitive regime ought to be.

If it is true that the government wants to offer Free to Air TV to all citizens and has licensed operators like Multi Choice Tanzania and Azam TV among others to do just that, then it regulations ought to enable and bind these operators to enable access to Free to Air Channels even when consumers have not paid the monthly rates .

For some inexplicable reasons the regulators saw it fit to split these Free to Air Channels and put them in certain platforms, which means consumers have to buy and install a multiple of decorders in order to access Free to Air TV. For all intents and purposes , this is one set of regulations that was governed by money other than good consumer benefit oriented competitive practice.

The Blueprint its recommendations continues to say, revenue motives should not be the basis of regulatory environment and where payments are concerned, it ought to be a single window.

Access to consumers

In the ongoing saga and as statistics ought to be available, Multi Choice Tanzania with the leading number of decoders in the market would naturally enable wide access to consumers a lot more than say TING yet another operator. While this may be arguable, it still makes no sense to “force” the consumer to buy a decoder and especially so, one in which the government is a shareholder ostensibly because the “laws and regulations states so.”

Credit to the government that the Blueprint does states that there is need to conduct Regulators Impact Assessment studies with the intention that in the future data based studies can assist the government in improving the regulatory regime in the interest of consumers. That is at it should be.

The Blue Print makes valuable recommendations over the issue of issuance of work permits for foreigners including when and where inspections can be carried out within the law and stem the tide of possible corruption from unscrupulous officers.

Multiplicity of laws

With its 22. 8 million cattle, Tanzania could be a major exporter of meat and beef products. It seems that regulatory regime is always a challenge as a multiplicity of laws prevail.

When all is said and done many of the recommendations envisaged by the Blue Print are very dear to the core hearts of those doing business. The challenge is in operationalising them.

Shall the government, its agencies and more importantly its enforcement personnel allow the amendments to become part of the improved business environment or, will they allow personal interest to take us back to business as usual?

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

EDITORIAL: By-Election not worth this spate of violence

 

On Sunday, Tanzania-Mainland conducted by-elections in scores of political constituencies at the ward and parliamentary levels for 77 councillors and the Buyungu parliamentary seat in Kigoma Region. These are not the first by-elections in the country; nor are they going to be the last.

This is if only because more such by-elections are already slated for the coming months as Tanzania steadily plods on to the next local government elections in late 2019, and a general election in late 2020.

More often than not, elections – be they general or by-elections – are marred by violence, sometimes resulting in death(s), miming and loss of, or damage to, property. One example of this was the death on February 16, 2018 of otherwise innocent Procurement and Logistics student Akwilina Akwilini, 22, in violence related to the by-election campaign for the Kinondoni parliamentary constituency seat.

Again, polling for the August 12, 2018 by-elections was marred by violence, with some electoral candidates, supervisors and political party cadres – notably in Arusha, as widely reported in yesterday’s editions of The Citizen and its sister paper Mwananchi. By-elections are intended to fill vacancies arising during a government’s term of office. But, they’re inordinately costly – and, arguably, have no tangible positive impact in the democracy stakes.

So, are by-elections worth the costs, the violence? There’s a strong case for revisiting by-elections, with a view to strategically replacing the methodology. Such vacancies can easily be filled by a nominee of the political party which lost the seat through death, judicial unseating, resignation/defection or whatever. But – arguably best of all – the vacancy can be filled by the ‘second-placed winner’ in the immediate-past general elections regardless of their political party affiliation.

The relevant authorities should seriously think about this to avoid otherwise unnecessary internecine by-election violence.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

EDITORIAL: Relax lease agreements

 

Over the past few months, we have published various articles suggesting a mixed blessing for the country’s booming real estate industry.

The plight of property owners is most finely felt in major cities, mainly the commercial capital Dar es Salaam where a construction boom featuring state-of-the-art buildings in and around the central business district is yet to witness a significant corresponding rise in occupancy rate. From prohibitive costs to an apparent shift in location preference by companies, the reasons for this trend vary.

As a matter of fact though, an increasing number of firms are cutting costs by moving to offices out of town. It’s the same factors bedeviling real estate cities like Arusha, for instance. The nosedive in real estate business as we reported yesterday, does not come as a big surprise.

Tenants are either closing shop citing poor business or moving to cheaper office space out of town. In a nutshell, this is a matter of survival for them. The question, then, is: What will it also take for owners of buildings to stay in business? This is a pain point where a consideration has to be made to review the mostly overvalued properties.

Also, property owners must consider relaxing payment terms.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Lessons from a trillion-dollar firm

 

By SUNNY BINDRA

I often look at how badly so many companies do this thing called “customer experience” and I wonder. Do you guys understand the power, the unique value of having customers who take joy in the experiences you give them — instead of feeling frustration and anger?

If you did understand, why would you regard your customers as though they are suckers to be fooled into buying; line them up like cattle; offer the minimal acceptable product; hire the cheapest people; and locate in the least salubrious places?

Why, indeed, would you behave like a hawker on a beach selling to tourists you never expect to see again, even though you are a big business?

Lifelong customer bonds are the holy grail of business. They are what the best and the brightest try to develop and nurture. They separate players from winners, those who just show up from those who dominate. If you don’t believe this, why don’t you look at the world’s most valuable company?

I recently popped into an Apple Store with the family in a major city. It was huge, spanning two floors of the leading mall, located in the highest-rent part of the metropolis. As we walked in, a blue-shirted employee immediately made eye contact and walked up to us smiling. We had a complaint, though — an iPhone was losing charge unusually rapidly.

The same person looked over the phone, ran a couple of quick tests, and told us this was a known issue. Apple would therefore replace the battery for a nominal charge. It would take only 24 hours, and I would be notified as soon as the job was done.

Would we care to look at anything else, she asked? We mentioned a couple of things. She accompanied us throughout, showing us different items on display or on her special hand-held device. We found a couple of items to buy, and the same employee checked them out, right where we were — no queuing at a payments counter. Her device did the needful, and a receipt pinged up in my email seconds later.

While chatting with us, she dropped various things into the conversation: Free learning sessions for youngsters that teach photography skills and video editing; and an SME business service for me with special benefits.

She was one of dozens of highly engaging, highly diverse employees running around the store. They were all well trained and knowledgeable; looked eager and willing to serve; and between them spoke a wide range of languages. Indeed, the place looked nothing like a store. It was laid out more like a community space where people meet and interact.

I left marvelling at the thinking. The most expensive location; the best people, deployed in large numbers; quick acceptance of a fault in the product, and a costly remedy offered without needing to fight for it. This, to many businessfolk, is dumb, no? Why spend so much?

It’s not dumb at all; it’s extremely sharp thinking. Apple turned its smartphones (and pretty much every product it makes) into luxury items, in a market that traditionally sold just on specs and utility, not brand or reputation. The more than 500 Apple stores across 24 countries are central to this strategy. Apple’s products may be great, but there is equal investment in customer experience. The stores provide a high-end, high-touch part of the overall experience. They are used to position the brand, to cross-sell, to create relationships.

It’s not perfect, mind. I have been to Apple stores that were so overcrowded that no meaningful experience could be had. The consistency of experience certainly does not always extend to retail partners and resellers not owned by Apple. And customers are often forced into buying high-cost accessories once in the system. But the point is, this company invests in giving its customers unmatched experiences, and keeps trying to do it better.

Where does it pay off? In units sold; in selling prices and gross margins competitors can only dream about; in a captive core of one billion global customers (and their credit cards) who can be migrated to new products and, increasingly, to subscription services like music, TV, cloud storage and payments.

As I write this, Apple has crossed the trillion-dollar valuation mark. It sits on a cash pile governments can’t match. All because it understands customer relationships and customer experiences, and invests in lifetime bonding.

So where do you sit? With those who do as little as possible for customers, or with those who regard them as the whole point of the business?

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Children should never take bodaboda rides

 

By Janeth Otieno-Prosper

Parents must always ensure that their children get to school on time. In Dar es Salaam, this is problematic because of road congestion and crowded commuter buses.

Consequently, motorcycle taxis – popularly known as bodabodas – have become a convenient and affordable means of passenger transport in the sprawling metropolis, weaving their way into, out of, and around traffic jams.

One safety requirement is that bodaboda drivers and passengers must wear helmets and reflective jackets.

The helmets are to protect both riders from head injuries in case of an accident.

However, a study published in the Journal of Microbiology, Biotechnology and Food Sciences shows that indiscriminate use of helmets by different persons is a major health risk.

That is because helmets can be breeding grounds for assorted microorganisms such as bacteria, leading to transmission of pathogenic microorganisms and communicable diseases among users.

In any case, parents and guardians should always remember it’s not only dangerous to transport children using bodabodas, but that this is among the riskiest means of transport. Young children can fall asleep on bodabodas and are not strong enough to firmly hold onto the machine and or the driver.

That is to say nothing of the exposure of children to dust, rain, wind and any number of agents that are not particularly friendly to them.

Then again, in case of a serious accident, children not only suffer head and bodily injuries, some are more likely to die than recover from the injuries at such a tender age.

This is also to say nothing of young schoolgirls who easily fall prey to unscrupulous bodaboda operators who take advantage of their vulnerability and their need to report in class on time.

So, ideally, children should never take bodaboda rides if that can be helped.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Why Trump could have been the dealer of the free world

 

By John Lloyd

Donald Trump cannot be, and perhaps never wished to be, the leader of the free world, the burden which has fallen on the shoulders of Oval Office occupants since World War Two. America First means America Withdrawn.

But he could still have been the dealer of the free world, taking his 1987 book Trump: The Art of the Deal and applying to international affairs its precepts on how to get the better of any negotiation. Had he done so with at least an eye to Western as well as American interests, it might have benefited us all. (Trump’s co-author, Tony Schwartz, has now taken to TV and Twitter to warn that the president’s “continuing meltdown” puts “the republic at enormous risk.”)

But it seems Trump doesn’t want to be the free world’s dealer either. His performance next to a triumphant Vladimir Putin after their July 16 Helsinki meeting shamed all (small “d”) democrats. The US president has abased himself before one who has seized part of a neighboring state (Ukraine) while fomenting revolt in another part, helped ensure the victory of authoritarian leader Bashar al-Assad in Syria’s civil war, closed down most independent civil society institutions in Russia, and marginalized all challenges to his cardboard simulacrum of a “democracy.”

When a US president so lauds a man like Putin, when he treats a summit – for which preparation should be meticulous and performance expressive of values and differences, seeking compromise only where principled – as a warm buddy-bath of meaningless assurances and compliments, then more than the American republic is at enormous risk. To make it worse, this abasement followed a trip to Europe in which “set out to humiliate the leaders of Western Europe and declare them ‘foes’; to fracture long-standing military, economic, and political alliances; and to absolve Russia of its attempts to undermine the 2016 election. He did so clearly, repeatedly, and with conviction.”

The effect of Trump’s brief stay in Europe was to reveal in startling clarity that “conviction,” which seemed to be an intent to render meaningless all existing understandings with major American allies, allowing for no lingering doubts that his skepticism about NATO and his contempt for Europe – and especially Germany – could be simply a matter of mood. America’s most intimate allies – the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, the pillars of the so-called Anglosphere – are now in the hapless posture of trying to retain a “special relationship” with a president who has fun insulting them, as he did with Canadian premier Justin Trudeau after refusing to sign the G7 joint statement following the group’s meeting in Canada last month, and as he did with British Prime Minister Theresa May, when, as her guest during a visit to the UK, he chided her for not listening to his advice to leave the European Union and promoted her most prominent critic, the former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as her successor.

Both Trudeau and May are dependent on the United States: he, as a neighbor whose trade with the colossus to the south accounts for almost 25 percent of Canada’s GDP; she, as one desperately seeking partners for a post-Brexit world in which trade with the European Union is likely to sharply diminish. And when the US president returns to the United States, realizes that the storm from within his own party is too great to ignore, then mounts so risible a “correction” – “I said the word ‘would’ instead of ‘wouldn’t” – then we are in a world not just where words lose all meaning. We are in an Alice in Wonderland universe where a Trumpty-Dumpty can say “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less… the question is, which is to be master – that’s all.”

We are witnessing a sustained attack on an assumed system of liberal values by the figure who most of all has been tapped, in post-war times, to protect them. The US National Defense Strategy rightly saw the world as one where rival powers, led by China, now seek to reduce the West’s hegemony over a world where some version of a liberal order – where the rule of international law is observed and trade can be carried out securely – is protected, most of all by the United States.

For the present, the most important question is how far the West will continue to be able to defend and project liberal democratic values. The young almost everywhere have become more cynical about the value of democracy as a political system, and less hopeful that anything they do might influence public policy, according to research by the political scientists Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa. Yet, according to Richard Fontaine and Daniel Twining, writing in Foreign Affairs, Washington is “hardly playing defense” against the offensive by Beijing and Moscow – much less “championing a robust agenda for protecting and enlarging the free world.”

Some US presidents have been better than others at making such a robust agenda a central goal of their policy. In recent times, George W. Bush, who himself seemed to favor an “America First” policy when he took over the presidency, opened his second term by promising “to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture.” Barack Obama was no America Firster, but did wish to set limits on the world policeman role, and encouraged allies, especially in Europe, to play a larger part in upholding global liberal values. Both men proclaimed liberty as at the core of their foreign policy aims. The 45th president does not.

Thus, from Donald’s adventures in the lands of the Europeans, we must recognize that these values must be fought for without his help – indeed, at times, with his opposition. The rot, like that of a fish, has started at the head. We can only hope it doesn’t reach too far before a new head is found.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Seed firms can help boost food security in Africa

 

By Aghan Daniel

The rainy season is already here with us, and most farmers have begun to plant various seeds across Africa. As farmers descend upon their farms, one big issue that lingers among researchers is the inability of these farmers to access certified seed that can serve their immediate needs.

At the end of the planting season, less than 20 per cent of all farmers would have planted certified and clean seeds.

The oft-told story of the seed sub-sector in Africa is that it has always been grappling with a lot of challenges, including farmer apathy to adopting new and better varieties.

Given, it is incumbent upon the sector to engage more visibly among themselves than they have ever done before even as they want governments to keep their promises.

Such engagements must ensure that seed companies, who are major taxpayers in many countries, hold political and business leaders to account by measuring their actions against their promises.

Bottlenecks that bedevil the sub-sector, could, for example, be overcome if political leaders kept the promise they made in a major meeting in June last year where there was renewed commitment to allocate at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture. Whenever agriculture is neglected, there is always the risk of malnutrition, which, in the words of Kofi Annan, chair of the Africa Progress Panel, represents political failure.

Take the case of fruits and vegetables. Smallholder farmers in many parts of Africa produce fruits and vegetables alongside food crops such as cereals, tubers and roots. Yet farmers are losing more than 50 per cent of their harvests due to lack of cold storage.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption (about 1.3 billion tonnes) goes to waste. Therefore, there is a need for post-harvest handling facilities for both horticultural produces and also for cereals.

Drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are revolutionising agriculture. The use of drones for precision agriculture, farming, pest management and crop management is rapidly taking root worldwide. Precision agriculture is a farming management concept based on observing, measuring and responding to inter- and intra-field variability in crops.

The seed sub-sector in Africa should therefore keep the authorities on their toes so that such technology does not bypass any country on the continent. If that were to be done, many farmers and seed producers would benefit from enhanced sustainable agricultural development and food security by improving the use of ICT in the area. With two thirds of Africans dependent on farming for their livelihoods, boosting Africa’s agriculture will no doubt create economic opportunities, reduce malnutrition and poverty, and generate faster, fairer growth.

That African farmers need more investment, better access to financial services such as loans, and quality inputs including seeds and fertiliser is a fact that need not be laboured on but rather acted upon. Its potential yields are millions of jobs. Sadly, the neglect of these sectors has allowed inequality on our continent to accelerate.

Africa currently imports food worth $35 billion (Sh77 trillion) each year. But African farmers should be producing the food and earning this money.

The continent could – and should – be feeding itself and other regions too.

The reality on the ground is that it is possible to change the fortunes of African agriculture.

Comparison should therefore be made with changes in the telecommunications sector which have been described as possibly the greatest modern revolution this continent has seen. Less than two decades ago, 70 per cent of the African population had never heard a telephone ringing. Today 70 per cent have a telephone.

This is an inspiration that seed merchants need to use to boost our food and nutrition security and the prosperity in Africa.

The writer is the Communication Officer at The African Seed Trade Association (AFSTA) – daghan@afsta.org

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Monday, August 13, 2018

Grants: Breaking the poverty trap

 

By Philippa Garson

New York. A cash injection of as little as $12 per month for an impoverished family could determine whether a child eats properly or goes to school or not. With cash transfer programmes around the world now having a profound impact on the lives of poor people, the debate is less about whether to implement them than how to do so.

Handing out cash rather than food or other basic survival supplies to the needy is a fairly recent phenomenon that began in several Latin American countries, including Brazil and Mexico, in the 1990s. In 1998 South Africa also introduced its own version - the child support grant. The widespread success of these programmes is now inspiring many other countries in Africa and Asia to follow suite.

Dramatic effects

Transferring cash to those who desperately need it is proving to have more dramatic and long-lasting effects than simply keeping the wolf from the door for the poorest of the poor. Michelle Adato, who has researched the impact of cash transfers for many years, says the notion of cash handouts as unsustainable and wasteful has “increasingly been discredited. Cash grants are now being seen as part of a comprehensive development strategy as opposed to just a safety net.” Because of the impact these grants are having on human capital, they are contributing to sustainable development.

“When children miss that window of opportunity from zero to two years old regarding their nutritional status, or experience late school starts or early drop-out rates, the accumulative effects have long-term consequences on their economic wellbeing into adulthood,” said Adato, adding that research has shown a direct correlation between a lack of early capital investment in children and ongoing cycles of inter-generational poverty. “This is the strongest justification for cash transfer programmes - beyond the basic human rights perspective.”

Adds Carolyn Heinrich, professor of public affairs and economics at Texas University: “I can’t say we’ve heard counter-arguments. We’ve been doing `trickle down’ for a long time before starting cash transfers and we’ve never seen the kind of impact that we have with cash transfers.” These impacts include better nutrition and health, improved school attendance and less risky sexual behaviour.

A total of 20 African countries have social protection programmes like these and both the numbers of countries and size of the programmes are growing, with Kenya, Zambia, Lesotho, Mauritania, Malawi, Mali, Niger and Zimbabwe, Senegal all expanding their programmes. The child support grant in South Africa, now expanded to include 17-year-olds, reaches 11 million children.

The Transfer Project, a study on the impact of the grants in many of these African countries led by UNICEF, showed that the quality of life of people receiving cash transfers improved significantly. Respondents in Zambia, Ghana and Malawi all reported being happier with their lives, for example, and researchshowed that recipients in these countries were eating better too.

Significantly, cash grants have also been shown to have clear benefits beyond health and education. They also have a marked effect on adolescent behaviour, curbing high-risk sexual practices. A wide-ranging evaluation of the South African child support grant showed that adolescents who received the grant were 63 percent less likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour such as having transactional sex with older men, thereby reducing their chances of teenage pregnancy, dropping out of school and contracting HIV. The study also showed a drop in alcohol and drug consumption among both male and female adolescents. Heinrich describes these results as “pretty dramatic” and a strong argument for extending grants to cover adolescents in other countries, wherever possible.

Two main criticisms of cash transfer programmes are that they do not create jobs and that they can be misused by those who benefit from them. John Hoddinott, a deputy director at the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Unit, says while the cash transfers are certainly not a magic bullet they are indeed a vital component of any poverty alleviation strategy. “We’re not saying that by themselves they will solve all the problems in the world but they are a valuable part of a portfolio of activities designed to reduce poverty”. Not only do they provide people with the means to buy food and clothes but they “give beneficiaries a base from which to make longer term investments,” he says.

As to the charge that the transfers may be wasted on alcohol, drugs and cigarettes or that recipients may stop working, the evidence points to the contrary. “The research shows that in the vast majority of cases, poor people use their money well – the evidence is unambiguous,” says Hoddinott. Mostly they use the money to buy food, clothes, get their children to school, and sometimes even save some. “You will always find anecdotal stories of some people using their resources poorly but anecdotes are not data,” says Hoddinott. The other experts interviewed share the same view.

Street children

Whereas clumps of ragged street children eking out a living on the streets of Johannesburg were a ubiquitous part of the urban landscape in the 1980s and 90s, the sight is far less common nowadays, thanks to the impact of the child support grant, said Dugan Fraser, who worked with the Economic Policy Research Institute on the South African child support grant’s evaluation. The extra cash is helping families feed their children and keep them at school and off the streets. Critics may assume that spending money on items such as a cell phone or the hair salon seems wasteful, he said, but “often there is a rational logic underlying these decisions”. These may be important purchases to make when trying to find work and make oneself more presentable for the job market, for example. “The data shows that the poor make the right choices. We need to stop trying to nanny them.” (IRIN)

Up for debate, however, is how to hand out the cash and whether conditions should be imposed on the grants or not. The Latin American model tends to follow the “conditional” approach while countries with less state capacity and ability to monitor whether people are complying with conditions tend to opt for non-conditional grants or those with “soft” conditions that try to nudge the recipients to use them wisely. In Mexico and Brazil, for example, grants will be dependent on a minimum number of days of school attendance, or on a parent taking his or her child for “well baby” checkups. “The problem arises if you impose conditions but the ability to check on them is not there”, said Heinrich.

Adato said the jury is still out on whether countries should impose conditions on cash grants. Politically, it is sometimes important to attach conditions. “You can often get more support for these programmes if voters don’t think that the poor are getting something for nothing,” she said. However, the question has to be asked: which one gets the better results? Latin American examples have shown that conditionality adds value to many programmes. For example, a grant conditional on a child attending school could strengthen the position of a woman in the household whose father would prefer the child to stay at home.

The trend in Africa, where state capacity is usually weak, is towards non-conditional programmes. One study in Malawi showed some negative spin-offs of conditionality. While a grant conditional on attending school led to better school attendance among young girls, those who dropped out and therefore no longer received the grant were more likely to get pregnant early than the school drop-outs who continued to receive an unconditional cash grant.

There is no blueprint and each program must be designed according to the local socio-economic conditions, say the experts. The debate over conditionality is becoming more nuanced, adds Hoddinott, with policymakers viewing conditionality more from the perspective of whether it will help achieve their objectives or not rather than whether it is “right” or “wrong”’.

Because of an initial skepticism about the efficacy and value of cash transfer programmes they have been subjected to much heavier scrutiny than many other development programmes, said Hoddinott. This has proved invaluable in strengthening and improving them. “Now there is a good evidence base on where they work and where they are of more limited success.”

They are often cited as less vulnerable to corruption than schemes that hand over goods. “My general impression is that there is relatively little corruption in these types of programmes. In countries where corruption is endemic, you will find corruption in the social transfer as well, of course,” he says. Examples include ghost beneficiaries and bribing of officials where conditional grants are given. Sometimes corruption takes place at the interface where the money changes hands. In some Latin American examples, loan sharks and extortionists began to pop up at the depots where people claimed their cash. Now recipients of the Bolsa Familia scheme in Brazil, the largest cash transfer programme in the world that supports 12 million families (a quarter of the population) on condition their children attend school and are vaccinated, can now withdraw their cash from ATMs around the country, a move that has reduced corruption.

In South Africa, there has been an ongoing court case involving Net1, the US holding company managing the electronic disbursements of the child support grant. Some recipients were hapless victims of companies falsely representing themselves as legitimate operators of the South African Social Security Agency and had money deducted from their transfers. Net1 is also being subject to a class action lawsuit in the US for providing misleading information on its financial practices in South Africa.

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Monday, August 13, 2018

End fraud once and for all

Subscribers heaved a sigh of relief two months ago when the Police Force announced that it had busted the syndicate behind the mobile money fraud perpetrated through text messages. However, the joy was short-lived, as mobile phone users continued to receive text messages asking them to send money to unknown numbers.

The messages are sent randomly, and the fraudsters hope that recipients mistake them for someone they know and whom they had promised to send money a short while ago. Mobile phone users have become wiser after thousands of unsuspecting people reported losing money to the fraudsters, particularly in the early weeks of the fraud.

However, messages are still being sent out and people continue to fall victim, which raises questions as to whether police, the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority and telecommunication companies are doing enough to end the racket once and for all.

It is common knowledge that a Sim card cannot be used without the holder being registered. This means that telecom firms whose Sim cards are being used in the fraud have some tough questions to answer.

It is illogical in this day and age of technological advancement that this kind of fraud can go on for such a long time without the perpetrators being arrested and brought to justice.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Why US new immigration rule should make your blood boil



US president Donald Trump. Photo File

US president Donald Trump. Photo File 

By Catherine Rampell

Once again, the Trump administration is looking to punish immigrants. And once again, innocent children are getting hurt in the process.

This time, however, many of those innocent children are likely to be US citizens.

On Tuesday, NBC News reported that the Trump administration is readying a new rule that should make your blood boil.

The initiative, in the works for more than a year, would make it harder for legal immigrants to receive either green cards or citizenship if they — or anyone in their households — has ever benefited from a long list of safety-net programmes. These include the Children’s Health Insurance Programme (Chip), food stamps or even health insurance purchased on the Obamacare exchanges.

Three points are worth emphasizing here.

First is that, again, this policy would apply to immigrants who are in the country legally . It’s not about punishing people for “sneaking across the border,” that apparently unforgivable transgression that Trump officials have previously used to justify state-sanctioned child abuse. And, in any case, undocumented immigrants are already excluded from nearly all federal anti-poverty programmes.

As such, the proposal fits into President Trump’s agenda to dramatically cut levels of legal immigration, despite his rhetorical focus on the undocumented.

Second, this rule is ostensibly about making sure immigrants are self-sufficient and not a drain on public coffers. But NBC reports that the rule could disqualify immigrants making as much as 250 per cent of the poverty level.

Moreover, an immigrant’s past use of benefits does not necessarily mean he or she will need them forever.

Even the immigrant populations that you might expect to have the most trouble achieving economic self-sufficiency have proved to be a good long-term investment for the nation’s fiscal health.

For instance, refugees initially cost the government money; they need a lot of help, after all, given that they often arrive penniless and without proficient English-language skills.

But over time, their work and wage prospects improve and, by their fifth year here, they pay more in taxes than they received in benefits on average, according to a government report commissioned and subsequently suppressed by the Trump administration last year. (The report eventually leaked to the New York Times.)

Third, and most important, is that under the proposal, it’s not only immigrants who must forgo safety-net benefits if they don’t wish to be penalized by the immigration system. It is everyone in a given immigrant’s household.

That includes — based on an earlier leaked draft of the proposal published by The Post — an immigrant’s own children, even if those children are US citizens who independently qualify for safety-net benefits.

That’s right. Legal-immigrant moms and dads may soon face a choice between (A) guaranteeing their US-born children medical care, preschool classes and infant formula today, or (B) not threatening their own ability to qualify for green cards or citizenship tomorrow.

The universe of US-citizen children who could be affected is large. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that, in Medicaid and Chip enrolment alone in 2016, about 5.8 million citizen children had a noncitizen parent. The rule has not yet been issued.

But various versions of it have leaked over the past year and a half. These have received coverage in foreign-language media, and fears about changes to immigration policy already appear to be discouraging participation in services meant to help low-income American children.

Including, perhaps most distressingly, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Programme for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a critical lifeline that provides access to food, prenatal care, breast pumps and other services for low-income mothers and children.

WIC was listed in the draft rule published by The Post, and it’s not clear whether it remains in the latest version; but, either way, some immigrant parents and parents-to-be are already unenrolling, just in case. “I had one family come and tell me, ‘Please remove us from WIC programme, all services, medical, dental, everything,’ ” says Aliya S. Haq, the nutrition services supervisor at International Community Health Services in Seattle.

The family had a child less than a year old who needed medical attention, but Haq could not convince them the benefits outweighed the risks of staying in the programme. Another patient, who is pregnant, asked to stop receiving prenatal assistance because she’s applying for citizenship.

Haq said the clinic’s WIC enrollment has fallen by about 10 per cent over the past year; she worries daily about whether infant and maternal mortality rates will worsen, and whether there will be a negative effect on the brain development and long-term health of newborns.

Any policy that discourages, even a little bit, poor families’ use of such services is not just heartless. From an economic perspective, it is foolish.

We need healthy, well-nourished, well-educated children to become healthy, well-nourished, productive workers. But once again, children and the economic future they represent are the casualties of Trump’s casual cruelty.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Let’s provide the right information to youth

Sexuality education has been around in the

Sexuality education has been around in the African setting for a long time. Maasai girls undergo traditional training to equip them with life skills. PHOTO | FILE 

By Alain Sibenaler

The timing has never been better to talk about sexuality education, when Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has committed to strengthening efforts to reduce HIV prevalence (Presidential Fast-Track Initiative); the government has committed to end child marriage and teenage pregnancy (National Strategy to End Child Marriage and Teenage pregnancy); and achieving gender equality in education (Gender in Education Sector Policy).

These government initiatives are aimed at improving the situation of young people in Uganda. Some of the challenges they face are, high teenage pregnancy at 25 per cent, average first sexual debut at 16 years, high rates of school dropouts for our girls in upper primary, secondary and tertiary institutions due to early pregnancies, which often lead to early or forced marriage.

They also face gender-based violence manifested through defilement, rape, sexual harassment and female genital mutilation. The level of new HIV infections among the young people is worrying. Young people’s contribution to Maternal Mortality is at 28 per cent.

We cannot underestimate the effect of the exposure to negative information and communication technologies, weakening family support system, inadequate knowledge, myths and misconceptions around sexual and reproductive health matters.

The high dependence on peers as sources of information, confusing messages during the transition from childhood to adulthood are major challenges young people face.

According to the National Sexuality Education Framework, sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about vital issues such as sexual development, reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image and gender roles.

Sexuality education aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to realise their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships; consider how their choices affect their own well-being and that of others.

Let us not confuse sexuality education and sex education. The framework does not include sex education.

The youthful population of Uganda with 78 per cent under 30 years, should not be left behind if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, Uganda’s Vision 2040, and Africa Union’s Agenda 2063.

Responding to some of the challenges the youth face, Sustainable Development Goals propose interventions on sexuality education, under Goal 3 on ensuring healthy lives and promotion of well-being for all ages and Goal 4 on ensuring inclusive quality education and promotion of lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Now is the time to come out and address some of the stumbling blocks to the middle-income status that Uganda plans to achieve. The big youth population can be turned into an asset for development if we remove the sexual and reproductive health barriers that stand in their way.

Sexuality education has been proven to have positive effects, including providing information that arms young people with knowledge and skills to make informed decisions like delaying sexual activity, staying in school, seeking health services to mention a few.

Sexuality education has been around in the African setting for a long time. Parents, aunties, uncles, elder sisters and brothers would groom young people. There are still good examples today of nurturing young people through positive cultural practices, which instil cultural values and morals in young people so that they can become responsible citizens making informed choices about their lives. Today, considering the effects of modernisation, the Sexuality Education Framework, is necessary to bridge the gap of the weakening family support systems.

It is commendable that the government through Ministry of Education and Sports, has formulated a framework on sexuality education that is age appropriate, culturally and religious sensitive. The UN System in Uganda appreciates the First Lady Janet Museveni for launching the Sexuality Education Framework.

It is important to note that no single organisation or entity can deliver on sexuality education. It requires a multi-sectoral approach owing to the comparative advantage of the various government ministries, communities, youth, private sector, civil society organisations, cultural and religious institutions among other different actors.

My hope is that the implementation plan for the National Sexuality Education Framework will take care of the various categories of young people, including those in-school, out-of-school, in the remotest areas, people with disabilities, young people living with HIV/Aids, among others. Furthermore, all sectors should participate and engage to institutionalise its implementation and make it sustainable.

The United Nations is here to support the government and not to impose anything not accepted by the country. The United Nations Development Assistance Framework 2016-2020 is aligned to the second National Development Plan.

Mr Sibenaler is the Acting UN Resident Coordinator and UNFPA Representative in Uganda.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Africa’s story is about political stability

People queue to enter an election rally of

People queue to enter an election rally of President Emmerson Mnangagwa's ruling Zanu-PF party in Mutare CREDIT: PHILIMON BULAWAYO/REUTERS 

By Erick Mwakibete

Power is eaten whole”, so goes a Congolese saying which in essence explains much of the efforts of Africa’s experience with post-colonial state building projects.

The reaction of Zimbabwe’s government to opposition supporters who claimed their electoral victory was stolen by the long ruling Zanu-PF aided by the electoral commission was met with shock and dismay by some observers who thought after nearly four decades of Robert Mugabe, that country had turned into a new leaf.

For a country whose political history has seen more than its fair share of political violence, some observers lamented that the violence which claimed lives in the recent concluded elections meant that the “old” Zimbabwe was alive and kicking. That the past was so much in the present.

The concept of political stability in post-colonial Africa is heavily equated with near total or total political power in the hands of a single individual, a group of few individuals or a dominant political party. As elections became popular as a means of acquiring political power, regardless of the political setting or particular time are intended to provide political stability above all else.

To rulers of already deeply fractured republics, democracy is considered too taxing a concept; one which cannot guarantee the provision of basic needs of one’s life as opposed to political stability.

This rationale dominated the one-party states and military dictatorships which covered the continent. Even the “no-party” system of Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni before he allowed multipartism was grounded in the same argument.

Political stability

The many different mechanisms of addressing post-election disputes have little to do with delivering democracy to the people and more about ensuring political stability is guaranteed. Some countries, like Zimbabwe or Kenya allow presidential results to be challenged in courts of law.

The intention is clear: legitimizing a disputed election through courts of law allows for those frustrated by the electoral process and outcome to be heard, and in so doing defusing the extent of whatever political damage might lie ahead for political stability.

Some countries like Tanzania do not provide such avenue. Here too, the intention is the same. That courts of law might be unpredictable and delve in dealing with electoral credibility while sacrificing political stability. Losers have to learn how to live with their electoral loss.

Even in a country like Zambia with its proven record of swapping political parties in power every now and then, the incumbent has warned courts in his country not to follow the example of Kenyan courts as they hear a petition against what his political opponents say is an attempt to run for a third term because he argues that would lead to political instability.

Some countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) opted for a political solution to political problems like power-sharing.

But like that Congolese saying, power is never truly shared and in any power-sharing arrangement, there are no doubts as to where state power resides.

A few chairs are added on the dinner table to placate those who feel aggrieved by the election outcomes but there is no doubt as to who has the final say over who gets what on their plates.

Elections are about political power. This makes them a matter of life and death in many African countries.

They are not about democracy; a concept whose meaning is disputed unlike political power which does not provide the same confusions or intense debates.

Every time an African country goes to the polls, and you hear more about citizens urged to keep the peace and very little about elections being mechanisms of governing themselves in better ways.

Electoral credibility and political stability are considered as separate issues which is not true. The two are deeply intertwined, as the situation in the DRC and many other countries in Africa has countless of times shown, that for political stability to be achieved, there has to be a mechanism through which Congolese and other African voters can elect their leaders.

People have a right to have a say in how their lives are affected by those who wield political power.

For now though, reality is such that elections in Africa are not about expanding democratic ideals and more about offering political stability.

They are about who gains power and who loses power. We have not moved from a position of a clenched fist. Not yet.

Our story so far has been one in search of political stability.

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Editorial: Rectify the lopsided price-to-rent ratio

On April 14, 2011, The Citizen reported in an article titled ‘Tanzania: Houses too expensive for most citizens’ that high construction costs were pushing up house prices in Tanzania – thereby “making it extremely difficult for millions of Tanzanians to own modern dwelling houses…”

What this meant is that Tanzanians who yearn for homeownership could only realise that lofty dream if they were able, willing and ready to pay 134 times their annual income.

This is according to a study by the UK-based Global Property Guide (GPG), a research firm that “sells data to investors in residential property.”

A little more than seven years later, another study in 2017 by the ‘Centre for Affordable Housing Finance’ in Africa (CAHF) established that “55 per cent (almost 6-in-every-10) of the residential houses in Dar es Salaam are for rent”… But that “27 per cent of rented households in the country don’t have enough money to pay the rent demanded…”

For all the practical purposes, the CAHF research findings concur with those of the Global Property Guide in year-2011. They also concur with the 2015 ‘Cost of Living Index’ data by “Numbeo, the world’s largest database of user-contributed data about cities and countries worldwide.”

Among other findings, the ‘Numbeo Index’ established that “Dar es Salaam residents spend the largest chunk of their earnings on house rent than on any other basic need…!”

This means that Dar es Salaam denizens “spend 34.1 per cent of their earnings on rent, leaving 65.9 per cent for other needs, including food, clothing, transport, water, electricity,” etc.

Rented premises or own property?

Most importantly at issue here is whether or not Tanzanians (and, indeed, humanity in its entirety) should live in rented premises, or in property they themselves own by right.

Pivotal to this – which is really the crux of the matter – is a factor that’s known in the trade as the ‘price-to-rent ratio,’ used as a benchmark for estimating whether or not it’s cheaper to rent or own property.

The price-to-rent ratio is the ratio of home prices-to-annualized rent in a given location. It’s generally used as an indicator for whether housing markets are fairly valued – or are in a bubble.

However, while the price-to-rent ratio compares the economics of buying versus renting, it says nothing about the overall affordability of buying or renting in a given market.

So, in a sense, there’re metropolises where both renting and buying are very expensive – and others where both homes and rents are relatively cheap.

Dar es Salaam and Tanzania are cases in point, where both house renting and buying are inordinately expensive, thus faring badly in the ratio of ‘owner-occupied-housing-units to total-residential-units.’

To rectify the anomaly, Tanzania needs to find rational ways and means of subsidising home-ownership – including appropriate tax breaks, public/private partnerships (P/PPs) and housing cooperatives on the Kenyan model.

Admittedly, it is a long haul that must nonetheless be tackled to rectify the country’s lopsided price-to-rent ratio.

Given the above, it is high time policies guiding the mortgage loan arrangements were made more friendly so as to bring about the needed balance in the housing units needs in both urban and rural areas of Tanzania. Above all, quality should be given special attention so that people would stop living in shacks.

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Saturday, August 11, 2018

EDITORIAL: Swimming body has new shot at boostng sports

The Tanzania Swimming Association (TSA) is slated to elect its leaders at the National Stadium in Dar es Salaam on August 26 this year. Nomination application forms for aspiring candidates are available at the NSC offices at the National Stadium, as well as on the Council’s website: . The deadline for filing applications is August 20 and screening applicants will be done five days later.

The positions being contested for are those of chairperson, vice-chairperson, secretary-general, treasurer, technical director and director of education and development. The election follows the long crisis involving TSA members and leaders, leading to its dissolution and formation of an interim committee that led TSA for 90 days as per National Sports Council (NSC) directives.

The committee was tasked with drafting the Association’s new constitution, and prepare for the next annual general meeting within three months.

Finally, the time has come for TSA members to elect new leaders who would, hopefully, elevate swimming and the Association to the next higher level in the development stakes.

Tanzania is among the countries that have a goodly number of talented swimmers – although none of them has met the qualification standards of the Olympic Games, due to various challenges.

TSA members must realise that Olympics standards require committed, transparent, disciplined and passionate individuals who are ready to serve the community.

Members have to focus on qualifications set by NSC and truly-committed leaders.

Also, they must be ready, able and willing to sacrifice time, money and other resources, as well as dutifully listen and accept to be corrected. All this is in bona fide efforts to develop swimming as a leading sport in Tanzania and at the international level as a matter of course.

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