Dear Kenyan brothers,
There is no doubt in my mind that you and I are blood brothers. Like all brothers, we are not born to be 100 percent alike in our approaches, attitudes, likes, dislikes and actions.
But like all families, our sibling differences are causing untold suffering to those that are dear to you and me alike. Our differences look deep-seated, given they were seeds sowed by German and British colonial forces.
Those forces and other external power formations continue to see our respective countries as their stomping grounds by which they dole out their so-called foreign aid, and expect us to dance to their tunes even if that means fuelling our petty differences to their advantage.
Throughout the post-independence period, our approach to development was conflicting. In 1992, our politics took a trajectory to return to multi-party politics, and since then our politics continues to be competitive. On this we were very much together.
In the same period, we have turned our business approach to free market economics that has played its part in making Tanzania a highly competitive investment destination, and on a promising prosperous trajectory. Today, Tanzanians no longer hear exhortations of the 1970s such as “why bother visiting London when you can see little London next door in Nairobi”.
This is so because the Tanzania of the 1970s has, as represented by the dramatic changes seen in the Dar es Salaam skyline, changed tremendously. But so has our understanding of the complexities of world business.
In so many words, the Boeing or Airbus aircraft that is Tanzania, if you will, is on the runway and primed for takeoff. The potential of Tanzania was lying somewhere inside the policies of yesteryear’s and today’s policies.
Some of you, brothers, have not accepted that we too can operate in a fast-paced business environment on super-highways with skyscrapers and shopping malls.
Yet, our Airbus is just on the runway. Our potential has barely been scratched. The Tanzania you see today will not be the Tanzania of 2063, the year when the African Union wants to see all African countries highly developed.
We have a common destiny because were it not for colonial powers, we would not be in this position today. What we need to do is realise that there is no going back on the trajectory we have today.
The pride we have as Tanzanians is that Tanzanians own their economy. This is a major source of the difference between Kenya and us. The Kenyan economy is a captive of forces from all over the world led by the so-called Western allies.
The number of high net individuals in Tanzania continues to grow (5,553 with more than $1 million from 5,118), and they are indigenous. In Kenya, the number has dropped to 2,990 from 3,399, and they are mostly the “who is who” in the Kenyan body politic.
So, ordinary Kenyans must ask themselves whether the economy they pride in belongs to Otiende, Rioba or Wanjiku, or if it belongs to the bourgeoisie Kenyattas, the Ndegwas, the Mois, the Biwotts – all leaders who have used their political power and hooked their wealth horse into the nation’s treasure trove (preaching water while drinking wine) of unbridled free market economics.
We can argue until the chickens come home to roost, brothers. You can even question our methods and approach. But what you cannot question is our dhamira – resolve – that the Tanzanian economy is owned by Tanzanians.
In this resolve, our differences stem from the cabal in Kenya attempting to hide under the rhetoric of free market economics to make Tanzania an extension of the playground as ex-colonial masters have made of Karen and Muthaiga.
So what do we do now, brothers? Let us resolve to share what God bequeathed us with dignity and introspection. We of course wish Kenyans well on their chosen path, and will probably hope the leadership sees the need to empower locals so that they don’t continue to be a Garden of Eden of foreign multinationals and interests operating under the cover of a few very well connected very rich power barons.
Your true brother from the United Republic of Tanzania
Kasera Nick Oyoo is a research and communications consult-ant with Midas Touché East Africa