Mbwana Samatta’s start of a footballing career as Tanzania’s first-ever export to the English Premier League (EPL) – a league of global proportions – completely outshone the UK-Africa Summit for Tanzania.
Going by social media hits, Samatta’s move from RC Genk of Belgium saw Tanzanians go gaga to the extent that, no one noticed that in a photo of 12 presidents and several other Heads of Government with the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, Tanzania was glaringly absent.
Smart politics possibly – or tactical diplomatic naivety? We leave that to diplomatic star gazers to tell...
Just about the same time, another young Tanzanian, Andron Mendes, 35, became Tanzania’s youngest billionaire.
Mendes quit a paid job in the insurance business to promote –together with his Mexican partner, Sebastian Rodriguez – a clean energy innovation in the name and style of ‘KopaGas.’
This is a ‘Pay as-U-Go’ cooking gas services technology which the two sold to the UK-based ‘Circle Gas’ for a cool $25 million! [Google for ‘And here comes Tanzania’s newest billionaire;’ The Citizen, January 17, 2020].
You could say it was not a bad end to January and beginning of February – except for how ordinary Tanzanians received and perceived the developments.
Tanzanians are well-known in the region and the world for our loyalty to our country. But, since the advent of television and multiple radio stations that came in 2000 and after, our access to the world has us at sixes and sevens over what ‘nationalism’ means.
In addition to electronic media access, the advent of social media has accessed us to world that we never knew in the 1990s. This has come with its advantages and disadvantages.
Today, Tanzanians in remote Namtumbo District in Ruvuma Region get to know what Kim Kardashian had for breakfast the same day. Given our love for our own music and ‘Bongo’ movies, our desire for home-grown global stars has reached stratospheric levels.
If you put this together with what Simba Football Club spokesman called ulimbukeni – know-it-alls-who-know-nothing-at-all – you get a potpourri of ignorance that is way beyond the unbelievable.
Ordinary young Tanzanians admire billionaires who can’t show you what they do for a living. Studies in the last four years have proven this to be true. But in the cases of Mendes and Samatta, the stratospheric admiration led to giddy heights that soon turned sour for Samatta, our star in Aston Villa Football Club.
Away from the importance, football-wise, of the transfer of the Tanzanian national soccer team captain to the England Premier League, Mbwana Samatta’s 7-year journey from Mbagala in Dar es Salaam to Belgium – and then to England - has some lessons for Tanzanians in particular and Africans in general.
The first lesson is for all Tanzanians celebrating this move. But, while it’s exciting, it has not come on a silver platter.
Everyone wants Samatta’s success at the national and international levels. But, many Tanzanians have no idea what sacrifices the 27-year old had made to reach the top. Indeed, millions have not cottoned on to Samatta’s work ethic, commitment and sacrifice.
Lesson number two: spending much time on social media celebrating Samatta’s success prevents many from focusing other/better things. I noticed that commentators were demanding that Aston Villa opens a Kiswahili Instagram and Twitter Account for us to enjoy our pastime and make it our day’s job, every day.
Tanzanians are passionate about football, and urbanites tend to take exercising as a necessity. On the other hand, there is little planning for sports – and even less commitment of funds to sports.
Indeed we need to go back to basics – knowing that ‘Brand Tanzania’ is hurting from our obsession with ‘from-rags-to-riches’ stories and our misplaced patriotism that led to our almost alienating Samatta from his team and team mates.
The ‘Brand Tanzania’ value could do with some realism – and regular reality checks!