German filmmaker who uses tourism to support communities in Tanzania

What you need to know:

  • Bernd wishes that tourists would not only visit the national parks but venture into the neighbouring communities and contribute to the villages’ development.

By Anganile Mwakyanjala

Dar es Salaam. As tourism is making great strides in Tanzania, prosperity is mainly viewed in terms of the foreign exchange earned or the increase in the flow of tourists to our God-bestowed national parks and attractions.

But today we get to meet a German filmmaker who visited Lindi Region in southern Tanzania, Mr Bernd.

Bernd came to Tanzania in September 2021 with the Artemed Foundation, which was sending engineers to Nyangao Hospital, who were there to donate facilities to improve the electricity supply at the hospital, thus improving their operations.

He saw the plight at the hospital, so he took pictures and helped raise money for the hospital.

Bernd wishes that tourists would not only visit the national parks but venture into the neighbouring communities and contribute to the villages’ development.

“They can help buy water pumps for communities and spend their money directly in the communities so the people benefit,” he urges.

Few tourists venture out of their pre-planned safari expedition, and most national parks in Tanzania are situated away from human settlements to protect the people as well as the animals. But Bernd’s idea comes from a good place and could be feasible.

While in Lindi, he learned so much about their culture and dancing. And in the process of moving around and taking pictures, he coincidentally met a young mother of two, Zuwena Milanzi, and upon hearing her story and her ambitions to further her studies, Bernd took it upon himself to help her raise the funds through donations for her fees.

That was a few years ago, and Zuwena will soon be graduating from the Law School of Tanzania (LST).

Bernd, popularly referred to as Mista B, is also a musician and a fan of Amapiano. He was introduced to Bongo Fleva music while in the loud clubs in Dar es Salaam and has since become a fan of Tanzanian megastar Diamond Platnumz.

Bernd would always love taking pictures of kids dancing in the streets and joining them whenever he could. His love for dancing and music got him connected to a choir.

“I met this choir, and I decided I should pay for their studio sessions, but I also told anyone who would want to work with them to pay,” he said.

The filmmaker has more than a thousand songs he has produced in Germany that are available on Spotify, and he wishes he would get an opportunity to collaborate with Tanzanian musicians and produce some bongo fleva or amapiano songs.

Bernd visited the Old Boma Hotel in Mtwara and was surprised that a night spent there only costs $40, while tourism agencies in Germany price it at more than $200 a night for any German visiting Tanzania who would love to stay at the hotel.”

Imagine all this money made by German agencies if it could be used by communities in Mtwara,” he lamented.

He plans to organise safaris for Germans that would fly directly to Tanzania and pay for their expenses in Tanzania, and urge them to use their extra cash in the villages that they visit to boost their economies.”

“I don’t want to be the hero; I just want to connect people,” he insisted.

Bernd has visited villages with no water, and he knows many companies that can provide a few thousand dollars for water pumps. “Of course they can visit Serengeti and other national parks, but if we can use the tourists’ money to improve communities, why can’t we?” he asked.

As a filmmaker, he knows the power of a photograph in disseminating a message, and through his photos, he has been able to raise funds for several causes.

Benrd would tell the story of an old couple in their 80s from Germany who wanted to do good and change lives with their money. They contributed to buying x-ray machines, electricity generators, wheelchairs, and many other pieces of equipment for Nyangao Hospital in Lindi. They also paid for children’s healthcare insurance and spent more than $8,000 improving the lives of people in that community.

Bernd is determined to look for more donations from Germany, seeking German tourists who would travel to Tanzania at affordable rates and have their extra money saved to help the communities.

He now has an extended visa to stay in Tanzania a little bit longer, and he has even opened a bank account in Dar es Salaam.

“I plan to come with twenty tourists from Germany. We fly to Arusha, then to Mtwara, stay at the old Boma Hotel, and next morning visit the local market and buy stuff from the village and build a water pump,” he said.

He plans to start with a small group but later come back two times a year, hoping the group will grow much larger.

“We want to also get local Tanzanian entrepreneurs to sell their stuff in German and create more connections,” he added.

Bernd is documenting his experience in Tanzania, and he hopes to come back again to visit the national parks and other regions of Tanzania, make music with Tanzanian artists, and have fun while making changes in communities. He has a trove of videos he has filmed and will be filming, and he is hoping to have his documentary featured on Netflix, a popular American streaming service.

There have been several discussions on how Tanzania’s tourism must adapt to new times and ways of life.

Social media platforms have held several discussions in that regard, but most talks have been largely focusing on revenue and improved facilities.

Bernd’s story and experience bring forth a different perspective that would definitely raise different schools of thought from tourism stakeholders across the country, but more importantly, a spotlight will be shone on the communities and villages that could benefit from all the tourists who flock to the country.

Friendships could be formed, and memories of the expeditions in one of the most beautiful countries in Africa could also be attached to the good deeds some of these tourists would cherish for years as they go back to their countries.