Tanzania and the $1 million Vietnam conundrum…

Former Tanzania President Julius Kambarage Nyerere. PHOTO | FILE

Summary

  • Tanzania’s $1m aid was prompted by a Special Vietnamese Delegation travelling the world with a begging bowl in hand – and noble-minded Mwalimu Nyerere just as hastily fell for it. But, that is a tale fit to be told another day.

In its edition of August 3, 2022, the Mwananchi newspaper of the Mwananchi Communications Ltd (MCL) published a report on a subject-matter that is/was not well-known in the country – or in much of the world, for that matter!

The article by Correspondent Peter Elias revealed that the first-phase Government of the United Republic of Tanzania (‘Tanzania’ for short) under the founder of Tanzanian Nationalism as President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere (1922-1999), donated $1 million to the Government of Vietnam in the 1970s.

Although writer Peter Elias does not give details of the donation, we will assume for the sake of argument that the donation was made in 1975, when Vietnam’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was a relatively measly $3,896 million, compared to $4,894 million for Tanzania. So, in a sense, Tanzania could afford to aid Vietnam by $1 million… Or could it?

Actually, for all practical purposes, both countries were on equal footing in socioeconomic development terms in the 1970s, and neither of them was really in a position to comfortably give the other so much money for free!

But, Vietnam had just emerged from the Vietnam War from 1 November 1, 1955 to the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. It was officially fought between North Vietnam (supported by the Soviet Union and, China and other communist allies) and South Vietnam, supported by the US and their anti-communist allies.

All in all, however, the Vietnam Government reportedly expressed gratitude to President Nyerere for the million bucks – and pledged to establish diplomatic relations with Nyerere Country. What with one thing leading to another, up to today, Vietnam has diplomatic presence only in the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia, and an embassy in Tanzania!

Tanzania’s $1m aid was prompted by a Special Vietnamese Delegation travelling the world with a begging bowl in hand – and noble-minded Mwalimu Nyerere just as hastily fell for it. But, that is a tale fit to be told another day.

The idea here today is in what way – if any – that Tanzania has benefited for its $1m gift to Vietnam. This is especially considering that Vietnam’s GDP had shot to $261.9 billion by 2019, compared with Tanzania’s measly $61.14 billion!

One factor contributing to this is Vietnam’s 300 industrial parks/estates, while Tanzania has only about a dozen, which are barely functional.

Indeed, Vietnam has created an obviously conducive investment-and doing-business environment in the forms of labour and utility costs. It has a “carefully choreographed policy and logistics that make it really attractive for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

While Tanzania has theoretically installed power production capacity for about 5,000MW, Vietnam has a production capacity of 76,000MW.

Analysts, therefore, mostly urge that “Tanzania needs to urgently change its outlook vis-à-vis the generation and delivery of cheap, reliable energy to fuel its journey on an all-inclusive, sustainable socioeconomic development.

There is no other feasible alternative to this, the analysts stress – somewhat humorously suggesting that we could consider asking the current Vietnam Government to return the $1m Mwalimu Nyerere Donation! Boy, oh Boy.

Personally, I think we should take a leaf out of Vietnam’s book on socioeconomic development – and also ask them to kindly come and invest in our country even as they guide us… Cheers!