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Local content shouldn’t be an excuse

Tuesday June 15 2021
Local pic

Special seats MP representing NGOs, Neema Lugangira speaking in Parliament. PHOTO| FILE

By Kasera Nick Oyoo

It was the late Ali Mfuruki who once famously made this quip: “Local content should not excuse incompetence.”

I confess that, although I have not read Neema Lugangira’s seminal contribution to knowledge – first done as a master’s degree thesis, then eventually published as a book titled Local Content in Supplier Development – I do know from various interviews she has given that her views in the book remain as relevant today as they were when the book was published in 2014.


Enough problems

Ms Lugangira is now a Member of Parliament representing NGOs… And, God knows, there are enough problems in that area which Neema needs to deal with.

Another Tanzanian who has done some exemplary work in this area is Dr Abel Kinyondo, a university don and researcher at the Research for Poverty Alleviation (Repoa) institution.

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Dr Kinyondo has penned a paper titled Local Content Requirements in the Petroleum Sector in Tanzania: A Thorny Road From Inception to Implementation?

The intention of this piece is not to bring you highlights from Ms Lugangira’s or Dr Kinyondo’s expert views – important though they are. That shall be a story for another day.

Here, I examine this thorny road from inception to implementation – and, in doing so, I will take my own diversion from the paper on “local content” as published by Dr Kinyondo.

As we probably already know, Tanzanians are a proud lot. If we had somehow drawn our own map – and remained uncolonised as Ethiopia did – I have a pretty good idea that we would be spending 24-hours a day, seven days a week telling anyone who cares to listen about it.

Retired President Jakaya Kikwete passionately spoke about it when he was opening the National Tourism College in 2011. The late President John Pombe Magufuli spoke about it. On social media, we usually complain about it… But, no one seems daring enough to do something about it.


Oil pipeline

As you read this, the relatively massive crude oil pipeline project from Hoima in Uganda to Tanga in Tanzania is ready for implementation. The implementation resources would include local content – and here is where many of the complaints come in.

We have a massive people problem – which is complemented by an even more massive legal regime in the form of labour laws that looks suspiciously to have been lifted lock, stock and barrel from a South Africa that was emerging from the iniquitous apartheid system.

Our South African brothers and sisters were for the better part under discriminatory laws, and to address that, the country’s labour laws were reviewed after 1994 to protect employees from the bourgeoisie.

There is no way that our local content policy and regulatory frameworks will benefit Tanzania and Tanzanians as they rightly should – if we do not revisit our “anti-work” labour laws and improve them accordingly.

Mark my word: labour laws that are anti-work.

We all want Tanzanians to benefit from the resources of their motherland. If apartheid South Africa’s labour laws were not a panacea to ordinary South African workers, how do we expect those same laws to be beneficial to Tanzanians?

The recent revelation that – despite all the hype about Tanzania’s big businesses and what they are doing to develop the next generation of young corporate leaders – the reality is that the large banks are suffering huge losses: hits based on ”inside jobs” by this generation of tomorrow’s leaders.

As long as we continue to aggressively sell the politically-correct uzawa ahead of delivery and competence, the realisation of Neema Lugangira’s dream shall be long in coming… And Dr Kinyondo shall still be headlining his works as thorny.


Well known thorns

Such thorns are well-known, and we need to effectively deal with them now. Give Tanzanians local content based on competency. And, where we do not have the requisite skills, we must ensure we partner with those who have them.