The ‘better quality imports’ debate rages on in our region

Tuesday January 11 2022
By Kasera Nick Oyoo

Last week, a debate started on the suitability of local potatoes for an international chips making eatery in neighbouring Kenya.
The popular eatery – which has a branch in Oyster Bay in Dar es Salaam – serves crispy potato chips, which have become popular with middle class fat boys and girls.
‘Fast Food City’ (FFC) – not its real name – attracts sons and daughters of those of us who consider ‘Mama Lishe’ (cooked-food vendors) a dirty word in a dirty world.
With the growing number of consumers with disposable incomes, international franchises and branches of investors are increasingly eyeing Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
Disposable cash has made our ‘Tier 30-50’ find themselves discerning on what they wear, which car they ride in, and where they buy their groceries. These are the people who also chose what they buy – and, for them, a UK, US, Finland or German label is dope!
Unfortunately, these are the same people who were in Government, and who determine policy, the policy we call ‘Tanzanian Build Tanzania.’

These upper class fat husbands with their fat wives tag along with their fat sons and daughters who will eat pizzas with Coke. But, they won’t be seen drinking ‘Mo Cola’ while eating dagaa in the not-so-leafy parts of Msasani in Dar es Salaam.
To these spoilt and entitled brothers and sisters, anything local is poor; low quality.

We cannot begrudge them how they want to use the disposable cash which they have earned by political fiat… But, that’s a story for another day.
Questions have been asked why mining companies have always been reluctant to buy milk, beef, even vegetables from local suppliers, opting instead for South African beef.

We are told that the international supply chain broke down and Fast Food City in Kenya were unable to obtain potatoes from Egypt.
Egypt is a desert. Yet, Egyptians are able to produce enough potatoes to meet their demand in sub-Saharan Africa and beyond.
The more one probes, the more questions arise. If we want the European and Western markets in general: why is it that we want those markets on our terms?
The Tanzania Horticulture Association CEO, Jacqueline Mkindi, will tell you how difficult it is to open up those cash-rich Western markets – although we all agree that we need them.
Let us for once take responsibility for our own good. To begin with: all the vegetables that are eaten in our urban centres are grown using waste water.

That is not the quality we are looking for – and we should not expect buyers from far and wide to go for them.
Governments in Africa need to examine their expenditure in supporting agriculture. It is impossible – and we all agree – to depend on rain-fed agriculture and still manage to feed all our citizens… Let alone feed them with quality food.
We must start from somewhere – including public policy. To start with, we need to put our money in agriculture, and not on consumption for the jabbering political class. These are the people we house, transport and feed in first class surroundings as we continue a downward trend on the ability to feed our people.
Second, Covid-19 has taught us that political posturing has no place in our world. Let us face it. When potatoes from Egypt cannot reach Kenya, it is obvious that we in Tanzania could serve the Kenyan market next-door if we try hard enough.
We have learnt, finally, that Tanzania needs Kenya’s market just as we need those high-standard Western markets. We must start to follow the path that the late President John Magufuli led us on: taking work seriously in the . [‘Hapa Kazi TU’ mode].
Too many Tanzanians do not take work – any work – seriously; and that is what makes us take pride in nationalism as opposed to the ‘can do’ attitude.
Kenyans have learnt that no national pride can run an airline, nor supply high-quality, much-needed potatoes. This battle has been raging on our shores, too.
What the world wants, the world shall get: quality non-GMO agricultural produce – not the ‘Politricks’ of “we can, when we really can’t!”Text goes here..