The Economist and Tanzania’s Election

The Economist and Tanzania’s Election

I came across this article recently and thought it would be relevant and serve as a good follow up to my last post concerning President Jakaya Kikwete, CCM and the future of Tanzanian politics. The Economist rightfully points to the need of fresh faces and “a youthful tilt at the presidency in 2015 by Mr Makamba, or someone like-minded. If he took Tanzania’s helm, the country might sail ahead.” We are all saying the right things but words somehow need to be turned into action…

Seems like no matter what, Tanzania’s perception in the western world will only be second place to Kenya.

Thoughts on the article?

Makamba (right) networks on the mount

Tanzania is still a backwater compared with its Kenyan neighbour to the north

Oct 28th 2010 | BUMBULI

THE parliamentary campaign in Bumbuli, a constituency of 167,000 souls in the mountainous Lushoto district of Tanzania, is a mixture of ancient and modern. January Makamba, the candidate of the ruling party, Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), stands for the modernists. In designer shirt and shoes, he hikes half way up a mountain to a remote village to solicit votes. The villagers are demoralised, with no electricity or road and a poor crop. Down below, a volunteer updates Mr Makamba’s Facebook page on a wireless internet connection. Within the CCM, Mr Makamba is in a minority. Educated in the United States, the son of a CCM power broker, he recently quit his job as a speechwriter for Tanzania’s president, Jakaya Kikwete, to run in Bumbuli. He wants Tanzania to enter the world market. He hobnobs with Western philanthropists. A copy of “The Rational Optimist”, a booster of global capitalism, lies on the back seat of his campaign truck.

But now he must prove himself on the ground. He showed his steel by ousting a long-serving CCM parliamentarian. It helps that he comes from the main town, Lushoto, and lived there as a boy. Up in the village he promises fertilisers, medicine, more teachers. Electricity? No, too costly.

Bumbuli is among Tanzania’s most densely populated constituencies. Most of its people farm tiny plots too small to be subdivided further. But Mr Makamba has a plan. He wants to borrow $10m from Wall Street philanthropists, to be repaid in ten years. The sum, he says, will be invested in east African treasury bonds and stocks, in the hope of dividends producing $700,000 a year to invest in Bumbuli.

Some of the cash would help farmers package their fruits and vegetables. Mr Makamba dreams of refrigerated lorries owned by the community leaving daily at dawn for Dar es Salaam and Nairobi with “Fresh from Lushoto” produce. Another project aims to parcel a scenic bit of the constituency and sell it to a university to set up a campus for 5,000-odd students. Turkish investors, he claims, are interested.

It is early days, but a youthful tilt at the presidency in 2015 by Mr Makamba, or someone like-minded, is conceivable. If he took Tanzania’s helm, the country might sail ahead. As it is, its economy has been breezing along at 6% this year, faster than Kenya’s to the north, yet it still feels slothful by comparison. It has been sliding downwards in the rankings as a spot for investors. Corruption is rife. Crime is up. Dubious businessmen enjoy positions of influence in the ruling party.

Though he has failed to fulfil his early promise, President Kikwete will almost certainly get another five years in the job. Fond of technology and foreign travel, he is known among his ministers as “Mr Beep” for his habit of texting them to show he cares. But he has seemed wary of radical reform. He is sentimental about Tanzania’s socialist past. Most foreign aid-givers, on whom the country still depends for half its budget, are still prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

In his expected second term, Mr Kikwete is likely to promote gas exploration in the south, expand mining, and try, as ever, to improve services. “Despite a tripling in the education budget, large majorities of children remain illiterate and innumerate,” says Rakesh Rajani, a Tanzanian who has researched the performance of primary schools. The country still has far fewer skilled workers than neighbouring Kenya.

The opposition may do a bit better than before but is fragmented. Moreover, the army, which thinks it is must protect the ruling CCM, has tried to bully it—and independent journalists. Two opposition parties stand out. Chadema is strong among richer smallholders, most of whom belong to the Chagga people around Mount Kilimanjaro. The Civic United Front is backed by quite a few Muslims on the coast and in the autonomous island of Zanzibar.

But they are too weak to topple the all-powerful CCM. Mr Kikwete and Tanzania will gently potter along. If the likes of Mr Makamba managed to take over the CCM, things might pick up a lot faster. But not, it seems, just yet.

Source: The Economist

Ahmed is currently finishing up his Master of International Affairs at Columbia University focussing on international security policy and Africa. Ahmed’s interest and focus is primarily on politics and the intersection between security and development in Africa. Prior to Columbia, Ahmed finished his undergraduate degree in 2008 at Lehigh University with a BA in International Relations and Africana Studies. Ahmed was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania but spent most of his life in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he was exposed to the potential as well as the shortcomings of politics and development in Africa. Currently Ahmed is waiting to pursue a career in political risk consulting. Ahmed writes for Vijana FM with a focus on politics in both Tanzania and Africa.


  1. bihemo 7 years ago

    It well starts with realizing that for years we have been facing great challenges: reliable electricity, quality education, health facilities and so on (Everyone in touch with what goes on around them is aware of these challenges). The current government is formed of similar minded people (no offense) as those who were in power 10 and even more years ago. They have not lived up to the challenge of meeting the Tanzanian poorest citizen’s aspirations: quality education for their kids, better healthy care services to pregnant mothers, tangible benefits from peasantry etc. [Of course, we do not forget that, among those who have benefited from the “exploitation” their kids desert the country to elite schools in the US and Europe, by using the poor peasant’s money.]

    On 31st Tananzians will go to polls to cast their votes at a time when the majority party “greatly” [expects to] enjoy[s] the benefits of not investing in creating a well-informed and educated society that can critically analyse the policies announced by both the presidential and parliamentarian candidates.

    Suppose we take it, CCM wins on Sunday:

    Because, for close to 50 years CCM have not managed (it can be said have failed) to address the most pressing issues its citizens face, I am tempted to say THEY DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE FUNDAMENTAL CHALLENGES THE POOREST TANZANIAN FACES. Now the question is “how is CCM prepared to fight effectively against things they do not understand?”

    Doesn’t it appeal to any Tanzanian well-wisher to discuss the position of Tanzania after 5 more years of CCM?

    Also if the Tanzanian government cannot serve its people diligently doesn’t it cross one’s mind that sooner than we know time will come when the majority who are poor peasants and proletariats will take it to their hands and wage a revolution to reclaim their lost freedom…?

  2. joji 7 years ago

    I have expressed these sentiments elsewhere but yes, I think the author is really flawed by branding the opposition tribal or religious affiliations. One can always find a pattern in such issues. I could go and say CCM is led by Muslims (Kikwete, Bilal, Shein, Kinana, Makamba Sr….), and nulify his statement about CUF. Wamempa Makamba Jr publicity, (well and good), but you can read between the lines that the intentions of the Economist was to have that erstwhile statement that tribal/religious divisions are always rife in Africa (what does the tribal map have to do with Bumbuli?) As a Tanzanian it is really shoking to see a map categorizing a tribal group in parts of a country. (Even though we might know that Moshi = Chagga, Bukoba = Wahaya, but still, one gets a heartbeat when that is the case). Sadly it gets, airplay, and your local fellow starts talking the same thing. Or rather the author was fed with such sentiments while researching for his report.

    I commend January’s plan for rural-development, although I sit and wonder when our nation will prioritize self-dependence and let go of these wrecking foreign aid. (Foreign loan for big business in Tanzania? Risky!) The plan looks convincing, so I give him kudos for even thinking about that. Having said that, if you want to hear a funny reply ask our incumbent the following: “Does Tanzania have an industrial development strategy?”

    I disagree with the authors sentiments that Kikwete will “certainly” win the elections. They actually “assure” him an “easy” win. I think this lacks any seriousness in analysis of what is happening in the ground. In actual fact, as a Tanzanian you should be offended if one tells you that your incumbent is winning easily re-election. It would be even more ridiculous if after that comment that company of yours asks you to explain then why is Tanzania planning to build a road across the Serengeti, and you have to succumb to say “because the President says so”. If your friends asks you as a follow-up, on the reason you are re-electing a chief who has no talk of a plan to reduce budgetary dependence to foreign aid, you should just say the usual “Of course, we are getting there”.


    If JK wins on Sunday, will the last person to leave Tanzania please turn off the lights?

    Oh, perhaps turn-off the Kibatali.

  3. KB 7 years ago

    And I agree with Joji…eh please turn off the Kibatali but wait..let me update my facebook and take of my designer labels before you do so.

    This article is flawed and poorly written. Can you post the map as well..that shows the ethnic grouping in Kenya?

    Basically can someone tell me where this article was going? Introduction of JM as the future leader but wait for now JK.

  4. Lilian 7 years ago

    Congratulations January! You inspire us all. I have read the contributions here and it really saddens me when young people, write poorly, get off topic, and lack finesse in their arguments and presentation. God Bless Tanzania.

  5. Selemani 7 years ago

    I think we are overlooking the biggest item of the whole article—

    “Bumbuli is among Tanzania’s most densely populated constituencies. Most of its people farm tiny plots too small to be subdivided further. But Mr Makamba has a plan. He wants to borrow $10m from Wall Street philanthropists, to be repaid in ten years. The sum, he says, will be invested in east African treasury bonds and stocks, in the hope of dividends producing $700,000 a year to invest in Bumbuli.”

    For Tanzanian’s politics this is certainly bold and ambitious. We should definitely give kudos to January for even thinking about this. And we definitely need to wish him luck, because what he wants to accomplish sio kitu kidogo. At least now, we have sensible politicians who can dream big.

  6. joji 7 years ago

    @Lilian. It’s all about perspective. As suggested by the author of the post, the gist of this post is directly linked to the one presented here a week ago ( Many may see this as a follow-up and thus seem to contribute broadly.

    If observations sound critical than laudatory, it is because I think for Tanzania there is more to be gained from trying to diagnose shortcomings than from celebrating successes. It is from a neat mix of careful diagnosis and well-thought recommmendations that we will abolish that group-think attitude we have in Tanzania. This is to all of us, regardless of our pro-CCM or anti-establishment sentiments. Why be complacent?

    Having said that. I would like to read your thoughts on the article, that is, apart from that congratulatory remark.

  7. Ni Mimi 7 years ago

    Joji & KB,

    1. Kikwete will win on Sunday.

    2. January is smart and bold and inspiration to many of us young people who have talked to him here in Dar, and it is unfortunate you do not support a fellow young person trying ideas to change things.

    3. If you don’t come back home (if you can) and help with changing our country, you will remain online commentators always worried who is up and who is down in politics and that will change little on the ground.

  8. joji 7 years ago

    @Ni Mimi.

    Being critical to the Economist article does not mean I am anti-Makamba. I am happy for his ascent, and personally I find him inspiring. Let us hope he delivers. Those of you not worried about ‘who is up or down in politics’ help him push for a better Bumbuli, and hopefully a prosperous Tanzania.

  9. Nionavyo 7 years ago

    @Ni mimi you are spoiling it mate, most of us were happy with January to go for Bumbuli votes, we hope those plans are not too ambitious, before January starts promising cakes and chocolates, please remind him the basics essentials the Bumbuli people need, water, electricity, health, welfare, education and infrastructure.
    Then he might start promising those unachievable promises!
    @Ni mimi grow up, CCM and its followers have to start admitting criticisms, that is an indicator that they are politically mature.
    There is no anti-CCM here in vijana blog rather than anti-accountability, corruption and false promises.

  10. Ni Mimi 7 years ago

    @Joji I was very disappointed by your sarcastic exchange with KB (for instance, this comment: “and I agree with Joji…eh please turn off the Kibatali but wait..let me update my facebook and take of my designer labels before you do so” was cheap, uncalled for and did not reflect what I have always thought about this forum. I mean criticize the guys ideas. Why sarcasm and hate? Why go after him simply because a journalist has written whatever he has written about facebook and designer labels.

  11. KB 7 years ago


    1. Joji and I aren’t critical of January at all. In fact we celebrate him!

    2. The issue here is not of January, but rather the author & the economist, sad you fail to realize that.

    3.Let us not take issues out of hand here….stop being overly sensitive.

  12. KB 7 years ago

    @Ni Mimi

    Na wewe, is that what you call sarcasm & hate?

    For the record, January is a brilliant mind, as we all know and agree. However let us be honest this article did NOT do him due justice.

    Again, the critcism is towards the Ecnomosit and the author, not January.

  13. Mnoko Makini 7 years ago

    I have followed with interest all the comments and the counter-comments.Its seems some of you guys are out of touch here.
    The issue here is not whether JM is a demon or an angel-but rather the sarcastic article which January happened to be mentioned.
    To lebel Tanzania and Chadema as tribal.. is by far the stupidiest comment I ve ever read in such a reputable paper.I am baffled by such a neirve journalistic incompetence since it can easily be seen the writer didnt do his research at all.
    As Iam writing this comment -Chadema has won in Nyamagana,Shinyanga Urban and Karatu. just to mention a few const!Now you tell me if these constitituencies are in Kilimanjaro!

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