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.