Friday, 16 September 2011


Think about this.
You are seated watching recently ended World Athletics in Daegu, South Korea. Every time you see a group of Kenyan and Ethiopian runners win medals you clap. You yell loudly when the TV presenters say “look at those amazing East Africans.”
Which over joys you. But you are not quite content. Of course you are happy for the Kenyans who also speak Swahili. Yes. East Africans are doing very well. On a global level they are up there amongst the Americans, Russians and Britons. Kenya where images of starving children and women have decorated world wide television suddenly means glory, glory, glory.
Are you still watching?
Can you see a determined woman leading the 5000 meters race? She has Taifa stars blue colours and the cheering broadcasters say she is from Tanzania with “a very special way of running!”  Your heart is racing as you feel elated hearing the word Tanzania being mentioned again and again. Everyone on earth (who is interested in the 2011 Daegu world athletics) is with  Zakia Mrisho Mohammed this very minute. Even if the broadcaster’s pronunciation of her name is strange you know Tanzania is out there.
 The championships began in 1983; a year before Zakia Mrisho was born in Singida. She has done well, winning a third place in the Monte Carlo athletics in 2005 and representing Tanzania at the 2008 Olympics in China.
Notice one thing about this article.
How many times has the word “Tanzania” been repeated so far? Do you know why? (Keep on reading).
Zakia Mrisho Mohammed, the only representative of Tanzania at this year's  August Korean World Athletics...
As Mrisho leads, scores of Ethiopian, European and Kenyan women pass her. She is the only athlete representing Tanzania at the Daegu championships. The only hope with few distinguished achievements up her sleeve. Last year she was amongst three females nominated to race for Africa at the IAAF Continental World Cup in Croatia. The IAAF World Cup is for continents not nations. Like the world soccer cup it happens every four years. In September 2010 she won the “Adidas Women 5K” and according to press reports beat Kenyan champion, Gladys Otero.
 We have only sent one athlete, Kenyans have many. When they compete they are a team, running like a herd of proud lions, jubilantly sharing their flags after winning. It’s like those Cameron football colours during the 1990 World Cup. You wanted to buy and wear them.
What was I saying?
During the World Athletic 28 year period Tanzania  only picked up one medal when Christopher Isengwe managed silver at the Helsinki marathon in 2005.
Is there any difference between us and Kenya (let alone Ethiopia)? We share similar terrain, physical features and landscapes; they are not richer or poorer. In the days of the magnificent Filbert Bayi, Kenyans were terrorised by Bayi who beat their great Ben Jipcho in 1974.
 Born in Arusha in 1953, Filbert Bayi made history when he set the world record for 1500 meters in 1974 and the mile in 1975. His record for 1500 meters during the Commonwealth Games in 1974 Christchurch New Zealand still stands unbroken today. Isn’t that something dear reader? I have been on the streets of London dressed in a Tanzanian cap and heard a stranger shouting: Tanzania? Filbert Bay?
Bayi today...still at it...
 And the stranger would tell me how Bayi (those days this national hero was referred as Bay) made his day by that historical win. Don’t you agree a total stranger saying that someone from Tanzania made his day is a remarkable thing? This total stranger is ogling my yellow, blue, green cap then dances to the tune of Tanzania just because of an event that happened nearly 40 years ago.
Bayi leads the race and his presence was in all major sports manuals of the world...a living legend and a real Tanzanian brand.
 Imagine if there had ten more Bayis.
Filbert Bayi contributed to the Tanzanian brand.
Winning such competitions creates an image of winning, hope and business opportunities. That’s why sprinter Usain Bolt is making Jamaica attractive just like musician Bob Marley did.
Usain Bolt has made Jamaica Branding as happy as he is...
 We are living in the era of branding, Deputy Ambassador at the Tanzanian Embassy, Chabaka Kilumanga,  quipped early this week.  Preparations for our 50 years anniversary could help boost the Tanzanian Brand, he told me.
Mr Chabaka Kilumanga one of our leaders and diplomats constantly talking about the need to strengthen Brand Tanzania...
 Economies are helped by excellent  marketing and branding. That’s why Londoners are working hard for next year’s Olympics.  They know the event is going to be lucrative. Athletes are training hard, shopkeepers know they will have international clients for 2 weeks; taxi drivers, entertainers, everyone has a potential  to be rewarded. Sports and culture are a necessary part of branding .  We should make sure we have at least five other Zakia Mrishos and ten Filbert Bayi’s for 2012 Olympics. It will improve the Tanzanian brand; which in turn helps the economy and our future.

Published in Citizen 8th September 2011:

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