Thursday, 19 March 2015


Whenever our political leaders fly overseas there are those very keen to meet and hear them.  Earnestly.  A second group prefers keeping grievances secret and carry on “boxing” as the Swahili slang goes. Boxing (kupiga Boksi) is a decade long jargon that means sweating it out in foreign lands. They might read and watch the news but keep on working. The third type has detached itself. Totally.  Suspicious, cynical and distrustful, for this lot, political visitors resemble aliens from another planet. These, would only turn to embassies when there is an urgency e.g. death,  visa issues, etc.  They are like those citizens who never vote, read newspapers or watch television.  
Flanked by High Commissioner, His Excellency Peter Kallaghe,  Deputy High Commissioner, Msafiri Marwa and UK- Tanzania Business Group chairman, Mr Kam Khaki, Deputy Minister for Trade and Industries, Ms Janet Mbene...speaks in London. Pic by Rashid Dilunga

Last week the UK – Tanzanian business group arranged a meeting with visiting Deputy Minister for Trade and Industries, Ms Janet  Mbene, at the London High Commission.  Ms Mbene’s weeklong, informative tour had the intention of opening more business opportunities with Tanzania. The word “opportunity” is important because to-date, businesswise, Tanzania remains unknown abroad.
A positive aspect of this journey, the lady in question let us know, is that at last, the government is easing trading handcuffs. For example, relaxation of relationships between legal and administrative authorities, i.e. the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Business Registration and Licensing Agency (BRELA) and the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC).
That Friday evening, saw no fewer than forty people. A mix of intellectuals, technocrats and traders with a genuine connection to the East African nation. Among them was Mr David Murray, a Briton who said the quality of Tanzanian goods and tourist sites is top quality but remains unpromoted. Mr Murray who has helped publish a collection of traditional Tanzanian tales, is also involved with the charity, Malaika Kids UK.
He gave an example of Tanzania’s Kilimanjaro Percol Barista coffee which is available in top UK supermarkets like Waitrose and Tesco. Made in Tanzania. A hint to our local traders to open up windows of cash flow.
Having highlighted the newly created Presidential Delivery Bureau to help improve the private sector, the deputy Minister made it clear that business and investment possibilities are more than welcome.  
Mr Yusuf Kashangwa, Director  of Tanzania Trade Centre London, Ms Mbene and UK Tanzania Group personnel, Ms Zarina Jafferji, Mr Khaki and Zena Jafferji. Pic by Rashid Dilunga

During question time, the Director of Tanzania Trade Centre in London, Mr Yusuf Kashangwa had a busy time handing the microphone to prospective speakers.
Questions zoomed and varied. What is going on with the dual citizenship? How about red tape and bureaucracy in trading? Why is it still difficult to do business in Tanzania? I was reminded of the phrase from Hollywood’s Marathon Man film starring Dustin Hoffman and Lawrence Olivier. “Is it safe?”
A young banker, UK educated, forthright and articulate, Winfrida Pera wondered why Tanzania is never found online, businesswise. How come countries like Nigeria and South Africa are more accessible? Replying, the deputy Minister explained that as a nation we have only recently joined the private sector club. Ujamaa ruled from 1967 to late 1980s.  Almost thirty years to catch up. 
So in this thread I brought out the language issue.  I was thinking about how business students worldwide are being encouraged to learn Chinese so as to interact and trade. A cite called CRCC insists China is the fastest growing economy in the world surpassing Japan; only second to USA. The Chinese are a recent example of economic growth through one’s mother tongue. 
Language is a vital tool of business communication.   In recent times, the Rwandese government swapped French for English. Our local scholars have joined the discussion and some like Professor Karim Hirji, (Fellow of Tanzania’s Academy of Medical Sciences) contend that what is important is improving the standard and quality of education. “Let us not discuss the issue of language of instruction in isolation from that of economic policy and the nature of the education system as a whole."
Ironically, it is the developing world which continues battling with languages. While studying in Russia in the 1970s Tanzanian student Dr Onesphor Kyara was surprised to see fellow Asian colleagues who spoke French. Writing in his autobiography (An African Student in Russia, 2014), he highlights how colonialism made us learn so many European languages.  Personally, I think the more languages you know the better. However, having a strong mother tongue such as in many developed nations (ditto South East Asia), is fundamental.
 Where are we in this?
I have met several overseas Africans who think English has been ditched in Tanzania for Kiswahili.  It feels as if we Africans wish we could abandon it all and stick to indigenous languages just like Kenyan writer, Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o has been campaigning since mid 1970s.
Summarising the evening, the High Commissioner, Hon Peter Kallaghe thanked the deputy Trade Minister and all present. He commended the UK Tanzania Business and UK Tanzania Diaspora for such an important gathering. As we mingled and took pictures, it all confirmed another stimulating visit. Meanwhile, our aspirations are to see better business dealings between these two nations. Nations linked linguistically and historically.

Published in Citizen Tanzania, Friday 6th March, 2015,

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