HAD the Founder President of this country, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere been alive, he would have turned 95 yesterday. For, he was born on 13th April 1922.
As we marked his birthday yesterday, albeit posthumously, the need arises to look at his positive achievements in the economic development of this country especially during the prime time of his reign - and see if there are areas which could be reinstated at this hour in time - as there is today a clarion call for “Tanzania ya viwanda” (putting in place an industrial Tanzania) by the Magufuli Administration. The pick-hour for industrial initialisation in this country had been between the seventies and eighties.
Those who were around those years would remember how the Tanzanian economy had picked up those years prior to the war with Uganda’s military dictator; Iddi Amin who had invaded and occupied part of this country.
We were then talking of textile mills, which were very productive – found in Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Arusha and Tanga. These textile mills were fed by Tanzanian own cotton, produced by own peasants not to forget sisal related products.
Actually, Tanzanian produced “khanga” and “vitenge” were very popular with Tanzanian women, and I would say, to this day, although they are not in abundance as they were during those old good days.
Instead, what is in the market today and in huge abundance are imported second hand clothes – from underwear to what have you - all won by foreigners and dumped here for sale! A cursory look at the Tanzanian society today gives the impression of almost a huge junk of the population engaged in petty trade at roadsides everywhere. Good Lord! And almost all the goods on sale, albeit second hand are not produced here – they have found their way into the country from abroad.
Bluntly, there is no productive undertaking and had there not been motor-cycle imports, the country would have been even in a worse predicament – as the army of the ablebodied young people - but unemployed - would have swelled up; by millions! So this is the cursory picture one makes today, taking a look at the Tanzanian society, especially in urban areas.
As enticed earlier, this country would have made a great leap forward with its debut on industrialisation in the seventies and eighties had peace prevailed instead of war with dictator Iddi Amin in the late seventies. But in a multi-polar world of those days, especially the contest between the western and eastern world, it is also a strong probability that the Tanzanian debut then towards a socialist agenda may not have endeared the Nyerere Administration to western powers who most probably wanted to bring it down.
Those following developments today in oil-rich Venezuela with a socialist orientation who were around during the Nyerere Administration then must be drawing an analogy of similarity of situations in Tanzania then and Venezuela today. Tanzania eventually had to succumb to the ultimate western interests of adopting privatization wholesale – even coming up with a slogan that “privatisation is the engine of economic growth”.
Is it? Where do we find ourselves today? To my reading western institutions depicting Tanzanian economic growth at 7% do not reflect the reality on the ground where majority of our people, ordinary people are seen.
These have been turned into petty traders of second hand goods now found on streets almost everywhere, none of which goods are produced or manufactured here in this country. And as we have seen in the intervening period, there has been dubious exports of mineral sand or soil from Tanzanian areas famed for all levels of minerals – from gold, diamonds to Tanzanite which minerals are unique only to this country. Tanzanians are yet to be informed of the deal related to the sale of their abundant minerals – is it royalties or equity shares?
How much are these minerals earning the country? This is certainly an important question begging an answer. Fortunately, the Magufuli Administration is on the alert and a presidential commission has been appointed to investigate the flight of mineral soil or sand abroad among other things. One wishes more inquiries were made as to the real deal in place in regard to the exploitation of Tanzanians minerals by global multinationals.
The moment we know how much we are worth in terms of minerals and gas for example, we will be in a position to plan our national economy in strategic terms. Here then is the question: what is our national vision in transforming our country into an industrial one: as the call goes these days: Tanzania ya viwanda? (Industrial Tanzania) Certainly, this is an important question and calls for alternative views.
But if the past is anything to go by, that is if the foundation stone laid by the founder President of this country, Mwalimu Nyerere is to be given a hard look, we need to think seriously on the need to have a strategic public sector in economic development which takes in its strides, industrial development. A recent initiative by President Magufuli to bring to life the national flag carrier, Air Tanzania by beefing it up with more crafts with state funds, then this could be a good beginning in the launching of publicly owned companies or industries, rather than leaving everything in the hands of the private sector.
The reason is simple: the private sector is what its name implies: private. And those investors have their countries of origin; so their interest is not the same like those of the public sector. Secondly, workers in the private sector are hired by the wave of hands and equally sacked by the same wave of hands.
Period! To write this is simply to urge the government of the day to ensure that the public sector assumes a strategic role so that at the end of the day the public sector is there in competition with a private one, with the former, the public sector taking care of wider public interests of our country.