NEWS abound that an Agricultural Mechanization Bill is in the offing and this piece of news comes within the thrust of the industrialisation agenda of the Fifth Phase Government under the leadership of President John Pombe Magufuli (JPM).
This will be an appropriate piece of legislation given the reality that agriculture has all along and will continue to be the mainstay of the Tanzanian economy.
In the past, before the advance of minerals in the intervening period, the thrust used to be enhanced on agriculture to the extent that the blueprint of the ruling party all along has been ‘agriculture with a clarion call word’ such as ‘SIASA NI KILIMO’ –Politics is Agriculture!
And this has been due to the reality of yesterday as it is today that the majority of Tanzanian people reside in rural areas with agriculture as their preoccupation.
The main agricultural produce then as it is today, although few talk about this reality is that Tanzania has been in the forefront in the production of cotton and sisal.
As seen from the early days of the country’s independence, we even came up with textile mills built with the support of this country’s early external friends –the Chinese people.
What comes to memory immediately is the construction of textile mills, the most famous known as URAFIKI (Friendship) Textile Mill built, thanks to the Chinese state in the late sixties if not early seventies when Mwalimu Julius Nyerere was still around.
The products of ‘Urafiki’ Textile Mills were very popular with Tanzanian masses, especially the women folks. These were ‘khanga’ and ‘vitenge’ –beautiful clothes especially for women to wrap up.
Those days, those who could present their mothers or daughters with ‘khanga’ or ‘kitenge’ remember how much they were thanked and applauded!
What happened to these textile mills built by our Chinese friends may require a new theme of commentary. But it only underpins in my head-and I believe in the mind of many others -that the private sector is not something to depend wholly especially for developing countries.
So the news this week that there was a forum for closer investment and trade links between Tanzania and China here in Dar es Salaam was, to most people, very welcome indeed.
Goes a front-page story in one of the top most dailies in Tanzania:
“Representatives of over 100 Chinese companies have met Tanzanian investors and government officials to explore potential areas of investment, the thrust being on ways to make agro-processing reduce post-harvest crop losses.
“The Tanzania’s Minister for Industry and Trade, Mr Joseph Kakunda told journalists that the meeting between Tanzanian and Chinese business people had constituted into a Forum on trade and investment between the two countries.
“He said the forum was meant to serve as a launching pad for exploring opportunities for collaboration in investment with a priority to support Tanzanian’s farmers, who incur less post-harvest crosses.”
The news report quoted the Tanzanian minister as saying: “We need investors from a wide range of sectors, including the manufacturing of textiles and production of edible oil to reduce the gap between importation and exportation.”
There was even bigger news from the China Ambassador to Tanzania, Madam Wang Ke quoting the Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC): “By last year, China has eclipsed the UK as the country’s largest foreign investor in Tanzania, with investments totaling 7 billion US dollars.”
She said more Chinese investors were venturing into the light industry, textiles, iron and steel, construction material, communication, energy and other sectors in Tanzania.
Said Ambassador Wang: “China is now Tanzania’s largest trading partner and the volume of our bilateral trade has reached 3.45 billion US dollars. China is also the largest engineering contractor with a presence in Tanzania.” The lady envoy said Chinese and Tanzanian companies have a great opportunity and potential at their disposal to conducting “mutually beneficial win-win cooperation.”
Precisely! It is now the time for me to elaborate on this win-win attitude and agenda of the Chinese leadership.
By ‘win-win’ –the Chinese leadership implies that their economic relationship with developing countries is never on buying “cheap and selling back dear” as has been the attitude of some western countries or former colonial powers of Africa, most famously known as “imperialist” countries in the recent past.
They mean precisely that their trade will be on fair grounds and not on exploitation agenda.
Taking this positive attitude by our Chinese traditional friends in context, it is high time we in Africa, my country, Tanzania in particular have our priorities right.
As asserted at the launch of this perspective, 80 percent of the population of this country is in rural areas– known simply as villages.
Most people in urban areas, including me, the writer of this perspective, originate from the rural countryside, where the hand hoe is literally used in farming food and cash crops is still the backbone of making a living.
This country, therefore urgently needs mechanisation of its agriculture to most modern standards. ‘Tanzania ya Viwanda’ –an Industrial Tanzania should start there.
Fortunately, what I can name without hesitation– “traditional” friends-since the early days of Uhuru– (Independence) seen positively with the launch of textile mills to harness our cotton and sisal production, the Chinese people will be more than willing to support us in our move to mechanize agriculture should we decide as much.
Those who have been to China and traveled within that country with a population equal to that of the whole of Africa put together; have been surprised to see the giant steps forward in all sectors of development from road infrastructures, housing, mechanized agriculture and so forth.
It is just a question of putting our priorities right and as I have suggested, we should start with rural areas where majority of our fellow countrymen reside.