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Indonesia: An emerging agroeconomic power relevant to Tanzania

Frankly, I did not know that this giant Asian archipelago was in this group until a promo rang in my ears from one of the leading global television networks ranking the country as such.

I was to prove it myself as I embarked on a flight to Jakarta. Thanks to modern day technologies, it is possible these days to monitor one’s own flight while on board, thanks to satellite cameras. So inflight, I switched on a screen against my seat in favour of forward cameras showing my flight route.

I was pleasantly amazed that Jakarta on the West is directly opposed Dar es Salaam the capital city of my country as satellite pictures registered in my eyes as my Emirates airline plane hurtled towards the Indonesian capital. It was my second trip to Indonesia, the maiden one being about five years ago. As before, what impressed me most was how a populous country such as this one, with a population of 250 million people, with 30 million people in Jakarta alone able to manage traffic on its roads.

Just like in Dar es Salaam, you have every means of transport – from buses, motor-cycles (bodaboda) tricycles (bajaji) to saloon cars on Jakarta roads. But how then is a city of 30 million people, whose population is three quarters of the whole Tanzanian population able to manage such mass of vehicles? Well, they are managing! Of course their road infrastructure is solid, complete with fly-overs and working traffic lights.

Unlike us here, you see no traffic police ushering cars at the robots, and most importantly, unlike us here, it is stonesilence on the roads – with very rare hooting! In spite of the great numbers of vehicles on the roads, cars are moving, sometimes a little slowly, but moving all the same! Drivers “see” each other with mutual respect, no foolish competitiveness like overtaking a fellow motorist for the heck of it like here! Motorists exercise extraordinary self-discipline on the roads.

Installed at a hotel in downtown Jakarta, it was time to savour the country. I was anxious to know what has happened in the intervening period and to the point where it is now among the world’s top G20 countries with a trillion dollar GDP. My hosts took me to see a motorassembly plant. The one I saw in Jakarta is one of the many they have; manufacturing an array of products ranging from tractors ploughs to generators.

To my pleasant surprise, I was taken to a section of tractors where there was an imprinted message from Tanzanian Premier Mizengo Pinda who is paged to have visited the plant recently. My hosts told me that a number of tractors have been shipped to Tanzania’s Mwanza Region! The next day, I was taken to see a textile mill, producing ‘batiks’ whose material look like our own version of ‘vitenge’ here.

I was most interested to visit this mill because it reminded me of the old good days of Urafiki and Mwanza textile mills in my own country. Oh! No! Why has my country, Tanzania, been so heavily de-industrialised? I privately asked myself with inner pain. We have now been turned into a huge super market for foreign goods with none of the goods hawked on the streets being made in our country!

Now, as I made a tour of this batik factory, I reflected on the question: Why can’t Indonesia think of investing in my country and build textile mills to produce batiks and other types of wear? After all, Tanzania’s economic mainstay is agriculture, growing its own cotton. This may present both countries with a win-win advantage – with Indonesia creating jobs for our people and Indonesia an expanded market for its own products in east and southern Africa.

I learned also in the course of my tour that Indonesia has more or less the same industrial potential like Japan because it is able to manufacture its own motor vehicles, albeit with a little import of technology from its Asian neighbor. My only criticism about this country, Indonesia, is that it is being too shy to promote itself unlike its neighbours described invariably as “Asian tiger economies”.

If it is able to make a ‘bajaji’ or bodaboda (motorcycle) why can’t Indonesia promote itself as such and look for markets in the developing world? Now in the G20 bracket of developed global economies, Indonesia should gear up as much, displaying to the rest of the world of its potential and find ways to network with developing countries. Fortunately, there is a new initiative of cooperation among developing countries known as the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP).

Set up in 1955 at the Asia Africa Conference, the group was re-invigorated in 2005. Since then, Indonesia has initiated farmers’ training centers in African countries including Tanzania. A Farmers Agriculture and Rural Training Centre (FARTC), which is also being supported by Japan, and the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) is in place. In the words of an Indonesian senior official: “Indonesia is envisioning a more comprehensive approach and closer cooperation with Africa…

We are formulating a grand design of south-south cooperation…” But there is greater potential for cooperation between Indonesia and Tanzania - both countries being agro-based economies. Indonesia’s relationship with Tanzania is as old as Tanzania’s years of national life, with Indonesia opening up an embassy as long as the sixties. As pointed out in this perspective, Indonesia can take lead in bringing to life Tanzania industrial base; setting up textile mills as a starting point.

E-mail: HYPERLINK “mailto:wakuhenga@gmail. com” wakuhenga@gmail.com

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