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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tanzania will not be bulldozzed by pundits into quiting SADC for COMESA

I recieved some serious bashing from N.Chiume, currently based New York because of my previous post(Tanzania diminishes chances of regional intergration), that he called a smokescreen that lays blame on the shoulders of Tanzania when it comes to EAC intergration. He raised some very pertinent issues that will deepen anyone's understanding about Tanzania and it's association with South Africa and SADC. Chiume is of the opinion that Kenya(ns) are out to deliberately soil Tanzania's name by publishing malicious articles through the media. He pointed out one case about KBC (Kenya Broadcasting Corporation) which he calls "Gorvernment owned media" that claimed Tanzanians had overwhelimingly rejected the proposed East African Federation. Below is what Chiume had to say in verbatim.

"I'm glad to be here. First, let me apologise for any distress that I may have caused you by certain choices of my words. It just shows the level of frustration people like myself feel whenever we read an article that carelessly misrepresents the facts with a pretext of "open[ing] up the issue for debate". It just makes it hard to have a constructive debate, that indeed we should all have, if we don't address the untruths from the offset.

Case in point, there was an article last week in Kenya Broadcasting Corp (KBC) website(which if I'm not mistaken, is still a Government owned media institution), twisting the results of the poll in Tanzania asking wether we should fast-track EAC or not. KBC reported that the overwhealing results against such a move meant "Tanzanians say no to EA federation". It went further claiming that Tanzanians "have rejected the plan for the East African political federation" while we all know that the referendum on this subject is still in the offing. Perhaps you can help me understand the motives a Government institution like KBC have in publishing such a misleading article?

Fact is, Tanzania has shown tremendous commitment to EAC, from hosting the HQ in Arusha, to building institutions like EAC Judiciary and Legislature, to negotiating and implementing the Custom Union despite the fact that its also a SADC member. Your claim that Tanzania's membership in SADC makes her "stand on EAC issues..always opposite the rest of the [EAC] members" are therefore absolutely baseless.

Asking Tanzania not to have "strong ties" with southern Africa is similar to asking Europe not to have strong ties with America! Tanzania is a founding member of SADC, and of SADCC, its predecessor. Our history, our engagement and our attachment to southern Africa since the days of Frontline States and prior to that cannot be lightly severed.

Therefore, there is nothing sinister that "raises questions" about Tanzania's friendship with South Africa - anybody who knows her history will appreciate it. If you can make an argument like that, then I could equally claim that Kenya's one foot in COMESA and another in EAC "raises questions" in the eyes of non-EAC members of COMESA, such as Zambia, Sudan or Eqypt because it shows Kenya's not commitment to COMESA! In that case, Kenya could equally be described as "an undecided country" that "is unstable in all its ways".

What is universally recognized is that as SADC moves towards becoming a trade bloc with custom union, then a common market etc (as opposed to a grouping for coordinating common economic projects); and as COMESA moves from a free-trade area to custom Union etc, countries like Tanzania - and so many others including Kenya and Uganda, will have to make the tough decision on how they can continue membership in increasingly conflicting organizations.

I'm saying this because one of the biggest misconception that individulss like yourself perpetuate is that somehow it will be hunky dory if and when all EAC members belonged in COMESA! It is as if no conflict will emerge out of EAC custom union with those of a future COMESA custom union.

Competition from Kenya isn't "mere BIG words". It does pose serious threat to the future of manufacturing in TZ. And its not true that these concerns have never been brought to the table by TZ. Case in point, the successful agreement in delaying implementing certain taxes within the EAC custom union to give manufactures in TZ some time to adjust to the new trade environment.

As we progress into common market, single currency and a political federation, these concerns are clearly being accelerated and reflected in the results of the fast-tracking poll in Tanzania. There is too much of selling of the positives of intergration and little in terms of addressing the adverse effects of it. For instance, Tanzania could well be forced with the reality of ceading the dominance of manufacturing to Kenya but that will only be okay of she is able to identify and begin to focus right now in alternative sectors that will bring them competitive advantage in the future, for example, in service economy. Hence, we will require economic programs to subsdize the manufacturing that will decline and to build up the service economy. The people in TZ are pressuring their Govt for answers to such issues, and are observing the gradual benefits that come with intergration before they can make a judgment that full EAC intergration will truly be benefitial to their daily livelihoods, not simply empty promises. The aim is not to ignore globalization but to ensure it really works for them.

The issue of belonging to multiple regional groupings is not uniquely Tanzanian. How come you never raised the conundrum that Kenya will face with the anticipated COMESA Custom Union while its already a member of EAC Custom Union?

Its quite absurd to imply Tanzania doesn't belong in Southern Africa (hence not a natural member of SADC) while at the same time urging it to join COMESA, a grouping with southern African countries further south of Tanzania like Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe! The next thing you will claim will probably be that Swaziland belongs in COMESA more than it does in SADC!

Tanzania happens to have strong links with southern Africa, as much as it has with Eastern Africa. To ask her to abandon its long standing relationships in favor of EAC only is just idiotic to say the least. We want to do business with as much neighbours as possible and South Africa has been a positive economic force in Tanzania, challenging the dominance of Kenya in the country. It appears that these constant concerns about Tanzania belonging in SADC are a manifestation of Kenya's nervousness towards South Africa coming to compete in its backyard through Tanzania.

Tanzanians will not be bulldozzed by pundits like yourself. The people of Tanzania have a right to know precisely how they will benefit from EAC Federation and its economic integration. The issues of job loss, land grabbing, political stability etc are very relevant to them. They have refused fast-tracking the Federation because the idea is unrealistic (in terms of implementing it within 5 years) but not because they are not in favor of the Federation. Most Tanzanians see it as something achiaveble by year 2020.

The debate we need is not why Tanzanians are ambivalent about EAC, but what can be done to address their concerns. Economic and targeted programs should be suggested to help countries like Tanzania whose economy will be negatively impacted, at least in the short-term. Such things will help to calm the jitters towards a noble idea of economic and political integration."

9 comments:

victor said...

It's funny how Kenyans always take pride in the fact that they chose capitalism and the system of “free choice” when their counterparts in Tanzania chose to walk down the narrow path of socialism. Some of these same folks would now prefer that "east africans" all the way from Mbeya in southern Tanzania to Mandera in northern Kenya trade exclusively with each other while keeping South Africans and other "foreigners" at bay from similar trading provisions and arrangements. A simple glance of the map of Africa easily exposes the fallacy of this argument, for simple geographical reasons - if nothing else. A Tanzanian in southern Tanzania has no more business trading with a Kenyan in Mandera than he does with his Zambian, Malawian or Mozambican counterparts right next door. Yes - Tanzania is that large. Likewise, a Kenyan in Mandera has no more business trading with Tanzanians than he does with his Somali and Ethiopian neighbors right next door. The fact that he may not want to - I suspect - has more to do with the fact that Somalia and Ethiopia are complete and utter economic and political basket cases, than the fact that he has a greater affinity to trade with his Tanzanian or Ugandan counterparts in points further south and west respectively. Either way, this is no fault of Tanzania, and we will not apologize for the fact that geography favors us in this regard. We also refuse to apologize for reaping the benefits from the links that we cultivated with southern Africa during the struggle for liberation,a period of time when Kenya was either holding our coat and impassively observing, or otherwise being fully asleep at the wheel. The common mwananchi in Tanzania is scratching his head right now and trying to see how this whole EAF project will be to his benefit. On the one hand, over 50 percent of the envisaged Federation's land mass, most of its coastline, most of its minerals, arable land and tourist attractions are located in present-day Tanzania, not to mention the fact that we do not carry much in the way of tribal, ethnic or religious baggage. On the other hand, he is being offered platitudes about the supposed benefits of integrating for the purpose of creating a "larger market" which will eventually lead to a better economic and political outcome for all. How is this possible with some of the inherent political stability of some EAC member countries, what with population and land pressures, paucity of natural resources (Uganda’s recently-discovered oil being the exception), not to mention some of the more Byzantine and vicious tribal, religious and ethnic sentiments that still prevail in some of the region’s countries today? Indeed, the more likely result is a better economic and political outcome for everyone who is NOT a Tanzanian, and not the other way around. I have not even begun to address the problem of crime and refugees in the region, with foreigners now robbing banks in Arusha and Dar. All in all we Tanzanians are forced to be skeptical about this whole thing and agree with a slower and more methodical approach. If Kenyans don't like it - well - let them Federate by themselves with Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda and we will be more than glad to observe and take notes while they're at it. In the meantime we will go on trading with South Africa, SADC and anyone else we choose to, after all – we’re still relatively new to this capitalist thing and are simply taking advantage of the system and politics of "free choice".

Anonymous said...

There is an interesting discussion on the issue of whether or not TZ should pull out of SADC (branded - its SADC, not SADCC!)

http://www.youngafrican.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=12416

branded said...

Victor
Thanks for stopping by,
Let me bash you abit with your own quote "we’re still relatively new to this capitalist thing and are simply taking advantage of the system and politics of "free choice". The problem is Victor that you are doing it all wrong. Need I remind you that in Business doesnt wait for no one its just about cutting to the chase and East Africa is not an exception whether individual countries support it or not. The fact that TZ is "relatively new to this thing" its only a matter of time before you realise that your country is on the loosing end however patriotic we feel about our individual countries.

By the way I suppose you meant Kenyans robbing banks in TZ?

Anonymous, thanks for the tag and the correction. Have an East African day.

Mliakuvana said...

Branded, I don't think that Tanzanians are "doing it all wrong" although you are entitled to your own opinion.

I beleive by Tanzanians being jittery of the whole process does not mean that they are going to sit back and relax and let fellow East Afrikans federate, la hasha! Many TZnians were opposed to the so-called "fast tracking" to a federation while there are so many internal issues that have not been taken care off - tribalism in Kenya, Uganda etc, war in Uganda, refugees from Rwanda and Burundi, absense of land in Kenya & Uganda, a supposedly better educated workforce in Kenya and Uganda (just because they supposedly speak better english!!??), weak tax base in Tanzania, corruption in all member countries etc etc

Giving each member country time to try and solve these problems is a much better proposition, don't you think?

branded said...

Mliakuvana,
Good thought that still stresses the point that TZ is getting it all wrong. I support TZ stand on the basis that "fast tracking" to a federation MAY lead to future unforeseen problems. I guess that is where most East Africans stand.
But the borne of contention is that TZ does not seem to be looking at the bigger picture (correct me if I am wrong). Based on what you said, its clear if all your claims are true i.e tribalism in Kenya, war in Uganda, Refugees in Rwanda and Burundi, Absense of land in Kenya and Uganda and PEACE LOVE & UNITY in TZ then we will never move forward.
TZ sees the rest of the region as evil that may posses its relaxed and peaceful way of life, No hussles, No bassles crawling SLOWLY from the medieval times into the 21st century. (Key word SLOWLY)
The rest of the EA region on the other hand are Focused, Fast, Ambitious and Better Educated to present the East African Agenda in the 21st Century that they are presssed for time to sit back and watch regional business and its inherent benefits pass them by.

Mliakuvana, only
- TZ out of ALL the East African Countries sees things the way it does.
- Only TZ quit COMESA to join SADC
- Only TZ asked for more time to fedarate regional economies (While it is still busy trading in SADC telling us to wait in the pretext of SOLVING INTERNAL PROBLEMS like speaking better English). Ofcourse we are still waiting.

victor said...

Thanks for your response to my comments, but I am still yet to see a strong enough justification or argument in favor of fast-tracking this EAF thing.I'm actually in agreement with Kenya's former AG - Charles Njonjo who opposed any such idea. Using our own experience of Federation in TZ with Zanzibar -it's been over 40 years and we still have to hear about "kero za muungano".Bottom line, marriages are never easy, whether romantic or political, all the more so when it's clear that one side will be clearly disadvantaged and damaged as a result of doing so. A Union has got to result in a win-win for all parties concerned otherwise what would be the point - Federation for the sake of Federation? FYI about that comment that TZ is somehow moving along slowly into the 21st century - we've had East Africa's best performing economy on a consistent basis for the last 10 years. In the next 3 years we are projected to hit double digit growth. We are consistently at or near the top of the list of African economic reformers, and the sky really is the limit. Kenya has started to get it's economy in good shape as has Uganda. All this without a union. Our respective economic performances have had nothing to do with the way the East African political deck has been arranged. Why insist on a "fix" if nothing is broken?

branded said...

Victor,
probably you did gt my point. In a nut shell, I mean - TZ is playing dirty tricks in the name of taking taking time to federate. What we want to hear is either a YES or No whether TZ is really interested in the proposed federation. Statistics show that TZ is not interested but it insists that we need time without really meaning it.
By the way, when former Kenya Ag opposed the idea of an EAc it was because of TZ, apparently the he saw this coming, I mean all the pretence and lies in the name of waiting while the rest of the world proceeded with business.
Yes I also support your point of taking time to implement, but TZ should let this be clear.

Benin "Mwangi" said...

Branded:

This is excellent work! I was not aware of some of the points that you shared, especially Kenya being part of COMESA.

branded said...

Thanks Benin, Thanks for passing by.
PS: You need to oil your blogging machine because lately, its quite slow. Otherwise great work going on at www.africanpath.com