After I wrote the article: “Party versus constitutional supremacy” last week, a reader of THISDAY responded: “The right of expression in the constitution goes together with the right of organization and right of association; also under these two rights some members joined CCM and by joining it they accepted to be bound by rules, regulations and directives of its leaders. I believe we should let CCM decide what is good for them and I think it is not proper for us to draw conclusions and assumptions on our own”.
I asked: “suppose those rules, regulations and directives violate some basic rights?”
He or she responded: “When you join an organization you first read its charter and its guiding rules when you have joined you are bound by them, you joined voluntarily not by force. Mwalimu Nyerere once told Njelu Kasaka and company on the formation of Tanganyika Government that they should leave CCM alone and go to the opposition if they think that policy of two governments is not good because that is the policy of CCM.
“Was he doing this against basic rights? There are active and passive rights…Mwalimu once said ‘uhuru bila nidhamu ni wazimu’”.
He or she later added: “Personally I am against total unregulated rights; they should be regulated not with the intention of curtailing them, but preventing their abuse because unregulated freedom will surely lead to chaos”.
The debate continues…
However, my focus today is not about the basic rights issue, but on the question: “Why is Africa doing so well, but Africans aren’t?”
Several local commentators have recently tried to ponder that question, after it was raised by the BBC three weeks ago, during its programme: “World Have Your Say”.
There were apparently two assumptions and one rationale for the quiz: that the current rates of growth, investment and trade indicate the African continent is becoming prosperous; but this emerging prosperity is not reflected in the welfare and general wellbeing of the majority of Africans (presumably the assumptions) and that what is the point in asking for more aid if it could not improve the lot of the Africans (the rationale).
I have no figures to ascertain whether economic growth, foreign investment and international trade in Africa have increased over the past decade at a pace sufficient to create a dent in poverty. However, there are a number of phenomena which may help to explain the disparity between economic growth and human development.
Let us consider some foreign investments in Tanzania as an example. Take the mining sector. While foreign investment has brought in the technology and know-how required for large scale mining operations, what percentage of proceeds from the minerals output is retained in the country to help improve the lot of Tanzanians?
The government, we hear, receives about four per cent of the proceeds from the gold mining sector as royalty. We also heard a few weeks ago that the quantity of gold produced in the country last year alone amounted to 50,000 kilogrammes. Therefore, the government received an equivalent of 2,000 kilos out of total 50,000 (if the figures were correct)!
Therefore, someone merely concerned with investment, growth or trade figures, it would seem to think that we, as a country, are doing a lot better as a result of increased foreign participation in the mining sector. But the reality of the matter is that the bulk of the wealth goes outside the country; and only a fraction of it is left to translate into actual human development activities within the country.
Imagine the investors are taking a whooping 96 per cent of the gold proceeds; in other words in every 100 kilos, we are left with just four. The remainder goes outside as profits to the mining companies, as well as to cover their operational costs.
Imagine what would have happened if just 20 per cent of the proceeds remained in the country! Or even if the profits were not all repatriated but some of them stored in domestic banks to circulate as loans for further domestic investment. What a profound transformation we should have realized within a short period?
We may also look at the financial services. The majority of the banks have so far been reluctant to lend to the agricultural sector. Yet this is the sector that generates 50% of the national income and employs more than 70% of the country’s labour force. In fact, agriculture supports more than 80% of Tanzanians’ livelihood. Improving agriculture automatically means improving the living conditions of millions of Tanzanians. But this is an area in which the majority of the banks are reluctant to conduct business.
The situation is so pathetic that in order to realize its Kilimo Kwanza, the government’s agricultural transformation policy, the country had to find other means to provide agricultural loans because none of the major banks seemed ready to venture into that area. As we know, the government has decided to create an agricultural window at the Tanzania Investment Bank (TIB) because almost all the banks with big names, including branches of financial multinationals operating in the country and making huge profits, shun agriculture.
Their hot cakes are the sectors like mining, manufacturing, tourism, telecom among other lucrative areas were their profits are immediately ascertained. I may blah blah here that the majority of the foreign banks are here to make quick returns and profits first; the development of Tanzanians is something secondary or peripheral.
My third area of concern is the nature of some foreign aid—including loans and grants. We have instances where aid, grant or loan is given, but machinery, raw materials, technical know-how and other necessary ingredients for the fulfillment of a project must come from the country of origin of the funds, their foreign multinationals or associates. More than 90% of procurement for foreign-funded projects or schemes is sourced abroad, specifically from the country of origin of the aid.
Our local engineers and other local experts have remained largely spectators in these grand schemes and projects. The question of technology transfer is mere propaganda. Some foreign companies who have won local contracts even try to bring labourers from their own countries. The foreign experts are paid many hundred times over their local counterparts for similar jobs; and even those jobs which the local could perhaps handle better.
For some dubious reasons, we have cases where foreign firms refuse to use raw materials that could be procured locally, at even a cheaper price and instead prefer to import the same from overseas. We have brewers refusing to use local barley; hotels refusing to use local vegetables and fruits; cement factories refusing to use local raw materials, and the like.
Should the discrepancy between “Africa doing well” and “Africans aren’t” still be a mystery under these circumstances? “Doing well” refers to the bare statistics—the tons of gold; the number of tourists; the number of banks; the number of beer brands; etc. “Aren’t doing well” refers to the impact of this seemingly artificial prosperity on the day-to-day life of the average African.
The majority of Africans are men and women who still eat a single meal a day despite the artificial abundance; people whose monthly income cannot make ends meet; still affected and afflicted by common diseases and many other dehumanizing conditions—despite the apparent prosperity and better incomes of their nations in terms of statistics and abstract figures.
During the cited BBC talk, one Westerner remarked: “How many of our billions of dollars should we throw at Africa before we should start seeing some results? People in the wealthy countries are tired of their hard money being wasted overseas”.
Another one cried: “Sounds like this report was recycled from the 1970s. More aid, more money blah blah blah. Stop enabling the continental kleptocracy!”
Alas, many Westerners don’t seem to understand that Africa is still at their service. You are welcome.