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Africa tackles most of its problems with 'fire brigade' power
Faraja Mgwabati
Daily News; Sunday,August 31, 2008 @08:49
Dr Joram Biswaro
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  • QUESTION: I first met you in 2006 when you were at the middle of mediation process between Burundi government and rebel group Palipehutu- FNL. You then managed to make them sign a peace deal. Looking back on the whole process as perhaps a best achievement or just another task, how do you feel?

    Answer: In the first place I wouldn't attribute that success to me as a person. I would attribute the success to the Tanzanian government and the country, particularly the top leadership of our country, starting in this case with third-phase President, Benjamin Mkapa and the fourth-phase President Jakaya Kikwete.

    Apparently the then Foreign Minister who is now the President, Kikwete was heavily involved in that process. Yes, I was coordinating the national team with other stakeholders but under his guidance. He was followed by Dr Asha Rose Migiro as the Foreign Minister. Yes, I would say it was an achievement but it was as the result of such guidance.

    Q: What did you do after that and where?

    A: I worked with the Directorate of Asia and Australasia for about one year. Q: How do you compare the challenges of the two directorates and Africa?

    A: I think it is very relative, too different in the sense that whereas in Africa most of the issues are tackled with 'fire brigade' zeal and in those countries you should be prepared for a new challenge all the time. Before this takes the gun out, the other one erupts and so on and so forth. You have to be alert all the time and prepared for any eventuality. At times planning becomes difficult but with Asia and Austrasia you can programme things. Likewise, the focus is mainly on economic diplomacy. So I would say each had its own peculiarity.

    Q: Talking about Economic Diplomacy, what did you achieve when you were serving the Asia and Australasia?

    A: I would say that we achieved much with my leaders then. I think I had a new foreign minister Bernard Membe. We had his guidance and we were at the time focusing on China, Japan Asia and its miracles, Australia and so on.

    We managed to participate in China –Africa forum, for example and through that forum I know there was 5bn USD earmarked for Africa.

    Each country had to present a project and a programme, so we presented programmes some of which are now in implementation stage. At the same time, however, we had Africa –Asia business forum which was held in Dar es Salaam targeting SMEs.

    In a short span of time, we had some achievement in Malaysia but I left satisfied because of the dynamics that were involved there under the guidance of the Minister Membe. It was quite enjoyable too.

    Q: Was it from there you then went to Brazil?

    A: Yes, then I was appointed to go to Brazil, the first Tanzania Ambassador to Brazil. I reported on January 7, 2008.

    Q: How did you feel when you were appointed Tanzania's Ambassador to Brazil?

    A: I found it just normal. I felt I was just going to serve my country as I had done elsewhere, although it was a new station. It has its own challenges, but as a civil servant I should be ready anytime to face such challenges.

    Q: What was your impression of the country when you arrived there?

    A: I was well received by representatives of the Brazilian government, but at the same time representatives of African diplomatic community there and fellow ambassadors.

    Normally the following day you report to the chief of protocol to present copy of letter of credence. I waited for the day to do so to the president. They are very flexible because while you wait, you can pay courtesy calls to your fellow ambassadors and other government and international organizations.

    Part of the institutions that I remember to have visited first during those early days is Embrapa, which is involved in research.

    Their wide research in various crops in Brazil and in other parts of the world since the 1950s impressed me a lot. They have carried a similar study in livestock, artificial insemination and so forth.

    I also followed up on the Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) agreement which Tanzania and Brazil had entered into in 2006 and signed by the then Minister Migiro with Brazilian counterpart.

    I wanted to see first JPC as enshrined in that agreement, was implemented so I started pushing and that was the result of what we signed in Dar es Salaam last week (the first JPC).

    Q: But how did you know about this Embrapa?

    A: Sincerely speaking, I just learned of it from the records of interview of the then Foreign Minister Migiro when she visited the country. It was on my mind and I visited the place only four days after my arrival.

    Q: So now you know Brazil…

    A: Now I can claim I know Brazil somehow…

    Q: Can you then tell us about the cou ntry?

    A: Politically, Brazil is a multi-party country and it has a lot of history of military regime particularly from 1964 to 1985. A democratic government came to power after 21 years. They have competitive elections and respect the rule of law. Sometimes when there is no outright victory, they go into a coalition.

    The present government is lead by Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, a trade unionist who is now in his second and last term in office. It is a kind of workers party. It is a left wing party.

    He had a landslide victory in 2006, so he is in second year but because of his popularity, they are thinking of changing the constitution so that he can run again the office but he refused.

    Nevertheless, he is quite popular and he is pro-Africa ever since he assumed leadership.

    He has come to Africa more than 5 times. Currently, he has almost 34 embassies in Africa. That is, almost 50 per cent of all the embassies were started by him. Even African embassies that have been opened in Brazil are as result of his efforts.

    The country's economy is vibrant, fast growing and by any standard one could say that at times it is difficult to say that they are in the Third World.

    Their GDP is 3,460 USD per capita as of 2006 and its main export is manufactured cars like what you have here Marcopolo. They build Aircraft as well and produce iron ore, coffee and other agricultural produce.

    They also have sugar cane which they use for biofuel, ethanol. They have advanced in that regard technologically.

    They are very sociable people, interacting well with others and they like their soccer and samba. All in all, they are very friendly. Their life expectancy is between 69 years for men and 76 for women.

    They have a very vibrant media, a thousand newspapers, TVs, Radios but they are mainly based in Sao Paulo which is economic capital and Reo de Janeiro which is a tourist and the commercial capital, the former capital of Brazil before it shifted to Brasilia. Most of them are private and some few are owned by the government.

    Q: What can Tanzania learn from Brazil politically, economically and socially?

    A: I think Tanzania can learn from Brazil politically to be tolerant, their debate is a vibrant one but they tolerate each other. I have never seen them fighting or something like that; very tolerant and patient.

    Q: How is that so? Is it because of their level of development?

    A: Year, it is because of the level of democracy. In their 20 years of democratic elections they have been like that. I think it reflects their maturity and maybe what they have learnt from the past that they don't want to go back to.

    Q: Can Tanzania learn to do the same?

    A: Yes, Tanzania can learn from that kind of tolerance.

    Q: Do you think we in Tanzania are not tolerant enough?

    A: I am not saying that Tanzanians are not tolerant, but comparatively they can learn something from there, yeah, in comparative terms.

    Economically: I think we can learn the kind of technology that they use there, most of which is suitable for our people here. It is for small and medium entrepreneurs like tractors. There are certain tractors that can be used by hand which are an appropriate technology we can also learn. Agribusiness, light industries such as those used to squeeze juice from fruit or sugar cane, coconut, etc, either manually or mechanically.

    Q: How can that happen? Should Tanzania go to Brazil to learn or Brazilians should come to invest in Tanzania?

    A: Seeing is believing, if you can learn something by seeing and come and introduce it here it will be cheaper. So the first thing is going there to learn what they have and bring it here and teach our people. That is much better. Because that could be an appropriate technology, it can definitely fit in our environment.

    Another thing we can learn from them is irrigation. Brazil is endowed with water, rivers, but I don't think we are that much bad. We also have also water. We can learn from Brazil

    Q: You talked about ethanol earlier on…

    A: They started research of using ethanol in 1905 and they began its production 1931 so they have vast experience. We can learn production of sugar cane also. We can see how this ethanol can be of good use to us, depending on our environment.

    In a country such as the US, they use ethanol but they use it from corn. They took the technology from Brazil.

    It is now a challenge for policy makers to implement what we have signed. So it must be at the level of policy makers. I will just implement what I am directed to do and I can always give some views how I see it from the ground.

    Socially, almost 47 per cent of the Brazilian population is one way or another made of people who are of descendents of Africa, therefore you will find that there is a certain cultural affinity to Africa. Even that Samba or Carnival that is practised in the country somehow has traces from Africa, but combined with the culture of the indigenous people who were found there.

    Normally, every year there is this competition of carnival region after region, town after town. They compete to dance. Carnival is a festival dominated by dancing.

    Q: What can we learn on sports in Brazil?

    A: Sports such as football, basketball are mostly professionally organized and they invest a lot in sports.

    No amateur business that is why you find second division football sports clubs have everything, swimming pools, they have very modern stadia. You wouldn't think that it belongs to second division club.

    If we have to learn something from there, it is how we can organize our teams especially the administration of football, how revenue is generated, how it is spent, how they use these funds to generate more revenue. That is very critical.

    The good thing is that Brazil have accepted our request to train our coaches and sports administrators which is one of the weakness here.

    You can have a good coach but how about those people who manage the clubs?

    They are not professionally trained in managing football clubs!

    Q: Can you now talk briefly about the JPC?

    A: We have agreed and signed co-operation in education, agriculture, visa and sports. In education, essentially students from here will go there for post graduate studies under education agreement and in the long run we shall have staff exchange.

    The other thing is what we call dependants agreement, which allows dependants of diplomats to find a job and work in the country they are in.

    We have also waved visa for senior government officials from these countries when they want to visit either side. It is for all diplomatic passport holders and service passport given to senior government officials.

    Q: Is the geographical gape linking Tanzania and Brazil a problem for better ties between them?

    A: It is a reality that Brazil and Tanzania are so many miles apart, but given the modern technology where the world is like a village, this is not an obstacle for better co-operation.

    We have airlines, South African Airways, for example, that flies to Brazil. There are several flights going there from South Africa.

    In South Africa you have direct flights to Brazil. We also have the Angola Airline which flies from Luanda to Brazil on daily basis. That can also bridge or minimize the gape between the two countries. But there is also IT where you can negotiate on internet and conclude a deal.

    Obviously there are businessmen who will come to Tanzania and if they find a friendly environment, it will encourage them to invest here, whether 100 per cent or in joint ventures with Tanzanians.

    By so doing again we bridge the gape between the two countries and as I speak, I have several requests from businessmen from Sao Paulo who would like to come here and invest in beef farming and poultry. Some are competent in the field of construction but as we go along, we will continue to explore more avenues.

    Q: What is your comment about Tanzania's journalism?

    A: Journalism of my time is quite different from now. A lot has changed although ethics are more or less the same.

    I think media owners should invest in education and training inside and outside the country, expose young journalists by arranging study tours inside and outside the country. Without proper education and training, it will become difficult to articulate your (media house) own agenda.

    They should know their country by travelling around covering stories. For Journalists, I think it's important for them to invest in languages. They should go beyond English and Kiswahili and learn other languages such as French, Portuguese and Spanish, it is very important.

    Q: Finally, can you say something about economic diplomacy?

    A: We need to brand Tanzania because opportunities are there, so if we can bring investors and appropriate technology, that will be a step in the right direction. Likewise, if we can secure markets for our goods such as fruits and flowers. We must also try as much as possible to add value to our products.

    Tourism also is another area we need to do more in to promote our attractions. Last month, I placed a TV commercial to brand Tanzania and people started calling me.

    They were surprised that Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania but they also didn't know that there is Tanzania embassy in Brazil.

    Jean-Louis Kayitenkore
    Procurement Consultant
    Gsm: +250-08470205
    Home: +250-55104140
    P.O. Box 3867
    East Africa
    Blog: http://www.cepgl.blogspot.com
    Skype ID : Kayisa66

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