The Problem of Poaching

PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete put up a surprisingly candid performance in an international conference on illegal wildlife trade that took place in London towards the end of last week. The president was frank on what is happening in that sphere in the country, almost coming out clean on what the government has done or has not done, to the extent of appearing self-accusatory. He declared that the kingpin of massive killing of elephants in the country was residing in Arusha, and gave no inclination that the government was capable of going after him and his 40 acolytes.

This other figure was also given by the president, that there were 40 ‘master poachers,’ which evidently does not refer to errand boys sent into the jungle to hunt down the hapless jumbos with machineguns, always available these days, but their sponsors. If the government has counted up to 40 presently, precisely why the first ten haven’t faced court proceedings remained a moot question that many in the London gathering must have asked themselves, but they are likely to be familiar with the tortuous pace of international law and its implementation. It needs consensus.

The picture that the president gave, to most delegates, was that he is entirely realistic about the situation, and almost disarmingly insisted that he had nothing to hide. He was talking about a vast network of poaching organized by a few dozen sponsors who are hard to reach as the poachers themselves are hard to get, and ivory that is collected is deemed to be artisanal in its source. That means the hauls of caught ivory are not helpful for legal proceedings for there could be pieces of paper that this was brought by a ‘nameless’ fellow without a proper residential address, etc.

Examining other observations made at the London conference and at times from other sources, it appears that what is happening in Tanzania is more or less what is happening elsewhere, with a few enclaves of greater restraint on the poaching industry. South Africa for instance, which to most of us is better organized and more effective in its wildlife protection infrastructure, has lately been said to be moving rhinos to Botswana where they will be safer. It would appear rhinos and jumbos are safe in zoos or situations like that, not in some well managed open country, etc.

That sort of reality is virtually a death knell for wildlife conservation as we know it, and seemingly this is the fate of the industry, punctuated by groans and moral reminders of the sort that took place in London. What the world poaching industry is telling the conservationists is that the bush is no longer just an object of legislation but like the borders of a country, it has to be defended. When this becomes the case, Africa is now becoming westernized, both in its urban and rural areas, where wildlife were largely an extension of villages, with often times the same dangers.

In a westernized context, which means virtually all land has some specified use and owner, long stretches of territory which the government has decided should be inhabited by wildlife because no tribe was residing there as yet, become functionless. So long as there is something valuable in there it is going to be pulled out, by force if no reasonable contract is available, as in the wildlife conundrum. In the case of findings or uranium for instance, the borders of the respective wildlife zone will be modified for the purpose, and it appears this will keep recurring.

So there should be no excessive blaming of the government on what it is doing with regard to poaching, as the borders of national parks and game reserves or game controlled areas are far too vast for comfort. Secondly, the reigning culture in the police force right now is ‘community policing,’ where the police wait for someone to bring in an accusation, so they go to get the fellow and he has to extricate himself by the usual procedures. Chances that a rumour about there being poachers in the neighborhood being acted upon are few and far between, and it is precisely this outlook that critics hinge in blasting the government for inaction on wildlife decimation. It doesn’t have such police for once, and consequently, even game officials and ‘off duty police’ have a hand in wildlife ….harvesting!

Are Holding Companies Good for Business?

DEBATE has gripped energy and media circles as Swala Energy, fancy named oil and gas exploration firm based in Australia and operating in Tanzania with either a wholly owned subsidiary of the same name, or one that is linked with some local investors. That impression came up as the company protested the cessation of its negotiations with oil and gas sector regulator and operational participant, Tanzania  Petroleum Develeopment Corporation (TPDC), as it argued the rejection ignores the need for ‘local content’ in allocation of licences, blocks. This wasn’t elaborated.

Those who have followed the debate between Swala Energy of Australia (leaving aide its local subsidiary) would realise that the firm entered into a marriage of convenience with another substantially capitalised firm, which apparently did not wish to engage in actual partnership in exploration and eventual drilling. If that was the case, their contract could not have contained a withdrawal clause where the remaining firm ‘acquires the rights of the company that has withdrawn,’ as if this does not affect the quality of the bid. That is what TPDC has been stressing.

Were it that the two firms entered into a genuine partnership to build up a well capitalised firm capable of the stresses and strains of exploration and test drilling, such a clause would have been a bit of a misnomer, asd it is meant to anticipate a ‘friendly withdrawal.’ Were it that the withdrawal was hostile, it would definitely involve a legal battle between the two sides as to their respective liabilities in relation for instance of their joint bid as to the Lake Eyasi block. When this did not happen, it means it was embedded in Swala’s original plan, as ‘window dressing.’

That is also what nags analysts as to the purpose of its continuation with listing on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange, in the wake of the collapse of the bid, and in a wider context of being satisfied not having its erstwhile joint venture partner. This builds up an image of company that is trying to wear boots that are oversized, for its profile is that of a company ready to take up a role in exploration and drilling, but it realises it needed a joint venture partner so as to put up a credible bid. When it is making no effort to salvage the partnership or seek a similar association to shore up its original credentials, listing on DSE instead, what should we read in it?

Reading between the lines, the company is seeking to use its local subsidiary as a local firm bidding for a block, which definitely is a rather patronising reading of the situation, for there is little that it local about the firm but its registration. When it thus lists on DSE, there is a mild chance that it is looking for more capitalisation for a business that is closer to its real capitalisation levels, which means midstream and downstream activities, or seeking to localise itself and thus be able to gather energy and support in shoring up its original profile for upstream activities. That sort of outlook is plausible, as this is the image its protest note on TPDC affirmed.

Whatever the case the company and local regulators seem like they will have their hands full in seeking to place the firm where it either belongs or wishes to be, in which case it may well live up to its name, as an agile species, an operator with aptitude for jumping from one class to another, pitying a burly regulator following it. There is a chance the firm is seeking to shed its foreign image, but this effort is not quite likely to succeed because the local share market is brittle and lacks large investors to beef up its capital profile for that quest. Unless of course there are other foreign investors with funds that are as yet loose, to place in a localised firm.

That is why Swala Energy (T) Ltd can definitely list on DSE after it has conducted the paperwork, as this enables it to start on a different investment trajectory in the country, as listing is unlikely to shore up its Eyasi bid, or a similar interest anytime soon. Whether it evolves into midstream and downstream activities or attracts more capital for its original upstream orientation is a matter for the future, so there is no harm in starting to build up a crop of relatively localised companies in that sector. This could also help us with alternatives on how to sort out some creepy situations.

Are Education Levels Rising?

FOLLOWING the publication of results of last year’s National Form IV examinations and a supposedly higher level of passing, while the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training freely admits that the ‘higher passing level’ was   obtained by reducing sensitive pass mark levels, stakeholders remain puzzled. What next for our education system is an oft-posed question that has really no answer, as hopes remain that the standards and achievements will rise gradually, as expansion has been done since 2006. What remains is an uplifting of standards.

Yet it appears that the descending curve is either not yet reached or it may have finally been reached, subsequent to which it is the rise curve that shall take over. Just how long it will take for the learning and performance curve in local exams to reach the rest of East Africa is anyone’s guess, and if care isn’t taken, the yawning gap could become a permanent feature of educational levels in the region. Tied to it is the class expression of this curve, where private schools increasingly become a top stratum, pushing the best government schools down the ladder, inexorably.

One clear reason for the deeepening performance curve gap is relative diminishing of purchasing power among broad sectors of the population, relatively stagnant levels of malnutrition and stunting of children, which experts regularly put at a third or anywhere up to 40 per cent of children starting school. Certain quarters object to these estimates because of a faulty interpretation of stunting, virtually equating it with mental disability, an exttreme view. It is merely the lack of proportion between age and height or weight, which affects mental development.

Suggesting school feeding programs would be a good idea to correct some of the weaknesses of family nutrition levels as a whole, but in keeping with the tradition, it would have to be a donor funded program also exposed to plenty of misdirected use of grain, milk or fortified foods of various sorts. And in addition such an effort would have to put up with totally unqualified, unwelcome objections of a green lobby much more concerned with dogma about GMOs than nutrition levels among the children. The anti-GMO lobby has prevented the widespread adoption or use of drought resistant seeds for a whole decade wreaking untold havoc in famines.

Looking at the situation a bit closely, there is little more than convergence of the weak points of childbirth (where Tanzania has regularly hit the roof, and is now on a difficult downward slope in maternal and child deaths at birth) and then fewer chances of survival in the first five years. Legions of NGO followers have held countless international conferences, puvblished heaps of glossy reports, under the mistaken intuition that such a situation – as well as proper education – just needs a minimum of sensitivity of those in authority. The reality though is quite different.

What is at issue here isn’t sensitivity of policy makers or encouraging so much more of participation in decision-making at district level or schools themselves but sustainable development. This term has often been mishandled by lobbies in favour of their own preoccupations, for instance the threat to rare frogs if hydro power projects are conceived, etc instead of what it takes to bring about all round development. If taxation and equalisation of incomes was the formula for properly organised development, Tanzania would have been a leader in Africa but it is overall productivity which counts. Tanzania has leg irons holding it back in that regard, with a systematic refusal to let the market work, its belief in state agencies holding sway in virtually all sectors, and trust that screaming at donors will fill the gap of low key capital formation locally plus low foreign direct investment levels.

This resistance to domination by foreign capital, now creeping into oil and gas by deliberate steps weakening market predictability, ensures that children are stunted owing to low purchasing power and faulty priorities in families and government. There is little promise at the moment that Tanzania can arrest all these weaknesses and correct the error of its ways as our priority isn’t children or education, anyway.

The Uses of Political Compromise

DISPUTES are being heard outside the chamber of the Constitutional Assembly whose work is proving to be more of a strain on nerves than most commentators believed earlier. It was assumed that there was plenty of enthusiasm with that were given as the views of the people, to move towards a three-tier government system. As had already been acknowledged earlier, the ruling party is totally ill at ease with that formula, while the Mainland and Isles oppositions and civil society are elated at it. At the end of the day CCM has the majority, thus an obvious stalemate.

Another issue that is being raised outside the chambers is how the two sides of the union would settle some sharp differences in relation to reaching not just a compromise on tier system, but also on the substance of the union. A Zanzibari can easily purchase property on the Mainland and settle, while a Mainland ‘citizen’ cannot purchase a plot of land, a house or a farm in Zanzibar and settle down. While some in CCM are beginning to acknowledge the need for change in that area, senior officials of the Isles opposition vehemently oppose any such shift.

There is in Zanzibar what is often called an insular fear, that people who live on islands are usually steeped in fear of marauding hordes from the Mainland who would come and strip them of their land and culture.  Already this thinking affects inter-union ties and is being expressed in provocative actions especially in attacks against premises or individuals of the Catholic Church, and at times the Anglican Church. None of these cases has been investigated and a water tight case presented in court, which has a role in Mainland fatigue with the union, especially in church.

In the final analysis it is vital for key Isles opposition leaders to remember that the days of an insular relationship with the Mainland where the latter protects the Isles revolutionary authorities from wrathful groups in the Gulf or in the Isles, but on no account should the Isles integrate with the Mainland, are more or less over. It is not just a Mainland integration issue but of the East African Common Market, on the basis of which people from the rest of the EAC zone are expected to be free to purchase assets and settle in any place among the treaty countries. Acknowledging at least that right of entitlement for Mainland visitors prepares Isles for EAC better.

Arguments by people like CUF top organisation official Salum Bimani that the problem with the union is that the Union government has been breaching accords reached in 1964 are not worth the ink printing them in newspapers. It goes back to what Mwalimu said in 1983 that ‘lawyers are saying that one plus one equals three,’ and at present one hears of the need for a union structure where Zanzibar has full powers, or full autonomy – which strictly speaking means breaking up the union. Even if Zanzibar delegates who can’t see beyond the legendary nose of Europeans lead to the Constituent Assembly to break up, Mainlanders would still go there when the Isles implement a wider EAC common market protocol, even if at that time it is an independent country. Come what may, integration, not insularity, is the way forward, as no islander will lose land but sell or hold it in a partnership.

Ideas that Zanzibar is happiest when Mainlanders are not purchasing land there are misguided at best, for they are based on a clan idea of country, instead of a market idea. People who object to other people purchasing land can’t explain wealth and how poverty is eradicated, thinking it is a matter of raising taxes and using it in appropriate ways, transparently, and the rest of it. As a matter of fact one sleeps poor and wakes up rich when someone from the big city arrives at his suburban place – and soon, village – and says he wants a house, a half acre of farm, at the going rate or a bit higher. Poverty is eradicated by foreigners bringing capital with them, not when councilors or MPs plan budget use; there, they reproduce poverty.

Truancy a Mounting Problem for Schools

REPORTS have been heard from Urambo district in  Tabora region that  the councillors assembly has moved a by-law to fine parents up to 300,000 shillings for truancy of their child, failing to attend secondary school or failing to take them to those schools.  The councillors sat to discuss measures on the issue because absenteeism of pupils in ward secondary schools was high, and in a recent report, it was said that parents organise a congratulation party for their sons who fail to be selected to join secondary school. It was in Ruvuma, but it must be true elsewhere.

The district executive director, Richard Luyango, was quoted as affirming that after that decision, truancy or absenteeism will be curbed, so the standard of education in the district will be uplifted, as different from the situation as it is now. He was quite adamant that a heavy fine is the way out to compel parents to take their children to school, and not take them towards the cultivation of tobacco or tendering cows, two concerns of parents he seemed to hold in contempt. Parents have started to complain that the fine imposed will be too high for them to pay.

One feature that is unclear is whether the councillors are a government committee of they are actually elected from the people, and what section of people, the voters who took them there, are ready to pay 0.3m/- for truancy or absenteeism of their children. Nor is it likely that opinion is unanimous in the district as to the merits of secondary schooling as different from cultivating tobacco or tending cattle, if those who finish secondary school are to be taken as role models. Parents have plenty of reasons to be sceptical of secondary schools, especially if pupils come out with division zero in the vast majority in ward secondary schools, for several years now.

It is unlikely that the councillors assembly was incapable of grasping the peasants’ point of view, or equally incapable of thinking of other means of enhancing for instance vocational education fot those working in tobacco farms. That is why there is distance learning at higher level, and evening classes for self-employed or employed youths in urban areas. Such leaning options can be placed along tobacco farms or villages in general,  where youths who are starting to see the need for  education can join, with least payments; if an educational entrepreneur is available.

The key to any mentally engaging endeavour is that someone should be happy with what they are doing, not forced into it because of councillors by-laws or things of the sort, as everyone knows secondary school education is not the gateway to anything in particular, and ward schooling not a gateway to anything really. It is also plausible to say that  councillors know all about this, and as they are part of the society from which they obtained their votes, their comprehension of schooling cannot be entirely removed from that of councillors generally. That is why the harsh penalties for not sending children to secondary schools in preference to helping with economic activity in this or that manner are unlikely to be authentic.

It is not difficult to see in this measure another revenue mobilisation measure for the district council, but whose collection and use will of course not be subject to usually stringent regulations in acconting for the government budget. Here the council would take a hefty cut from the fines imposed, and the rest of the cash remain with the benefiting schools, in like manner as slaves used to have an option of paying lumpsums, by loans of getting a benefactor, to obtain their freedom. The district takes over the children, and parents who want them to help with farming have to pay reasonable compensation to the district for letting the children go….

Nor is it hard to see that plenty of corruption will come up because of that rule, that a lot of extortion will start on poor parents who cannot pay up, such that they lose cattle or several smaller livestock. This sort of use of force has a way of cultivating violence in the society as such animals will be taken away by force, and if those who collect those animals come from another village, enmity builds up, and if they are from the same village, violence can also occur. In the final analysis  note must be taken of the need for education to be voluntary except basic education for all school age children. Maturing youths and their parents can just be left alone.

Turmoil in the Banking Industry

TANZANIANS are playing with fire in the banking industry, as each passing day it is being underlined that they cannot be trusted with money, if a foreign supervisor or a local non-indigenous official takes his gaze away for a brief minute. When bank robberies take place it is a bit rare that they are authentically organised from outside and actually taking people by surprise inside the banks, and instead robberies are an indigenous festival of some sort. It is organised by a well represented stakeholder list from inside the bank and among police officers.

What happens as insider jobs where bank officials would already have stashed money somewhere and then pretend that at one point a big sum of money was stolen in a bag has its other illustrations, especially in gold mining. Villagers near minefields especially in North Mara regularly organise hunting raids the way they organise cattle raids, move into an open cast mine and scramble for gold dust that can be found within a few hours and then storm out. They may pay a single police guard or put him out of action, especially if they target a sand pile or strong room.

These developments are worrying because they tend to underline an emerging division between a local professional class that is tied up with commercial strata often with non-indigenous roots, and the others. While the former are expected to see locally registered banks as their own, even if they only have an employment but feel they are bankers and would wish for that enterprise to grow with the economy, and of course their own lives and families, the others are different. They are merely looking for opportunities to rob, seeing the future in a house to rent built later, etc.

What is worse is that this lack of faith among a widening section of local banking officials (for they are not strictly speaking, bankers) is a well oiled habit that is fully shared with the police, always available to help with such heists, knowing a fat cut will follow. Top level police officials at the zonal and regional level just find all of this embarrassing, and experience shows that authorities will do more to bury embarrassing incidents than to pursue and prosecute them, for that way the shame shall linger on. It means a palm of impunity gradually covers such cases; the next case covers up the previous one, until no one shall be following any of it.

The core reason for this state of affairs is the lack of comprehension of what is known as corporate citizenry, which has been grasped in a lopsided manner so far, that is, a situation where big companies contribute generously to the surrounding communities to build social services. This welfare notion of citizenry retains the sharp divide of investors and local people, and within the company that same view predominates, in which case professional personnel do not see themselves as part of the company, but hired hands. They seek an opportunity to strike it big, and have plenty of infrastructural support outside, notably due to law and order chaos.

Foreign companies and top managements running banks at the local level are now getting to be aware that if one wishes for security at a certain level in company or bank accounts, only a foreign professional can do.  No one can of course say that all local professionals will arrange heists after misplacing steady piles of Sh10m piles of banknotes and geting out of office with the cash in laptop cases. But if the tendency is increasingly noticeable, what else can one expect foreign shareholders and managers can do about reality but to seal off sensitive desks using foreigners?

With emerging structures of the East African Common Market where it will no longer be necessary for Kenyans, Ugandans, Rwandese and Burundians to get work permits in order to be hired, it is easy to see where the next generation of bank sector professionals will be picked. Local Asiatic professionals will be the leading cadre followed by regional citizens with adequate qualifications, not to speak of local weaknesses when it comes to training or making in depth analytical evaluation. Often they carry a Development Studies burden making them hate the business as exploitative or imperialist, instead of seeing its economic significance.