Is Tanzania rising? Riding on the crest of the Africa rising wave, that question elicits different answers depending on whom you ask. Those in the government who are politicians may quickly say yes, those in the opposition may say no.
It is a difficult call to make because what aggregates to what we may call development. Anyone who was in Dar es Salaam last in 1982 would be shocked if they came to the coastal city in the last year or two.
New skyscrapers have sprouted everywhere and signs on the roads and airports, seem to confirm what GDP figures are saying, that the economy is growing and has continued to grow steadily. However, the reality on the ground still continues to defy that narrative, confirming that poverty indices are high and every single day, the same leaders in government come out calling for investors to come and invest in Tanzania. The question in one’s mind then is, is Tanzania an investment haven or not?
Ali Mufuruki, chairman, Infotech Investment Group Ltd of Tanzania, in a speech to East African business leaders a few years ago narrated a tale which still holds true, a tale involving consumer retail unit of his company , Infotech Group . The company opened a unit in Uganda a few years ago. ” The chief finance officer of our business is a Ugandan and works out of our Kampala office. You may find this difficult to believe but every time he comes to Tanzania for routine checks of his department or board meetings, we must make sure he has what is called a CTA or Certificate of Temporary Assignment. It costs $200 and expires after three months. We are stuck. One day last year he came in a hurry and had no time to process his CTA. He was supposed to stay overnight in Dar, visit Arusha for one day to check our branch there before heading back home the same day. As fate would have it, immigration raided our Dar office that day, arrested him for working illegally and he escaped jail nd deportation only after we submitted a written apology.”
“The difficulties are caused by a Tanzanian law that requires a resident permit holder to be on the payroll or in a defendant situation as a spouse who pays taxes. Our CFO cannot meet those conditions hence we are stuck.
“We took all this in our stride and learned our lessons. For purposes of our business, we treat Tanzania and Uganda as the two separate and different countries they still re. We are still waiting for the promise of genuine integration that our leader’s ade to us so many years ago.”
The Global Competitiveness Index 2015-2016 Rankings current investment destination report still puts Tanzania at 139 out of 189 nations of the world. Statistics do not lie so there must be something we are doing wrong.
In this year’s global competitiveness report — 2015-16, Mauritius is the first African nation, while Rwanda takes the cake in East Africa ahead of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania,Burundi and South Sudan in that order. Rwanda is No. 58 with Kenya ranking at number 99. Tanzania is number 139. Many Tanzanians may wonder why a country so richly endowed in resources including minerals and other natural resources like fauna and flora should be playing in the league of as we are fond of saying, failed states. The answer to that question is not difficult to find albeit controversial. We have a knack for the paradox of contradictions. It is not like the trouble is exclusively Tanzania that is for sure. The narrative shared by Mr Mufuruki who is also the chairman of lobby group the CEOs Roundtable, confirms our fears, that we all talk about welcoming investors, but what the right arm is doing (read investment attraction}, the left arm of the same government (that gives permits} either does not know, or is not reading from the same script.
It is one thing to address conferences and proclaim commitment to investment attraction and quite another to do all that it takes. The trouble and options available to Tanzania are stark. Those options are cross-cutting even to other nations, to be fair. Our major difference is, we believe what we want, the others know that they are doing poorly and constantly working on them.
Many are the folks who manage immigration services who do not see themselves as enablers but as arresting officers. We may not be professionals in that area but as Mr Mufurukis travails show common sense needs to prevail. Let us use Mr Reginald Mengi who started investing regionally over 2O years ago. Governments in those countries should give the businessman the recognition of a permanent resident seeing as he creates wealth and jobs for those countries as well. Ditto Mr Mufuruki. Nigerian and Africa’s richest businessman, Aliko Dangote has not been spared the blushes either. Dangote could be forgiven for hoping that his status as one of the continent’s more recognizable faces could buy him some extra minutes to locate a missing passport, but an anecdote he narrated recently in Ivory Coast suggests that being Africa’s richest man does not automatically buy you good immigration customer care.
Speaking recently at the Africa CEO forum in the financial capital Abidjan, the Nigerian said he on a visit to South Africa forgot one of his many passports – he says he has eight and which contained his visa back in his jet.
But by the time he realised it, immigration authorities in his would-be African host were well on their way to bundling him out, having grown high-pitched and agitated at his frantic efforts to locate the travel document.
Meanwhile, in the background, his American staff were breezing by, having been waved through almost nonchalantly by the same officials. To be fair, Dangote’s gripe about the adversarial nature of the entire airport affair could apply to most countries in the region. Africans need visas to travel to 55% of other countries on the continent, according to a new influential index how open the region is to allow the free movement of people to build its economy. By comparison, North Americans need visas to travel to 45 per cent of African countries, the Africa Visa Openness Report 2016 shows. This varies. Seychelles requires absolutely no visas for those travelling there, in contrast, anyone travelling to Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Säo Tomé and Príncipe and Western Sahara must obtain a visa before travelling, according to the study
We speak investment and act anti-investment and that’s just the way it is. If you doubt what I say, ask Ali Mufuruki.
By Kasera Nick Oyoo
Oyoo is a research and communications consultant with Midas Touché East Africa .