Dar es Salaam: During his inauguration of the 10th Parliament in Dodoma on November 18, 2010, President Jakaya Kikwete raised the issue of the importance of active participation of Tanzanians in shaping the East African integration scheme. He stated that after the ushering in of the Customs Union and the Common Market protocols, the sub-region is paused to enter the next critical phase: the East African Federation.
It would be remembered that President Nyerere had in 1960 offered to delay Tanganyika’s independence to await Uganda and Kenya’s independence, if this would enable the three East African countries to emerge from colonialism onto a federation. This did not happen then, but the region now seems on the verge of forging such political unity. The East African Community (EAC), which now includes Rwanda and Burundi as its frontrunner.
President Kikwete pointed out that Tanzanians were not actively participating in the affairs of the EAC as they should. In some cases, he added, Tanzanians had been absent from some important EAC meetings altogether!
The blame, he explained, was usually put on some officials. President’s Kikwete’s observations were new, as in 1994, the World Bank officials were heard lamenting at Tanzania’s poor attendance of EAC meetings during its formative stages in Nairobi. It is easy to shift the blame to officials, but the problem is wider and linked to the very structure and functioning of the government.
When budgets were approved for travel in the past, the officials were tied in with particular programmed foreign missions. The funds were kept at the Central Bank until they were ready for use.
This may not be the case with economic liberation and the cash budget system. Was the ministry’s travel budget exhausted for the officials to miss out the EAC meetings?
Could their positions not be filled by staff in other relevant entities? Should the EAC Ministry have a well staffed sub-office in Arusha or appoint a resident Senior Advisor to attend to such eventualities?
The President did not raise the issue of quality of such participation. It was Mwalimu Nyerere, who expressed the worry in his retirement that Tanzanians when attending international meetings were more often than not either keeping quiet or talking nonsense.
Under President Mkapa, efforts were made to strengthen government and its functioning. However, there is diversion of staff time to ‘moonlight’ activities to make ends meet or for personal errands in the absence of strong supervision.
Worse still, it was confirmed during the recent ‘Book Week’ that there was a decline in the culture of reading, let alone taking advantage of policy-oriented research and policy analysis.
Attendance is one thing, making quality contributions and excelling in fierce and protracted negotiations is quite another. Should special programmes to enhance negotiating capacities be launched?
We now have a fully fledged ministry entirely dedicated to EAC affairs, one would expect better performance than was the case in the EAC’s formative stages in the 1990s. This Ministry in conjunction with the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and of Finance and Economic Affairs should be able to provide necessary inputs where appropriate and the strategic planning and coordination of sector contributions.
Before officials attend EAC meetings, there should be inter-ministerial brainstorming on the issues, and guidance to our representatives on Tanzania’s position.
A debriefing meeting should upon return be held to both update and enrich knowledge especially where it might be work-in-progress, with, a sector meeting, for example, feeding into a meeting of permanent secretaries, the Council of ministers and eventually the authority of heads of state and governments.
It is also important to ensure some consistency in the officers handling a particular docket and attending particular meetings. A rapid turnover of staff and new faces each time there is a meeting will not help and so will the mistaken view of giving each one in a unit an opportunity to travel.
It is also important for department heads to be firm and to speak openly about who has the capacity to handle a particular assignment and who has not. This is especially in dealings with the outside world. Tanzanians have become extremely timid and are very unwilling to pronounce themselves clearly and call a spade a spade.
Given feeble capacities in government, and the increasing diversity and complexities of the issues at hand, it has become increasingly common for government departments to rely on local and foreign consultants.
However, there is a danger emerging in Tanzania where the consultancy is undertaken without the leadership, interactions and substantive inputs from the Ministries. This can lead to a situation where government officials are unable to articulate and clearly defend the ideas in consultancy reports that form the backbone of our submissions to EAC and other fora.
It is important to get consultancy work done with some participation of ministry staff through, for instance, several internal draft reviews, external reviews by reference groups and probably by stakeholder validation workshops. Where appropriate these consultants can attend EAC meetings in a back-up capacity. This is already being done by Kenya not just with respect to the EAC, but also to other regional and international organisations and initiatives including the NEPAD.
There is therefore need for ‘back-to-the office’ reports on EAC meetings to be prepared and de-briefing inter-Ministry Committee meetings on the outcome of important meetings to be held.
This is in fact how most governments function. Without thorough follow-up naughty officials can at worst take the huge per diems and air tickets and not travel at all or travel and end up relaxing in luxurious hotels or undertaking shopping sprees with little if any appearance at the meetings.
At least in the past, briefing and debriefing sessions were done both in Dr Kamuzu Banda’s Malawi and President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, ensuring discipline and efficacy in decision-making in government. Officials were also advised on countries that might oppose them, including for reasons unrelated to the issues under discussion.
At least in the first years of Zanzibar President Aboud Jumbe’s rule between 1972 and 1984, Zanzibaris on foreign missions were given a briefing on their mission.
This is something that Dar-es-Salaam should be doing especially on tricky negotiations such as those of the EAC. Tanzania has to strive to measure up to Kenya and Uganda where there is a critical mass of educated and skilled personnel in government let alone the numerous collaborating think tanks. The Rwanda’s level of seriousness and decisiveness is unmatched by other African countries.
The capacity of the Tanzanian public sector to meet its development challenges is ‘low’ due to a combination of factors, including social and economic situation, which is sometimes counter-productive to capacity building.
Other factors include insufficient coordination among institutions and different layers of government; limited numbers of well trained and experienced personnel in the ‘corridors of power’ and low remuneration. The latter is central to poor public services performance, absenteeism, low morale, brain drain and lack of respect for the employer.
The challenge is to create a good, result-oriented, responsive, cost-effective and professional public service.
EAC meetings be it ministerial, EALA or officials are usually held at EAC headquarters in Arusha or in its member state capitals where Tanzania has diplomatic missions , which should be tracking EAC developments and its calendar of activities. They should know about planned meetings and liaison i with Dar-es-Salaam on the same, including sending inputs - a fruit of ‘economic intelligence’ - on the thinking in their duty stations on the issues at hand.
For this to happen, you need well equipped, seasoned and enthusiastic professionals in the embassies. Their particular areas of strength should relate to the main thing one wants to get from the host country or duty station.
For example, the credentials of a high commissioner and technical staff based in Nairobi, the economic hub and diplomatic nerve centre of Eastern Africa, should ideally be different to one based in Lilongwe where the main concern is bilateral relations.
Ideally each diplomatic mission should have a trade attaché sourced not from Foreign Affairs but from the Trade, Industry and Marketing ministry or better still, the private sector.
Japan is a pioneer in sourcing such front line trade experts from the private sector; and increasingly Uganda is following its footsteps, with very positive concrete results.
Unlike in the past when political developments ,cultural exchanges, diplomacy and protocol dominated embassy activity, now they should concentrate on a menu of economic development issues - trade, market access, foreign direct investment, technology transfer, technical cooperation, regional integration, employment opportunities for nationals and lessons of experience, among others.
As former President Benjamin Mkapa told his envoys, the briefings and updates from embassies should concentrate on the economy rather than on political and defence and security issues, which are readily available from CNN and media houses. It is worth noting that Tanzania is not a super power with global agenda and influence.
Tanzania no longer occupies a vintage position as was the case in the past when it had active involvement and leadership in the liberation struggle and President Nyerere’s influence internationally operated like a regional power. New regional power players’ brokers such as South Africa with a seat at the G20 Summits and a favourite for the two earmarked permanent UN Security Council seats have emerged.
It is important therefore to see a diplomatic mission as a ‘cost centre’ at least generates more money than it consumes through direct and indirect interventions.
We should take a leaf from Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who has prioritized trade and threatened to close embassies where there are no substantial trade benefits. His threat to close his Beijing Embassy led China to allow Uganda to establish its own coffee shops targeting the 1.3 billion Chinese market.
Uganda’s seriousness can be seen in the appointment of its long-serving First Deputy Prime Minister, Eriya Kategaya, as EAC minister and the quality and seriousness of Uganda’s other representatives, including members of the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA).
Tanzania has reciprocated by the appointment of ex-Speaker and seasoned politician, Samuel Sitta as minister for EAC affairs.
Tanzanian employees of the EAC or those who are actively interfacing with this regional body such as the nine EALA members can also help in raising awareness on the issues at hand. The best way would be through the MKUKUTA avenues and instruments or extensions of it such as donor dialogues on its support to the EAC.
The EAC Secretary General Mr Juma Mwapachu, has commendably found time to interface with Tanzanian organisations and people and in the process raising and widening understanding of the EAC agenda and challenges ahead. This should hopefully improve the quality of Tanzania’s contribution to EAC deliberations.
* Dr Ngila Mwase is a Consultant based in Dar-es-Salaam. Ngila.email@example.com