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Tanzania

IMG_4855From dusty Dodoma to cool Arusha and in Dar es Salaam’s sticky bars, guessing the presidents agenda is a new favourite past time for Tanzanians and visitors alike. 

John Magufuli’s recent moves to restrict work permits for foreigners, not only worries the expat crowd, but effects will be far reaching. An American business owner had to put the business she built over five years by herself in her husbands name and can only run it from her living room as spousal visas don’t allow for work permits. The American Chamber of Business is holding special info evenings to explain the planned regime to their members and struggle to mitigate the negative message the move sends to potential investors.

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Dhow in Dar es Salaam harbour

Dhow in Dar es Salaam harbour

Bowing to mounting political pressures it appears that Tanzania has halted its constitutional review process until after the General Elections in 2015.

President Kikwete and others have recognised that the time to accomplish the momentous task before he leaves office won’t be sufficient.

John Cheyo, chairman of the Tanzania Centre for Democracy (TCD), announced the suspension after a meeting with President Jakaya Kikwete at Kilimani State Lodge on Monday afternoon, Mr Cheyo said those present agreed unanimously that the exercise be called off on the grounds that it was unlikely to deliver on the promise.

A suspension of the process and the meetings of the Constiutional Assembly would save taxpayers money given the fact that a new constitution can only be passed after October 2015. Thus far the assembly has not recognised this logic and proceeds with business as usual.

Starting in 2012 the review process gathered a broad range of views including those of the youth, civil society and for once even pastoralists, Masaai, Barbaig and others came together to present their views on democracy and the future of Tanzania.

Woman in Paje, Zanzibar

Woman in Paje, Zanzibar

Inefficiency, arguments and delays have characterised the process ever since. After all the new constitution was suppose to be announced at Tanzania’s 50th anniversary in April. The failure to deliver on his promise to give the country a new – modern – constitution will be a further blow to the outgoing President’s legacy.

Only time can tell whether the incumbent will steam ahead with the endeavour and pick up where Kikwete left off or whether Tanzania – once again – leaves the job half done.

The difficulties for SMEs in Africa and the rest of the world in accessing finance have been well documented. The causes are equally well known: First, traditional bank financing (secured or cash-flow based) is often not available due to the lack of adequate collateral or the opaque modus operandi of many SMEs as well as access barriers due to the often rural base of SMEs. Furthermore, African financial markets are not sufficiently well developed to facilitate traditional private equity (PE) financing of SMEs. If those constraints can be overcome, Private Equity can offer a much needed stimulus to SME finance. Private Equity targets established high-end small to medium sized companies and are believed to offer trickle down effects to a much larger sector of the economy and create employment.

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The Sunday Times describes it as the worlds fastest interview. 15 questions and answers with a maximum of 140 characters. I have taken up the challenge to interview Ben Ringo, previously investment banker in New York and now entrepreneur in Tanzania. Ben  is known amongst his friends for detailed, diplomatic and long winded conversations.

BUT here it is: Ben in 140 characters about dinner with Michelle Obama, superpowers and his new life.

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Partying in Dar es Salaam’s Runway Club

“I’m all dressed up and nowhere to go” It was night. A black M-class Mercedes. Hot Tanzanian air comes in through the open windows. We are drunk. Drunk of the Friday night excitement and sing along to Jay-Z’s Watch the throne album. Murder to Excellence. A night with everywhere to go. “Success never smelled so sweet, I stink of success, The new black elite, they say my black card bear the mark of the beast…”

Admittedly Jay-Z mostly sings about Chicago, but my Tanzanian friends could identify with the songs and apparently so can the rest of the world. Not troubled by the paradox of a multimillionaire singing about war in the streets – en contraire money and war always intrigue. And the former, Africa’s black credit cards and its business, seem to dominate the current “Africa-Debate” more than the latter.

Vogue is trying to “Rebrand Africa”, so does Bloomberg and The Economist and even Oxfam needs to point out in a commissioned study that there is another story apart from drought, disease and civil war. All those are full of hopeful praise for investment and entertain with success stories about opportunities on a continent in motion. The lion. The rise.

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This is a guest post by the talented writer Clarisse Baleja. According to herself Clarisse is: “African by birth right… Opinionated by nature… Traveller by luck.” According to me, she is an inspiring African Diva with roots in such diverse countries as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Cote d’Ivoire. I met Clarisse in Tanzania, where I had the pleasure of accompanying her in her first car ride through the city. Clarisse is currently writing her first novel whilst withstanding the leisurely temptations of  Dar es Salaam, a city too hot to work in and too fun to stay at home.  

“I have been to Tanzania before. More than 15 years ago, my family and I took a vacation in Central and East Africa, leaving our home in Ivory Coast for the summer months to visit Kenya, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. I couldn’t have been more than 11 or 12 years old, but I could always recall the intense heat and the postcard beaches at the close of my eyes.

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