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Tanzania vs. Ghana

The word is out.  Tanzania's got it going on. Truth be told, it is a buzz, not a concrete sound supported by facts about Tanzania's residence policy and/or Tanzania's law as it pertains to repatriates, but a valid sound, nonetheless, coming from ones who have all been to Ghana and experienced the resistance that we as repats have grown accustom to.  The word is that in Tanzania there are far fewer obstacles, much greater support from the government and an environment that is simply more conducive to the return of Africans from the Diaspora.

Sis Akosua Boateng has been a regular visitor to Ghana for the past 7-8 years.  So when I got the call, upon her return from Tanzania, I knew her jubilation must have been warranted.  It seems Tanzania is the best kept secret. Read her account:

 

I would like to reflect on my visit to Tanzania.  It was only sixty days ago when I found myself in Tanzania; one of the most serene places I have ever visited. It was a new type of PEACE.  In Tanzania, I felt liberated Peace; I moved about the country without fear, repercussions or consequences.  Not like in America, where Peace is often held hostage by reflex surveillance of one’s physical distance to the police; whether checking the rear view mirror, sitting next to the black and white cruiser in traffic or entering public space. Not like in Ghana, where Peace was often compromised by the tax levying police road blocks.  In fact, I don’t remember seeing a police officer in Tanzania; less the traffic cop. 

I found Tanzania amazingly different than Ghana.   There was organized and collective peace about the country. The Masai Warriors decorated the streets with their checkered board shawls and their walking sticks.  I don’t know much about the Masai but I remember hearing tales of fearless warriors from Africa that were organically trained to kill with their hands.  Seeing them everywhere, and watching them see me; provided a heightened sense of freedom and security for me as a woman. I felt protected and physically liberated. I was at an ultimate PEACE

I traveled to Tanzania as a Program Coordinator for a Fulbright-Hays Study Trip. I traveled with a group of 17 Educators. The purpose of the trip was to learn about Tanzania in effort to diversify and infuse African culture into the curriculums of American schools. We attended classes at the University of Dar Es Salaam taught by indigenous scholars and traveled to the major cities of Tanzania.  Our purpose: to learn the culture.  My purpose: to study the challenges of development for Africa and to learn and teach the culture of business to the youth.

A definite defining moment for me during my trip to Tanzania was a visit to the U.S. Embassy.  In my opinion, anyone (American citizen) that visits the U.S. Embassy in Ghana knows that you don’t get much accomplished on the first trip.  It’s a given that unless you have some dire emergency like a stolen passport; you can forget the Embassy as a directory of information or a provider of customer service to U.S. Taxpayers. 

My visit to the U.S. Embassy in Tanziana was
the exact opposite.  First, the indigenous Tanzanians providing security were courteous, expedient, informed, and very professional.  Next, I was greeted by the Tanzanian Public Affairs team and they were just as expedient and very professional staff with excellent customer service. They really did care. The next shock was the fact that the Deputy Chief of Missions was a Puerto Rican from Bronx, New York.  I thought I would faint ! (Finally, a Latino-African connection).  Then the Economics Advisor who appeared to be an African American woman was extremely sharp during her presentation.  I was able to actually sit with her and ask her questions about business opportunities in Tanzania and surprisingly receive honest, intelligent, and pointed answers.  For an example, she noted that business was ripe for most foreign investors interested in telecom, sustainable energies, computer training, secondary and tertiary education, and service industries.  She began to provide details as to how someone may get started with an investment idea.  In addition, they circulated a fact sheet that entailed most of this information as a way to inform Americans how their tax dollars were being spent in Tanzania.  She provided raw data and very much encouraged Tanzania as a sound and safe place to invest.  More importantly, she spoke of the low level of corruption and recommended Tanzania as one of the safest places to invest on the continent of Africa. “Wow” I thought.

Next, there was a young African American young lady taking pictures.  I was floored to hear that she was an intern from Florida A& M University; an HBCU.  My smile suddenly got wider.  I was happy to see her speak openly about her internship experience with other young college students from Alabama A & M.  Since when do we go to Embassies in foreign lands and see people like us and then be able to communicate freely?  Answer:  NEVER!   Usually people are too stiff and corporate, “too Peace Corp-ish,” “too Taliban-ed out” or “too Black Skin/White Masked out”…to even speak, congregate or share knowledge.  Compared to my visits in Ghana, my visit to the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania was very different and for the first time I felt good about being a tax-paying African-American in Africa.

 At the same time, I started to feel sad about starting an NGO in Ghana.  Maybe it was a mistake?  After all, it’s year number four and I am still trying to convince people in my organization that depositing organizational funds into your personal bank account is wrong?  I still wonder why I have to tip public servants for doing the job he or she was hired to do. 

My initial observations of Tanzania: the streets were clean, no open gutters, the people were warm and most of all; sincere. This feeling was definitely different than Ghana. Contrary to Ghana, I didn’t have to tip anybody within a 24 hour period. Unlike Ghana, in Tanzania, the public service workers refused tips and at times would remind you that it was their duty to provide the service.  

I was also surprised the lights stayed on the entire day; and then the week; and then the month. In Ghana, it was rare that electricity stayed on the entire day. Other surprises included:  the constant flow of water, “20 dollar per night” hostels that provided both hot and cold water, and smooth roads. In comparison to the Kumasi- Accra rode that is a tumultuously trek; we drove to Arusha from Dar Es Salaam (a nine hour trip) and I don’t remember one pot hole. I don’t think I hit my head one time on the dolla dolla (tro-tro) while driving public transportation on the way to the mall and I wasn’t squished like a sardine.

The spirit of Julius Nyere was embedded in the people in terms of the national identity of the country.  People were proud to be Tanzanian.  Although globalization is forcing western culture on the world, it appears that Tanzania may have a chance at holding the English language at bay.  Along with a strong national identity, Tanzania has a strong national language. The language of Kiswahili is firm and in tact.  Multi-national companies are now transacting business using the mother tongue. Although some may argue that Kiswahili is not an indigenous language, I was proud to see an African Language stand firm to globalization. 

What really surprised me were the conversations between Tanzanian’s and foreigners and their willingness to teach others their language.  Everyone I met in my adopted neighborhood of Ilala wanted to teach me Kiswahili.  Patiently, they would teach me a few words each day; Habari sa Zabui, Mambo, Shikamu, I was given at least three “Speak Kiswahili” dictionaries during my trip.  I was a bit dumbfounded. I guess I was used to all of “my friends” in Ghana insulting me and teasing me because I don’t speak the “Twi.” 

A few miles outside of Dar Es Salaam, there is an emerging tourist spot called Bagamoya; a historic town known for the inland exportation of slaves through it’s slave dungeons.  Bagamoya is like the Cape Coast of Tanzania. It is also the new hot spot for young expatriates who are looking for land investment opportunities.  I observed a land transaction and process that was transparent and clear.  The land was reasonably price and clearly marked.   More importantly, the process was transparent and did not appear to be an enigma as the purchase of land in Ghana.  I’m sure there are still a few cultural nuisances that I may be unfamiliar with but overall, I was
comfortable with what I saw. 

Traveling to Arusha and Moshi was like visiting the Aburi Mountains. In Ghana, you have the Rita Marley Studios. In Arusha, you have Mama Charlotte O’Neal’s;
<wife of Pete O'neal, the Black Panther> studios located at the United African Alliance Community Center.  It would be unfair to compare Aburi with Arusha; nothing can compare to the sight of Mount Kilamanjaro. Arusha appeared to be a very diverse, almost cosmopolitan city.  Thanks to the War Criminal Courts, Arusha’s National Park and close proximity to the Serengeti,  Arusha attracts its fair share of foreigners and dignitaries.  As a matter of fact, I had learned Wildlife Management can be a ready healthy investment opportunity.  After meeting one of the world’s top veterinarian I became intrigued.  I was fascinated by his vast knowledge about Wildlife and his oneness with the animal kingdom, a discipline not taught to our youth in America.  I am now planning for my next trip to the Serengeti. 
 

Overall, my trip to Tanzania was mind blowing. The investment opportunities are endless; from IT /computer training services, wildlife management, finance services, hotel & tourism, transportation services, there are so many viable opportunities. The U.S. Embassy in Tanzania does well providing information about business prospects. The climate is peaceful and less bustle.  The people are sincere and kind and willing to teach you their African language. There are several African-Americans living in Tanzania and others from the Caribbean Diaspora; Sister Aida with Creative Solutions Zanzibar, Pete and Charlotte Oneal with the United African Alliance Community Center in Arusha , Sister Upesi Dreaming of Home Tours and the Bwejuu Village Guest House of  Zanzibar.
 

I am currently in the process of opening an NGO Computer training school. I highly recommend Tanzania for repatriation exploration!  Two thumbs up with a peace sign over the heart!  Tanzania is open for business!

 

 

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