Book ID 369
Extract Date: 1907 July 23
[Elspeth Huxley] Born in London. Father Jos Grant, continuously struggling to make ends meet farming in Kenya.
Extract Date: 1996 November 2
© 1996 The Economist Newspaper Limited. All rights reserved
YES Tanzania has potential. The issue is as it has been for years how to realise it. Three decades ago Julius Nyerere the country's liberation leader declared-and in those days much of the world believed such things-that state ownership and African socialism were the way. In the late 1940s British officials eager to get their colony to pay its way had dreamed up the great groundnut flop (the ground looked fine the nuts didn't). Sixty years earlier German colonists had pushed into the area no doubt enthused by its Potential andbefore them Arab slavers had extracted a great deal of potential and dragged it down to the coast for sale. Maybe the early inhabitants of Olduvai Gorge looked out across the plains and grunted the equivalent in eloquent Palaeolithic.
Well they might. Four times as big as Britain but even now with only 30m people the country has huge fertile zones still untouched. It has a mass of minerals including gold and diamonds. To tourists it offers Africa's two largestgame parks its highest mountain Kilimanjaro and the beautiful island of Zanzibar. But somehow the potential remains in the ground. Officially GDP per person is about $ 90.
As a symbol of past failure a modern building stands across the bay from Dar es Salaam empty and boarded-up. It was the school of ideology where Tanzania's brightest drank in the spirit of African socialism. Today a year in office President Benjamin Mkapa follows the party line of the IMF the World Bank and foreign-aid donors: a tight budget a slimmer civil service privatisation and free-marketry. If the IMF board which meets next week agrees that Tanzania is hitting its macro-economic targets it will reward him with $ 230m in soft loans. Other donors may release $ 1.2 billion and think about forgiving some of Tanzania's $ 7.5 billion debt.
Mr Mkapa inherited a mess. His predecessor Hassan Mwinyi began to free the economy but lost control of government spending and broke with the IMF and the Bank two years ago. Mr Mkapa also inherited a culture of corruption. Joseph Warioba a former prime minister whom he appointed to head a commission of investigation says it is widespread at all levels. Can Mr Mkapa seen by most people as honest but more of a civil servant than a politician cure this national disease?
His own finance minister Simon Mbilinyi has been under fire for some curious tax exemptions to importers of cooking oil. A parliamentary committee investigated these and urged Mr Mkapa to call his minister to account. Sack him say many people though that would not be easy just as Mr Mbilinyi is completing delicate negotiations with the IMF. Not that he did anything unheard-of: his predecessors handed out exemptions with such abandon that few big local businessmen pay tax at all.
Yet Tanzania's failure to develop may have deeper roots than either Mr Nyerere's self-help socialism or the help-yourself corruption which-not unlinkedto it-has followed. Tanzania has a culture of survival rooted in the avoidance of risk whether in subsistence farming-the occupation of most citizens-or bureaucracy. Iddi Simba the parliamentarian heading the committee that looked into Mr Mbilinyi's doings argues: 'Corruption is not as important as the mentality of our people. They must change from what they were to what they want to be. They don't know how to manage a capitalist system.' Many others echo him-not least foreign would-be investors.
Extract Date: 1997 January 10
Elspeth Huxley dies
Extract Date: 2000 Sep 9
AN ETHIOPIAN touts goats, Somalis in Kenya sell henna and incense, a censored Liberian radio station defies the government and a Namibian invites offers for a taxi licence. All do so on the Internet. Is Africa getting online? Not really: of some 360m Internet users round the world, only 3.1m are thought to be in Africa, and most of them are either in South Africa or north of the Sahara. Nigeria probably has 100,000 users; Kenya, a relatively prosperous country, has even fewer. But access is spreading fast, perhaps even tripling over the course of last year. On August 28th, Somalia became the latest African country to offer local access to the Internet, and for the first time surfers can use the net in Swahili.
The UN has put its faith in the Internet as a means for poor countries to leapfrog stages of development. The secretary-general’s millennium report, written for the summit in New York, speaks of building 'digital bridges'. The UN’s own plans for bridge-building include a corps of volunteers to teach people in developing countries how to use computers, and a health network to provide hospitals and clinics with up-to-date medical information.
The Internet could also be a way round one of Africa’s greatest weaknesses, its feeble infrastructure. Poor roads, uncertain power supplies, an unreliable postal system and bad telephone lines (there are as many telephones in Tokyo as in all of Africa, says the UN report), add to Africa’s economic and political woes. Without easy access to information, farmers cannot know what price is fair for their goods, traders have no alternative to buying imports from local sources, doctors rely on ancient technology, voters can make no informed choices.
The Internet could change things. Just as battery-powered and wind-up radios brought much of Africa into contact with the outside world, so can computers make that contact richer. And cheaper: e-mailing a 40-page document from Madagascar to Côte d’Ivoire costs 20 cents, faxing it about $45, and sending it by courier $75. More and more African newspapers now post online editions, and use foreign news found on the Internet.
Most of the initiative, and investment, is expected to come from private companies and individuals. A new 32,000km (20,000-mile) undersea fibre-optic cable system, which will form a ring of connections around the continent, is due to open in two years. Internet cafés have been springing up in African cities wherever people have the money to use them. The founder of a cyber café in Zanzibar provides websites for government officials, hotels and banks, and collects payments from drop-in users. He also wants to change people’s lives by putting the Internet, free, in local schools.
On a larger scale, an East African company, Africa Online, based in Nairobi, works in eight countries. One of its aims is to provide Internet connections for people without their own telephones or computers. Using e-touch technology (a simple way to operate e-mail), it wants to put terminals in post offices throughout the region. Last month the company announced a deal with Barclays Africa to open a string of Internet centres. Although the Internet cannot help the truly poor, who look for pencils, not computers, it may well speed the pace of change.