KEYNOTE ADDRESS BY AMBASSADOR OMBENI SEFUE, CHIEF SECRETARY OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA, AT THE 2014 CONVENTION OF THE DIASPORA COUNCIL OF TANZANIANS IN AMERICA (DICOTA), MILLENNIUM HOTEL, DURHAM CITY, NORTH CAROLINA, 3RD OCTOBER, 2014


The Honourable William Bell,

Mayor of Durham City;

 

Your Excellency Liberata Mulamula,

Ambassador of Tanzania to the United States;

 

Your Excellency Amina Salum Ali,

African Union Ambassador to the United States;

 

Dr. Ndaga Mwakabuta,

President of DICOTA;

 

Members of the DICOTA Board and Executive Committee;

 

Distinguished Participants and Guests;

 

Ladies and Gentlemen;

 

            Good Morning!

            Let me begin by thanking the DICOTA Board, the Executive Committee and the entire membership for the honour and privilege to be the Guest of Honour at this year’s DICOTA Convention in this beautiful City of Durham, The City of Medicine. Mr. Mayor, I already feel healthier and it is good to be back in Durham City, a city I last visited in June 2009 and fell in love with, and my love has been rekindled by the present visit. It is so good to see you again, Mayor William Bell!

 

            Secondly, two weeks ago I was in Arusha City in Tanzania. They continue to treasure the sister-city relationship they are privileged to have with Durham City and have entrusted me with their greetings of friendship and gratitude to you, Mayor William Bell, and everyone else in the city who has contributed to nurturing and enriching this relationship. They still remember your visit with them in August 2008, and look forward to welcoming you again, hopefully not in the too distant future.

 

            As for me I still remember when you were kind enough to receive me on the morning of June 18, 2009 and the warm and fruitful discussion we had. You told me then, and I am sure you can tell me again today, that Durham city is willing to put its experience at the disposal as the Arusha City authorities. Thank you.

 

I also thank you Mayor William Bell for your usual very warm welcome, and for all you did to support the local organizing committee and the entire DICOTA team in ensuring we have all we need for a successful convention. This shows how much attention you pay to the relationship between our two countries and people. And if anyone had any doubts, your beautiful and eloquent welcoming speech this morning has laid those doubts to rest.

 

            On our part, I speak on behalf of His Excellency Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, and the entire government, to reciprocate the goodwill you have extended to us, and to assure you that you will always find in us a more than willing partner in deepening, expanding and enriching our relationship and cooperation.

 

            Thirdly, I want to thank the DICOTA leadership and local organizing committee for the warmth of the reception and hospitality that my entire delegation and I have received since our arrival, and which we continue to enjoy. I commend the good organization we have seen, and appreciate all the facilities that have been put at our disposal as the 2014 DICOTA convention gets on its way. I also congratulate the current DICOTA leadership for so ably and effectively steering the work of DICOTA thus far and I wish you all a successful election process for new leaders at this convention.

 

            Fourthly, I thank all participants, from the United States and from Tanzania, who have come to the 2014 DICOTA convention. The great interest shown by all these participants is an illustration of the effort that the DICOTA leadership has put in promoting this year’s convention and the realization by many Tanzanians that their personal and institutional goals and aspirations can to an extent be enabled through DICOTA.

 

            I am here to tell you, participants and sponsors, that your trust in DICOTA is not misplaced. If we all work together, we can make sure DICOTA lives up to its promise, and deliver for its members and supporters. You will not be surprised to hear of my own faith in, and commitment to, DICOTA, for as you know I was there with you in 2008 when it all began in Houston.

 

            We have come a long way since then. Those who were there in 2008 will remember that I cautioned that there would be sceptics, that there would be wet blankets, that there are people who are instinctively suspicious of new initiatives, people who would want one day to say, “We told you so, this DICOTA thing will never fly”. I counseled then, as I do now, that you must always ignore the noises of detraction and focus on the goal.

 

            George Bernard Shaw, in his comedy ‘Candida’ wrote, “It is easy –terribly easy – to shake a man’s faith in himself. To take advantage of that to break a man’s spirit is devil’s work”.

 

You in the DICOTA leadership and membership realized that your detractors were doing the devil’s work, you managed to ignore them, you persisted and have succeeded. You have persevered. You have gained valuable experience, and earned the trust and confidence of more people in Tanzania and in the United States. As a government we will continue to support you, removing obstacles in your path that are within our mandate and power. The presence here of more than 70 participants from Tanzania, from government, private sector and civil society, is a clear demonstration of the commitment I am making to you.

 

            I know that the past six years have not always been easy for DICOTA. I know you have passed through some difficult patches. I know some of you in leadership even asked yourselves if it was worth it. Yet, you never gave up and I admire your courage and steadfastness. I believe you have now crossed the Rubicon, and cannot and should not turn back or even regress. As Colin Powell said, “Always focus on the front windshield and not the review mirror.”

 

            But let me go back to where it all started, and remind ourselves about what we set out to do in Houston in 2008. Because I believe what I said then is as relevant today as it was at that time.

 

            The first thing you need to realize is that DICOTA cannot and should not try to take the place of community organizations. Community organizations or associations have their place and are local in nature. They perform an important function of keeping Tanzanians in a certain community together, supporting each other in important social issues such as weddings and graduations, births and deaths, as well as education, culture, jobs and health, to mention but a few.

             

            DICOTA on its part must focus on larger issues of interest to all Tanzanians in America, but you still need to collaborate with local Tanzanian communities in pursuit of common goals and objectives. You also have to continue refocusing on Tanzania, it is your home, it is your roots. You have to inculcate this view in your children and the children of your children. Because without your Tanzanian roots you are obviously rootless, like the proverbial feather in the wind.

 

            Secondly, there are three banana skins on your path that you must always watch out for and avoid at all costs, for these can very easily derail DICOTA. Avoid like the plague, any politics in the affairs of DICOTA, avoid tribalism and cronyism, and promote transparency and financial accountability.

 

Thirdly, I should like you to remember that you have a role, a duty and an opportunity to make an important contribution to a better Tanzania, a Tanzania you would always be proud of. I do not believe in the so-called brain-drain; I believe in brain-gain. What you have gained in this country should benefit you, and benefit your country. It can’t be a zero-sum game. It is like one candle from which many other candles can be lit.

 

            Some of you here who are my age or close, know that you received free or subsidized education in a poor country. This is what our Founding President, Mwalimu Julius K. Nyerere, referred to as a sacrifice that others have made to make you what you have become. As Mwalimu said, you are like someone who has been given all the food in a starving village so that he can have the strength to bring back supplies for his people from a distant place. If he takes the food and never brings back supplies from the distant place, he is a traitor.

 

            I would not use the word traitor for the Tanzania Diaspora, even if in their wisdom they feel that they have absolutely no responsibility towards their home country. And that is why I feel quite disappointed that your strong case for dual citizenship has not garnered enough support to be inscribed in the draft constitution. Yet, I believe that Mwalimu Nyerere’s words will remain at the heart of what DICOTA is doing.

 

            This brings me to my next point, a point I made in 2008, and one which I want to repeat. You in the Diaspora are not of much use to Tanzania if you are as poor here as you were in Tanzania. America is a land of opportunity, a place where effort, talent and innovation is handsomely rewarded. My plea to you is to use DICOTA to put your heads together on how, working together, you cannot just survive but thrive and be wealthy in this country. I, however, wish to remind you of the joke that says, “Charity begins at home and ends up at the Waldorf Astoria or Commodore hotels.” When you get rich, please make sure charity begins at home, and stays at home!

 

            You can get rich also while doing good. You can get rich by building economic and trade bridges between Tanzania and America. Alone, or preferably in partnership with others, you can invest and trade between the two countries.

 

            Ambassador Mulamula here, like all other Ambassadors in Washington and elsewhere, is paid to promote Tanzania in this country. So when she goes around to promote Tanzania as an investment destination, or a tourist destination, audiences will listen and perhaps applause politely, but they know she is paid to do that; it is her job, and every Ambassador says the same things.

 

            But when you in the Diaspora speak to your colleagues or partners in the United States, it is different. It is not just about doing one’s job. What you say can have a certain authenticity that can appeal to the people around you, in your places of work or workship; or in your places of abode or recreation.

 

            To do that you need to keep track of developments back home, and I hope you can use the presence of so many people from positions of influence and knowledge in Tanzania who are here to update yourselves on Tanzania and the new opportunities for you and your engagement that emerge daily; and I especially want you to pay close attention to oil and gas and the economy that together we can build around this important resource. For, the true value of gas is not the finite gas resource itself, it is the economy you build around it, positioning the country and its people to diversify the economy and continue to flourish long after the gas is gone.

 

            I also want to use this opportunity to update you on what a thriving market Tanzania is poised to be, and I will use data from the recent national census conducted in 2012.

 

  • The population during the census was 44.9 million; but since it is growing at 2.7 percent, it should be close to 48 million now. With the size of our country, almost 365,000 square miles, and this population, we are destined to be the biggest country in East Africa region for many decades, if not centuries, to come.

 

  • Our GDP is close to $35 billion, growing at over 7% annually, and a per capita income of $742 and inflation hovering around 6%. But some of you might have heard that we are rebasing our economy, moving the base year for computing economic output from 2001 to 2007 in order to begin capturing expanding industries such as services, mining  and natural gas. Once that is done and validated internationally, we might see the economy increasing by 20 percent.

 

  • We are rapidly becoming urbanized. While in 2002 only 26 percent of households were urban, in 2012 they were 33 percent. So now one in every three Tanzanians lives in urban areas, and one in every ten Tanzanians lives in Dar es Salaam. Dar es Salaam is destined to be a megacity, the biggest in the entire eastern coast of Africa. Mwanza, on its part, will be the biggest city at the geographic centre of the East African Community. This, of course, presents a lot of business opportunities, but lots of challenges for the government and people as well.

 

  • In the last census we tried to establish a more realistic estimate of Tanzanians in the Diaspora. The methodology might not be very scientific, but each head of the household was asked if they have at least one former member of the household living abroad. The total number was 421,456.

 

  • Adult literacy rate in Tanzania has increased from 69 percent in 2002 to 78 percent in 2013.

 

  • Only 62 percent of the working population now has farming as their main occupation. This is down from almost 80 percent a decade ago. The economists among you know that this is a positive development.

 

  • Housing conditions have improved significantly. The census showed that in 2012, 65 percent of all private households had used iron sheets as the main roofing material compared to only 46 percent ten years earlier. Likewise, the proportion of dwellings with non-earth materials (i.e those using cement, ceramic tiles, polished wood or terrazzo) increased from 26 to 39 percent.

 

  • The percentage of households using electricity, at least for lighting, has more than doubled from 10 percent in 2002 to 21 percent in 2012. Right now, thanks to redoubled efforts under the Big Results Now! initiative the figure is 24 percent, but 36 percent now have access to electricity even if some are yet to be connected.

 

  • Life expectancy at birth has increased from 50 years in 1988 to 61 years in 2012, with women at 63 years and men at 60 years.

 

  • Infant mortality rate has declined from 115 deaths per 1000 live births in 1988 to 45 deaths per 1000 live births in 2012.

 

  • Maternal mortality rate has likewise declined from 578 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2004 to 432 in 2012.

 

I give these statistics from the last census to show that, contrary to what to some people say, economic growth in Tanzania does indeed translate to a better life for most people. It is not simply a question of impressive economic data, it is also a question of significant improvement in quality of life.

 

But we still have a long way to go, because we come from a very low base. And you can, and should, help. I ask you at the very least to be good ambassadors of your country. Everyone can do this. But what does it mean?

 

First, it means that you have to know your country well, relying on objective sources. Do not depend only on blogs to keep abreast of what is happening back home. Read more of the serious, authentic and reliable stuff. We are trying to make the government more open to, and interactive with, the public. Most government ministries and departments are putting more and more information on their websites, which they try to keep updated. But you also need to know America, your adopted home. You need knowledge beyond your immediate neighbourhood or State.  It is only then that you can know of the different opportunities there are for Tanzania, as well as for Tanzania- US relations.

 

Secondly, you need to project and promote a good image of your country; and help it to put its best foot forward. Always remember that by your conduct people form an opinion, not only of you, but of your country as well.

 

Thirdly, always look for opportunities to strengthen the links between Tanzania and the United States. The opportunities are abound if only we all keep our eyes and ears open.

 

And here I should like to commend all those among you who have, on your own or in partnership with others, invested in Tanzania. I should like to see as many of them as possible succeed and share their experiences. Last Sunday I was very happy and priviledged to visit an excellent medical facility in Dar es Salaam put up by one of you, Dr. Crispin Semakula. I do hope he will get an opportunity to talk about it. I know there may be challenges, but success such as his prove one point – no challenge is insurmountable as long as there is the indomitable will to succeed. 

 

Before I conclude, I want to join you all in thanking DICOTA sponsors, not just for this Convention, but in all the previous ones as well. Without them I am sure DICOTA would not have survived, or achieved so much.

 

On a special note, I want to recognize the role and participation of US Agencies, the World Bank, US businesses, Honorary Consuls and Friends of Tanzania, among others, in forging partnerships with the Tanzania Diaspora and working with them to build bridges for trade, investment, tourism, education and culture between Tanzania and the United States.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

 

You have all been polite and listened to me attentively. So I will leave with a joke. Two friends were talking about another guy. “I‘ll never invite him to my parties again,” one said. “Last time he did something I did not like” “What was that?” “He came”.

 

You invited us. We hope you meant it. And we hope we will not do anything to deny us an invitation to the next convention.

 

Last but not least is my gratitude to the Millennium Hotel management and staff for availing their excellent facilities, expertise and facilitation for the success of the 2014 DICOTA Convention.

 

 In conclusion, I want to thank you all once again for the invitation, warmth, and kindness. I also want to assure you of continued government support. As a government we will do all we can to help you, and that is why so many of us have come from Tanzania for this Convention. Use this opportunity well to resolve any issues you may have, and to build networks that you might find useful in the days ahead.

 

I wish the 2014 DICOTA Convention great success.

 

I thank you for your kind attention.