12 January 2013

Tanzania: In Focus

There prevails a public quest for change to reduce poverty in Tanzania. Institutional reforms play an important role in the process.

Meanwhile, there is a body of literature which recognizes individual leadership as a major tool of change and development. Some Tanzanians discuss to determine suitable criteria for selecting the next generation of leaders in the country.

Establishing leadership criteria is important for routines in government and to prepare for the 2015 general election for Tanzania.

Age is one of the criteria for selecting leaders to effect change. For example, a young District Commissioner in Arusha has explained that he develops new project ideas to reduce poverty each time he attends a professional workshop. That is impressive particularly because traditionally District Commissioners are politicians mostly involved in delivering public speeches rather than developing projects.

But the World Bank states that Leadership is about defining a vision, energizing it and seeing it through. You wish that the young District Commissioner will be able to energize the process to implement the various project ideas he develops.

In contrast, older leaders in government have a wealth of experience which they can apply to bring about change. But many members of the public have lost trust on older leaders in the public sector because such leaders cannot abandon unwanted habits like corruption which many have been practicing over the years.

Similarly, new rather than old is a preferred criterion for change. For example, members of public have elected new Members of Parliament (MPs) during the 2010 general elections because they wanted something different. It is not that those members of public were convinced that the new MPs would be more effective professionally.

Tanzanians once considered education to be an important criterion for leadership that can bring about change. As a result, members of public have been electing many academicians to become members of parliament. Government has also been appointing many academicians to occupy senior positions of leadership in the public sector.

Expectations have been that the academicians would use their knowledge to establish clear national visions which are easy for members of the public to achieve. But, the academicians have failed to impress members of the public in that regard. Members of public still find both sector and national visions to be complicated meaning that only some Tanzanians know where the country is heading to. For example, the official Tanzania's Development Vision 2025 expresses much rhetoric which is difficult to understand let alone to implement. Arguably, followers cannot support leadership if they do not understand visions.

In contrast, a renowned scholar Prof Issa Shivji, has said that Tanzania needs a national vision whereby Tanzanians are knowledgeable of matters pertaining to land, forest, mines, lakes and natural resources that are around them. Then, the country may prepare a Constitution to enhance the vision, he proposes. You wonder where the Professor was when the Development Vision 2025 for Tanzania was prepared.

Charisma can be used to influence decisions and bring about required change in Tanzania. Several opposition MPs and activists in the country use charisma to move crowds. Such criterion can be very effective in reducing poverty if such leaders use it to mobilize members of public to understand and demand for their rights without destabilizing their country.

Tanzanians may consider other criteria to select the next generation of leaders for their country. They may consider selecting people with integrity or women to provide leadership for change. Tanzanians may consider selecting individuals who are skillful, committed, ethical, and confident. But first and foremost is for Tanzanians to determine a clear vision for the country to which the majority of Tanzanians' understand and can contribute in order to achieve it.

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