interviewBy Austine Odo
Tanzania's High Commissioner Dr. Msuya Mangachi is rounding off his tour of duty in Nigeria. During a valedictory visit to Media Trust headquarters in Abuja last week, Dr Mangachi expressed his feelings on various issues involving Nigeria - Tanzanian interests and what lessons could be learnt from Nigerian's experiences and challenges as one of Africa's largest economies. Excerpts:
Sir, as your country's representative in Nigeria for a number of years, how would you assess Nigeria's foreign policy over the years?
First, I've said more than once, that Nigeria and Tanzania come from the same background. They are African countries to start with, but they went through similar experiences. If you are talking about slave trade, colonialism, neo-colonialism, struggle for independence, support for liberation movement and continental integration which is a bigger agenda, all these mean that we have a lot in common. And Nigeria plays a more key role in terms of its endowment, population and resources-both physical and manpower. So if you can draw these advantages behind any cause in Africa, you are sure that that cause is going to have some kind of momentum. In this context, I can quote the father of the nation-Julius Nyerere who was quoted saying that a diplomat, if you want to have an African policy, make sure that Nigeria is on board. You cannot have an African policy if a country with all these attributes I was talking about is not on board.
What are you telling the people out there? You want to pursue a cause, and the most powerful nation is not on board? How serious is that cause? For that reason, we are saying that Nigeria lived up to its expectations at least in foreign policy. There have been a lot of changes in regimes in Nigeria, but the foreign policy has been very consistent and progressive. And we have examples.
Nigeria was a major country in forming the OAU in 1963-you remember the early consultations with the Monrovia group and the Casablanca group and the consensus that was arrived at in Addis Ababa on what kind of African integration we should all embrace that is acceptable to all nations. You can see the roles of Nigeria and Tanzania. Nyerere was there with his ideas about gradual approach, Nkruma was there with a one step move to African union. These were the days African countries were forming their foreign policy but you can see the Nigeria impact in the liberation struggle. It was in the mid 70's when Nigeria made a decision to support fully the liberation struggles in southern Africa particularly and the result of that struggle came out very quickly with the liberation of Mozambique, Angola, all the Portuguese colonies if you wish that time, and later on Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa itself, and you can talk of Sao Tome and Principe. So you cannot measure this kind of commitment.
It is not because Nigeria has money or anything, it was a real commitment to the cause of liberation of the continent that pushed her to that level and we are really obliged to Nigeria for that. Nigeria was invited to be an ex-officio member of the Frontline States with the privilege of attending all meetings of the Frontline States because of the decisive intervention and so on that it played at that time. Talking of foreign policy still, you can look at Nigeria's involvement particularly in peacekeeping missions within Africa and the world at large. It is still playing its part there but if you come to the region, Nigeria has been key in solving regional problems through ECOMOG in the struggles in Liberia, Sierra Leone and others which are coming up including Mali and Guinea Bissau, Nigeria is all over there. We appreciate this kind of stand in Nigerian foreign policy. We are not talking about internal policies because each country has its own challenges to grapple with but you talk about the potential for collaboration with Nigeria and what has been done with these potentials. For example in the area of investment, during my stay here we managed to see some processes whereby major Nigerian companies have started investing in Tanzania. Example of this is the Dangote Group, which after resolving some of the issues which were holding the project back, is now on the ground and is constructing a 2.5 million tonnes capacity cement plant in southern Tanzania.
The UBA and Ecobank have opened branches in Tanzania-in Dare-es-Salam to be specific. They are doing so well that they are now exploring the possibility of spreading out into other major towns in Tanzania. Once you have serious investors like Dangote on the ground, you have financial institutions on the ground, things are taking shape. We are now calling them trail blazers, a lot of Nigerian businesses are taking interest in Tanzania, and we welcome this. I was telling the president that one good thing about Nigerian capital is that it comes without conditionalities. If you go to the World Bank and IMF you might get the loan or grant you are looking for but they will start giving a lot of conditionalities-do this first, do that, liberalise this, privatise that before we give you the money. Here Nigerians are looking for opportunities where their money is secure and they take the risk to come and invest and we really invite them because people are coming with unconditional capital to our country. You have to be sure about minimum clearance that the money is not laundered of course there are international mechanisms which can do that. So we invite these investments.
What about the bilateral front?
Bilaterally also we are looking into the possibility of having a trade agreement. A trade agreement is important because people want to do some trading but there must be a conflict resolution mechanism as what we call creating conducive environment for trading. This will remove a lot of doubts which people have about Nigeria because you know Nigeria's name out there has been tarnished a lot because of the activities of some individuals but when you are saying you are going to trade with Tanzania within this framework, you are protected by the laws of Nigeria and Tanzania. We think this will be an encouraging factor if we can have it. But on a wider context we want to have what is called permanent joint commission. We established one in 1980 when Alhaji Shehu Shagari was the president and they actually held one session in Tanzania. But after that the developments in Nigeria went back to where they came from, and people who were sceptical about the sustainability of that process so they abandoned it then. But now there has been consistency in Nigerian democracy for quite some time, let me put it that way, at least you are counting 13 years of democratic consistency. And we are saying that this comes with ideas of creating such institutions of cooperation on a long term basis. Now that people are trying to assess Nigeria's possible stable regime on a long term basis, we are not looking at the next coup around the corner, we are looking at prospects for the next election, so Nigeria is probably moving in the right direction. If we have this permanent joint commission we can now like the trade agreement, include many other types of cooperation--technical assistance, technical cooperation in education, cultural cooperation, sports, whatever scope you might define it with a view to starting with a few but room for expansion for the future. So I hope these are the kind of hand over notes I should leave for my successor so that when he comes he can pursue this.
You spoke earlier about leadership, as someone who has been in Nigeria for quite sometime and observed the trend, how would you describe the manner of emergence of Nigerian leaders, have you any advice on the process in order to strengthen democracy in the country?
It may be outside my mandate to comment on how Nigerians choose their leaders, but you remember I said what you see under magnified glass in Nigeria is what obtains in almost all parts of Africa. There is no perfect system of choosing leaders, but what you can say is that once you agree to the modus operandi of a political system, a multi-party system, and then you are going to use a democratic system to choose your leaders, now, the issue is how free and fair you can ensure that the system is operated freely and fairly. When you have complaints about the system not being operated freely and fairly, it definitely puts doubt to the kind of outcome of that particular system. You have heard people wanting more transparent systems of choosing the ruling party leaders because they said sometimes caucuses and factors like zoning and so on coming but at the end of the day you might not get the best leader but in a polity like Nigeria, if people have agreed to look into this part of the process, you can only say then it should be done transparently and fairly and once you do that you stand a better chance of choosing a leader who commands the kind of support of the majority of the people. I don't think I can say more about that.
Is there a corresponding flow of Tanzanian investment in Nigeria?
You are talking about levels of development. In order to go out you must grow. If you have strong businesses in Tanzania which have grown sufficiently to perform in Tanzania and go beyond Tanzania, if you ask me I'd tell you there is one or two. There is one company called Asam Group of Companies which deals with processing of cereals. This has managed to go beyond the borders of Tanzania. They are operating in Uganda, Rwanda, and in East Congo, and I think they are trying to establish themselves in Zambia. They have grown sufficiently to go out but many of the businesses in Tanzania are still growing, they are nascent businesses and its not easy for them to go out. Even the banks, the banks are young, they first have to be strong in Tanzania before they can go out.
So we do not have this kind of response and the ordinary businessmen are mainly interested--first you have this cheap trade coming from China, UAE and the other places, so that one removes Nigeria from the source of such goods. If you source your goods from Nigeria you might find out that some of those goods are also sourced from Dubai and China, so why should you not go to Dubai and China, so we are facing that situation-that influx of goods coming from there. So I think we should focus on developing our own indigenous industries. There is a lot of scope.
I 've argued very strongly that if the industries of African countries start with agro industries and industries based on raw materials that are found in Africa, and then you produce semi-finished and finished goods and export them through the systems of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) or trade of the European Union and other free trade arrangements in the world and save the continent from exporting its raw materials like we are doing now where there is no value addition whatsoever. This is the situation which affects most of the countries within Africa. Its a problem even here in Nigeria, we don't have many industries that are based on raw materials that are found in Nigeria and made in Nigeria goods are being exported, its very difficult to find that. The investments of Dangote are rather unique because he is using raw materials that are found in Africa and transforming them into cement which is the main ingredient in the construction industry. I think it is unique in its own way, he invests first and trades later, so we don't have many of these people. The financial institutions in Nigeria are stronger than those in Tanzania and rightly they are strong enough to go beyond Nigeria into the ECOWAS sub-region and they are coming into East Africa. In future when our businesses grow I think there could be an exchange in that field.
Do you see tourism as something that Nigeria can develop, especially as Tanzania has world renowned tourist attractions? Is it something you've got inquiries from people, do you see the potential that Nigerians can be more interested there, like the Europeans are?
First of all let me take this opportunity to observe again that out of the seven wonders of Africa, Tanzania scored three, according to the latest grading. Mount Kilmanjaroo, Gorongoro Crater and the Serengeti Planes. They are in the seven big wonders. When you are telling people stories abroad that in the seven wonders of Africa, three of them are in Tanzania, it should attract some Nigerian minds, but I'm afraid, Nigerian minds are not in this type of tourism. They are into shopping tourism. A lot of Nigerians go to Dubai, London or New York, sometimes in winter, so you need to do a little more to particularly target the middle class, because the middle class in Nigeria is big, and they can spend money on leisure. Travelling for tourism you need just a ticket and your hotel expenses for one week or so. That is nothing for a Nigerian, its not expensive for some of the middle class, but they spend much more for shopping tourism than that. So it is question of really inculcating the interest, developing the interest of the people in this type of leisure for the middle class in Nigeria because they look into East Africa as an extension of the African environment. If you are telling them to go to East Africa they say what am I going to do there? It looks like Nigeria, the trees and lifestyle, you have to convince them beyond that, to see the animals I don't know if it is the African's past time, he takes the lion for granted even when there is no lion in Nigeria, if you talk about lion to a Nigerian he says yes I know a lion, but he has never seen one. But to a European since the lion cannot be found there it becomes a special interest to tell them that they can some and see all animals in their habitat. So I can see that more work has to be done, the potential is there, we have to talk to the tourist people in Tanzania about the potential, and come here and talk to the minister of tourism to see how best to attract more people.
What's the abiding picture that you take away of Nigeria having spent all these years, you 've seen the good the bad and the ugly, what would you take away?
I'd go back to say that I've been more than convinced that we are all facing the same challenges of development. The magnitude is bigger in Nigeria because of the nature those forces manifest themselves. Big economy, bigger problems. Tanzania is facing its own challenges of development in the same issues. If you talk of power Nigeria is complaining that 4,000 megawatts is not enough, Tanzania is saying if we can reach 3,000 megawatts we shall solve all our problems because our economy is smaller, but we are facing outages as well and we are discussing issues of how to stabilise the supply of energy and talking of that specific aspect, we have discovered a lot of gas in Tanzania. I think people are talking of 33 million cubic feet of gas reserves and we thinking of using part of it to generate electricity. Nigeria is the only other African country that uses some special generating equipment to produce gas--gas turbines. The only experience we have is in Nigeria and we trying to install one in Tanzania for the same purpose. I think this is an area of collaboration which we can go in. But talking of oil and gas, the experience of Nigeria could be a lesson because nobody is convinced that that resource is being managed optimally. And it manifested last year when all the people went into the streets, making manifestations against the removal of subsidy. The reason is that Nigerian crude oil is exported raw and not much effort is being made to ensure that it is processed in Nigeria.
If it were processed in Nigeria the by-products would be cheaper in the long run, than exporting the crude oil and importing all the oil products, but then when you look into Nigeria it is a whole business sector of people engaged in selling the oil products, generators and so on. When you touch into that you are touching into the business of the people, but I think somebody must come forward and put his foot down and stabilise this sector because the raw materials are here and it is a question of just putting all the factors into the right places and making sure that energy is available abundantly for the people and probably cheaply.
These are some of the lessons as I said it is a lesson learned, but also you can talk about other sectors-education, Nigeria has expanded so much, but then you have the problem of quality. People are discussing whether the quality of education is as high as it used to be with these more than 120 universities. Do you have appropriate teachers, are the students achieving the same grades and so on. So we are trying also to expand our education and we are other people to pay attention to some of the challenges which Nigeria is facing in this area. Telecommunications, we have big problems in Tanzania and also in Nigeria.
You can go without your network for a long time and you wonder why there is no national telecom company, NITEL died, then they tried the private investors, they are not solving the problem, how do you go about solving it? You go into the roads and railways-only now we see a ray of hope when the Lagos--Kano railway is functioning, but is it functioning very well? How can you make it function, what are you going to do with the railway from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, and the trucks that are destroying the roads because the roads are over burdened by the goods which should be transported in trains. So they are lessons you look at. Look at agriculture, I think there are certain good things to learn from that. Nigerian agriculture is self sufficient in a way in terms of food, although depending on the type of food you are talking about, some of which is maybe uselessly imported. Food like rice, can be grown in Nigeria but most of it is being imported, and you would wonder whether Nigeria could do more to be self sufficient in that. But Nigerians use tuber a lot--cassava, yam and all that.
Somehow everybody affords that, and that is also a lesson. May be it easier to grow tubers than maize in Tanzania, we shall talk to our people -the Nigerians don't overstretch themselves sometimes looking after maize production, it needs a lot of water and fertilizer to grow, but they do produce some things without fertilizer, so if you can get more for less work, we could really sell some of these ideas to our people, and these are a few areas where I can say by staying in Nigeria, you observe and you live that experience and you see positive lessons, and sometimes the challenges particularly of population, big population, unemployment that comes with and raises fundamental questions of even going back to education, whether the education the universities are giving is immediately applicable for production, which are challenges we are facing back home but since maybe the number is not as big, you might not feel the kind of pressures you feel in Nigeria.