IT would not be fair if I don't start by appreciating special efforts being made by the Government of Tanzania under President Dr John Magufuli to promote the growth of industries in the country, parallel with construction of basic industrial infrastructures like railway, roads and most important, electric supply, just to mention some.
In this respect, simply explained an industry is the production of goods from raw materials using different machines. I have visited several industries both here in Tanzania and outside as well, and I have seen a very interesting pattern.
In industrialized countries most of their machines in a particular industry are made in the same country. Only some very special machines or machine parts are imported from outside that country. In Tanzanian industries almost all machines in a particular factory are imported from industrialised countries.
Let me take a very simple example of an industry-a bakery. An ideal bakery produces bread (among other products) from wheat as a main ingredient; Using milling machine, weighing machine, stirring machine (ya kukanda), proofer, an oven, cutting machine and finally sealing machine in that order.
I have seen a bakery similar to this one only when they did not start with wheat but rather with wheat flour, which means they don't have a milling machine. In this particular bakery only the proofer was made in Tanzania by Tanzanians and the rest of the machines are imported.
The oven drew my special attention; It was of batch type taking about 40 pieces of standard size breads at a time; It uses both electric and gas as fuel, it had a beautiful digital display for temperature and time. Purchasing cost as per 2018 was about 9 million shillings tax inclusive-so I was told.
Together let us analyze this imported oven as a machine. To start with, is its price which looks, to me, expensive for its size. Secondly, is its use of dual source of power. This may not be so bad but if one is out then you must stop production. Note the dual power usage is not independent but rather dependent.
Thirdly, is its complicated electronic instrumentation which calls for specialised knowledge in case of its failure. A simple resistor failure will force you to stop production altogether. In Tanzania, this is the situation when we talk about industries.
We think of machines as imported modern ones which are expensive, delicate, complicated to operate, complicated to repair using available knowledge and difficult to secure spare parts. In industrialised countries it is fine for them to have such machines, because if it fails in any way they call the manufacturer or his agent to repair it immediately.
If the repairman does not turn up as soon as possible he/she would be sued in court of law and pay for any loss incurred during plant's stoppage caused by machine failure. Do we have such coverage? I am not saying we should avoid these machines altogether but rather we should be aware of this situation and start thinking of how we can undo this hidden trap.
In above example of bakery, I mentioned the proofer being made by Tanzanians; This is the starting point. I examined the proofer and I saw that it controlled the preset temperature and moisture automatically (just like imported ones) which are the basic requirement of it.
The basic need of an oven is to maintain a certain temperature for a certain time only, the rest is only for increasing the price and dependability of imported knowledge and parts. Is it really true that Tanzanians cannot make similar oven which can perform its requirement perfectly? The answer is yes we can.
But then why are we not producing them? Before going to that one let me look at another true example. Recently a friend of mine decided to make his own eggs incubating machine after he saw that he cannot afford to buy the strongly advertised imported ones.
The most complicated task in incubator is temperature control which requires a very narrow temperature variation range of about 0.50C. (that is; 37.5 to 380C; never below 37.50C nor above 380C). To get this range of temperature variation and control you must have a very sensitive and reliable thermostat which is not readily available in the country.
This man decided to make his own thermostat and today he is producing chicks at 85 percent efficiency. That is, if he puts 20 eggs in it he is sure to get 17 chicks after 22 days. I am aware that there are several individuals making eggs incubators in Tanzania but this particular one drew my attention, because he made his own sensitive thermostat using very simple available materials.
A thermostat may look like a simple small device but when looked at industrial level, it is very important. Take your iron box (pasi), it is in there, without it your iron box is useless, your AC, the oven above, the microwave, the proofer, all has it. In food processing industries, temperature control is very important, they are there.
In any industry, processing or manufacturing, there are individual machines which are made up of small individual parts like a thermostat. In other words there is no industry without these small parts. Therefore small parts manufactures are very important basic start point of any industry.
To my knowledge there are numerous individuals like the man above who develop different machine and machine parts but they go unnoticed and even if they are noticed nothing is done. A bakery oven is simply a box with a source of heat and means of controlling that heat at a certain level.
If a Tanzanian could make his own thermostat many could make a box and some can make the best available source of heat, join the three parts and you have an oven, which I can say will cost less than 2.5m/- for the same size as the imported one above.
Put this oven with other machines I mentioned above in a building and you have an industry without buying expensive imported machines meanwhile you are assured of its maintainability. This is applicable to all industries in the world. Yet we don't do it.
In his article, Adding value to raw material; Key in promoting growth ('Daily News', June 4 -10, 2019; no 077, page 13), Dr Hilderbrand Shayo mentioned; "It is high time raw materials rich nations such as Tanzania focused its energies on building up industries, skills, expertise, so they can produce its own goods but quality product that could help creating much needed test and appetite hence create jobs and income for the people".
This article emphasized the importance of industries in the country in many areas. I wonder how many Tanzanians read that article and how many have read such related articles before and after? Probably few.
I believe by neglecting the already existing skills and expertise in the country is contributing to slow pace in building up industries in raw materials rich countries like Tanzania.
We tend to focus our attention on ready-made imported items such as shoes, irons, your mobile phone, industrial machines; the list is endless, meanwhile putting special efforts to suppress the thoughts that we can make our own at a lower cost.
To make matters worse, this tendency of neglecting our abilities is supported by industrialized countries with their strong advertisements of their products in every corner you turn to. Take beer for example, it is advertised almost everywhere including public transport buses, which children also use, but I haven't yet seen an improved "komoni" being advertised anywhere.
You see this one of beer advertisement, and others, is very tricky; our children see them as well and they will grow up believing that is the type of drink suitable to them hence becoming future customers of the product.
To my point of view; A way to the growth of industries in Tanzania is possible but difficult one at individual level because it has many powerful negative forces and few weak positive ones. Take mindset of majority of many Tanzanians as one example; Imported is best! At individual level it is impossible to change this mind.
But it can easily be done at national level. (Who knew, in January this year, that today plastic bags will be history?) Fighting neglecting our experts and their ability in different fields cannot be done individually but it can be done by setting a way of not only recognising but also by implementing their ideas at national level where they seem feasible.
Only a Government can work at national level. I wish to repeat, "I really appreciate the efforts made by this fifth phase Government in addressing, among others, the issue of Industry Growth in the country." But I can also say there is way that it can be done at a faster pace given the level of technology available in Tanzanians heads.
Generally speaking, we must work fast as a team towards this possible goal with the Government as a Team Leader. Question is; "Is the Team Leader reachable?"
● The writer is Eng. Allan Lema