Letters from TZ

Choosing good business over bad practice

It takes two days to register a business in Rwanda. Two days and twenty-five dollars (Sh40 000). Data collected by Doing Business, a joint project of the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Bank (WB), shows that in Tanzania, it takes 33 days and at least $130 (Sh207, 000). In real time, you probably need more time and more money, thanks to the ‘informal’ costs of starting up businesses here and elsewhere in the region.

It’s the same story in Kenya and Uganda, where one must also dedicate an entire month and a bundle of cash (when compared to Rwanda) to the business of registering a business. In Kenya, according to IFC/WB data, it will set you back at least $178 (Sh 285 000). In Uganda, an aspiring businessperson will part with at least $266 (Sh 425 000) for the privilege. And we haven’t even factored in legal fees.

They say that you need to spend money to make money, but for a small-to-medium businessperson, the dual cost of both time and money is often too expensive.

In the developing world where the levels of poverty are ridiculously high, poor families struggle to eke out even the simplest of livings. If I may sample the somewhat overused NGO terminology, it really is necessary therefore, to ‘remove the barriers to doing business’ so that we can create ‘sustainable livelihoods’. So far, Rwanda is the clear front-runner on the long road to industrialisation. East Africa’s poster child, if you like, for how best to run a developing country. In Rwanda, rules are followed. They are not suggestions that are taken when it is convenient. Rwanda is serious about making things work.

For example, it takes 55 days to complete the purchase of land by registering property in Rwanda. That’s two months and just 4 per cent of the property value in charges and fees. In Tanzania, it takes 73 days and almost 5 per cent of the property value in charges and fees – that is, minus the ‘informal’ costs of acquiring land. And of course, the delays.

We can do better, surely. For those in the region who thought it was impossible, the indomitable Rwandans have shown us otherwise. Part of the reason why they have been so successful is because they haven’t been afraid to seek the right kind of help. It’s the irony of ironies that an organisation like the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF), which is headquarted right here in Dar es Salaam, has had more success working with Rwanda than it is having with our own government.

At the end of the day, that old “this is Africa” defence is not as ironclad as it used to be. A tiny country with a population of just 11.5 million, a tragic history of debilitating violence and a language barrier (considering its geographical location), has put us to shame. Altogether now: We can do better!

Death of a journalist

Members of the press corps are still embittered by the death of comrade Daudi Mwangosi, who died on Sunday, September 2 as he attempted to cover a political rally. On Wednesday, 12 September, murder charges were brought against 23-year-old police corporal, Pasifious Cleophace Simon. Exactly why he was murdered remains a mystery, but the manner in which he died is not. In fact, within hours of his death, bloody images of his violent demise had circled the globe thanks to the world wide web. Citizen ‘journalists’ who either ignored their ethical responsibilities or were unaware of them, made it possible for anyone with an Internet connection to view the gory images of a gutted Mwangosi in the hour of his death.

Whichever way you choose to analyse it, and no matter which journalistic text you’re reading from, ethically speaking, that was questionable. Did the public interest and perceived newsworthiness of the event outweigh Mwangosi’s right to a dignified death? Did our insatiable appetite for sensational news override any steps that could have been taken to minimize harm, by protecting his family from such a gruesome memory of their loved one? No and no – in my opinion, at least. But in the world we’re living in, where everyone and their dog has a mobile phone with a camera built into it, and where every private citizen is a potential journalist, it is near impossible to set a standard that everyone will agree to keep.

And yet, it is imperative that we protect our dignity as a culture that is quick to follow in the flawed footsteps of others. The fact that respected publications across the industrialised world, flouted their self-styled rules of ethics to print images of a dead Gaddafi, doesn’t make publishing gory images of dead people right.