Monday, August 30, 2010

True law

"The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other."
- Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, by Richard Bach

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Brewing up two potential storms

So I've been thinking of some ideas that could become spin-offs from Vijana FM. Two such ideas that have consistently been on my mind:

1. A database for unpublished academic working papers, similar to JSTOR, but free to use and contribute to, and targetted towards East African scholars.

2. An open-source curriculum for entrepreneurship education, customized for primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and further developed by respective interest groups.

Just had to throw that out there. Still contemplating, but getting the feeling I'm running out of time. Drop me a line if you're willing to help [once again, his pleas on his blog echo against the depths of virtual alleyways created over 4 somewhat quiet years]; I might be doing work on this very very soon.

Carpe diem,

PS: Wallpaper above from Wallpaper Stock.

The beginning of pushing to start the ignition

This has probably been true for about 40 years now, but there is a lot going on in Tanzania, both in the public policy realm and in the private markets.

For at least the last 4 years I have been poising myself to return and start something new, something fresh, that I could someday call a project of my own. But it seems every time I am "about" to begin something, it requires a process that leads up to another kind of beginning. It feels like I'm on a football pitch, and no matter how fast I run towards the opposing team's goal, it seems to get further.

Perhaps the journey isn't about a start and a finish. I need to learn to appreciate that the process is a start and a finish, an ignition and the flame, a push and a pull in and of itself. It is all one, and we are right in the thick of it. So what better time than now, right?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sunset on the Nile

The sun is hidden sometimes, yet it enlightens the world. Even when it is in full view, it is so bright that it's blinding.

Sound like knowledge?

PS: This was a blissful evening in Cairo just over 2 weeks ago.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Perfection is Being

“You will begin to touch heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”

(Image from 3.dp, quote from Jonathan Livingstone Seagull by Richard Bach)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Getting off the bench

We like blowing whistles and pointing fingers in Tanzania, especially at the government. Even here on Vijana FM, we have had heated discussions about who is to blame for what.

We have also discussed the importance, however, of getting off the bench and into the thick of things, so that at the very least, we can feel what it is we complain about.

One way in which we as young citizens can get off the bench and onto the playing field is by thinking of Public-Private Partnerships.

What are Public-Private Partnerships?
A Public-Private Partnership, also known as PPP or P3 or P3, is a contract between a government and a private-sector entity or group of entities to deliver a good or service through a long-term project.

The collaboration between the public and private sectors may result in three possible scenarios:
  1. The government may make the initial capital investment to get the project, good, or service started, while the cost of running the project, good, or service is bared by the partnering business and end-consumer;
  2. The private-sector entity makes the initial capital investment, while the government agrees to maintain running costs; or
  3. A combination of the first two scenarios, where both the public and private sectors invest in capital accumulation, and in the maintenance of the project, good, or service.
Why are PPPs important to the EAC?
Considering that the government and its public sector are one half of a Public-Private Partnership, easing restriction on the creation and movement of private-sector businesses within the East African region are a sign that the EAC wants to entertain PPP initiatives.

Who are the likely constituents going to be?
The actors who are stand to benefit from PPPs in the East African region:
  • The people, ie: consumers, from value-added goods and services;
  • Businesses, from a bigger market and subsidies from the government; and
  • The five countries’ governments, from increased on-the-ground cooperation.
How can the youth participate?
First and foremost, through ideas. The youth have the capacity to think outside the box, or at least a little further away from the box, compared to their governing institutions. The youth need to suggest to their governments and to local businesses ways in which they can formulate PPPs to change their communities for the better.

Second, the youth can form their own businesses, based on PPP agreements with their local constituent governing bodies. This would be most fitting in communities where there is a need for something, and the youth can mobilize to service this need in a sustainable way, but need government subsidies to get started. This would require the application to a government tender from a privately-mobilized initiative, which would not have to formally be called a business in and of itself, but could be connected to other local businesses (a friend’s shop, parents’ farm, etc.). The resulting tender service would act as a semi-autonomous business.

I wanted to blog about this today because I felt that the last few discussions have been leading us down a path that makes us foreign to our governments, and makes our governments foreign to us. The first step to getting involved in a system of change would be to see ourselves as the change, not seeing the change as a self-autonomous process. We are the government, and the government is us. The second step, then, is to ask the questions we have been asking, but in a way that directly implicates us, not to ask the questions like someone else is at fault. Otherwise, we can continue to blame, ask questions, and wait, and we will find ourselves waiting forever.

Public-Private Partnerships are one way in which we can work with the government without actually being government representatives. For many of us it’s a daunting journey to become a public servant, while for others it is a logical next step. In either case, PPPs are platforms that we can all participate in.

Here’s an idea for a PPP: Creating a system of national public transportation. Investing in the mobility of people is directly related to the government’s and businesses’ productivity. This system of public transportation could initially be hedged by the government (through the provision of buses), maintained by a group of private businesses (who would be charged with employing staff and keeping the buses themselves and their routes in shape), and divided in responsibility across the country by constituent government officials and businesses. Sounds very simple, but creating contracts across all the businesses would be a cumbersome, but beneficial task.

I discussed this idea in its initial stages as an airport shuttle system previously on Vijana FM. The government’s incentive would lie, quite simply, in spending its Ministry of Transportation’s budget on the mobilization of people and not necessary trade goods alone; in turn, the maintaining business interests would find incentive in the potential revenue opportunities of advertising on the buses. I also see that the EAC has plans to create PPPs in the railway industry. There are further plans to introduce PPPs to make create a trade policy forum that would ensure fair, efficient, and productive trading policy; this would have trickle-down effects on the national transportation grid. So perhaps the national public transportation idea isn’t new after all, but is taking a lot of work.

So what’s your PPP idea?

(Posted on Vijana FM on Tuesday August 10, 2010)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Friday, August 6, 2010

The East African Community Common Market

Is forging a common economic platform encouraging productivity at the cost of employability?

The five East African Community (EAC) countries - Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania – ushered in a common market as of July 1st, 2010, a project that has been expanded from the existing customs union.

A common market is built in hopes of creating free movement of goods, services, capital, and people within the constituent states as one region. As seen with other economic integrations such as the European Union, a common market is the precursor to a common currency, which in turn is a significant prerequisite to a common political platform.

The good news is that the EAC stands to become more competitive on the international stage. Its combined Gross Domestic Product is about $75 billion, which is just under a quarter of South Africa’s GDP, and trade with neighbors like Sudan, Congo, and Ethiopia will be easier with a consolidated market. While local businesses have already had an advantage with the internal customs union, multinationals will pounce on the opportunity to sell to a now 120-million strong market.

The bad news is that each of the EAC countries will find the need to be more competitive on an individual basis too. Kenya, with a better-skilled and –educated workforce, stands to benefit most, while neighboring Tanzania fears that many of its people will be unemployed soon.

What does all this mean for us young folks? It could mean that in the short term, many youth who are working may lose their jobs. But it could also mean that they find opportunities elsewhere in the EAC to diversify and expand their experience, either with school, or work. The situation is no different for young entrepreneurs; while the scope of their market has just broadened, providing them with the opportunity to make more money, the scope of their competition has also grown.

How can sustainable partnerships be created in the EAC common market such that governments and businesses improve on peoples’ livelihoods? Further, how can these partnerships ensure stability when the time comes for a monetary union… and then a political union?

Related links:
(Posted on Vijana FM on Thursday August 5, 2010)