Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Angel Investors and Demons of Venture Capital

Angel Investors and Demons of Venture Capital

Chambi Chachage

The old Swahili adage, "vijana ni taifa la kesho" (youth are the nation of tomorrow), seems outdated. Even the use of the phrase, "Today's Youth, Tomorrow's Future", is apparently waning. What appear to be trending now is Africa as "the young continent."

It is thus not surprising that the African youth is the center of attention for advocates of entrepreneurship. For instance, in Tanzania entities from both the public and private sectors that promote youth entrepreneurship are mushrooming. These include, among others, the Tanzania Entrepreneurship and Competitiveness Centre (TECC), the National Economic Empowerment Council (NEEC), the Institute of Management and Entrepreneurship Development (IMED), and The Launch Pad Tanzania.

Prof. Faustine Kamuzora, the Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office responsible for Policy and Coordination of Government Business, aptly captures what drives these initiatives. “This large population of youths in the country", he recently stated in his visit to TECC, "should be properly trained and equipped because it is an engine for economic growth and by giving them entrepreneurship skills, business techniques and life skills they will become more productive hence contributing to GDP growth." Since youth restlessness remains "Africa's defining challenge", one can understand why the youth entrepreneurship mantra is trending.

Nevertheless, the effort to train young people to be enterprising is laudable. And the energy devoted in doing so is admirable. Take, for example, Carol Ndosi and Henry Kulaya who are passionately using the Launch Pad Tanzania to impart, inter alia, what they call the "21st Century Entrepreneurial and Employability Skills." Their first cohort has recently graduated with flying colors.

All the graduates made a prototype of what their preferred products would look like based on "HCD-Customer Focus": Jesmoh's "entrepreneurial idea is to have an INTERNET CONNECTIVITY NETWORK"; Joyce "would like to venture into Fruits Supply Business, retail and wholesale"; Suzan, "a Gallet and Cosmetics Business"; Ismail, "a foundation to empower Women-QUEENS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM";  Eva ,"a Brown Bread Bakery business"; and Naomi "start a SOLAR ENERGY business."

One of the practical exercises required these trainees to generate a profit of Tsh 2,000 in two days after they were given Tsh 10,000 as a startup capital. Christina Hillary notes that most of them managed to make profit, with one making almost Tsh 4,000. Of course, as she puts it, this was not only about making profit, but also about "adding value to their products and customer orientation...."

Dr. Jacqueline Mgumia's PhD dissertation, Choices on Money: Entrepreneurship and Youth Aspiration in Tanzania, presents a novel methodology on how to conduct such social experiments. Through a business grant of Tsh 200,000 to 52 Form IV graduates and a business prize competition as an incentive, she managed to closely follow-up their performance as nascent entrepreneurs for a period of one year. Some of them made relatively huge profit.

Her study, however, also provides a cautionary tale of how such interventions do not address structural barriers. It is these issues  that limit youth access to higher education and formal employment in the first place. Or, as Ory Okolloh puts its, 'Africa can't entrepreneur itself out of its basic problems' through "the fetishization around entrepreneurship". This is what brings me to the concept of 'Angel Investors' that has been introduced to assist.

Beng'i Issa, the Executive Secretary of NEEC, is quoted as promising to work on Prof. Kamuzora's "directive" above by identifying "angel investors and link them with the youths so that they can easily access capital to implement their business ideas or expanding existing businesses." This sounds altruistic. Angelic.

What caught my attention is how it is defined. “This concept is very new in the country (angel investors)", she asserts, "in which an investor can be attracted by a business proposal from an entrepreneur and decides to invest.” Her invocation of newness reminds me of my reaction to Salum Awadh's celebratory tweet about the launch of the Tanzania Angel Investor Network (TAIN) in May 2018. Its website describes it as "the first organized angel investors network in Tanzania that seeks to promote angel-investing culture and grow innovative start-ups in Tanzania."

Yet the historian in me recalls that once upon a time we had the Tanzania Venture Capital Fund (TVCF). Lest we start arguing about the semantics of 'venture capitalists' and 'angel investors', let us look at what was its mandate and who funded it. "TVCF", a fact sheet in the UNIDO archives noted, the country's first venture capital fund, was launched in October 1993." The "fund", the fact sheet further noted, "makes equity and quasi-equity joint venture investments alongside Tanzanian entrepreneurs in local companies with high growth potential." This sounds somewhat like a déjà vu.

Most "of the investments", the fact sheet also noted, "are in existing businesses seeking second-stage expansion capital although the fund does consider exceptional start-ups for investment." It then noted that TVCF had "received its seed capital through equity contribution from foreign and local development institutions." Twenty years later, some folks also established the Tanzanian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (TAVCA). Now there is another, the Tanzania Venture Capital Network (TVCN).

Such recurring attempts at initiating capitalist ventures in Tanzania have prompted me to write a dissertation on 'A Capitalizing City: Dar es Salaam and the Emergence of an African Entrepreneurial Elite (c.1862-2015), which will soon be freely available online. As I begrudgingly applaud my friends who are engaged in fostering the 'spirit of capitalism' through private equity, venture capital and youth entrepreneurship, I wonder how much of the history of capitalism is repeating itself. Are we experiencing what the ardent critic of capital, Issa Shivji, refers to as the ways in which history in neoliberal Tanzania repeats itself, albeit as a tragedy and farce? 

Rather than go in circles, as a collective, we need to take a hard look at our history and see why we keep repeating more or less similar things. They tend to start glamorously, then fade away. The likes of Reginald Mengi and Juma Mwapachu would probably not  remember that in 1992 they contributed some money to the then Entrepreneurship Development Fund (EDF) that mainly focused on enabling youth "acquire soft loans for economic projects." It is high time that they tell us, in their memoirs, why such initiative were not sustainable or that successful  Perhaps this will also save our new champions of youth entrepreneurship from "the curse of Sisyphus."

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Is CCM really Curtailing its Grip on Power?

Is CCM really Curtailing its Grip on Power?


Aikande Kwayu's (PhD) recent blog post entitled 'Are political party defections in Tanzania diminishing CCM or enhancing its grip on power?' suggests that Tanzania's ruling party – CCM – is weakening itself, possibly unknowingly, through a number of ways. One such way is how it has been handling recent serial defections from opposition parties. Another way is the imposition of restrictions on civic space, especially the right of other political parties to exercise their constitutional mandate. 

In her post, the author seeks to show that the ruling party has been drifting away from its historical role and reputation, as a key nation building institution. While she raises many important issues, I think there are aspects that require further dialogue. In this response, I discuss some of the key points raised by the author, in a way that interrogates her counter-intuitive proposition.
Electoral violence is a recurring theme in Dr. Aikande's post. It asserts that the ruling party should have discouraged defections from opposition parties soon after the February by-election in Kinondoni. This election was characterized by loss of lives, and mayhem. She writes;


She also notes that the “costs of the subsequent bi-elections [sic] have been enormous, not only money-wise but also lives.” In short, she thinks the costs outweighs the benefits. This is a moralistic argument, which does not necessarily take into consideration the extent of the (unprecedented) threat that the ruling party had to grapple with during the 2015 general election. 

As we have learnt from the history of violence, and fraud in Zanzibar, or other experiences across the continent – South Sudan, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Uganda –  incumbents deploy a wide range of strategies to retain power. It seems no cost is too much in pursuing their objective. For CCM, the most important role of the recent defections is their symbolic value. This is embodied in the standard script, which all defectors keep reciting - “joining the ruling party to support good efforts of the fifth phase government”.
While perceptions of CCM as a benign institution, which Dr. Aikande alludes to, have been helpful in winning elections in the past, the party appears to have struggled, to a large extent, to maintain or reproduce that positive and hopeful image, especially among the young voters. The struggle, or even failure, in my opinion, is in part due to multi-party politics, which has made it possible, and legal (until recently), to contest official narratives. In this case, CCM is a victim of circumstance.

 There are indications that the ruling party has realized the challenge it is facing. Restrictions on political activities, and the enactment and amendment of The Statistics Act (2015), among other restrictive laws and policies, constitute a clear attempt to smother the scale and intensity of counter-narratives. But, this is happening late, at a time when overall support for a multi-party political system (62%), and trust in opposition (53%) is relatively high (See graphs below).


It is, therefore, not surprising that a Twaweza poll showed recently, that the restrictions are fairly unpopular. For instance, 40% of the population disagreed with the ban on political rallies. More significantly, the poll indicates that "young people (41%) are less likely than older citizens (60%) to agree with the ban".

But, how does CCM`s use of “tyrannical actions” – reliance on its own coercive instruments and those controlled by the state as well as restrictions on constitutional rights - in defending its influence, undermine its power? There are two main possibilities. One, is if the opposition (CHADEMA, ACT, CUF) continues to invest, and succeeds, in placing the blame associated with the “politics of upheaval”, which has been a key feature of recent by-elections, on the ruling party. Depicting the party as a divisive force, and a blocker of (re)conciliation efforts, may increase the viability of opposition parties as potential successors. Two, is if opposition parties resist the urge to employ combative measures in dealing with the current situation. There is evidence that populations across the continent, Tanzania included, have a strong preference for “consensus politics”, as opposed to politics of competition.
Recent defections have also given us a glimpse of in-fighting, and succession politics within the leading opposition party – CHADEMA. Sources suggest there is a faction which believes Tundu Lissu (MP) should be the (next) chairperson, based on his intellectual abilities, and combative leadership style, which seems to fit well with the 5th phase government`s orientation. But, as argued earlier, it is unclear if confrontation will bolster the opposition`s profile. Besides, if the emerging divergent visions of how to deal with the current political situation continues to weaken CHADEMA, as it seems to be doing, CCM will be the ultimate winner. It is high time that the opposition undertakes a sober reflection.

In her piece, Dr. Aikande focused on defections to the ruling party, and how mis(handling) them may undermine the party`s grip on power. Surprisingly, she rejected the claim that the opposition is weak, and suggested that the argument amounted to blaming the victim. While weakness is a relative status, and thus disputable, intellectuals sympathetic to the opposition should offer more insights, and strive to be more impartial in their analysis. For instance, one can hardly tell what CHADEMA`s strategy is at the moment, as the party continues to lose representatives in parliament and local councils. 
No significant effort has been made to re-assure CHADEMA's members and well-wishers, and re-adjust its public position in the current political climate. Politics is about perceptions, and public narratives are key in shaping perceptions. On this aspect, CCM appears to have an upper hand as Dr. Aikande had once highlighted in her 2014 blog post on 'Politics of Image or Image Strategy? CCM vs Opposition'. But that was when the playing field for the politics of opposition was relatively levelled in the country.

Many people seem to agree that the current CCM-led government has gone to great lengths to “trim” the influence of the opposition. In the course of doing so, it has made a wide range of relatively unpopular decisions. Nevertheless, the opposition would not significantly benefit from such social and political transgressions if it is fed with analyses that ignore its fundamental weaknesses.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Tangulia Mama Zippora Shekilango (1938-2018)

Tangulia Mama Zippora: Taazia ya Kijana Mwenye Hisia za Majuto 

Seif Mwarizo Abalhassan 

Jijini Dar es salaam kuna barabara moja mashuhuri kwa jina la 'Shekilango Road', ikianzia maungio ya barabara ya Morogoro, eneo la Nyumba za NHC, mkabala na Kiwanda cha Urafiki, ikipitia mitaa yote ya Sinza na kuishia maungio ya barabara ya Ali Hassan Mwinyi kituo cha Bamaga. Wengi wetu tunalijua hili.

Ambalo watu wengi hawalijui ni kuwa barabara hiyo ya Shekilango imepewa jina hilo kwa ajili ya heshima na kumuenzi ndugu Hussein Ramadhani Shekilango, aliyekuwa Mbunge wa Korogwe (1975 - 1980), Mkoani Tanga na Waziri wa Nchi katika Ofisi ya Waziri Mkuu, aliyekufa kwa ajali ya Ndege Mei 11, 1980 wakati akiiongoza kwa muda nchi ya Uganda mara baada ya vita vya kung’olewa kwa nduli Iddi Amin Dada. Barabara hiyo imepewa jina hilo mara baada ya kifo chake pamoja na wenzake sita.

Asubuhi tulivu ya Desemba 15, 2013 ilinikuta Kinondoni Morocco, mtaa wa Bwawani, varandani kwa Mama Zippora, mjane wa mzee Shekilango. Mkono wangu wa kulia ukipokezana kikombe cha chai aliyonikirimu (watu wa Tanga ni wakarimu sana) na kalamu yangu, nikiandika kila linalonivutia kutoka mdomoni mwake. Tulifanya mahojiano juu ya maisha ya mumewe, aliyekuwa pia meneja wa shirika la taifa la usagishaji (NMC) kabla ya kuwa mbunge.

Ilitokea sadfa (‘koinsidensi’). Siku hiyo ya mazungumzo yangu na Mama Zippora pia ilikuwa ni siku ya mazishi ya mzee Nelson Mandela, Rais wa Kwanza wa Afrika Kusini ya Kidemokrasia na isiyo ya Kibaguzi. Tulizungumza huku tukitazama luninga iliyokuwa ikionesha mazishi hayo. Mazungumzo yetu yakikatika kila mara tulipoona jambo lililotuvutia kwenye luninga iliyokuwa ikionyesha mubashara tukio hilo muhimu ulimwenguni.

Mara baada ya hotuba ya taazia ya Rais wa Malawi, mama Joyce Hilda Banda - aliyekuwa Mwenyekiti wa SADC wa wakati huo, ukaja wasaa wa Rais Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete kwa fahari kabisa kuieleza dunia juu ya kila hatua za kiutu, za kujitolea ardhi, rasilimali na hata watu ambazo Tanzania ilizichukua kwa ajili ya Ukombozi wa Afrika Kusini. Muda huo tulisitisha mazungumzo. Tukamsikiliza Kikwete (akisoma hotuba bora katika miaka yake yote kumi ya Urais).

Mara baada ya Kikwete akapanda jukwaani Komredi  Kenneth Kaunda, Rais wa kwanza wa Zambia huru, na swahiba wa Mwalimu Nyerere katika Nchi za Mstari wa Mbele kwenye Ukombozi (Frontline States). Ikumbukwe kuwa Makambi ya mafunzo ya Kijeshi ya ANC yalikuwa Tanzania (Kongwa na Mazimbu), wakati makao makuu ya ‘Ughaibuni’ ya chama cha ANC yakiwa Lusaka, Zambia. Hivyo, wakati Rais Banda akizungumza kwa niaba ya SADC, Rais Kikwete na Mzee Kaunda walizungumza kwa sababu nchi zao ndizo hasa zilizokuwa mstari wa mbele kuikomboa Afrika Kusini.

Mzee Kaunda alianza hotuba yake na wimbo wa ukombozi, “Yamike Madiba 🎼🎼....” Hisia na kumbukumbu za Mama Shekilango zikamrudisha nyuma miaka ya ujana wake. Akajikuta naye kwa hisia kali anaimba kibwagizo cha wimbo ule wa kuhamasisha Ukombozi uliokuwa unaimbwa na Kaunda. Ilikuwa raha, furaha na hisia kali mno za Msiba.

Baada ya hotuba ile ya Kaunda ikatubidi kuzima luninga ili tuendelee na mazungumzo yetu. Lakini muda huo sasa tukiwa hatujadili tena juu ya maisha ya mumewe, bali akajikita kunielezea juu ya historia ya ukombozi wa Taifa letu. Mama Zippora alikuwa mtu mzima tayari, akiwa amezaliwa mwaka 1938, hivyo ameyashuhudia mengi ya Taifa letu.

Katika mazungumzo yetu hayo ndipo kwa mara ya kwanza nilipolisikia jina George Magombe, Mwanadiplomasia mbobezi wa Tanzania, na Katibu Mkuu wa 2 wa Kamati ya Ukombozi (Liberation Committee) ya Umoja wa Nchi Huru za Afrika (OAU). Nikivutiwa zaidi na simulizi za Mama Zippora juu ya namna Balozi Magombe alivyoshawishi ‘Azimio la Mulungushi’ pamoja na lile ‘Azimio la Mogadishu’, yaliyoacha mapambano ya Diplomasia kwenye kupinga Ukoloni na kuruhusu mapambano ya Kijeshi. Ni maazimio mawili hayo ndiyo yaliyomfanya Magombe ampishe Brigedia Jenerali Hashim Iddi Mbita katika nafasi ya Ukatibu Mkuu wa Kamati ya Ukombozi.

Ilikuwa siku ya bahati kwangu. Nilijifunza kuhusu mumewe, ndugu Ramadhani Hussein Shekilango, pamoja na wenzake sita aliofariki nao ajalini, Balozi wetu nchini Uganda, Balozi A. Faraji Kilumanga, mwanadiplomasia wetu, FSO Iddi Msechu, pamoja na Wanajeshi wetu, Luteni Mallya, Luteni Luoga, Koplo Petro Kalegi Magunda na Private Stephen Mtawa. Mola awalaze pema mashujaa hawa wa Taifa letu.

Mama Zippora alikuwa mpambanaji wa usawa wa jinsia nchini. Mimi ni shuhuda wa jambo hilo. Mara baada ya mahojiano yetu juu ya mumewe, naye akanihoji kwa utani:

 “Unaniuliza kuhusu mume wangu tu? Hutaki kujua mimi ni nani? Au huamini kuwa mwanamke anaweza kuwa na ‘role’ kubwa kama mumewe?” 

Nikahemewa!

Tukaanza upya mahojiano. Sasa ikawa ni juu ya maisha ya Mwalimu, Mama, Mkuu wa Shule, Mpambanaji wa Haki za Wanawake na Mwanachama Mwandamizi wa Taasisi ya Mtandao wa Jinsia Nchini (TGNP). Ni maisha yenye changamoto na mapambano ya kupigania haki za wanawake, kupigania nafasi ya mtoto wa kike kielimu na kuhimiza haja na wajibu wa kufanya mabadiliko ya kisera na kiutamaduni katika kuhakikisha ushiriki wa wanawake kwenye maamuzi, kuanzia ngazi ya familia mpaka Taifa. 

Mama Zippora ni Mwalimu Kitaaluma, aliyeanzia ngazi ya chini kabisa, na kisha kupanda mpaka kuwa mkuu wa shule za Wasichana za Zanaki, Msalato, Kisutu, Jangwani, Iringa pamoja na shule ya mchanganyiko ya Forodhani. Amewahi pia kuwa Afisa wa Elimu wa Mkoa wa Dar pamoja na Makao Makuu ya Wizara. Ana stori ndefu ya maisha inayohitaji wasaa wake kuielezea.

Kwa hiyo, kwa nini nimeandika haya? Hisia za kujutia, naam ‘guilty conscious’. Miaka mitano baada ya mahojiano yetu yale, Septemba 1, 2018 Mama Zippora Lukuiya Shekilango alifariki dunia, akiwa na umri wa miaka 80. Ni huzuni kubwa.

 Lakini sikuandika kuhusu mahojiano yangu naye. Sikuandika kabisa kuhusu maisha yake, mapambano yake ya kutoa elimu kwa mtoto wa kike pamoja na kupigania haki za wanawake nchini. Amefariki bila mimi niliyemhoji kueleza stori ya maisha yake, kwa miaka mitano!

Sina sababu ya kwa nini sikuandika juu ya mahojiano yetu haya. Ni uzembe? Uvivu? Kutokujali? Kutingwa na kazi? Au labda ni kwa sababu ya mfumo dume tu? Kwa nini nimeandika juu ya maisha ya Balozi George Magombe, Hussein Ramadhani Shekilango na Balozi Faraji Kilumanga? Wote wanaume? Na sijaandika juu ya Zippora Lukuiya Shekilango, mwanamke P]pekee niliyomhoji? 

Sina utetezi!

Namuomba radhi mama Zippora. Sikumtendea haki kabisa. Nilimkosea. Kumuomba radhi kunaweza kusiwe na maana kwa kuwa hayuko hai tena, lakini itanipa amani ya moyo. Na siku moja, Inshaallah, nitaandika juu ya maisha yake.

Jumamosi, Septemba 8, 2018 Mama Zippora Shekilango atalazwa mahali alipolala mumewe miaka 38 iliyopita, Jitengeni, Mombo, Korogwe, Tanga. 

Mola ampe pumziko, na aipe subira familia yake kwa msiba huu mzito.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

A Life Looking Forward: Farewell Samir Amin

A Life Looking Forward Beyond Capitalism: Farewell Samir Amin

Chambi Chachage

I only met him once. It was at the Mwalimu Nyerere Intellectual Festival Week in the hallowed Nkrumah Hall of the University of Dar es Salaam. In an electrifying keynote, he summed up the long history of capitalism and its discontents, charting the way out of it.

As a historian of capitalism, I was awed. "Capitalism is a small bracket in the long history of human civilization", he asserted. Then he asked: "If it continues for another 100 years so what?"

 For him, capitalism is not a given. It is not inevitable. There was life  before capitalism. And there will be life long after capitalism.

So, there are alternatives to capitalism and its neoliberal form of globalization. Elsewhere, Samir Amin stressed that "globalization is never absolute, it is always relative...." With the possible exception of Noam Chomsky, probably no one has consistently unpacked the history of capitalism from a radical leftist viewpoint than Samir Amin in our contemporary times. No one since Marx.

When we mourn his passing, may we celebrate his contribution to, and indeed innovation, in making sense of capitalism. It is in light of this that I share the excerpt below from my old essay on the history of capitalism in Africa. One may see what I mean when I say he was innovative in his diehard analysis of capitalism.

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To the Egyptian Marxist, Samir Amin, capitalism is a global system that developed out of ingredients that came from various sources[1] His analysis is in tandem with the institutional analysis of Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson & James Robinson at least in one respect.[2] Both perspectives view the rise of capitalism in Western Europe in the 16th century as an outcome of a long and gradual process. However, Acemoglu et al. locates its evolution within the disintegration of feudalism in Europe that went hand in hand with what they view as the consolidation of institutions that provided checks and balances to the monarchs. For them, these legal and administrative institutions protected private property and created the conditions for the accumulation of wealth through trade and other means.[3] In contrast, Amin locates this evolution within the long transition from the tributary mode or system that was the form of organization that generally characterized pre-modern society. This lengthy preparation of, and for, capitalism, he asserts, started in about 1000 CE and lasted for nearly 8 centuries.[4]

Thus, in Amin’s historicization of capitalism, in contrast to Acemoglu et al., internal contradictions of advanced pre-modern societies were not only confined to feudal Europe. Rather, they characterized all such societies and thus created successive waves of the inventions of ingredients that were to constitute capitalist modernity. In this regard, the first major wave came from China in the 11th century during the Sung era followed by the Middle Eastern wave in the Arab-Persian Caliphate before moving, in the context of the Crusades, to Mediterranean Europe in the towns of Italy such as Venice. According to Amin, the “last wave”, then, “concerns the long transition of the ancient tributary world to the modern capitalist world which began in the Atlantic part of Europe as from the conquest of the Americas, and took the form of mercantilism for three centuries (1500-1800).”[5] Thus, as he reiterates elsewhere, historical capitalism “did not start and appear suddenly in Western Europe as most of Eurocentric visions of history presented”, but rather, it was a product of a series of waves whose ingredients made possible the last wave “that crystallized in the small triangle between London, Paris and Amsterdam late in the 16th, 17th centuries.”[6]

What Amin attempts to do with relative success is to deconstruct the Eurocentric history of capitalism that renders it a western phenomenon. However, he pays little attention to the contribution of Africa’s tributary modes in this development. This is particularly striking given that all the three key waves that Amin refers to as having played a major role in the development of capitalism were linked, at least in relation to trade, with Africa. Such a conspicuous absence, it seems, stems from locating Africa primarily within the last wave that is associated with the Atlantic trade. It also appears to stem from his selective engagement with the world system theory. As a reviewer of his book on Global History: A View from the South points out, Amin does not, at least in this case, think in terms of such system that reaches back 5000 years hence his reluctance to conclude that prior to 1500 CE “the trading links between these different tributary systems implied that they were part of one and the same overall system.”[7] Nevertheless, this historical approach is useful since it does not outright preclude contributions of other waves in the history of capitalism. 

[1]Samir Amin's Lecture on 'The Trajectory of Historical Capitalism' at the International Conference on 'New Emancipatory Struggles' in Zagreb on May 17, 2011 accessible at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X46v6ak0btA> (last accessed: December 10, 2012).

[2] Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson and James A. Robinson, “The Rise of Europe: Atlantic Trade, Institutional Change and Economic Growth,” American Economic Review95, 3 (2005).

[3]Ibid.

[4]Amin, “The Trajectory of Historical Capitalism and Marxism’s Tricontinental Vocation,” Monthly Review62, 9 (2011): 1.

[5]Ibid.

[6]Amin’s Lecture on 'The Trajectory of Historical Capitalism'.

[7]Andreas Bieler, “Samir Amin, Global History and the critique of Eurocentrism, ” Trade Union and Global Restructuring Blog May 24, 2012accessible at <http://andreasbieler.blogspot.com/2012/05/samir-amin-global-history-and-critique.html>(last accessed: December 10, 2012).
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Farewell Samir Amin. Like you, may will live a life looking forward as we struggle with this (bracket) called capitalism. May we realize your childhood dream of changing the capitalist world.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Having Friends in Power

Having Friends in Power

Chambi Chachage

Why aren't you writing about it, a former colleague asked. She/He was referring to my practice of analyzing political appointments in Tanzania. In this case, it was in reference to her/his appointment.

Her/His appointment, like those of a couple of my other colleagues,  has left me contemplating about what does it mean to have friends in echelons of power. This question is particularly troubling given the old adages claim that power corrupts and in politics there are no permanent friends. And politics is more or less about power.

So, what do you do when your friends are in power? Do you speak up publicly against them when they wield that power unfairly? Or do you seek them out to quietly lobby against their abuse of power, if any?

Being in power, however, does not necessarily mean having power all the time. This means that a friend in the corridors of power may have little say on what their superiors or colleagues in other spheres of power do. In other words, they may also find themselves in the same corner as you, having to speak up publicly against their bosses and coworkers, keep quiet or raise issues privately.

In a regime that is based on collective responsibility, speaking up publicly is tantamount to getting fired or having to resign. So, when a friend with a position of power opts to be silent when their colleagues beat people with impunity, what do you do? What do you do when a friend watch silently when their superiors evict people mercilessly and arrest them indiscriminately? 

Do you disown or admonition them? Do you distance yourself or keep them closer? Do you criticize or plead with them?

For some, the choice is clear. To continue to hobnob with the powerful is to partake in their wielding and abuse of power. By continuing to rub shoulders with them, one is complicit.

One should thus relentlessly be vocal against them when they participate, passively or actively, in the abuse of power. It should not matter whether they did it themselves or not. As long, as they are part and parcel of the same regime, they are accountable.

Noble as it is, this is a tall order. It literally means each and everyone in a regime that abuse power is responsible. It does not matter if one is only a civil servant or junior political officer. As long as they don't denounce the abuse of power, they condone it. 
  
Criticizing such friends could have its consequences. This may range from simply cessation of friendship to severe censure. And political history is replete with cases of friendliness turned awry.

Having friends in power can thus be scary for a diehard critic. After all, in politics people have interests to protect. The anecdote below aptly captures how the tables can easily be turned:


Power, as vested in the President, soon asserted itself. It does especially when one speaks the truth to power. May critics be empowered to contend with it when they criticize friends in power. 

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