After living in Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania I have come to the conclusion that we need to have a new look on development cooperation in Africa. After analysing these societies I came to the conclusion that there are things going on in African countries which are not being seen or ignored and play a significant part in the reason why after 50 or sometimes 60 years of development cooperation people are still living in extreme poverty.

I think it is time to face reality and start looking for solutions for problems which have been ignored for so long and, in my opinion, are growing by the day. My analysis is based on my observations, conversations with people and analysis of the media. The story will basically evolve around Tanzania, where I live now for 3 years. This does not mean these are problems only existing in Tanzania. Many problems I also observed in Uganda and Rwanda (although this country is a special case due to its history). Newspapers write stories about other African countries having similar problems as the ones in Tanzania.

Up till now poverty has been seen basically as a problem of financial and material resources and lack of knowledge & skills. However, in my opinion we are overlooking something more important that needs to be solved before any of these resources can take effect and alleviate poverty. What I see around me is a traumatised society with people who are psychologically barely surviving. Without tackling this problem there will never be a poverty-free Africa. In this blog I will lead you through 1. Causes for Trauma; 2. Behaviour of People; 3. The Cause-Effect Chain; 4. Solutions.

Alex Bakara

21 June 2011

2. Behaviour of People

What follows are descriptions of negative and destructive behaviour noticeable in Tanzania.

2.1  Lying

In most countries people lie for two reasons: 1) to prevent being accused of any wrong doing; 2) to gain something. Not in Tanzania. Lying is a way of live, a means of communication. People lie about everything. Most of the time you wonder why they were lying in the first place because they did not gain anything out of it, on the contrary they just made other people being angry at them. The most reasonable explanation seems to be that they say what they think you want to hear. People like to hear nice stories and expect you to tell them nice things, they do not want to hear that you refuse to do something or any other message they do not want to receive. In addition, telling people what they want to hear prevents you from entering into a conflict.
            Many people have already told me if you want to become the president of Tanzania you have to tell people that they will become rich, have water, electricity, jobs, etc. etc. If you tell people they have to work hard you will never become president. It is amazing because everybody is complaining that politicians are lying, but is that not what they expect from them? Then there are people who take it to the next level and promise people, mostly women, they will do something for them for payment. These women pay and nothing ever happens. These conmen can easily go about their business because nobody is allowed to complain because that might create a conflict.

2.2  Jealousy

People are very jealous in Tanzania. But not in a good way. They do not think: ‘I want that too, so I work hard to achieve the same.’ No, it is a destructive jealousy that causes people to destroy other people’s properties or life. Stories are numerous of women destroying the new businesses of other women. Cooperation between people is almost impossible in Tanzania because people are afraid that the other person might gain more out of the cooperation than they will.

2.3  Discrimination

Discrimination is rampant in Tanzania. Everybody who is not a healthy adult male from a certain tribe is being discriminated. The worst affected groups are women without children, people with albinism, people infected with HIV/AIDS, disabled people and homosexuals. However, discrimination extents also to: children, women, people from other tribes, non-Africans and members of a family where somewhere in the past a mixed marriage took place.

2.4  Feelings of Being a Victim

In Tanzania, but also in other African countries, most visible by men have the feeling they are a victim. Women show this in a lesser extent but it is certainly not absent. This is demonstrated in the fact that men are never to be blamed for anything. Whatever bad thing they have done, it is never their fault: they were forced by other people, God or circumstances out of their control. Unfortunately the whole society aids men in this feeling by giving excuses as why men did what they did. For instance, last year the fact that men are waiting outside schools to bribe girls for sex was prominent in the news. Not only blamed everybody (including the president) the girls for this practice, no it got worse. Men could not help themselves because they were attracted by the colours of the school uniforms, and wives of these men were advised to wear clothes in the same colours as the uniforms.
            This feeling of being a victim leads to another phenomenon I have never seen on such a large scale as here in Tanzania: Begging. Everybody begs in Tanzania: poor people, rich people and extremely rich people. People are the victim of ‘our’ involvement in their affairs that made ‘us’ rich, starting with colonialism, and now they feel it is their right to receive what ‘we’ have. They demand your money, clothes, bag, and payment of their hospital bill, lunch, dinner or whatever else they can think of. Here in Lushoto people are very angry that the tourists (mostly backpackers) who come here only pay for their own meals and not give the people of Lushoto a meal.

2.5  Laziness

If you ask women why Tanzanians are poor one of the first answers you get is laziness. Men are capable to sit the whole day, every day on a bench doing absolutely nothing. I have asked some of these sometimes very young men how they are able to sit on a bench or hang around a bar drinking Konyagi or beer every day. According to them there is nothing to do. Amazing because I look around and I see so many things that can be done. There are plots laying idle, holes in the roads, garbage everywhere and grandma’s who could really use some assistance carrying heavy bags from the market to their houses. However, in Tanzania people do nothing for free. If you want them to do something you have to pay. Unfortunately the prospect of receiving money if they do something for you is no guarantee they will show up. They might prefer to stay in bed or sit in a bar.
            Quite a number of people who do have a job portray the same attitude. They always complain they have too much work, but are actually rarely in the office. If you enter an office in Tanzania you have to tell the person ‘Pole ya Kazi’: Sorry you have work. Work is something you have to avoid at all cost in Tanzania. This problem is partly created due to some strange idea people have here that people in the US and Europe do not do anything but receive huge salaries. According to Tanzanians ‘we’ have machines doing the work and ‘we’ sit the whole day watching these machines and at the end of the month ‘we’ receive amazingly high salaries for that. Tanzanians want that too. It is very unfair that they have to work for little money while ‘we’ receive large amounts of money by doing nothing.

2.6  Egocentrism and Egoism

The people in Tanzania are very egocentric and egoistic. Egocentric means people think they are the centre of the universe. This is shown in the fact that they perceive that what other people do or not do has something to do with them. If a person has not been greeted on the street he/she is very upset and thinks that the other person does not like him/her. It also results in the demand that other people look after them. They expect other people to feed them, take care of him/her or his/her family. The rest of the world exists to take care of you.
Egoism means that you take whatever you need regardless the consequences. The most extreme forms of egoism in Tanzania are the large scale and widespread corruption, which goes literally over dead bodies, and rape of women and children. Especially men take whatever they need or desire regardless. Whether that leads to death of people, unwanted pregnancies or spreading of the HIV virus is not relevant; they have a right to have their needs fulfilled.

2.7  Irresponsibility

Egocentrism and egoism leads to irresponsibility. Since women as young girls were forced to take care of younger siblings and (a part of) the household they have been taught some sense of responsibility. However, boys do not get these tasks and this leads to a complete absence of responsibility in adult men. They drink the household money, do not take any action as to take care of or provide food for their wives and children and leave the payments of school fees and other expenses to their wives. Although there are exceptions, this is a widespread phenomenon. The lack of responsibility is also shown in the figures of traffic accidents. Men use the roads as racetracks for their own pleasure, taking over when it is not possible and when the situation gets complicated they accelerate in stead of slowing down; a recipe for disaster.

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