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Vision 2050: Why Tanzania must aim for double-digit growth

In the article “Building the Dream: Vision 2050 and the Tanzania We Want,” I explored the Vision 2050 idea which aims to provide a roadmap for transforming Tanzania, thus addressing the challenges of a growing population projected to reach 130 million by 2050. The discussion centred on core beliefs for success: we highlighted that poverty is a choice and that visionary leaders and collective progress are crucial. As a nation, we either rise together or fall together.

By definition, a vision is an aspiration – and our Vision 2050 articulates the Tanzania we see ourselves in by 2050, a Tanzania that is prosperous and free of poverty. Poverty, regardless of origin, robs people of dignity. Unfortunately, in Tanzania, poverty has become a culture. Much of what we think life is, that’s just poverty manifesting itself. Some of us are considered critics only because we reject the normalisation of poverty. For example, why should we celebrate the bodaboda culture when we know that well-planned cities and efficient transportation systems are achievable goals?

For a nation as poor as Tanzania, the primary mission of leadership is to get Tanzania out of poverty. We have gone through seasons when leaders fed us ideologies instead of economic success. But people don’t eat ideologies, hence, we reject any version of development that doesn’t include rapid economic growth. Leaders who fail to deliver have no business remaining in power.

It’s time to stop playing games and get busy with development. Why do our leaders celebrate annual GDP growth rates of 5-6 percent for a nation as richly endowed as Tanzania? What nonsense!  No visionary leader committed to economic growth could accept such mediocrity given our resources and low economic base.

For Tanzania to become the nation that its people desire it to be, sustained double-digit GDP growth (an annual increase of 10 percent or more) until 2050 is the only acceptable standard. Double-digit economic growth can revolutionise a country’s socioeconomic landscape. When sustained over a decade, this rapid expansion can quadruple the size of the economy. Such growth is a powerful engine for poverty reduction, job creation, and infrastructure development, laying the foundation for long-term prosperity.

If you are gasping for air now, that’s okay. Not all citizens need to understand these things. But I expect those in government to do so – it is their business to know how to attain and sustain such levels of success. Many nations have done so for decades.

Botswana, for example, maintained an average year-on-year GDP growth of 11 percent between 1965 and 1995, thus becoming the fastest-growing economy in the world for 40 years, surpassing the famous Asian tigers. This is an African country. When I stumbled upon these facts, I knew that I had to review their story.  And what a pleasure it was – that’s what inspired my article ‘Seretse Khama: Africa’s Unsung Hero’ which highlights the importance of visionary leadership. Remarkably, I never heard of Khama in school. The fact that our list of heroes includes men such as Robert Mugabe and Muammar Ghaddafi while we don’t hear of the Seretse Khamas of Africa says a lot about the reasons for Africa’s failure. Show me your heroes and I will show you your future.

But, I hear some of my UDSM faculty friends saying, ‘Ah, that Botswana’s success is due to its small population and diamond production averaging one-third of GDP for decades. Not a like-for-like example, is it?’ I hear such arguments often – as if there is a country whose circumstances will ever be perfectly similar to the other. That said, their challenge is accepted.

Examples abound. Think of China: between 1978 and 2008, China averaged a growth rate of 10 percent. But, China is too big and its history is very rich, huh? Okay, how about Ethiopia which has sustained a 9 percent average since 2002 despite a civil war before and during that period? Does Ethiopia have more resources than Tanzania which has averaged 6 percent for the same period? No need to even use my favourite stories from Singapore and South Korea.

Sustaining double-digit growth for at least ten years in Tanzania would be transformative. In China, it lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty and propelled the nation into an economic powerhouse. With a population of 130 million, most of them young, we need millions of jobs to be created to tackle unemployment. Double-digit growth will address that. The increased revenues from economic activities would fund critical infrastructure like roads, schools, and hospitals. A booming economy would attract foreign investment, boost exports, and enhance Tanzania’s global standing.

This goal is achievable in Tanzania.  If we managed an average of 6 percent when things are not working, what if they work?  Over the years, I’ve analysed and written about various sectors in Tanzania; my take is that it takes a concerted effort to make a country as blessed as Tanzania poor.  But in the Tanzania we envision, that is going to change.

I will continue to identify ways to unlock the true potential of this great nation next week.

Charles Makakala is a Technology and Management Consultant based in Dar es Salaam. [email protected]

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