Tanzania’s industrialization drive in the era of knowledge economy

Viwanda IIJust like the past governments the advent of the current administration came with its priorities to address this country’s ailing economy. One major priority of the current government is to turn our agrarian economy to industrial economy to help this country graduate into becoming a middle income country come 2025.

As a results, we are at the moment seeing a lot of efforts by the government officials from the district commissioners, regional commissioners, ministers and every departments busy acting for example on the directives to allocating land for new industries. Also, there have been even strong directives made in public to repossess those factories which were privatized from those who took them but failed to make them run. These new investors have turned them into something else such as warehouses.

If you look at these efforts at a glance you may get the impression that maybe this country now is in the course of achieving its greatest economic transformation since independence. Just as importantly, a deeper reflection however, may as well force you to think otherwise. To industrialize simply means to have that capacity to produce, design products, value addition of your primary products and sell domestically or through exporting to other countries.

To produce something meaningful and of use in the world where China has become almost the workshop of the world producing almost anything needs some serious strategic thoughts. Not only China, Countries in the South East Asia have now become manufacturing centers producing sophisticated products which in some years back could only be produced in Western Europe, Japan or USA.

In order to follow the footsteps of those countries in Asia we need to pay due respect to reality. And the reality is over the years in this country one great resource has been consistently overlooked. In fact, politicians would only talk of natural resources and other natural endowments this country is bestowed by the Almighty as panacea to our poor economy.

Maybe that makes their political pronouncements appeal to the public as they promise potential gains in short term. The truth is there simply no short cut to development. In the long run our greatest resource should be people. Not just people but people who are knowledgeable.

Knowledge is the product of right education, unfortunately, for the past 30 years our education has failed us in the worst possible way. As a result, to paraphrase the words from the lyrics of the song Coffee and TV by the rock band blur, we are virtually brain dead.

We are miserable society and the biggest culprit is the Tanzanians themselves, we are our own enemy. To do justice to ourselves and this country we need to change who we are, currently we are too weak to compete with the rest of the world.

We are in a mess. For example, recently, it was reported in the news that, one secondary school in a certain region has form two students who could neither read nor write. If the situation like this falls short to register the magnitude of the crisis in our leader’s eyes and thoughts, I swear we need our Moses!

Simply you cannot produce competitively and industrialize whilst your people have been massively botched by your education system. We are in era of the global knowledge economy where to fit in the state of our education would need serious reforms.

Sadly, majority of our people who have attended our various public and private schools, colleges and universities are at best half cooked and at worst miseducated. The level of inquisitiveness and intellect is pathetic.   How do you industrialize and innovate in a country where education system has failed to provide your people with both explicit and tacit knowledge?

According to Katsikis, et al, the former which is supposed to be provided by our schools is formal, systematic and can be easily communicated and shared, the later needs well cultivated self drive as is highly personal deeply rooted in action and in individual’s commitment to specific context. In my opinion, Tanzania does neither have education institutions to provide the former nor the enabling environment to foster the latter.

We can’t industrialize unless Tanzania as society becomes the knowledge society with people who can imagine and produce either products or services. One of the best ways to achieve this is to create incentives to spur innovations and transforming into a learning society. All the nations we aspire to emulate have recognized knowledge as the driver of productivity and economic progress. Tanzania should wake from a slumber and do the same. The current world economic battle is simply a battle of the brains.

The education system should be structured well to be able to produce knowledgeable citizens who could compete at global level with Chinese, Indians and others. In this, we should stop confusing what Ivan Illich wrote in his amazing book titled ‘‘Deschooling the Society’’ teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma (or a degree) with competence and fluency with ability to say something new.

To reverse that trend serious transformation is needed from the level of primary schools, secondary, tertiary and university education by smart investing and allowing common sense to prevail. Specifically, investing in research and development is key as the recent economic revolutions we see in countries such as Singapore is the result of this (the country use up to 25% of its GDP to education and research and development).

Also, we should remember that if we don’t act now as a society we will be vulnerable to face unbearable cost in the future. Elsewhere in the world, proliferation of brain based societies in developed and emerging countries is a reality. These societies have been able to turn their people into producers of classy products such as smart phones, computers, electronic items and cars that are the results of imagination developed by minds powered by knowledge and know how.

All these things are imported in our country as we have been simply reduced to consumers of not only their finished goods by of their minds powered by know how used to create goods and services sold in Tanzania. In short, these products are simply mental exports of the brain based societies.

It is disappointing that after more than 50 years of independence our significant exports have remained to be primary goods such as gold, tanzanite, raw cash crops. All these goods existed before we had a name for them, a price for them, market for them they were present in the world (Hildago 2015). Actually, they are never the products of our minds.

Worse still, it is even infuriating to read from the news that, in the mid of the campaign to industrialize, our exports of factory goods have recently dropped by 38%. That is not just bad to our economy but it also shows that the application of knowledge and know how in producing industrial products is plummeting.

If we are to turn this country into brain based economy we need to stop entertaining mere fantasy to industrialize and act by exposing the void in our education system and properly fill it. So far, we have become a hollow society urgently in need of reengineering; our society needs to cultivate a subtle yet stinging desire to impart really skills in our people to fit in modern world.

To open up major economic pathways not just in industrialization, but in other sectors such as extractive industries, agriculture and tourism investment in people is the primary prerequisite. We need brains filled with the right knowledge.

This country to borrow words from Jonas Ridderstrale and Kjell Nordstrom who coauthored a book titled ‘‘Funky business forever; How to enjoy capitalism’’ should prepare fertile ground for developing and utilizing knowledge and environment in which ideas can be created, tried out, tinkered with and exploited. We can do this now or never.

Few intelligent country men and women have been consistently howling about the crisis in our education, let’s now hear them and act. As things unfold there is a looming danger to succumb to dunning kruger effects where our incompetence will make us absolutely clueless about our very own mass incompetence.

By Ramadhani Msoma

Ramadhani is a student of International Trade based in Dar es Salaam. He can be reached via ramamsoma@ymail.com twitter @RamaMsoma

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