Pre-Trip Impressions and Hopes for the Trip

Over the past semester, I have learned a great deal about development programs in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a few of the most successful, or most promising businesses. I already had a good sense of the business climates in Rwanda and South Africa, so what I learned was less surprising, but what I’ve found most interesting has been learning about Tanzania and hearing from those, whether at NGO development organizations, governments, or even private companies about the ability to get things done in Tanzania. It’s also been fascinating to hear more about the history of Tanzania, Rwanda, and South Africa’s post-Colonial incursions, their various struggles for independence, and their quest for a national identity after rulers of European origin left or were pushed out.

In terms of historical interest, I hope to hear more about post-Apartheid reconciliation, efforts to electrify the country, and current efforts to boost supply of electricity. Where possible, I’d be curious to hear more about corruption in the ADP and where alternate reformist parties have a chance. In Tanzania, I’d be curious to hear more about the choice of Swahili as the national language and more about the efforts to successfully unify the country, promote compromise, and avoid conflict between Christian and Muslim groups. The recent history of Rwanda is attention-grabbing, if haunting, but I suspect our ability to explore the history of the genocide and discuss reintegration and reconciliation will be limited.

Going into the trip, I’m most looking forward to hearing from government officials and development organizations in Tanzania, particularly on agricultural initiatives in the southern corridor of the country. In particular, I’m hoping to hear their take on why it is so difficult to stimulate investment from private companies despite years of government planning and billions of dollars in funding from aid organizations and USAID. In addition, I’d like to ask about the impact of the current initiative’s emphasis of large scale farming on smaller stakeholders. Given the nature of these meetings and Tanzanian culture, I suspect I’m unlikely to get a straight or frank answer, but it’s worth a try.

I’m also curious to hear about the Tanzanian governments plans to leverage the boom related to natural gas finds to stimulate the wider economy and develop infrastructure, rather than lead to a resource curse or economic dependency.

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