True patriots should demand services

Mtoto wa Mkulima

JF-Expert Member
Apr 12, 2007
True patriots should demand services
Written by James Shikwati

James ShikwatiNovember 28, 2007: A taxi driver in Dar- es-Salaam is awed by Kenyan opposition politics.

“Ndugu, kwani siasa ya viama vingi kule Kenya tofauti na hapa kwetu…kule serikali yashinikizwa kuwajibika, hapa wengi waona huo sio uzalendo.” (Multiparty politics in Kenya is different from that in Tanzania; Kenyans push their government to be accountable; in Tanzania a push for accountability is viewed as unpatriotic). I thought his comments were misplaced until I got to the beach hotel I was booked at.

A number of the managers (originally workers in some top hotels in Kenya) were running the show in this hotel. Upon our arrival for check in at the hotel, the management pointed out that there were no rooms because some guests had refused to leave. We had to sleep in some apartment for a night in spite of the fact that we had booked three months earlier! The hotel kept experiencing power outages at a frequency of five in an hour.

The five-star hotel back up generator had no fuel. Without commenting on the foods, the real hell was in check out time. Power outages made it difficult for the receptionist to access records to clear guests to leave for the airport. Upon inquiry for such floppy service from a well respected hotel, I was informed that it’s due to poor Tanzania labour force.

I was forced to remember the taxi driver’s brief presentation on politics and I couldn’t help it but see Tanzanians held hostage. In the hotel situation, poorly paid Tanzanian hotel attendants are blamed for everything, and yet the management is not Tanzanian.

My team was booked into the hotel by a Kenyan manager; the Asian hotel manager could not explain why his back-up generator didn’t have fuel, but the blame still went to Tanzanian labour.

Early this year, I stayed in a hotel in Arusha that is owned by a Tanzanian and managed by Kenyans, and they offered the best service ever. I mentioned to my team members that investors with poor management skills were probably shielding their failure by blaming Tanzanians on poor service delivery.

When I shared my frustrations with one of the Tanzanian elites, he pointed me to “patriotism” as the main cause of problems in Tanzanian service delivery. A few people “eat” and subject the masses to the doctrine of patriotism. According to my friend, the hotel management is probably faced with a patriotism bug.

Whoever was sent to buy diesel might have failed to do so in time, but you cannot fire him! The guests that refused to check out might have been high level or well connected people so you cannot remind them to check out!

And since planes “wait” for patriotic citizens, we should never have worried about late check in despite the long patriotic “foleni” (traffic jam) that greets one on a journey that takes two hours instead of twenty minutes!

Kenyans and Tanzanians are alike in the way they transact businesses. In rural areas, Tanzanians like Kenyans, suffer from cash flow problems; hand hoe driven agriculture that produces just enough to feed the immediate family and has an education system that does not prepare the young to respond to their immediate needs through value addition. Graduates focus on getting employed. Tanzania is famous for producing more diplomats than business people.

Kenyans unlike Tanzanians seem to have lost faith in political do-good talk. Very soon it will not be fashionable to seek political office in Kenya. To make Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania wealthy, lessons on patriotism must be backed up with wealth creation. East Africans must push for true multi party politics that promote competitive politics. The poor cannot eat patriotism!

Shikwati is Director, Inter Region Economic Network

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