- Religious representatives in Tanzania today challenged Africa's political leadership to ensure the active participation of their citizenry in discussions on the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). They especially called for mechanisms to curb corruption and control capital flight.
- Our concern is how to nourish the NEPAD program so that poverty amongst us is addressed and eradicated, Bishop Dr Erasto N. Kweka, acting head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), told participants in a 13-14 May consultation on NEPAD, organised by the ELCT in collaboration with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).
Launched in 2001, the NEPAD program is a pledge by African leaders to eradicate poverty, and to place their countries on a path toward sustainable growth and development.
The aim of the meeting was to obtain the opinion of religious leaders and others on NEPAD, and openly discuss social and economic constraints that should be addressed at national level when embarking on the continent's new initiative for development, Elizabeth Lobulu of LWF reports from Arusha.
At the discussions, Bishop Simon Makundi - representing the Anglican Church of Tanzania - urged government to "avoid indiscriminate privatisation of financial institutions that are a source of credit to the ordinary people. Wholesale privatisation is suicidal," he remarked. In Tanzania, in particular the privatisation of Dar es Salaam public water provider DAWASA has been controversial.
Bishop Makundi also cited the case of the controversial sale of the state-owned National Micro-finance Bank (NMB) to a South African company - causing a stir among Members of Parliament (MPs). In February this year a parliamentary bill to privatise the bank was withdrawn because MPs refused to support the move.
But later President Benjamin Mkapa announced, "NMB will have to be privatised without further debate." It originally had been set up to provide loans to households, small-scale farmers and micro-enterprises in rural and urban areas.
Many see the privatisation of these institutions as a move to marginalise indigenous Tanzanians and church leaders seems to agree to a certain degree.
Ms Basilla Urasa from the Moshi-based Network Against Female Genital Mutilation - NAFGEM, wondered why "African heads of state and government discussed the NEPAD program at continental level but not much effort has been put in ensuring the message is discussed at the grassroots level."
She held that actively involving people at community level was important for the East African country with 35 million people, of which 80 percent live in the rural areas, mainly engaging in small-scale farming. The economy is heavily dependent on agriculture, which accounts for about 50 percent of the GDP.
Mr Joseph Butiku, a representative of the Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation, reminded the government of its responsibility to subsidise farmers using local resources even if the international financial institutions (IFIs) imposed conditions against such incentives. Tanzanian farmers, as opposed to their Western colleagues, currently receive no subsidies.
Ms Agnes Shekifu, coordinator of women's work at ELCT's Dodoma diocese wondered how else the government could genuinely assist small-scale farmers "if it abandons its responsibility to subsidise agriculture."
The Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Tanzania, Alhaji Mollel said in order for NEPAD to succeed, African states should have more power to bargain for a higher value of their commodities on the global market so as to improve the prices of primary products.
He challenged governments to open up their markets for goods from other countries on the continent and to form cartels that would help them "promote better their merchandise" on the global market.
Dr Rogate Reuben Mshana, representing the Geneva-based World Council of Churches and a member of the ELCT, called upon African governments to ensure they have efficient negotiators who can argue for better economic deals at international forums as opposed to those who accept every condition at face value to the detriment of the African people.
He called for mechanisms to curb money laundering, corruption and to control capital flight, as a way of restoring the nation's local and international image.
The consultation brought together around 100 people, mainly religious leaders from the ELCT and other churches, Christian Council of Tanzania, and the national Muslim body. Other participants included civil society representatives and government officials.
The ELCT is one of Tanzania's leading church communities and has 2.5 million members. It joined the LWF in 1964.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.