Tag Archives: Tanzania

One week until the World Cup goes forth

Only a week to go. A couple of World Cup stories:

1. Oh dear. This is the last thing they needed. As if sinking a South Korean warship wasn’t enough to deal with, North Korea has just discovered that due to an administrative nightmare, their main striker will only be allowed to play as goalkeeper in the World Cup. Here’s what happened: All teams are required to submit the names for their squads of 23. Three of these players MUST be goalkeepers. North Korea thought they would be clever and send only two goalkeepers, listing an extra striker in the third goalkeeper slot. Only one hitch – they didn’t realise that the players listed as goalkeepers are prohibited from playing in the outfield. So Kim Myong-won, career striker, can only play goalkeeper at this year’s world cup. We’d love to be able to tell you how much North Korea will miss him, but we’ve got no idea whether he’s any good or not – the North Korean team turning up at this year’s world cup is pretty much a complete mystery to everybody (no one’s even sure what kit they’ll be wearing).

2. Robert Mugabe scattered himself – for the second time – with a little World Cup gold dust. After his photo-op with the trophy earlier this year, he somehow managed to persuade Brazil to play a friendly in Harare. An “undisclosed fee” changed hands; it usually takes about US$1 million to get Brazil to play anywhere. The Zim warriors were duly dispatched 3-0 by South America’s finest, but it proved a festive occasion with even Morgan Tsvangirai getting involved. Moments like this are what unity governments are all about. While Zimbabwe was a controversial choice, it is good to see Brazil actually playing some friendly matches in Africa – they have another one lined up against Tanzania. Brazil may never play in either of those countries again, so it really is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the fans. While they cheered, hotels and tourist agencies were less excited: despite promises to the contrary from the government, the World Cup has brought no extra tourists to Zimbabwe, making a mockery of the expensive refurbishment undertaken by many places to prepare for the event.

3. Just because it’s brilliant – this interactive World Cup chart will tell you everything you need to know about the upcoming matches. Let the games begin!


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First Skirmish in the Water Wars – Egypt’s supply goes 4th

The Nile's inconvenient length poses geopolitical problems (pic: WWF)

The pharaohs of Ancient Egypt recognised the Nile as the source of life; it watered crops, it watered people, and it was the only efficient means of transportation for a people yet to discover the wheel. In the thousands of years since, its function has changed little; it’s a little dirtier, perhaps, but it is still the lifeblood upon which Egypt relies, providing all the country’s irrigation and most of its energy.

The problem is this: the Nile is not Egypt’s alone. Indeed, the river fulfils much the same function for Sudan, and provides livelihoods to millions in the other eight African countries through which it passes. But Sudan and Egypt are the only countries among the ten Nile nations who are permitted, under international law, to make proper use of the water. Under a colonial-era treaty, Sudan and Egypt are guaranteed 90% of the water flow, and Egypt has an absolute veto on all project proposals from the upstream countries. In effect, this means that Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi are unable to build dams and generate electricity from the flow of the Nile.

This is not as crazy as it sounds – being downstream, and being primarily desert countries, Egypt and Sudan rely on the Nile to a degree that the other countries do not. Also, they may as well dam the waters of the Nile by the time it gets to them because otherwise it will just flow uselessly into the seas. But profits generated by Nile projects in Egypt and Sudan are certainly not shared, and so it is an inherently unequal state of affairs.

This cosy arrangement – cosy for the North Africans – has recently been threatened in what is potentially the most dangerous political development of this year, anywhere. Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and now Kenya have signed a unilateral treaty which states, basically, that they will do whatever they like with the Nile water. The treaty seeks to ensure equitable use of the water, and was spearheaded by Ethiopia. Apparently, one Ethiopian government official was quoted as saying “If those Arabs can sell their oil, then we can sell our water”. He makes a good point. Water is a valuable commodity now, and it is only becoming more precious. There is certainly money to be made.

But I wonder if the treaty signatories appreciate just what a bold diplomatic step this is. Egypt is already facing appreciable water shortages, even with the Nile in full, uninterrupted flow; its massive population is just not sustainable. This is terrifying Hosni Mubarak and his ruling elite, because the root of their longevity has been a basic social contract – Egyptians may not have any rights or participation, but they will always have access to cheap, basic goods (water prices are negligible, and bread is massively subsidised). If the bread, and then the water, disappears, then Mubarak will too. Egypt will do whatever it takes to ensure it keeps what water it already has, including legal, diplomatic and even military action. Whatever happens, the stakes are high.

Keep an eye on this one, it is set to run and run.


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The Unity Bridge, and regional integration, go 4th

Unity Bridge during construction

It sounds, and looks (although not in this particular picture) wonderful. The 720 metre Unity Bridge, opened last week, spans the border between Mozambique and Tanzania, crossing the Ravuma River. It’s been in the works for more than 20 years, and its opening by both Presidents Guebeza and Kikwete should herald a new era in cross-border trade between the two countries. It’s what African unity and integration should be about.

Only one problem. No one remembered to open customs and immigration facilities on either side of the border. Also, no one built vehicle-worthy roads leading to the bridge on either side of the border. So, if you happen to have a sturdy Land Rover to get there, and don’t mind illegally entering and exiting countries, the Unity Bridge is for you. If, however, you were a trader with great expectations of what opportunities the Unity Bridge could bring for you, you’ve still got a while to wait.

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Tanzanian refugees go forth

Tanzania has granted full citizenship to 162,000 Burundian refugees. It’s a good move, and another positive step in Tanzania’s generally progressive approach to its refugee problems – at one stage, it hosted the largest refugee population in Africa with over 600,000, mostly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ones who have just been granted citizenship are mostly Hutus from Burundi who fled the massacres perpetrated by the Tutsi-led Burundian government in 1972, and are now fully integrated into the country. In 2008 these refugees were given the choice to be repatriated or to take Tanzanian citizenship; nearly half a million went back to Burundi, and the rest have now been given full citizenship. Tanzania’s experience with refugees has been remarkably good considering the scale of the problem; this is primarily thanks to policies put in place early on which ensured refugees received some legal protection and which integrated them into the community (including the provision of land, which allowed them to be largely self-sufficient and not a drain on the government’s resources). Other African countries with similar refugee problems should take note (I’m thinking particularly of South Africa and the influx of Zimbabweans). Refugees are not a temporary problem and they never all go away; to plan on this basis is fantasy. The sooner they are incorporated into the country the better for all concerned.

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