She refused to divulge her name. Sitting on a cushioned black chair at one corner inside a bank in the city of Dar es Salaam, waiting for service, she fitted the description of a beautiful black woman.
Her eyes appeared lazy when she looked at you -- the type you'd think called men. But I was wrong in this judgement. It turned out I was sitting next to a very, very shrewd businesswoman from the north east.
When she stood up to stretch herself, after sitting down for too long, she appeared about six foot tall and probably in her mid thirties. We were at the National Microfinance Bank (NMB), Magomeni Branch, waiting for a dead computer network to start working.
Even shrouded in the Tanzanian khanga cloth from her waist downward, it became obvious the lower part of her waist was medium size, not too big, not too small. Her shirt bosom a sturdy 45.
The colour of her skin was a shiny, natural black. Her hair was a short, neatly combed afro. She wore no make-up. Her occasional smile ripped into your heart like a thunderbolt. You didn't want to be a married man sitting next to her.
John Steinbeck would probably describe her as plain and beautiful; the type who could easily choose to exist on stipends from men. But I learned this woman was different. She exists on her own money. I was very impressed. I envied the man who gave birth to this daughter.
Of course men give birth to daughters, if you had any doubts! And mark you, behind every successful daughter, there is always a father!
So anyway, she pulled out a notebook from her purse and opened a page full of figures. At first they appeared like examination scores. So I thought mh… might this be a school teacher? Wanting to do staff room work in the bank to pass the time away? You may already know reporters are curious cats, sometimes for no good reason at all.
I chose to ask her whether she was a school teacher. "Nope," she snapped. "Then what are you, sorry to ask, I am just curious." I was curious about those figures in the notebook.
Refusing to give her name, she disclosed she was a businesswoman buying maize from Dodoma to supply in Dar es Salaam."I want to be independent," she said. "I don’t want my life to depend on men. They are pests. They will give you 10,000/- then track down your every moment in life. And for 10,000/- you might even get yourself a virus. No…not me!"
From the accent, I noticed she must be a Chagga woman from the north east. Then I noticed something else. On the notebook page containing figures, two scribblings confirmed her claim. The bottom of the page had the syllables Kg and Tsh. I decided the figures must have been maize deliveries to clients in Dar es Salaam, with about Tshs 2,000,000 as bottom line revenue.
You might be the type who is already saying sure, Chagga women? They don't even know how to love. All they care about is money, money, money.
Oh yeah? They don't know how to love? And how do they make babies. It might be that you are just not lucky enough to see it take place. It looks to me like the Chagga can be found in almost every town and township in this land!
Of course they know how to love. It just might be that they are born with the entrepreneurial bug in their genes; which you also might have, if you explored yourself carefully. You may just be in need of a few guts, like they do, to become an entrepreneur. And the atmosphere is just ripe for you to get into business.
The government has poured plenty of money into commercial banks and your neighbouring SACCOS bank to support those with sufficient guts to get into business. Some of this money has come in through the World Bank, I am told.
There is at least one silver lining around the dark cloud above the Tanzania Economy. It is an aspect of the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty mooted in 2004.
The strategy meant to help you get into business seems to be working very well. It was set to deepen the growth of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. The government set out to address entrepreneurship development needs for both rural (on farm and non farm), agro-based industries, urban-based SMEs, formal and informal enterprises, promising easy access to finance, land, water, technological and managerial skills including marketing, market information and contacts.
I may not have all the figures I need to prove the strategy is doing well, but I know for certain there is plenty of money in commercial banks for you if you have a good business plan. Of course you may have to deal with the pest of corruption in the process but the money is there. You know corruption has become a way of life in this country.
Reports confirm the government continues to support the expansion of commercial banks credit to the private sector, and that credit extended to this sector was recently increased by 47%. The private sector has responded by creating massive employment opportunities, according to the government reports. The sector has become the leading employer as was intended.
In 2008 alone, a total of 1,271,923 new jobs were created in the different sectors of the economy. The central government employed 85,571; government institutions employed 965 people, while the private sector employed 1,185,387 in that year alone. The government target of creating one million jobs during the period was thus exceeded by 27.2 per cent, courtesy of the private sector. Do you read me?
The 2004 strategy appears to be working. Like the merchant of the north east, Tanzanians from all walks of life are trying their luck at being their own boss, and many are succeeding. The economy is expanding. It might be the right time for you to open a business account at your neighbouring SACCOS bank or commercial bank ready to go full blast with your business idea.
The government is doing well in the area, although they need to get rid of all those thieves and crooks hiding behind the crown; the greedy Tanzanians in public office demanding bribes from every human soul they meet.
I know there are entrepreneurs out there denied jobs they are capable to do in the city councils, in the district councils and in a myriad of other government institutions just because they do not have money to bribe officials in those institutions. What a shame. Pay - back time will come one day!
In the absence of crooks in the civil service, businesses are set to perform very well in the days to come.
Besides this daring Chagga woman, there must be other Tanzanians wanting to create employment for themselves and others in the future, I am sure. The merchant of the north east is not alone in her desire to free herself from the yoke of male dominance; to be independent, to make her own decisions, to take the risks she wants to take, to do things her own way; for this is a characteristic of people with confidence in their personal skills-- and there must be many of you out there. Let's go for it!
I challenge you to emulate the merchant of the north east; to desire independence. Of course there are risks involved. Nobody said it's going to be easy. You won’t just wake up one morning and find yourself in hyper profits, personal satisfaction, financial security, power and influence. It might take time for your efforts to pay back, but it should work out just fine. It has worked for others. Why not you? Fortunately the government has set the stage to make sure you succeed.
Alas, I have one last word to the prospective entrepreneur: Set out to do clean business. Set a clean, just mark up on the product or service you provide--a mark up you can defend; and pay no bribe to no Dick, Tom or Harry. That is where you need to go as business people in order to defeat criminals in civil service. Do clean business and pay no bribe to anbody!