Hot debate on Kagera poverty, experts show ways out

BY MUTAYOBA ARBOGAST,BUKOBA

THERE has been a hot debate in Kagera region and diaspora, arguing the statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics(NBS) of 2018, showing Kagera region has ‘unpromising’ GDP and lies below the poverty line.

Some people show doubts about the statistics that may be fictitious to distort the image of the region and its people, saying that they have travelled widely in this country and know in and out of real-life of wananchi in other regions who are poorer than Kagera, but the statistics had favoured them.

The debate was recently catalysed by Hon. Zitto Zuberi Kabwe ,a popular politician and economist, after having posted on his Twitter page (translation from Swahili is mine): My congeners Kagera residents are full of mere words and pretending.Kagera contributes 2.5% only of national incomes(GDP),31% of the residents, are below the bottom line of poverty(that they cant earn sh 49,320 in a month). A region with PhD holders per capital, how does it come? Better they go….”

His critics say he is amplifying the matter as a mockery because he is their ‘mtani’, traditionally allowed to mock them anyhow.

But most opinions agree with him, that it’s real, as shown by the statistics, and no one to blame but themselves, citing some factors that the big number of residents are not hardworking people, especially youth,land disputes, arrogance and evil spirit, among the many, that the elite who could have invested heavily in the region, decided to invest to other places and some have opted not to return back home.

However, this group raises a finger too, to Kagera politicians who for a long time have failed to organise their voters towards one aim of development, instead have been fighting in demoralising their opponents, citing the Bukoba bus stop, unpassable roads(during rainy seasons), failure of constructing a new Bukoba central market, infrastructures which could have attracted investors, as a result of ‘bad politics’

Between these arguments,I communicated with Hon.Zitto Zuberi Kabwe for clarification, and he said the statistics don’t lie, “Poverty line means anybody who can’t earn sh 49,320 a month is poor and can’t afford to buy needs.”

That, according to the last Household Budget survey,2017/2018,Kagera is amongst the regions under the poverty line.

Dr Anne Gongwe, Head of Business and Administration at Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT),Mwanza campus, told me when I reached her over the phone, that Gross Domestic Product(DGP), represent the value of the final goods and services produced in the region within that year to measure a standard of living and prosperity

. In this case, the year is 2018, according to the data collected by NBS

Dr Gongwe says in that list Kagera appears in the 9th position among 23 regions, that it did well in agriculture and, that it could have done much better, thinking the record might have been affected by evil deeds of smuggling of products out of the country as Kagera borders three countries.

She says, there is the second list whose ranking is DGP per capita, whereby Kagera is the last.

According to her GDP per capita is reached by dividing GDP at the constant prices by the population of a particular region.

Dr Gongwe, says Kagera region, apart from doing well in GDP category, can’t do well in GDP per capital because, there is no good cash flow, which she says, come from mining, urbanisation, industries, tourism and other activities which generate income, that relying on agriculture only can’t stimulate the growth of economy.

What is the way forward then?. She reacts: public, private sector, and the government authorities in Kagera region, implement Business Environment Strengthening Programme for Tanzania(BEST dialogue), so as to create an improved business enabling environment and more investment by the private sector.

That working together, they’ll solve internal and external factors affecting businesses in the region.

However the then Kagera Regional Commissioner, Brig. Gen. Marco Gaguti in August 2019(who was later transferred to Mtwara region), organised an Investment Week symposium, attended by ambassadors representing Tanzania to Kenya, Uganda,Rwanda, Burundi and DRC, accompanied by traders, and met Tanzania counterparts to discuss a better way of doing business, an opportunity believed to benefit Kagera region.

How much the region ever since, has benefited, it is ‘not easy to tell’.

Everybody contribution is needed to uplift the regional development for the betterment of its people