Saturday, November 26, 2011

TEDxDAR: January Makamba

January Makamba (CCM-Bumbuli) is here in his capacity as a civilian, having been strongly warned not to use the stage as a political platform and game enough to try and cope with the high-tech environment while delivering his presentation. Multitasking, eh... :)

So his talk is about the amenities of life. He kicked off the meaty bit of the presentation with a slide that only had one word on it: Sameness. His idea is that although there is a wealth of diversity amongst people, there is a sameness that we should be embracing. I am listening with a skeptical ear until I realize that January is going to talk demographics. The set-up is this: he contrasts Zawadi with Vanessa...

The typical Tanzanian, aka Mtanzania wa Kawaida, he named Zawadi: female, 17, rarely eats meat or fish, walks almost everywhere, no mobile phone, born in a family of seven people, first sex at 17.5 yrs, married at 19, her husband will be 5 yrs older, first child at 19.5, last child at 36 yrs, lives in rural area, works on the farm. How does her life compare with yours? Good question for a TEDxDAR audience.

We are Vanessa, in the top 20% bracket of income earners: assured of university, living in 4 bedroom houses, drinking bottled water, driving to most places, 78% chance of employment, more than one mobile phone/smartphone, first intercourse 18.5, first marriage 23 yrs, finish university at 21, husband 26 yrs, first child at 23 yrs, last child at 32 yrs. Both Zawadi and Vanessa get married pregnant (zawadi 3 months, vanessa 5+). Number of children: more for Zawadi, fewer for Vanessa. However, in terms of power consumption, the pattern falls apart... our energy consumption is erratic, cannot be entirely determined by income bracket. And so on and so forth, January contrasted the top 20% with the remaining 80% to challenge our perceptions and thinking about how our country is structured.

The Question: what would it take for Zawadi to live the same lifestyle as Vanessa? On the consumption side, here are just a few data: by 2050 72% of tanzanians will have water problems... Zawadi's income would need to increase x6. For Zawadi to eat meat we would have to slaughter 7 million cows a year- the current national herd numbers roughly 15 million. Electricity consumption would have to increase x28. The list goes on. But here is something to challenge your thinking: the Hadzabe eat better than the average Tanzanian, and enjoy a better quality of life in many ways. Is it that Zawadi should be aspiring to Vanessa's lifestyle, or should Vanessa and Zawadi maybe learn something from the Hadzabe?

January's presentation used data from the Demographic and Health Survey of 2010. It is available on the NBS website, the report was launched a few months ago and apparently makes for riveting reading.

As a final point, Nadeem asked January: 'What can we, the Vanessas of Tanzania, do to improve the quality of life of all the Zawadis?' I think that the answer depends on a person's politics. In that vein, I am going to try and get a bit of a Twitter argument going with Shurufu kicking around some ideological perspectives. Let's see if that works...


  1. Hi Elsie, I took the Zawadi/Vanessa comparison and put it slightly off context for an article in my blog (sorry, written in German). Hope this is ok. I enjoyed your TEDxDar posts, thanks a lot!

    I thought the Zawadi/Vanessa image was a nice illustration for average European readers who mostly think of "African women" as being 100% like Zawadi. I used the comparison in order to argue that there is some kind of spectrum between Zawadi and Vanessa, and that "African women" are not necessarily as miserable and oppressed as the pictures shown in the media (and the development industry). As said above, not quite the context it was presented in originally but I think it is such a handy way to present and grasp a "women"-related topic.

  2. So informative, thanks. I advice you to post this article as a video-review on TikTok so that many interested people can see it. And you can always use the services of to increase their number.

  3. So informative, thanks. I advice you to post this article as a video-review on TikTok so that many interested people can see it. And you can always use the services of to increase the number of followers.


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