Care, a bowl of ‘uji’... It is the small, little things that count

Saturday June 08 2024
Taifa-1 satelitte

Screen shots of Taifa-1, Kenya's first operational earth observation satellite. African countries have launched 41 satellites since 2016, led by Egypt, South Africa, Algeria and Nigeria. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT | NMG


A few weeks ago, I was ignoring a football match on TV when I noticed that the teams did not look alike at all. After a few minutes of full attention, I realised that my team, which was playing, was physically larger than their opponents.

Their victory was spoiled by the knowledge that they had a basic physical advantage over the other guys, and I ruminated over this. As I ignored more TV I came across an interview where players from an English Premier League team discussed the impact of getting a coach from the mainland, who changed their diet completely.

Diet. In football, eating well makes a difference. Having solved the issue, I went on to ignore more TV as I tried to avoid tuning into local news because politicians have a bad habit of assaulting the brain with inane statements.

How will Tanzania get anywhere with these floppy intellects being in charge? It was only when we gathered to watch CNN flub the live broadcast of the launch of the long-awaited Boeing Starliner that it came together. While we discussed whether CNN blocked showing the lift-off on purpose in case of tragedy, and whether a Tanzanian at Nasa would be allowed to be an astronaut and fly on space missions it hit me: Diet.

I have a friend who views almost every instance of poor decision-making in the public sphere through the lens of childhood stunting. In the general fun of dissing the ruling class, I always found this to be a good joke. Here’s the thing: it isn’t a joke at all. Tanzania may well be in the hands of a generation whose childhood stunting has produced the leaders we have now.

When simple logic escapes them, it might not actually be their fault. They may simply not have the wherewithal to do the mental work required of a modern politician in a complex state.


Above its inherent coolness, the space race has very practical uses for any society that takes it up: Technological focus. I am low-key trying to track how Tanzania is going to get to space, in the broadest definition of those terms possible. Like, if some Tanzanite gets integrated into the tech on a spacecraft, that counts. But I would like to see a Tanzanian go to space in an African mission during my lifetime and, for that to happen, we need to produce the raw material: people who can.

And that is how I worked myself into a panic attack about the future of my country. Environmental collapse is worrying, yes. Global war is uncomfortable, mh hm... But, my goodness, the realisation that Tanzania might have got its priorities completely wrong — and thus compromised all our future — because we are busy building dams, instead of a school feeding programme, is unbearable.

We like to say that development is a complex endeavour. Sure. But what if it starts — and ends — with children and youth getting all of the right calories in a peaceful and loving environment, where their well-being is central and their thriving is tended in all sphere of growth? That, ladies and gentlemen, is the crux of our space programme.

A different definition, yes, and a wildly ambitious one considering the world we live in today. But it starts with care, and a bowl of uji… and, as we go into our election cycle, that might just be the only kind of messaging I won’t ignore on TV. Take care of the littles, and the little things, first.

Elsie Eyakuze is an independent consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report; Email [email protected]