For more than half a century, Zanzibar endured the pain of internal conflicts and bitter divisions of region, race, and political ideologies. But hostility and hatred are no match for justice; they offer no pathway to peace, and they must not stand between the people of Zanzibar and a future of reconciliation and hope. The choice of reconciliation is not only a matter of ACT-Wazalendo versus the ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM). It is the past versus the future. It is time for Zanzibaris to move toward that social and cultural future together. Yes, it won’t be easy. It won’t happen overnight, but we have to work for it. Fight for it, and most of all, believe in it.
We can have political differences without turning against each other. We can disagree without assuming that it’s motivated by malice. We can treat one another as patriots even if we disagree, as fellow Zanzibaris who love our country equally. But we must be honest if we want to be truly free. We cannot reach any serious reconciliation without honesty. It is bound to fail.
We live in an integrated island — one in which we all have a stake in each other’s success. And if we cannot work together more effectively, we will all suffer the consequences. And the pillars of that success are clear: pragmatic leadership with strong democratic governance demonstrated by President Hussein Mwinyi; an effective public bureaucracy; effective control of corruption; reliance on the ‘best and brightest’ citizens through investment in education; a development that provides an opportunity for all people and not just some; and a sense of national identity that rejects conflict for a future of peace and reconciliation.
A call for tough choices
But tough choices have to be made to arrive at this destination. There’s a close link between economic growth and political stability. Zanzibar’s strength will come only when our legal system will be straightforward, secure, and efficient. In legal terms, this implies that the consequences attached to the laws are predictable for everyone (clear), the law does not frequently change, but it is rather reliable (secure), and it is enforced all the time (efficient). These three fundamental elements generate the required stability that attracts investors. Indeed, investors are by their own nature risk-averse. They do not like when the rules of the game are unclear, mutable and enforced depending on someone’s discretion. There’s a need for friendly policies to be adopted by the government towards foreign investments.
Furthermore, we need to have an unwavering belief that a robust education system supports economic growth. To realise the success of Zanzibar, we can refer to a metaphor taken from horseracing. In horseracing, the expression ‘win by a nose’ means that in case of two or more close competitors that are very likely, win the one that can put his nose first. So what should be the nose of Zanzibar? I think it is the education system and its contribution to economic growth.
Education contribution is double folded: on the one hand, education provides skilled workers with higher marginal productivity of labour (with obvious consequences on the Gross Domestic Product). On the other hand, education provides positive externalities. A positive externality is a benefit that a party has without paying for it. In plain English, when we invest in education, we consider only our personal benefits. However, once we obtain the education, it generates also a benefit for the whole society.
For instance, given our knowledge, we will be more likely to set up a profitable business that would, in return, give a job to other people. Offering a job to another person was not our initial intention. Our initial purpose was to invest in education to have a successful career. It turns out that by doing so, other people benefit from our education. For that matter, Zanzibar must invest significantly in education by increasing teachers’ prestige from the top graduates in a highly centralised system and training teachers to secure quality control on education. However, only a government that can guarantee security, avoid corruption, and enforce the law can drive this success.
Zanzibar’s only resource is its people
Education is the key to the long-term future of Zanzibar, which has no natural resources. Zanzibar is ‘blessed’ with its lack of natural resources because it is forced to develop its only resource: its people — Zanzibaris. Zanzibar has to compensate for its absence of natural resources by investing heavily in education. This will enhance its population’s skills and attract the best and brightest Zanzibaris who are inside and those in the diaspora to join and remain in the government bureaucracy and pay these citizens competitive salaries. The government must view education as a national investment and has to increase government expenditure on education and put much emphasis on Mathematics, English and Science Studies.
So that the government can achieve all these, it has to retain its talents currently in the civil service. Dr Mwinyi’s government indeed inherited a huge budget deficit. However, the government has to think of salary increases for senior civil servants and view the private sector as a serious competitor for talented personnel. Otherwise, private-sector salaries will lead to competent senior civil servants’ exodus to more lucrative jobs in the private sector. Senior civil servants’ salaries have to be increased substantially to reduce the gap with the private sector.
Yes, Zanzibar is a tiny country but in many ways can again be the most successful and become East Africa’s dream country. Zanzibar’s success in the old days (the 60s and 80s) says a great deal about how a country with virtually no natural resources can create economic advantages with influence far beyond its region and became a prosperous small country in a big world. The Government of National Unity alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance to make that change happens.
We must recognise the strengthened spirit of conciliation and collaboration demonstrated by the breadth of fresh air of President Mwinyi and his unwavering commitment to make this an efficient and honest government. That’s where the true key of Zanzibar’s success lies in. We sincerely hope that this new spirit will serve as a beacon of new light that will guide all Zanzibaris.
Zanzibar stands at the dawn of a new day. Let us enjoy this historic achievement, but understand that we have much work to do to bring about our country’s change it so desperately needs for so long. We must help President Mwinyi reverse the destructive policies and positively move Zanzibar into a remarkable future – one that begins to unshackle the burdens of our past that limited our capacity to dream a new future.
Let the fair of a new beginning begin, a new era, a new year, and a New and One Zanzibar.
For Zanzibar — the best is yet to come, Insha’Allah!
Khaleed Said Suleiman is a Zanzibari living in Toronto, Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. These are the writer’s own opinions and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints of The Chanzo Initiative. You can also have your opinion published on our platform. Contact our editor at email@example.com for further inquiries.