Third Convention, September 22-25, 2011; Dulles, Virginia
Only three years young, the Diaspora Council of Tanzanians in America (DICOTA) in collaboration with the Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania in the United States of America drew a record-breaking of 600 delegates at its 2011 convention (quadrupling the attendance from its first convention). Organizers of the convention came from all regions of the United States, including Tanzanians in Washington DC who made up the local steering committee. Between the Embassy, DICOTA, local committee, rapporteurs and other volunteers, close to 50 individuals took part in planning and/or working at the convention itself. By all accounts, it was a successful convention, with delegates already yearning for information on next year’s convention: when and where?
The convention program consisted of four major areas: plenary sessions including the keynote speech, panel sessions, Question and Answer forums (open discussion), and networking/socializing.
- DICOTA and The Tanzanian Embassy in the United States of America together planned and executed the Convention, celebrating 50 years of Independence.
- President of the United Republic of Tanzania, HE. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, addressed the 600 Diasporans at the convention, demonstrating political commitment at the highest level supporting the Diaspora.
- The convention reflected a strong public and private partnership. Over 20 dignitaries of the government, non-governmental, and private sectors in Tanzania and America participated in the convention, providing first-hand information to Diasporans about the business/investment, employment, and philanthropic potential in Tanzania and the United States.
- The relationship between the United States and Tanzania is strong – not just in business, but also humanitarian (e.g. Peace Corps), as emphasized by Ambassadors Mwanaidi Maajar (Tanzanian Ambassador to the United States and Mexico) and Donald Yamamoto (Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs, United States Government).
- Roots , traditions, and the future of our country kicked off the Convention, including:
- Tanzanian children in Washington DC leading delegates in the country’s National Anthem, as well as the historical song, “Tanzania Tanzania Nakupenda kwa Moyo wote.”
- Chairman of the Tanzanian Community in New York, Hajji Khamis, presented a traditional Tanzanian “poem,” Utenzi, in Swahili.
- Some highlights from President Kikwete’s keynote address:
- He praised Tanzanians in the Diaspora in America for being good citizens of Tanzania and USA; and encouraged Diasporans to be part of the building of Tanzania.
- The President highlighted accomplishments since Tanzania’s independence 50 years prior – including peace and political stability despite Tanzania’s diversity in terms of race, ethnicity, and religion; national development; democracy; literacy and education; lead in humanitarian efforts; peaceful elections; Media freedom; freedom of worship; and success in combating chronic illnesses (including Malaria being eliminated in Zanzibar for the third time).
- President Kikwete launched NSSF’s WESTADI Project, which provides members of the Tanzanian Diaspora community with insurance for themselves as well as family members in Tanzania, including costs for transporting the insured person’s body to Tanzania in the event of death while abroad, as well as a round-trip ticket for the person accompanying the deceased.
- President Kikwete and Hon. Bernard Membe (Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation) spoke of their personal commitments to assist the Diaspora in attaining Dual Citizenship with Tanzania.
- The President encouraged Tanzanians abroad to build in Tanzania; contribute to one’s family (e.g. $400/year can educate a secondary student in boarding school); contribute to the country’s development; bring investment, skills, technology; and to organize into associations and contribute to Tanzanians’ welfare.
- There are up to 2 Million Tanzanian Diasporans around the world, with 170,000 being in the United States.
- The ministry for Foreign Affairs sees itself as a bridge between Tanzania and Diasporans abroad, facilitated by Directors of the Diaspora Desks on the mainland and in Zanzibar.
- The size of the Tanzanian Diaspora in America and its human capital/resources, have great potential for Tanzanians in America as well as Tanzania. Tellingly, Tanzanians in America, on average, have higher education than the average American in the United States. Equipped with varying competencies, ideas and expertise fomented at home and abroad, they carry with them a new vision and represent positive forces of change.
- Members of the Tanzanian Diaspora community showcased their philanthropic, entrepreneurship, illustrating the talents and potential within the Diaspora (e.g. Nyumba Poa, Arise Beauty Products, Ahmed Moving Express, ALEA Furniture, Safina USA – a school and office furniture company).
- The impact of previous DICOTA conventions were illustrated through a presentation by the Tanzania Investment Group of USA (TIGU), based in California, which was formed as a result of the first DICOTA convention (2009). NSSF’s WESTADI program was also conceived in the first DICOTA convention.
- Representatives from the Governments, public, and private sectors all highlighted former Diasporans’ contributions to the financial sector in Tanzania – including holding positions as CEOs, directors, managers, and other executive and professional positions.
- The DIASPORA, including DICOTA, should be proud and continue to facilitate philanthropic, job and business opportunities in Tanzania, especially in critical areas needed in the country (e.g. mortgage financing, credit reference checks, education, health, technology and business).
- Standard Chartered Bank and Radar Recruitment conducted Face-to-Face interviews on-site, for Tanzanians in the Diaspora interested in jobs in Tanzania.
- Philanthropic and capacity building projects were also showcased at the Convention:
- Jambo Africa Child Hope, a non-profit agency, provides and invests in practical education to orphaned children or children living in poverty.
- Bruce Wilkinson, former Chairman and CEO of a Fortune 1000 company – MCDERMOTT INTERNATIONAL INC – was awarded DICOTA’s Outstanding Philanthropist Award for providing full financial support and sponsorship for two projects namely the Kipawa Libermann English Medium Primary School and the Rectory, at Kipawa, Dar-es-Salaam.
- The impact of Social Media in the Diaspora, and its connection with Tanzania’s development, was also highlighted.
- Question and Answer open forums brought up challenges (e.g. lack of access to capital for those interested in investing in Tanzania), which led to action steps, some of which are already being addressed post-Convention (e.g. tax incentives for Tanzanians investing in the country).
The detailed program for the Convention is attached in Appendix C.