The Beginning

On September 2008, 30 individuals with ties to or of Tanzanian origin from different parts of the United States gathered in Houston, Texas as a focus group to discuss the possibility of starting a Diaspora Organization of Tanzanians living in the United States of America. Also in attendance was the former Ambassador of Tanzania to the United States, Mr. Ombeni Sefue, along with a delegation of dignitaries from Tanzania representing the Government, the public and private sector. In The organization under the name of Diaspora Council of Tanzanians in America and the adopted acronym is DICOTA was then formed and registered in the state of Minnesota as a Non Profit under Chapter 317A of the Minnesota statutes. So far DICOTA have successful organized four conventions held in Houston, Minneapolis Dulles and Chicago as follows:

Inaugural Convention: October 1 – 4, 2009; Houston, Texas

The Convention was attended by 150 people from all the United States as well as from Tanzania. The convention brought together members of the Tanzanian Diaspora in USA, Tanzanian private sector and, Tanzania and US Government officials; key decision makers from United States of America and international organizations with vested interest in the economic growth in Tanzania and the United States of America. The themes for the convention were as follows:

Second Convention, July 1-4, 2010; Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Convention was attended by 250 people from all over the United States and Tanzania. The main Theme was “Unleashing the Diaspora Potential” which had the following components:

  • KILIMO KWANZA (Agriculture First in English) & FOOD SOVEREIGNTY: During the inaugural convention in October 2009, DICOTA was called upon to join and take action in “Kilimo Kwanza”. DICOTA accepted the call and the challenge to apply the organization members’ abilities and resources as residents of America to establish and promote charitable projects aimed at eradication of hunger (food sovereignty), and to apply technology in the way food and cash crops are produced, consumed and distributed, how they are processed, and how we can help influence those who control the food chain and increase their number. DICOTA has established an action committee to lead this effort; the committee presented the status of the initiative and led the discussions on the subject matter.
  • How do banks and businesses are engaged in the efforts to improve lives in Tanzania and succeed in African infrastructure projects and development. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that 15 of the 20 fastest growing economies in 2010 will be from the African continent. Is Tanzania one of them? The DICOTA 2010 Convention focused on the role played by the Diaspora as a key connector between United States and Tanzania to improve what is already on the ground and help in introducing new initiatives to help more people. Eight African countries are headed for emerging market status: Botswana, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. These countries, which account for almost 50% of the region’s GDP outside of South Africa, have strong potential to attain sustainable development.
  • The best practices and how to go about doing charitable projects in Tanzania was also one of the main discussions for the convention, participants gotten an opportunity to explore the status and areas of opportunity presented by Tanzania Investment Center and came up with the ways forward on how the Diaspora community and participants would get involved in philanthropic activities in Tanzania.

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.

HIGHLIGHTS 

Power and Purpose – Minnesota and Tanzania Working Together, November 7th, 2011 Minneapolis, Minnesota

Mr Kjell Bergh, the Honorary Consul of Tanzania together with Minnesota Council on Foundations, The McKnight Foundation, Minnesota International NGO Network, Minnesota International Center, Bega kwa Bega-ELCT/ELCA and the University of Minnesota organized a one day Conference themed “Power and Purpose – Minnesota and Tanzania Working Together”  The conference brought together organizations engaged in supportive relationships between Minnesota and Tanzania, including NGO’s, funding organizations, faith-based community, academics, public and private as well as the Tanzania Diaspora. The DICOTA was very well represented; Dr Crispin Semakula served as one of the Committee members.  Joel Mburu, Emma Kasiga and Ndaga Mwakabuta participated as facilitators and we had another eight Tanzanians in Minnesota attended as participants.

The keynote speaker was Richard Leider who spoke about his book and the meaning in the Power and Purpose.  Mr Leider is an internationally acclaimed life change coach, author and speaker with three decades of involvement in Tanzania. Opening of the Conference was done by the Secretary of Minnesota State, Mark Richie and followed by address by Lily Munanka, Deputy Chief of the Mission – The Embassy of Tanzania in Washington DC.

We then shared on experiences about current activities of Minnesota Organizations in Tanzania, and learnt who is doing what and where in their specific sector and strategy. The discussion aimed at strengthening existing collaborations and explored new ones that support health, education, justice, food security and agriculture, infrastructure and economic development.

The conference was a very good starting point for DICOTA to engage the NGO’s in Minnesota that are already involved in Tanzania to fulfill our mission and goals. On behalf of DICOTA, the DICOTA president pledged to the conference participants that, DICOTA will offer full support on their activities in Tanzania in the areas of Networking, data and information sharing as well as helping in addressing issues/barriers that are hindering the delivery of their services to our motherland.

Fourth Convention, Aug 30 – Sept 2, 2012; Chicago, Illinois

During the Labor Day holiday weekend, the Diaspora Council of Tanzanians in America (DICOTA) drew around 200 participants primarily from Tanzanians living in the US, joined by fellow Tanzanians from home and other Diasporas, as well as Americans and other nationalities residing in the US and outside. Organizers of the convention came from all regions of the United States, including Tanzanians in Chicago who made up the local steering committee. Between DICOTA, the local committee, rapporteurs and other volunteers, about 40 individuals took part in planning and/or working at the convention itself. This year’s Convention raised and discussed issues Tanzanians in the Diaspora have yearned for many years towards (e.g. dual citizenship, constitution review), and whose action steps are already underway. As in previous years, 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.

Fifth Convention, October 2-5, 2014; Durham, North Carolina

Empowering the Tanzanian Diaspora for Socio-Economic Transformation at Home and Abroad

On October 2 – 5, 2014 the Diaspora Council of Tanzanians in America (DICOTA) drew over 200 delegates. The convention brought together members of the Tanzanian Diaspora in the United States America, Tanzanian private sector and government officials; key decision makers from Tanzania and U.S. businesses; financial institutions, and international organizations with vested interest in investment and growth in the country. The conference presented attendees with the latest trade and investment opportunities in all sectors of the economy, while providing a forum for potential partnership formation through many networking opportunities.

The Tanzanian community in North Carolina hosted the event, which by many attendees and observers was considered the most successful convention since the inception of DICOTA. Between DICOTA, the local committee, rapporteurs and other volunteers, about 40 individuals took part in planning and/or working at the convention itself. Of special note, an additional activity during this convention was DICOTA’s second election of Executive Officers for the next two year term 2014-2016. As a result of multiple discussions, it was decided to have the elections during the convention to allow convention delegates and candidates to meet and also allow delegates to get introduced to the new slate of democratically elected officers. The election took place on Saturday October 4 and the results were announced during the convention farewell event on October 5.

The 2014 convention focused on socio-economic transformation. While continuing to emphasize and educate the diaspora members on the socio-economic developments taking place in Tanzania, the 2014 convention also highlighted the efforts and contributions of the Tanzanian diaspora in the United States and their efforts in contributing to the socio-economic developments in Tanzania. 2014 was a year when Tanzanians were discussing amendment to the constitution through the Constituent Assembly. Tanzanian diaspora communities around the world, including DICOTA, actively participated in this process through petitions, engaging with decision makers and advocating for representation. Among the constituent assembly members, DICOTA was fortunate to have a member selected as a representative to the assembly. In addition to other matters being discussed at the DICOTA convention, delegates were very eager to hear firsthand from the Constituent Assembly representative who was also a delegate to the convention. The issue of citizenship and birth rights was among those of great interest to the diaspora.

As in previous years, 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. Due to feedback from delegates of previous conventions, the 2014 convention included breakout sessions on several issues of interest. Additionally, the 2014 convention included a panel of Tanzanian Community Leaders who discussed various initiatives in their respective communities, testimonials from Tanzanians in the diaspora and product presentation from sponsors. The convention delegates were welcomed to the City of Durham by Mayor William Bell.

Convention Highlights

  • Our Guest of Honor, Chief Secretary Ambassador Ombeni Sefue:
    • Reminded DICOTA to maintain and not stray away from the initial ideas and purpose of DICOTA
    • Reemphasized the role of DICOTA vis-à-vis the role of Tanzania Community Associations in the US. Specifically, the Chief Secretary said “DICOTA on its part must focus on larger issues of interest to all Tanzanians in America, but you still need to collaborate with local Tanzanian communities in pursuit of common goals and objectives. You also have to continue refocusing on Tanzania, it is your home, and it is your roots.”
    • Challenged DICOTA to be ambassadors for Tanzania and identify opportunities for growth and cooperation.
  • We also heard from Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, the Tanzania Ambassador in the United States:
    • Reiterated that the embassy is focused on serving Tanzanians
    • The embassy will remain engaged with activities of Tanzanians in our communities
    • To remain good citizens and good representatives of Tanzania in our communities
  • Plenary Session 2, focused on Resources in Tanzania for Diasporans. Delegates heard from representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Tanzania Department of Immigration, National Identification Authority (NIDA), Bank of Tanzania (BoT), Azania Bank, Cooperative and Rural Development Bank (CRDB), and the Parastatal Pension Fund.
  • During lunch, a Local panel led by the Union of Tanzanians in North Carolina, shared experiences and activities of the community organization and some of the work being by Tanzanians in the North Carolina area.
  • Plenary Session 3 was a panel discussion co-chaired by Ambassador Mulamula and Ben Kazora. The panel focused on Partnerships and the Role of the Diaspora. Panelists included Bank of New York Mellon, US Trade and Development Agency, Prime Minister’s Office, US Agency for International development.
  • Break Session 4a,( Investment/Entrepreneurship/Landownership) moderated by Lenard Tenende, included presentations from the Ministry of Lands Housing and Human Settlement, Business Registration Licensing Agency and the Export Processing Zone Authority.
  • Breakout Session 4b, (Energy & Oil; Geo-Intelligence), moderated by Fredrick Mjema, included presentations from Ministry of Energy and Minerals, Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation and Kirobe Investments Co Ltd.
  • Breakout Session 4c, (Information Technology) included presentations from GeekPlus LLC and the Nuclear Engineering Department of the North Carolina State University.
  • A dinner gala and awards ceremony was hosted where awards for Youth Achievement, Business Achievement, Professional Achievement and Outstanding Philanthropist were presented.
  • The Day 2 keynote was Ambassador Amina Ali, African Union Ambassador to the United States. Ambassador Ali shared various programs and initiatives that are available Africans in the diaspora including Tanzanians. She challenged and urged the Tanzania diaspora to become better organized and to take advantage of the various tools and resources available for diasporans, particular those of African descent.
  • Plenary Session 6a delegates heard a presentation on the Africa Diaspora Investment Fund of the World Bank
  • Plenary Session 6b was presented by Ambassador Mulamula. The session focused on the role of the embassy and recent initiative regarding how the embassy plans to engage Tanzanians. There was also a presentation on immigration matters and updates on changes on immigration laws and how the embassy can better serve Tanzanians on immigration and other consular matters.
  • Kadari Singo, Constituent Assembly Member provided an update the process and proceedings of the Constituent Assembly and shared with delegates the next steps in the process.
  • Breakout Session 7a, (Women and Children/ Health/ Education), led by Dr. Lyungai Mbilinyi included presentations from the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Child Survival International, JENGA Foundation, University of South Carolina, TANO Ladies, Tanzanite Ladies and Union of Tanzanians in North Carolina.
  • Breakout Session 7b, (Developing Diasporans Through Education and Training) moderated by Susan Nkurlu, included presentations from initiatives undertaken by Dr. Lucas Shallua, Prof. Charles Musiba, Dr. Julius Nyang’oro, Pete Mhunzi, and Dr. Joshua Idassi.
  • Breakout Session 7c, (Customs/ Export and Import/ Insurance) led by Lunda Asmani, included presentations from the Tanzania Ports Authority, Tanzania Revenue Authority, Rodgers Export LLC, New York Life and Public Service Pension Fund.
  • Session 8 was a testimonial panel of Tanzanian diasporans in the United States. The panel included Rose Miriam Kinunda, Dr. Crispin Semakula and Dr. Julius Nyang’oro.
  • Following the official closing of the convention of the convention on Saturday October 4th, the local steering committee hosted a Tanzania BBQ with simultaneous soccer games and a farewell Tanzanian brunch with soup, pilau and other bites prior to delegates’ departure on Sunday October 5th . Music was provided by BJ “B” of North Carolina alongside DJ Luka of Washington DC. Additional entertainment included comedy by Masanja, bongo flava superstars Kassim and Peter Msechu. Tanzania fashion was exhibited by Dedi Couture and Nashona of North Carolina and Missy Temeke of Washington DC.