Friends in High Places

We’ve written about the election of John Magufuli several times now, and you may have even read about him outside of this blog. His no-nonsense, all-business style has gotten quite a bit of international attention, even resulting in the birth of the #whatwouldmagufulido internet meme. But up until last week, we hadn’t really felt a direct impact of his new administration in our project (outside of David’s participation in Usafi [Cleaning] Day, of course).

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David doing his part to clean up Kariakoo Market on Usafi Day!

One of Magufuli’s main campaign promises – and one that he, two months into his presidency, seems to be taking very seriously – was to improve the economy and help small businesses by reducing the barriers to entering into the formal marketplace. In a country with 80% of its population living in rural areas, most peoples’ small businesses are, in fact, their farms. And at the heart of this massive and vital agricultural economy is none other than the Kariakoo Market, where we are based.

Kariakoo Market is a government-owned entity and let’s just say it has seen better days. Revenues are down, the facilities are far from state-of-the-art and the relationship between management and the traders who sell here is tenuous at best. It seems that Magufuli and his staff both recognize these issues and understand the importance of addressing them. On National Usafi Day, a top official from his cabinet came and addressed a crowd at the market, called out Kariakoo management and vowed to make major improvements. Then, last week, he appointed a new chairman of the Board of Directors (the prior existence of which is unclear to us) who came to meet with Kariakoo management, including one of our partners, Omary. The chairman said that Kariakoo needs to do a better job serving the people producing the goods that are sold here by utilizing technology to connect them directly to the market.

Sound familiar?

That is, in a nutshell, the goal of the Masoko Project. While most of the managers in the room nodded in passive agreement, Omary stood up and proudly explained that this is exactly what we are – and have been for years – working to achieve. According to him, the chairman was thrilled.

This is a huge victory for us. One of our biggest challenges, for years, has been getting the full support of the Kariakoo management, outside of our partners and a few forward-thinking individuals. Getting the opportunity to share our vision with someone in a position of great authority and have him support it so thoroughly should go a long way towards getting the kind of buy-in that will be necessary to make this project thrive after our departure.

It’s too soon to know what exactly will come of this, but this is undoubtedly a huge leap forward for the Masoko Project!

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