Each year the Nordic Embassies in Tanzania –that is the Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, and Finnish Embassies here –have a collaborative “Nordic Week” celebration in Dar es Salaam –a week’s worth of activities reveling in the great friendship between Tanzania and the Nordic countries all while highlighting a chosen theme or topic.
This year (2021!) Sweden had the lead on the Nordic Week’s events. We chose to center the theme around our shared Nordic values, which are: Openness, Trust, Transparency, Accountability, Compassion, Innovation, and Sustainability, and how these values help with our efforts to get the balance right between the State, Market, and Community, for equal, inclusive and sustainable development.
On the 6th of May, and from the 20th to the 28th of May 2021, we hosted a series of intense dialogues and cultural experiences to showcase Nordic values, culture, and presence in Tanzania; and to take the chance to think about the future, and how the excellent relationship between Tanzania and the Nordic countries can be a force for positive change in Tanzania, the Nordic countries and around the world.
The 2021 Nordic Week kicked-off with a visit to Kibaha Education Center (KEC) on 6th May 2021. Situated 40 kilometers west of Dar es Salaam in the Coastal Region, KEC is a multidiscipline educational institution. It was first established in 1963 from a partnership between the government of (then) Tanganyika and the four Nordic countries, as a tool to fight what Mwalimu Julius Nyerere described as the newly independent country’s three major enemies –poverty, ignorance, and disease. On 10th January 1970, what was then called the Nordic Tanganyika Project (NTP), was handed over to the Government of Tanzania and renamed Kibaha Education Centre (KEC).
Since then the center, which is under the President’s Office –Regional Administration and Local Government, has been providing health services to the public through their Tumbi Regional Designated Referral Hospital; providing long and short-term vocational training courses for youth and neighboring communities through their Kibaha College of Health and Allied Sciences (KCOHAS) and Kibaha Folk Developmental College (KFDC); and providing kindergarten, primary and secondary education to students. KEC is a prime example of what 58 years (and more!) of friendship between Tanzania and the Nordic countries can do. What first began its inception as a collaborative goal, is now one of the leading educational institutions in Tanzania, driven by passionate, hardworking individuals that have brought positive changes to their communities.
Keeping in line with this year’s Nordic Week theme, and due to the values of openness, transparency, compassion and accountability it highlighted, we then hosted a screening of the 2018 documentary film “The Man Who Played With Fire” by Henrik Georgsson about the best-selling and award-winning Millennium-trilogy author Stieg Larsson, on 20th of May 2021. Many will easily recognize Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” book-to-film series, but little is known about Larsson’s pioneering work of fighting right-wing extremism in Sweden as a journalist. This film showed interviews with people who were close to Larsson, as well as material from his private archive, re-enactments, and rare archive footage about his life and legacy. Due to Covid-19 restrictions a small group of our partners, artists, journalists, and civil society actors were invited for an intimate viewing of the film, followed by a timely, important, and inspirational post-screening discussion. Finland, Denmark and Norway also hosted film screenings during the week, showing Forest Giant, Northbound and Another Round, respectively.
To date, Tanzania and the Nordic countries enjoy outstanding relations and over the years many politicians, government officials, scientists, businesspeople, religious leaders, and civil society from our respective nations have formed close relations and engaged in constructive and lively discussions. The aspirations of the Nordic countries are in many ways similar to those of Tanzania and in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, and we believe that sharing experiences with one another is in our mutual interests.
One area which has been central to the debate on economic policies in the Nordic countries, is the balance between state, market, and community. Nordic countries subscribe to the principle that “Nation-states should not take on tasks which are better left to the market or to communities”. This argument, put forward by leading economist Joseph Stiglitz, recalls that there is a myriad of roles that businesses, communities, and governments can play at various levels in society. And that the various players should be supportive of each other and work in complementary ways. To further elaborate on this theory, the Nordic countries wrote an Op-ed titled “Getting the balance right –the Nordic experience” published in The Citizen newspaper on 21st May 2021. The entirety of the article was also posted on our Embassy website and social media accounts, and can be referenced from these online sources indefinitely.
The Symposium “Tanzania’s Path to Prosperity: Balancing the State, Market and Community” that we organized in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), on May 24th 2021 continued the conversation about the complementary roles these three stakeholders play in society, within the context of Tanzania's contemporary policymaking. It entertained the dilemmas and challenges of various approaches aiming at striking the right balance for Tanzania in the pursuit of achieving her developmental agenda for the future –in a rapidly digitalizing world. The symposium made references to the Nordic experience and shared values, while expanding on the 2018 dialogue on the Stockholm Statement for Tanzania –who’s fifth principle calls for a judicious balance among the market, state, and community. Bringing together prominent, key stakeholders from the State (Government), Market (Private sector) and Community (Civil Society Organizations) into one room, with the Honorable Minister of Communication and Information Technology Dr. Faustine Ndugulile as the guest of honor, provided a common ground for candid discussions and exchange of ideas, that will hopefully continue. Read the communiqué here.
To showcase and celebrate the many faces of the strong and historic ties between the Nordic countries and Tanzania with the public, we held a 6-week digital campaign culminating in a virtual exhibition on May 25th titled #NordicFootprintsTZ on all four Embassies’ social media platforms. These Nordic “footprints” in Tanzania were big and small, funny and serious, old and recent. They ranged from nostalgic photographs, to newspaper clippings, to old timey vehicles, to stories about Nordic bilateral cooperation. In the end all the submitted footprints revealed that there are indeed many, cross-cutting traces left behind by a 50-plus year Nordic presence in and friendship with Tanzania. The virtual exhibition showcasing this digital campaign is still available for viewing via our shared Facebook event titled “Nordic Footprints Gallery” until June 7th 2021.
Rounding up the Nordic Week was a Business Seminar between the Nordic business community; representatives from Tanzania National Business Council (TNBC), the Prime Minister’s Office (Investment), Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation; and the Honorable Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr. Kitila Mkumbo, as the guest of honor. The business seminar was a natural continuation of the past years’ fruitful work on developing an analysis of Nordic businesses’ perception of the Tanzanian business environment, presenting an honest look at the current challenges, opportunities for future investment and suggestions for a way forward. The Nordic Embassies commissioned the renowned think- tank, Research on Poverty Alleviation (REPOA) in 2019 to undertake a business perception survey, which led to a launch of the Business Climate Survey of Nordic Companies in Tanzania report in June 2019.
The week also included a meeting between the four Nordic Ambassadors with the President of Zanzibar H.E. Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi, the First Vice President of Zanzibar, H.E. Masoud Othman and the Zanzibar Minister of Finance, Hon. Jamal Kassim Ali; a Conference on Regional Peace and Security in the region with a focus on Cabo Delgado; and a conversation with The Citizen about the Nordic Week activities.
This year’s Nordic Week provided an excellent opportunity for reconnection, conversation, learning, and reflection. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to every single individual that participated. Due to the pandemic, the events this year had to be carefully planned –and aside from the digital campaign –unfortunately had to be limited only to a small number of people. We hope that with improving conditions, the next Nordic Week (2022!) will allow us to collaborate with a wider audience.