By Godwin Semunyu

I recently stumbled on an interesting report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) revealing that human beings’ attention span; the amount of time humans spend concentrating on a task before becoming distracted. Has fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to just 8 seconds today. Less than goldfish that has a 9-second attention span. In other words: The average human attention span is now shorter than a goldfish. Blame it on technology, they say.

At first, we blamed cellular phones for distractions, then the internet boom, later social media, and now, smartphones have become our brains’ nemesis. The latter being the undisputed source of distraction.

The insights took me back to one of Mark Manson’s article– the attention economy, where he illustrated how life has changed, and the economies morphed into new things. For instance, if you’ve ever spent time in a challenging neighborhood or with people who grew up in poverty, you’ll notice how much they talk about food — their favorite foods, what they’re going to eat this weekend, how they like this and don’t like that, and so on. Much of their lives and conversations revolve around food for the simple reason that the scarcity of food makes it appear incredibly important.
But in first-world cultures where food is never an issue, discussions of food among most people are superficial and usually over within a few seconds.

For most of human history, the significant economic scarcity in the world was land. There was a limited amount of productive land; therefore, there was a limited amount of food. And because there was a limited amount of food, most day-to-day economic concerns, and political squabbles involved land. Most people spent their lives contemplating what land they were going to work, what they were going to grow, what kind of harvest to expect, and so on. Food was always on the top of people’s minds.

Eventually, when the industrial revolution hit, the primary scarcity was no longer land, as machines could now help cultivate more than enough food for everybody. Now the considerable scarcity was labor. You needed trained people to run all of these machines that did all of the cool new stuff so you could make money and get rich. Thus, for a couple of hundred years, the organizing principle in society was based on labor — who you worked for, how much you made, and so on.

Then, in the 20th century, more was produced than anyone would ever need or could ever purchase. The new scarcity in society was no more prolonged labor or land; the scarcity was now knowledge. People had so many choices of what to buy with their hard-earned money, but they didn’t know what to purchase. I once visited a lavished Nike store in the US, and I got overwhelmed by choices. I left.

The abundance of choices then gave way to brands. Thus, people spent most of their day-to-day existence trying to figure out what the best toothpaste was, what a toaster oven could do, and so on. The advertising and marketing fields then came to dominance to disseminate information people needed to make “informed purchases.”

Now, the internet and smartphones have disrupted everything. The primary scarcity in society is no longer comprehensive information. In fact, there is now more information than any of us could know what to do with. Everything can now be figured out in mere seconds. My twelve-year-old son would often scold me, “You can google that, dad, google is your friend,” whenever I ask for information or directions.

The scarcity in our world is no longer comprehensive knowledge, neither labor nor land. The new scarcity in the modern internet age is called; attention. People would do anything to get followers, the likes, impressions, and comments. The new bottleneck on our economy is attention. We tend to seek attention at all costs while paying little attention to things that matter. We are indeed in an attention-based economy with an increasing lower attention span.

The author is Head of Marketing and Communication at Equity Bank(T). The article is his personal views and does not represent his employer. He can be reached through: godwin.semunyu@equitybank.co.tz.

Read More


Need to inculcate savings culture

I just finished reading a memoir by former President Ally Hassan Mwinyi, “Mzee Ruksa, Safari ya Maisha Yangu.” Probably the best narrated Swahili biography of all time. In the book, Mzee Mwinyi discloses how he learned the saving culture from an early age through his late grandfather, Nzasa.

He says, during harvest season, when everyone was busy partying and plummeting the harvests, Nzasa would carefully stock the family harvest, ready to sell at higher prices during drought or in exchange for labor. That mentality, he says, has guided him through his entire life (he just turned 96yr), so much so that he has never borrowed money from anyone, thanks to self-discipline in savings and avoiding unnecessary expenditures.

In Tanzania, we are slowly becoming a nation of spenders rather than savers. The savings to income ratio is lower as the social norm is spending to achieve a particular lifestyle or status, regardless of income. The price tags and brands are essentials, irrespective of income.

Most people will place their lack of savings on not earning enough or because prices continue to rise. Frankly, the real reasons why people don’t save are seldom economic – they’re more psychological. That’s because, to most people, savings is considered as what’s leftover after paying for all essentials, rather than one of the essentials after earning. For most people, their savings get squeezed to allow consumption, while realistically, consumption is compressed to enable savings.

People tend to cling to the illusion that things will somehow improve – that, regardless of their efforts, things will get better, they’ll get lucky, their talents will suddenly be recognized, or “Dili” or Mchongo will come out of the blues, and all their financial worries will disappear. False optimism or what is known as Peter Pan syndrome‘.

Psychologically, spending is funnier than saving. It can be hard to save, especially during tough economic times. But saving is no longer an option. The coronavirus pandemic outbreak has given us all the chance to rethink our spending habits, and if you’re lucky enough to have a job still, it can be a brilliant time to make some positive changes to your financial habits. For instance, in Dar es Salaam, local hospitals charges as high as TZS 1mn for one-night admission for COVID-19 patients, which medical insurers do not cover. We are soon going to see families making life or death choices. Save.

Where do we go from here?

An orthodox piece of advice is to automatically save at least 15-20% of your income every month for future expenses, including emergencies and future life plans. Banks can help you set a particular standing order that will automatically transfer funds to this special account after each instructed income. You can also instruct limited withdrawals.

Another renowned method is starting what is known as an emergency fund, where one can start saving for the future. It might feel like emergency savings money is “just sitting there,” but that’s the point. Your emergency cash reserves should be easily accessible if your income is adversely affected or a significant unexpected expense arises. If you become ill, the last thing you want to worry about is how you’ll pay your bills.

Yet still, since savings is a habit, it is imperative to inculcate it early. Savings should start at home and schools at an early age. One can be taught to start small with achievable targets, short-term goals, and identifying fundamental lifestyle changes. Once savings habits are established, they tend to be maintained, and among ‘rainy-day savers,’ the savings developed during childhood continue into adulthood and become self-reinforcing.

The author is Head of Marketing and Communication at Equity Bank(T). The article is his personal views and does not represent his employer. He can be reached through: godwin.semunyu@equitybank.co.tz.

Read More


By Godwin Semunyu

There’s a lot of talk about digital transformation in the Tanzania banking space, but not a lot of results. A few banks are finding success, but many don’t have a real plan or still enjoy the business as usual.

Meanwhile, customers are busy finding new ways of life in the digital spaces. The Internet penetration rate in Tanzania has more than doubled between 2013 and 2021. Recent government reports have shown that by January 2021, there were close to 51 million mobile connections in the country, equivalent to 82.7% of the total population. Out of that, 15 million (26%) are active internet users.

The world of the internet, cell phones, and gadgets has made the unthinkable, thinkable. What started as social platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp, now links customers to their funds and markets, conveniently. Digital services are getting better and safer. The online business (Instagram business mostly) where one shops online, pay via mobile and have their purchase delivered at doorsteps have to a great extent reduced the need for cash, which is the main driver of traditional banking. Less cash, fewer bank branches.

The digital platforms have crossed and broken barriers even in areas like paying government taxes, duties, land rent, and port charges that were usually considered bureaucratic. International trade has also not been spared. You want a new gadget, you order straight from Apple, and it will be delivered to your doorstep having paid everything including taxes, duties, and airport charges online. All these with no cash involved.

Gone are the days of everyone needing to go to the bank to transact or open a bank account. The days of in-branch loan processing, are increasingly numbered. The dominance of mobile money, alternative banking channels, and the unfortunate emergence of the pandemic hasn’t helped the course either.

When most of today’s customers evaluate financial institutions, they only compare experiences. Real-time transactions and the convenience of services rank higher than the presence of a superior network of branches.

Tanzania Banking population stands at 29 percent, which is around 16 million people while financial inclusion numbers read at 85 percent, around 51 million people. The customers prefer to spend more time on their phones and gadgets than on banking halls. There can only be one winner here. Digital interactions.

The biggest and worrying data of them all is that the median age in Tanzania is 18 years. Meaning the new generation of customers is predominantly tech-savvy. The largest generation in the workforce to date prefers to bank online. Banks ought to adjust to their needs.

Also, Tanzania has a predominantly rural population geographically disperse. The investment costs required to reach them all make it an uphill task for most banks. Digitally, this segment can easily be included. It doesn’t necessarily have to be via internet-based applications, but rather the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) mode.

Writings should be on the white wall to all the Tanzania Banks chiefs, in the United Kingdom, for instance, more than 4,000 bank branches have been closed in the past six years as lenders increase digital services for customers.

In the United States alone, since 2012 the number of bank branches opened has fallen by an average of 902 per year, with Bank branches rapidly declining. One report has sarcastically predicted that the bank branches may become extinct by the year 2040.

Also, while announcing, first quarter 2021 performance results, Equity Bank Group CEO Dr. James Mwangi announced that currently, the Bank, as a group, serves 98% of customers via digital platforms, thanks to innovations and investment in technology.

The emergence of Bank’s agents popular known as Wakala since the year 2013 has seen more and more customers abandoning the branches network once needing services. In 2019 the total deposits through Wakala reached a record high of TZS 19 billion an 84% increase from a year prior. Alternative Banking channels have since become the pinnacle functions of the banking business.

In the past few years, Banks had embarked on a mission to push customers outside the branches by introducing higher fees on bank hall transactions. With the new development in the market, one wonders if the strategy will be overturned to save the landmark branches. It should also be noted that there is a growing group of potentials who have never had a bank account and are used to only accessing funds through mobile phones and Wakala. They present a mountain task to be “converted”.

-ENDS-

The writer is Head of Marketing and Communication at Equity Bank(T). He can be reached through: godwin.semunyu@equitybank.co.tz

Read More


In Tanzania, it is estimated that the quantity of municipal solid waste generated amounts to more than 10,000 tonnes per day. However, nearly 50 percent ends up disposed through the local methods of burning or burying. By year 2015, it was estimated that, of the total population, each person was producing an average solid waste of about 0.5 kg to 0.8 kg per day. What we do with the waste we produce in our daily activities, is now the worlds’ biggest headache.

 

Littering is a deliberate act,

Littering is amongst the leading contributor to urban waste problems. What irks the most is the fact that; the majority of littering happens intentionally. People find it completely normal to throw away cigarette butts, food wrappers and disposables. As a result, most of this rubbish swiftly ends up in our water bodies. What is this doing to our planet? Simply put, destroying it.

There can be several arguments as to why people litters, which includes the prevalence of existing waste and the absence of collection equipment’s, but the truth still stands, 85% of littering is mostly a deliberate act.  When pressed with severe repercussions and penalties, human beings tend to do the right thing, they stop littering. Also, those who grow up in a disposable society have a tendency to end up disposing, and vice versa.

“Usitupe taka hapa” is now a joke

It is annoying to see signs like “Usitupe takataka hapa” in areas full of debris. No one really cares. It feels like the campaigns have fallen to deaf ears. Either the one installing the signs are not authoritative enough or the litters just find them too common to obey. That is where we are as a society. It is becoming clear that the reason most people litter is not because they think it’s OK, but because they think it’s the easier thing to do. They know it is wrong, but they do it because it’s easy.

Say no to noise pollution,

For most people in big cities like Dar es salaam, noise pollution is supposed to be a “normal” everyday phenomenal. That, it is normal for the local pub next door, to host live music till late hours. That is normal for our neighborhoods to become hubs of uncontrolled sounds and blares. People in this city seems to have decided to soldier on like it’s part of the “urban” lifestyle.

NO, it is not normal, and it shouldn’t be allowed to be. Though the impacts and adverse effects of noise pollution cannot be immediately felt, there is a big chance of ending up with health effects such as loss of hearing ability, birth complications, and even high Blood Pressure.

It is a collective effort,

As a society, we need to get serious in highlighting collective social disapproval against littering and other forms of pollutions. The fact that no one dares to litter around the c0ntrolled areas such as army and law enforcers barracks, tells us all we need to know, about the need for changed behaviors.

If one can be conscious enough not to litter in certain areas fearing repercussions and consequences, one can be mindful enough to not litter at all. Let’s apply stringent rules to get tough against these unacceptable behaviors.

Also, there is no shame for our city lords to borrow a leaf from other cities like Kigali in Rwanda and Moshi. Apart from stringent littering conventions in the case of Moshi, Kigali has a special cleaning program, every Saturday morning, where everyone is compelled to participate in cleaning activities around their neighborhoods. This has worked out remarkably.

We should all remember that we have no Planet B. Might as well take good care of the one we have.

Read More


By Godwin Semunyu

Soccer goes down to the roots of Tanzania’s history. Through the soccer fields in Jangwani and Kariakoo, the late Mwalimu Nyerere and the TANU comrades converged with the locals during the freedom fighting days.

In Tanzania, whether you are a sports fan or not, you are somehow expected to support either Yanga or Simba. A friend once joked that we are first Tanzanians, then we mention our tribes, followed by our support for either of the two teams. I see no lie. Each club is estimated to enjoy a fan base of between 15-20 million followers, one of Africa’s biggest fan base.

However, with all their mighty brand prowess and lucrative fan bases, Simba and Yanga are still living in a world of financial dependency and relying heavily on funds from sponsors and donors in exchange for advertising values.

Leveraging on their brands’ equity, they are undoubtedly the “adverting heavens” to most local businessmen. Perhaps that is their blessings in disguise. As a result, the clubs have developed a tendency of over-reliance on sponsors and individual benefactors, with minimal revenue alternatives, a recipe for the rise of a solo voice, with financial muscles, to take the helm. It is not an entirely bad situation as it has worked perfectly elsewhere.

However, the downside to this situation is that it lacks a going concern and sustainability. When the dominant voice stumbles, so does the entire institution. Yanga fans learned the hard way when their previous benefactor stepped down abruptly. Within three months, they went from being the wealthiest club in East Africa to a club pleading for fans’ contributions to pay salaries.

A few months back, Simba’s main sponsor pressed the panic buttons when he tweeted a decision to quit the club, following a stint of bad results. Though the decision was reverted afterward, the fans already feared the worse.

Lack of sustainable revenue streams that act as shock absorbers leaves the clubs vulnerable in any mishaps. History has taught that over and over again.

The Government has instructed the two clubs to embark on the ownership model where shares are distributed into 51% to 49%. The ordinary fans own 59%, and a mega investor(s) holding the remaining 49%.

This opens up doors for the clubs to start trading shares at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange and generate instant capital to fund operations and growth. Apart from investing in squad and training facilities, it could also be ventured into income-generating tributaries like bonds or short-term fixed plans to guarantee working capital.

The move will also amplify the fan bases as many will jump at the opportunity to own a part of their beloved clubs. Furthermore, as a publicly listed company with mandatory transparency practices, the clubs will win many supporters’ trust to turn them into active members, hence garner annual membership fees.

Merchandise, TV rights, and Kit sponsorship are football clubs’ major cash-cows. With unbalanced books and a desperate need for funds, the clubs naturally lose ground negotiating tables with advertisers. Nevertheless, by becoming financially stable, the clubs will have the upper hand and detect terms.

For instance, the clubs could opt the modern way of kit sponsorship, where multiple advertisers are accommodated. Recently, the English club, Arsenal, signed with Rwanda a three years kit sponsorship deal worth USD39 million to have a “Visit Rwanda” Ad on the sleeves.

Mind you, Arsenal already had five years kit deal with Emirates Airline worth £200m (USD 280mmillion) for the front part of the jersey and around £300 million five years deal with Adidas for the company’s logo on the top left corner, of the same jersey.

It should be clearly stated that floating shares is one thing, but inspiring investors’ confidence is an entirely different ball game. To achieve that, the clubs will have to be appropriately structured and professionally managed.

The clubs also need to invest smartly in the playing squads to get favorable results; game results are an essential driver of the share prices.
In England, for instance, where most Premier League clubs are listed, studies have revealed that share prices reacts asymmetrically to game results. The negative effect being greater and quicker for losers than the positive impact for winners. This is because losing is a stronger predictor of future losing (and hence lower financial performance) and vice versa.

The optimal point is, if the two clubs, which commands the support of close to 30 million Tanzanians, are to make a significant leap forward, financial independence is of the essence. But since mobilizing capital the old way has proved to be a daunting task, floating shares is the only light at the end of the tunnel.

Send your comments to gsemunyu@epicpr.co.tz.

Read More