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.

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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.

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By Godwin Semunyu

Last few weeks, Tanzania woke up to shocking news of a student in Butiama, Mara region, viciously slashing his teacher with a machete after being questioned for truancy. The attack was so fierce that the teacher narrowly dodged amputation.

Earlier last year, a teacher from Kibeta Primary school in Bukoba was sentenced to death by hanging for maliciously beating a 13-year-old pupil to death. Reports suggested that the student was severely beaten, for up to three hours, after being accused of stealing a female teacher’s handbag.

In many parts of  Tanzania, students spend more time at school than home, with an average of 30 hours a week, minimum. Students are molded by the teachers.

The wisdom and mentorship that teachers provide can be life-changing, especially for younger students. Teachers and students’ bonds are supposed to be an honest and transparent one. Never brutal.

Studies have shown that when a trusting relationship exists between students and their teachers, students are willing to engage in things that they would like them to.

Inevitably, when news of violence between the pair surfaces, it sends a shocking message that mirrors society’s moral gaps and cracks.

A student’s audacity to bring a machete to school, let alone attacking his teacher, says more of how far low we have gone, morally, as a society in raising our children. This is unacceptable and it should be condemned by all fonts.

Similarly, a teacher’s inhumaneness to beat a student to death, connotes life-size cracks in the society. He has been punished by the court of law, but as a society we need to ensure that  we do not return to such juncture, ever again.

Students’ discipline is without a doubt one of the most critical aspects of academic life’s success. But this is a collective responsibility. There will always be a student who will cross the line. Parents and teachers should  both be at task, collectively. Putting an indiscipline student back in line shouldn’t be a blood task.

In recent years, parents are increasingly shouldering the parenting roles to the teachers. But the two share a different opinion when it comes to correcting the wrongs once a child steps out of the line. One area of weakness is parents covering the wrongs.

Most teachers believe that punishment to students who violate the codes of conduct is central in instilling discipline. They think that if children are made to suffer (physically) for misbehaving, they will learn the lesson and not repeat in the future. Debatable.

But parents believe that some teachers go overboard.  Would the teachers apply the same level of discipline measures to their  own children? Doubtful. This has resulted to several court cases where parents are suing teachers for over punishing their children.

It starts feeling like the teachers are slowly taking the foot out of the gas. They seem to be at a loss about addressing the thorny issue of discipline. Resultantly, Some students go astray. Maybe they are left aloof a little too much.

As a society, we need to repair the cracks sooner than later. We need to evaluate scientifically if the old ways are still working.  But for this to work, we need to re-establish the parents-teachers collaboration and enhance teacher-student relations.

Growing up we used to have frequent parents to teachers’ meetings where several academic matters, including discipline, were transparently discussed. If canning was an option, you get your shares in front of your parents. There was no room for overdoing by the teachers of for a student to act wild. Parents and teachers were parallel when it came to discipline. Those days are unfortunately slowly fading under the excuse of busy schedules.

Teachers and parents should work closely to ensure that schools are a safe place for teaching and learning. We cannot afford anymore slip ups.

For comments: gsemunyu@epicpr.co.tz

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By Godwin Semunyu

Soccer goes down to the roots of Tanzania’s history. It is through the soccer fields in Jangwani and Kariakoo that the late Mwalimu Nyerere and the TANU comrades converged with the locals during the freedom fighting movements.

In Tanzania, whether you are a sports fan or not, you are somehow expected to support one of the two teams of 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 the biggest in Africa.

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

Leveraging on their brands’ equity, they are without a doubt 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 to sponsors and individual benefactors, with minimal revenue alternatives, a recipe

for the rise of a solo voice, with financial muscles, to take the helm.

The downside to this situation, however, is the fact 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 richest 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 of his decision to quit the club, following a stint of bad results. All hell broke loose. He reverted his decision afterward, to the fans’ relief. Needless to say, they feared the worse.

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

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

This opens up doors for the clubs to start trading shares at the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange and generate an 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 public listed company with mandatory transparency practices, the clubs will win the trust of many supporters to turn them into active members hence garner annual membership fees.

Merchandise, TV rights, and Kit sponsorship are football clubs’ major cash-cows, but with unbalanced books and desperate need for funds, the clubs naturally lose grounds on deal negotiation tables with advertisers. Nevertheless, by becoming financially stable, the clubs will have an 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.

The optimal point is, if our clubs 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 are the only light at the end of the tunnel.

Send your comments to gsemunyu@epicpr.co.tz

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A Swahili street slang that means ‘until we make it’ and/or ‘until it all makes sense’ and/or ‘keep your eye on the ball’. The slogan has been at the centre of my personal drive since I started my entrepreneurial journey back in 2016.

Through both steady and unprecedented times this slogan has been the driving force in facing challenges and pushing through hard times.

Our country is not unique in facing this COVID 19 global pandemic. As business owners, we are being hit with the same negative consequential economic effects as faced by those in fellow developing nations. Being a practising corporate lawyer and an inward investment advisor places me at the country’s entry gates exposing me head-on to investor challenges and strategies during this uncertain time.

The act of advising clients to send employees on unpaid leave, forced leave and outright closure of business tends to send a very grim picture on what is going on the ground.

Yet, being at the gateway exposes me to foreign investor interests, and new market entry propositions in the midst of all the economic and logistical challenges. From December 2019 to April 2020 we have set up investment vehicles on the lookout for opportunities in tourism, microfinance, manufacturing and some in relief efforts towards the effects of Covid-19.

The question that comes to mind is ‘What are foreign investors seeing that we as Tanzanians and local business owners are not seeing?’ Should we really be cowering in terror, depressed and paralyzed out of fear, waiting for the storm to settle (until when?) or should we use this time to not only take care of ourselves and those around us but to also re-strategize, seek new growth opportunities and better position ourselves for the brighter days?

The current situation took me back to my employed days when once I had gone three months without a salary during which time I realised I could actually survive running my own business, and thrive. In those months I improved on client relations and found ways to make money on the side by purposefully marketing the broad range of skill sets I had acquired over the years. That was the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey.

Therefore, this pandemic can be responded to with the same resilience. Why not innovate? Why not think out of the box? Why not tend to the untouched wish list? Why not now?

Should we keep dwelling on the unknown and that which we have no control over? I believe we should face what we do know and improve on what is within our means. That is the spirit of #Mpakakieleweke

With that being said, our firm is pushing our online employment law application www.kazibox.co.tz which allows employees and HR managers alike to easily access essential employment law related resources through a webapp. Since many companies have implemented social distancing policies there has been a huge increase in online communication and administration in the country. We trust we can capitalize on this.

In a more personal capacity, I am chasing my dream to enter the tourism and risk management industries. How crazy is that? Building a beach camp site when there are no tourists to be seen…yet.

Being involved with the risk management firm www.castorvali.com at a time when major projects are on a slowdown has also led to the opening of other opportunities like the issuance of reports and updates on COVID-19 and its impact on business within the East African region. These reports are proving to be of increased significance to corporates keeping an eye on their investments in East Africa.

This in my mind is what the ‘Mpaka Kieleweke’ slogan is all about: taking the bull by the horns and dealing with whatever comes our way as it comes. I honestly believe that in the end the sun will shine, and we will be better positioned to continue the transformation of our beautiful growing nation.

Let us be safe, and let’s keep chasing our dreams as they are all we got.

By Kamanga Wilbert Kapinga ~ Managing Partner at KW Kapinga & Partners

SOURCE: HERE

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