Friday, May 04, 2012

Kiswahili Now Taught at Indiana University

Wanafunzi wanaosoma program ya Kiswahili chuoni hapo wakijiandaa kula chakula cha mchana na Balozi Maajar. Wanafunzi hao wataenda Zanzibar mwezi Juni mwaka huu kwa muda wa mwaka mmoja kama sehemu ya program hiyo ya kujifunza Kiswahili.





The International Business of Language -Educating the Next Generation of Global Professionals


Dr. Larry Singell, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences,

Dr. Robert Slater-Former Director NSEP,

Dr. Partick O’Mara –Vice President Emeritus of International Affairs,

Prof. Alwiya Omari, - Leader of the Swahili Flagship Program,

My Brother Dr. Deo Tungaraza,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Since we are launching a Swahili Flagship Program allow me to greet you in the simplest way, in Kiswahili. JAMBO.

I am pleased to be availed the opportunity of joining you at this auspicious occasion on launching the Swahili Flagship Program at Indiana University. I am equally honored to be amidst distinguished faculty and students of this prestigious university and also to be able to share with you some of my reflections on Kiswahili, which is a national language of my beloved country.

Allow me, first, to congratulate the Indiana University for taking yet another step in striving to live up to its mission which, as I read it from your website, includes the ‘offer[ing of] leadership in creative solutions for 21st century problems.’ Indeed, the launching of a major language program, such as Swahili Flagship – and I understand there two other Flagship programs, Chinese and Turkish - has put this University among institutions which are in the cutting edge of fostering, through language education, global peace, security, and collective prosperity for humankind. What we are launching today is not simply an academic course for students to acquire academic credentials.

We are creatively deploying the tool of language to promote understanding between peoples of the world. We are embarking on consolidating skills and expertise, with Indiana University serving as the anchor for accelerating outreach and enhancing its effectiveness as a Centre of excellence. Through programs such as Swahili Flagship, Indiana University is, as it were laying corner stones for the much-needed global bridges. I, therefore, congratulate you, heartily for this creative approach to pedagogy and its assured contribution to international development.

Now, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen


I would like to preface my remarks on the role of Kiswahili and its Culture in educating the next generation of global professionals by briefly narrating some major facets of my country – the United Republic of Tanzania. While perhaps such a narrative may assist those of you who may have little knowledge of this East African country, the main objective is, nonetheless, to demonstrate the impact of a language such as Kiswahili, in promoting national, regional and global development. At another occasion I will be pleased to provide additional material and to facilitate partnerships for those of you who may want to have a deeper engagement with this country, which is moving in a fascinating upward trajectory.

The United Republic of Tanzania

The country is situated between latitude 1 and 12 degrees South of the Equator and longitudes 28 and 40 degrees on the Eastern side of Africa. With such coordinates, indeed, you as scholars can immediately get an idea of the history, geography, sociology, and even development predicament of such a country. Our history has been part of the centuries-old maritime chronicles of the Indian Ocean, since the beginning of the last millennium. Slave trade, Europe’s search for spices, raw materials and market in the Orient, exploration of the sources of major features such as River Nile, and voyages propelled by the Monsoon winds – had great impact on the social evolution of this region and have had a major bearing on the genesis and development of the language whose program we are launching today.

The partition of Africa in the 19th century created a challenging background to the modern history of Africa as a whole. For Tanzania it put together more than 120 disparate communities with varying ethnic backgrounds. At the same time, the distribution of colonies, trusteeships and protectorates among European powers during that imperial period also forged a very distinct relationship among neighboring countries of the Eastern African region.

Independence was gained in the early 1960s by countries which were recognizable ‘states’ but lacking in the full features of ‘nationhood’. They were structurally fragmented, in terms of the economy and infrastructure; racially divided – among Europeans, Asian, Arabs, and indigenous Africans. They were lacking in the wherewithal for enabling modern development. And they also found themselves in the paranoid global context of the then bipolar world of West and East.

With respect to Tanzania, the only asset that we had under those bleak circumstances – apart from the natural resources – were people who had a shared culture that was joined together by the ubiquitous lingua franca, Kiswahili.

The major thrust of my address today is, indeed, to demonstrate, using the Tanzanian experience, how Kiswahili and its culture can serve as a dynamic instrument for sustainable development at national, regional and global levels. We, in Tanzania, have regarded, and indeed, utilized this tool as a major asset for forging our collective destiny, and in seeking for our rightful position in the world.

In 1964, two newly independent countries – Tanganyika and Zanzibar- forged a fully-fledged political union to form what is now the United Republic of Tanzania. A week ago, on 26 April 2012, we celebrated 48 years of this exemplary Union, the only one of its kind in Africa. During this period, the union has gone through the rigorous test of time and overcome a number of daunting challenges. I should hasten to confirm that among the factors which facilitated the union of these two former countries and contributed to its strengthening and sustainability is the sharing of Kiswahili and the Swahili culture. A political project between leaders and governments was easily internalized by the people as Kiswahili served as the medium of promoting bonds of commonness, facilitating closer interaction, and enabling the sharing of values, norms and aspirations.

Kiswahili as a Unifying Factor

The potency of this language factor is currently reaffirmed by the fact that, almost 50 years after our union, a similar trend is manifesting itself in the consolidation of the East African Community. This is currently a five member economic integration entity, comprising Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, which is gradually consolidating the foundation for ultimately going beyond an economic union to political integration. The close to 100 million people who belong to these countries, have among their shared attributes the general capacity to communicate in Kiswahili.

As a country with an economy largely based on agriculture – which employs about 80 percent of the population, and involving mostly small–scale production, the basis for development tends to be mainly people oriented. Other economic activities in tertiary and extractive sectors, including: mining, tourism, transportation, construction, trade are also people based. Perhaps I should mention that Tanzania is the third largest producer of gold in Africa after, Ghana and South Africa, accounting for more that 50 percent of the foreign exchange earnings of the country. Large amounts of natural gas have recently been discovered but Tanzania has since 2004 been using its natural gas to generate electricity; the manufacturing sector is thus slowly emerging and may soon overtake agriculture.

Once again, with such an economic base it is critical to ensure effective modes of social communication in order to sustain harmonious relations among the people. The very process of uplifting and gradually modernizing systems that back up production systems, service delivery and regulatory processes requires an intensive deployment of the medium of language. Our success in this endeavour has been significantly facilitated by the broadly spoken language, Kiswahili. Indeed, this has challenged us, and it should definitely challenge you, to appreciate the need for intensifying efforts towards the development of this language in the technical and professional realms.

The needs of farmers, miners, medical personnel, and technicians of various kinds have to be catered for by Kiswahili, if this language has to serve as an effective medium of communication.

It is in this same regard that a major transformation that we embarked upon in the 1980s required the deployment of language. Following major economic changes in the early 1980’s Tanzania adopted free market policies of development followed by selected legislative changes to unbundle and privatize the large public sector and to encourage private sector development as the key engine of growth. In addition, Tanzania introduced in the early 1990’s a multiparty system with established constitutional succession process through democratic elections. Tanzania has enjoyed political stability since its independence from the British avoiding the turmoil experienced by many African countries.

We are now a constitutional multiparty democracy, constituted by two governments, the Union Government, which also doubles as the Tanganyika Government, and the Zanzibar government. Zanzibar retains, among others things, its economic policy and manages its own economy. The First Schedule to the Union Constitution lists out 22 union matters, which include, the constitution and the Government of the United Republic, foreign affairs, defense and security, police, citizenship, Immigration, emergency, external borrowing and trade, service in the union Government, taxation, harbors, air transport, posts and telecommunication, currency, industrial licensing, higher education, mineral oil and gas, civil aviation, the Court of Appeal and registration of political parties.

Our legal system emanates from the English common law, statutes, case law, Islamic law and customary law. English common law applies only in the absence of statutory law, and where commercial law has been largely enacted, common law does not apply. Islamic law which is delivered by the secular courts is applied only in matters of marriage and succession to Tanzanians of Islamic faith while customary law applies generally to matters of ancestral land ownership and inheritance.

The effective functioning and sustainability of these political and legal systems lie in the foundation of our shared language, Kiswahili. We pride ourselves as a country for maintaining peace and stability, a situation that has largely been promoted by using language as a tool for development and transformation. Our success in attaining compromises when disagreements arise, peacefully resolving conflicts, and maintaining effective instruments for mediation at every level has gained from, and owes a lot to, the shared language that we cherish.

Language and Culture Symbol of National Identity

There is an aspect that has just been implicit in my remarks so far. I would now like to both make it explicit and expand on it. This is the dimension of language and culture as symbols of national identity.

Growing in Tanzania soon after independence, I understand and witnessed the impact of language on a young nation made up of diverse ethnic groups, 120 of them, all speaking their own languages. For example, even among the people who reside at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, where I come from, speak diverse dialects. But Kiswahili was the lingua franca for all of them. Every Tanzanian speaks Kiswahili and the newly independent government of the Founding Father of the nation Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere sought to promote Kiswahili which became a major unifying factor of a young nation.

Mwalimu Nyerere clearly saw the importance of culture and he personally and deliberately manifested, besides promoting it. A Christian from the mainland, he would be seen at official functions sporting the Swahili cap, traditionally the formal dressing for Swahili Muslims. He made it a national dress and today the cap is no longer exclusively Muslim coastal attire. This is the power of language and culture.

At this point, I should also point out, that Kiswahili is not only a symbol of identiy, but it actually is also a unifying Force

The mainland part of the United Republic of Tanzania, former Tanganyika, celebrated fifty years of political independence on 9th December, 2011. The declaration of Kiswahili as a national language in 1962 and the introduction of Kiswahili as the medium of instruction in all government primary schools (i.e. the first seven years of education) in 1967, further consolidated Kiswahili as the national language. Along with the declaration of Kiswahili as the national language the new independent government abolished chiefdoms, effectively removing a major symbol of ethnic identity, and/or balkanization.

The founding father of the Nation, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere used Kiswahili as a unifying force as well as a tool for the socio-economic development of his young nation. Today, Kiswahili plays a significant role as a unifying force both the people of Tanzania, in particular and of East Africa, in general.

The sense of nationalism and patriotism among the people of Tanzania is very high. Tanzanians would identify themselves as Tanzanians first and foremost, rather than along their ethnic affinity or origin. In effect all ethnic barriers so common in many African countries, and, themselves, a source of many conflicts, were shattered early on in Tanzania. As such, Tanzania has enjoyed uninterrupted political stability since independence unlike many of its neighbors. This is mainly credited to the unifying force of the national language Kiswahili.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Global Connection between Language and Culture

Allow me at this point to briefly address the aspect of global Connections between Language, Culture and People.

As diplomat, I understand the positive connections between culture, people, the economy and diplomacy; and I have witnessed the economic impact of culture on international relations. It is indeed possible to create international business opportunities and partnerships through a recognition and activation of the world’s unique languages and cultures.

As I stand here today, I am very proud to be associated with the Indiana University Swahili Flagship Program, which will no doubt, expand our dialogue and bring Kiswahili in the fore front in the State of Indiana, in particular, and the United States, in general. In studying Kiswahili, students will have the opportunity to have an insight into Tanzania’s diverse cultures and history that define our beautiful country which is not very well known in the US. And why not? Kiswahili is one of the fastest growing languages in Africa, spoken in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, D.R. Congo, Somalia, parts of Malawi, North Eastern Zambia, the Comoros, and in some parts of the newly born Republic of South Soudan, by more than 200m people. Besides, Kiswahili is the only African language utilized in the daily transactions of the African Union. Need I say more?

In this respect, Swahili language and Culture has been a Tool of International Trade, from time immemorial.

Those of you who may have read the history of the development of Kiswahili as a language, are no doubt aware that it developed as a trading language on the East African coast even before the 10th Century. Traders visiting the East African coast from the far and near East used Kiswahili as a common language which had a lot of bantu words common along the trade routes, as trade moved into the interior of Africa in search of trading merchandise and slaves. As the main players in the early days were of Arab origin, Kiswahili adopted a lot of Arabic words, just as it did German words during the German colonization of East Africa; and later English words, during the British colonial period.

International education, specifically with less commonly taught languages, is important to any economy, as it is in fact an additional trading tool in a global market that offers opportunities even in the areas not traditionally considered good areas for trade and investment. Consider Africa, and in particular the East African Common market which is also the Swahili speaking region. D.R. Congo is slowly coming out of conflict. Uganda and Kenya have oil and Tanzania has a lot of natural gas not to mention other natural resources. The East African Common Market is one of the formidable common markets in Africa and investing in any of the East African countries gives you access to a large market equal to the number of Kiswahili speakers, over 200 million people and growing.

There is traditionally emphasis on the major languages commonly taught at institutions of higher learning. Because of its growing global economic dominance, it is now fashionable to teach Mandarin, for example. This is quite normal. In the case of Tanzania, although Mwalimu Nyerere deliberately promoted Kiswahili for national identity as well as socio-economic development, he was cautious not to undermine the English language recognizing the importance of an International language for international relations and trade interaction that Tanzania needed. English was therefore made the second official national language and remains so to date.

Nyerere used Kiswahili to encourage nationalism and Pan-Africanism while he used the English language for internationalism. The Tanzania example in the use of language and culture as a tool of national and regional cohesion, national identity and development is not unique. And, Mwalimu Nyerere’s recognition of the English language as a tool of international relations and trade is not unique, either. It was a natural course of development chosen by Nyerere, himself a good linguist (polyglot) and philosopher.

This is why the Language Flagship Program is a commendable initiative. The initiators of the Program recognized the power of language and culture in shaping global interaction, be it political, social or trade. And the inclusion in the Program of the less commonly taught languages, like Kiswahili, is a further recognition of the growing importance of Africa as a source of natural resources and a destination for investment and trade. The US can ill afford to ignore Africa.

It is now a general view that Africa has the potential, over the next decade, to outperform all other emerging markets and more developed economies. Africa has abundant natural resources and specific environmental conditions that will create a core supply of goods to economies and markets around the world. Even China is already strategically looking to Africa for the supply of natural resources as well as markets.

Back home in Tanzania, according to the World Bank’s Tanzania: Country Briefs, “Tanzania is becoming one of the best performers in Sub Saharan Africa…in recent years, growth in gross domestic product (GDP) averaged between 5 and 7 percent.” The potential for profitable foreign investment in the country is huge in such a diverse range of industries as tourism, energy, agriculture, infrastructure, transportation, oil and gas exploration, and mining.

The launching of the Swahili Flagship Program is therefore very timely. What all this means is that as Africa becomes the next economic frontier, it is timely for international education to introduce to the young of today, who will be the future professional or business men and women the African languages of trade. African languages like Kiswahili are not commonly taught at universities or institutions of higher learning. Kiswahili as a regional language like the major languages of the world is poised to open up to the opportunities for much-needed partnerships and trade relations in Africa.

I am aware that Kiswahili is one of the languages now routinely offered as an optional language to the US uniformed men and women. This move underscores the importance of Kiswahili as a tool for fighting terrorism and promoting global peace and security.

Promoting US Tanzania Bilateral Relations

Finally, it is my conviction and that of the Government of Tanzania, that Kiswahili will strengthen our US Tanzania Bilateral Relations.

Tanzania and the US have enjoyed almost fifty years of enduring diplomatic relations. Even during the cold war and Tanzania’s experiment with its own brand of African socialism, the two governments retained diplomatic relations. What was missing and is still missing is the business relations we are trying to rekindle.

When Tanzania became a command economy, American businesses left and they did not look back for a long time. The Swahili Flagship Program will enhance the two government’s efforts to bring the American private sector back to Tanzania. As you may be aware, President Obama’s Administration is promoting a new initiative for aid delivery called Partnership for Growth (“PFG”) that is designed to help grow Tanzania’s economy by promoting Tanzania’s private sector as well as encouraging American private sector to invest in Tanzania.

The Swahili Flagship Program fits very well in the PFG Program. The design of the Program that allows students to study at the State University of Zanzibar (SUZA) for one year, offers a singular opportunity for the students to learn our culture and to create connections and networks. Such networks created so early in adulthood are long lasting and can be used to create the future we want, building global relations and networking, promoting sustainable development, developing political and trade relations, as well as enhancing global peace and security.

Finally, during my meetings today with the various people dealing with the Language Flagship Program it became apparent to me that our embassy in Washington DC and our Government back home can help to grow the Swahili Flagship Program at Indiana University. I realized that recruitments for participants to the Swahili Flagship Program is critical and we do have a role to play. I have therefore decided to do the following:-

 We will include an article on the Program in our publication on the 50 years of enduring diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the United Republic of Tanzania.

 We will include the Swahili Flagship program link on the Tanzania Embassy website to offer an opportunity for visitors to the website to have access to information about the Swahili Flagship Program,

 We will invite the Swahili Flagship Program players to Embassy events that we consider relevant and we expect that the Embassy will similarly be invited to similar events by the Swahili Flagship Program;

 We will tell the story of the Swahili Flagship Program at every opportunity to raise awareness both in the United States and in Tanzania; and

 We will include the current students at the State University of Zanzibar at national events to raise further the awareness of the Swahili Flagship Program in Tanzania and at the highest political level.

His Excellency, President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete will be very pleased to hear about this Program, which is yet another way of consolidating our bilateral relations that so happily exist between our two countries.

Distinguished Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your attention!

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