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What Am I Doing Here?

Dr. Steven J Dick -- Tue, 02/27/2018 - 4:38pm

The question of the week: “Why am I going to Africa?”  After a 26 hour trip, 19 in the air, through Atlanta, Amsterdam, and Kilimanjaro, I am beginning to wonder that as well. I find myself in the southern city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania for initial discussions before flying tomorrow to Zanzibar City. 

Hotel ImagesBeyond the obvious (a trip to Africa), the simple answer is that I was asked to help and, with the support of the Picard Center, I said I would do what I could. 

The longer answer involves a coalition of people trying to help the islands of Zanzibar.  The group that paid the bill is the International Executive Services Corps (IESC).IESC is a fifty year old organization that uses US Aid and other resources to develop economic capacity in select parts of the world.  I was recruited to IESC through work done with Statistics Without Borders — providing analysis support to select charitable projects throughout the world. 

Locally, Enabling Growth through Investment and Enterprise program is a four-yeAR USAID-funded Feed the Future activity awarded through the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance. 

Tanzania is a fast growing economy dependent on agriculture but with important governmental changes moving toward more local control.  The goal is to more effectively allow local governmental agencies direct the economy and the government transition through the use of authoritative information.

My project is to contribute to the design of a survey of businesses on the Zanzibar islands.  The goal is to help build local capacity to direct their own economy through a data driven approach.  This is very similar to the mission of the Picard Center — the use of data to direct the very best policies.  

Over the next three weeks, I will meet with local industry and government leaders.  At the same time, I will work with the experts at the Zanzibar Office of Chief Government Statistics to design a survey of local businesses that will be authoritative and representative.  I face a real challenge to understand the culture, demographic groups, nature of businesses, and other factors.  In the end, the design of the survey must be strong yet appropriate to the local culture.  The business community buy-in will be essential to its impact.

Finally, while I am here. I hope to support local schools by providing some much needed resources.  I brought some school supplies, toys, and Dr. Burstein donated some books for distribution.  Local schools teach English but it is a battle against the local Swahili.