On August 16, 2016, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Tanzania to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Mathias M. Chikawe. We were also welcomed by the Minister Counsellor, Mr. Francis Petro Mossongo.
There are different varieties of food in Tanzania and tourists can enjoy the diversity of local cuisine according to the location they choose to visit. Home to three large lakes including Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika, which is the deepest lake in Africa and the second deepest freshwater lake in the world by volume, there are various fishes that could be enjoyed, especially in the upper northern region of Tanzania. For this reason, H.E. Mr. Chikawe claimed that visitors could “enjoy the best of sea foods” such as ‘Sato’ fishes and sardines. In the central region of the country, rice and maize are grown, but the staple food of Tanzania has recently become rice. H.E. Mr. Chikawe stated that there is no such thing as “Tanzanian food”, so “try the food from wherever you are”.
Importance of Nature and Challenges Faced from a Diverse Culture (Kurumi)
It would be a lie if one states that nature and the lives of the Tanzanian people are two separate things, because nature is a huge part of Tanzanian life and identity. H.E. Mr. Chikawe mentioned that the people of Tanzania “love nature”. Moreover, he revealed that fire is not used for purposes other than preparing a farm “but no other time”. The mission of all people in Tanzania is to “protect the nature” and “each community has their own rules and cultures evolved on how and where they lived”. He commented that the people “cope with the environment and respect the environment”.
Tanzania is “diverse” and the people living there “have to live where they are” and “cope with the environment”. To differentiate their tribal groups, H.E. Mr. Chikawe stated that “you see people dress differently” and “every member [of a tribal group] find ways to evolve” because “people must live and people must survive”. The diversified environment allows one to witness a cultural difference. For example, one tribe may determine value in cattles. A bride-to-be of one tribe may bring a dowry in cows, but this tradition may not exist in other tribes. “ There are tribes and they live differently,” H.E. Mr. Chikawe expressed.
Cultural Values (Kurumi)
The official motto of Tanzania is ‘Freedom and Unity’. H.E. Mr. Chikawe described the people of his country as “peaceful and generous people”. In their extensive history, the land that is now known to be Tanzania had once been two nations: Tanganyika and Zanzibar. In April, 1964, the two separate entities merged into one to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Currently, Tanzania shares borders with almost nine other countries and as H.E. Mr. Chikawe mentioned, there could be “potential enemies” within the neighbouring countries. Yet, the Tanzanian people choose to “not fight with them”. “These borders are made by men, not God,” he began, “ we don’t fight about the borders, but respect them for the purpose of international law”.
The Significance of Swahili, the Common Language (Kurumi)
Although there are 126 tribal groups in Tanzania that have their own languages, the common language of all tribes is Swahili. This, H.E. Mr. Chikawe revealed is their “source of unity”. Swahili is a widespread language to the point where in Soka University in Tokyo, Japan, there is a Swahili Speech Contest. Even till this day, Swahili has become an important part of Tanzanian culture.
After World War I, Tanzania was colonized by the British. During this period, “standard schools” and the Western-styled education was introduced. For this reason, the subjects were “naturally taught in English”. Even during this time, the Tanzanian people did not forget their mother tongue. “We learnt English, but talked Swahili,” H.E. Mr. Chikawe stated. Previously, Swahili was taught within the educational curriculum as a ‘subject’. In recent years, the Tanzanian government has been “trying hard to make Swahili a teaching language” and in fact, English has “now become a subject” taught from junior high school and onwards. Until elementary, children are to pursue their education in Swahili. H.E. Mr. Chikawe commented that this sudden shift of language may be “difficult”, but he also acknowledged the significance of the English language in certain fields of advanced studies.
Relations with Japan (Madoka)
In 1866, the Japanese embassy to Tanzania was established, and soon after in 1970, the Tanzanian embassy to Japan was made. H.E. Mr. Chikawe explained to us that Tanzania and Japan have been working closely for many years, and that Tanzania is the largest receiver of aid from Japan. Especially through JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) the two countries’ relations are strengthening. The JICA Tanzania office has been operating for almost 35 years, allowing for various exchanges.
H.E. Mr. Chikawe mentioned that machinery and vehicles are greatly imported to Tanzania from Japan, including not only cars but also lorries and buses. He commented that 8 out of 10 vehicles, to sometimes all of the vehicles seen on the streets in Tanzania come from Japan.
While the Tanzanian and Japanese governments are working towards strengthening relations, H.E. Mr. Chikawe explained that the people of the two countries are doing the same. H.E. Mr. Chikawe introduced to us that there are about 300 Tanzanians in Japan, including more than 100 students. There are also about the same number of Japanese people in Tanzania, including volunteers and workers.
H.E. Mr. Chikawe expressed his aspirations for the younger generation of Tanzania and Japan. “This world will belong to you,” he stated. H.E. Mr. Chikawe explained that it is important for the younger generations of the countries to establish relations and friendships for development and peace in the world. He expressed his hope for the future relationship of Tanzania and Japan by describing himself and the current generation as a “stepping stone” towards the future.
Tanzania is a very peaceful country, which H.E. Mr. Chikawe noted is a trait similar to the peaceful nature of Japan since the country’s times of war. H.E. Mr. Chikawe explained that talking to each other is the most important method to maintain peace. He mentioned that neighboring countries can be “potential enemies” as much as they can be “potential friends”, so it is important to keep friendly communication and understanding.
H.E. Mr. Chikawe finds that generosity is the most prominent shared quality between Tanzanian and Japanese people. He also expressed that he admires the Japanese sense of discipline, especially for keeping track of time. “I wish I could take this (quality) home with me,” he commented.
H.E. Mr. Chikawe introduced to us one aspect of the Japanese culture that surprised him. In Tanzania, people are very friendly and open, as strangers talk to each other in the streets or on public transport. Yet in Japan, H.E. Mr. Chikawe noticed that people are very reserved, as passengers on the train do not engage in conversations with others. It is the nature of Tanzanian people to be very welcoming, as people often invite others to their homes. H.E. Mr. Chikawe explained that visitors to Tanzania can make many friends from the moment they land in the country.
H.E. Mr. Chikawe introduced to us that through the embassy there are Japanese students exchanging letters with children in Tanzania. He mentioned that the Japanese children recently collected stationery such as pencils as gift to Tanzanian children. He believes that the connection of the youth in the two countries will bring hope for future relations and exchanges.
As a message to Japanese people, H.E. Mr. Chikawe’s announced “Let’s continue to be in good relations”. He wishes especially for the young generations of the two countries to deepen their exchanges, and for more Japanese people to visit Tanzania. H.E. Mr. Chikawe has met various Japanese people who have lived in Tanzania who have enjoyed their stay, and is very contented by the growing families between Tanzanian and Japanese people.
H.E. Mr. Chikawe hopes that the Japanese government can continue to further strengthen the relations of the two countries. He aspires for the businessmen in Japan to invest in Tanzania, with new technology, knowledge, and capital, which he is sure will be “well received”. Lastly he wishes for Japanese students to “learn about Africa” and to be “adventurous”. He expressed that his dream is for young people of the two countries to connect, so that strong connections can be made for the future of our nations.
World Poverty (Kate)
In developing countries, there are many cases where people with academic degrees do not have satisfying income or jobs. Even though they are experienced with enough skills and knowledge, they remain in the low economic status. Additionally, there are countries that have food and basic needs distributed across the nation regardless of the individual’s income. Mr. Mathias M. Chikawe states that it is the system of government that determines the poverty of the nation. In Tanzania, although everybody is able to own an area of land, H.E. Mr. Chikawe revealed that the problem remains unsolved as it does not have a specific system to provide food for each individual.
He also mentioned the importance of education as it equips the skills needed for one’s future. This way, there are enough opportunities provided for one to be part of a workforce. In addition, he believes that the experience and skilled people are able to provide jobs opportunities which will increase the possibility for more people to get out from the cycle of poverty.
H.E. Mr. Chikawe shared with us the book “How Europe Underdeveloped Africa” written by a historian, political activist and a scholar Walter Rodney. This book focuses on how a gap between wealthy and poor countries was formed. In history, as European nations colonized most parts of Africa, Africa became a source of natural resources. Since the production was done in the European nations, their economy continued to grow. On the other hand, the African nations needed to by necessary products from the European nations. This dominated process held by wealthy nations blocked the development of power and the economic growth of many colonized areas.
Personal Background & Goals (Kate)
H.E. Mr. Chikawe shared some of his childhood stories when he once dreamed of becoming a soldier. He talked about how he was fascinated by the soldiers marching in parades with their uniform, achieving to be a disciplined person. Later, after finishing elementary, he wished to become a lawyer which he has accomplished to be. Today, he works for the responsibilities and duties as an ambassador of Tanzania to Japan.
He believes his main goal as an ambassador is to make sure Japan and Tanzania continue to be close together, sharing voices and to work together in international forums such as the United Nations or cooperating in Tokyo International Conference of African Development (TICAD) held in Nairobi, Kenya this year. H.E. Mr. Chikawe also shared his views on increasing private investments. Tanzania is known for its rich natural resources and minerals such as coal, iron ore, graphite, rare metals, diamond, and gold. H.E. Mr. Chikawe has hopes for Japanese companies to transfer their technology to Tanzania so that both countries can make use of the minerals and resources provided. For example, helium gas was recently discovered in Tanzania and he wishes for the cooperation with Japanese companies to help in the extraction of helium gas. He stated how he would like to take help projects that would benefit both nations and most of all contribute to industrialize the economy. H.E. Mr. Chikawe believes his job is to make sure the Japanese companies are welcomed to the society and by the Tanzanian people.
H.E. Mr. Chikawe not only discussed relationships between adults but also between children. He talked about a project where students in Japan and Tanzania participate in trading letters. This project keeps children connected and let them have friends on the other side of the globe. H.E. Mr. Chikawe commented “you don't know what happens in the future” hoping for young generations to build relationships. He would like to make sure we are friendly and our children will also remain friendly, maintaining existing bilateral relations. He ended the interview saying: ”We have a good relationship, it is up to you and your generation to continue it.”
Madoka Nishina Keio University
Kate Shimizu Doshisha University
Kurumi Onishi 12th Saint Maur International School
Karen Nishina 7th Saint Maur International School