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How Daily News missed crucial context, details in TZ investment story

analysis, monitoring

Many reasons have been offered to explain the low performance of most African countries in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI).

Experts cite poor economic performance, poverty, low labour skills, constricted economic sizes, bended trade unionism, bureaucracy, corruption, wanting infrastructure, unfriendly economic policies, and high tax rates, among other factors.

The World Bank defines FDI as the net inflows of investment to acquire a lasting management interest (10 per cent or more of voting stock) in an enterprise operating in an economy other than that of the investor.

In this seeming rat race to attract more and higher FDI, every country is applying own approaches.

It was, therefore, good news for those in Tanzania and beyond when, on September 22, the Daily News Digital published a story titled: “Why Tanzania is best destination for investors.” The story is based on a speech by the Planning and Investment Minister, Prof Kitila Mkumbo.

There’s a big promise, nay, claim, in the first paragraph: “Minister of State in the President’s Office (Planning and Investment), Prof Kitila Mkumbo has outlined six critical factors that make Tanzania to continue being an attractive investment destination, including reliable road infrastructure, peace, and security.”

In paragraph three, the minister beckons investors to the energy sector, assuring them of a conducive environment and “available infrastructure such as roads, water and electricity.” The 14-paragraph story includes the following as some of the reasons with which the minister baited potential investors in the energy:

  • Determination of President Samia Suluhu Hassan to personally reach out to investors to come to Tanzania.

  • A recent World Bank Report estimating Tanzania’s economy to grow by 5.1 per cent in 2023, “and is projected to grow by six per cent within the shortest period.”

  • Tanzania is surrounded by several countries, making it the gateway to a larger market.

  • Plans by the government to produce 10,000 megawatts by 2030 to meet the surge in electricity demand.

This was an important story that needed research and context to achieve the necessary impact.

The headline promised to address the entire national economy, yet the story was purely on the energy sector. There was a tinge of patriotism in the use of the superlative adjective ‘best’ in the title. This bold assertion – going against a cardinal journalistic caution on the use of superlatives – demanded that all aspects of Tanzania’s investment pull-factors be put on the same scale with those of other countries in chosen regions. Recently-published credible data were required to salvage the story from being reduced to a cut-and-paste public relations piece for the government.

The reporter should have developed a story board on which to pack all important facts from the minister’s speech, and then broken them down in a descending order of importance. That this wasn’t done resulted in factual repetitions, lack of logical flow and disjointed narration. For example, in the first paragraph, the story talks of “six critical factors that make Tanzania to continue being an attractive (not ‘best’) investment destination, including reliable road infrastructure, peace and security.” This last addition to the list makes the factors nine in total. Yet, in the story, the reporter made no deliberate effort to explain them clearly and separately.

The reporter did not make any effort to add value to the claims, promises and data given by Mkumbo, including those he attributed to the World Bank on the state of Tanzania’s economy and how it relates to those of the neighbouring countries. The timelines and sector analyses levels of the Bretton Woods Institution’s reports Waziri referred to weren’t specified.

Paragraph 10 reveals this lack of specificity: “Similarly, the minister highlighted that the country is among [the] few countries in Africa with a steadfast economy, citing a recent World Bank report which indicated that Tanzania’s economy is estimated to grow by 5.1 per cent within the year 2023 and is projected to grow by six per cent within the shortest period.” What timeline covers this “shortest period”? The reporter didn’t say.

Basic research would have led the reporter to the official website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation for detailed sector-based information on opportunities for investment in the country: Agriculture, Information Technology, Environment and Energy, Health, Financial, Mining, Tourism and Transportation.

Lesson learnt? Journalism is not folklore. Reporters must be adept researchers with questioning minds; ready to harvest relevant facts and figures that lend context and perspective to whatever newsmakers say. True journalism demands Direct Instant Personal Intellectual Investment (DIPII) in the stories we write.

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