During the week we spent in Tanzania I was surprised to see how big this countries potential is. Among others there are huge natural resources and also tourism has only just started. I saw numerous business opportunities, without even really thinking about it. But the strange thing is that when you walk on the streets of Moshi you just see young men sitting around doing nothing. Occasionally they get up to try to sell you something you don’t need or want, or just to ask you for money, but for the rest they just seem to do nothing. From early morning until late at night. Women seem to do most of the work, they carry goods (on their heads) or kids (on their back), do the house work and even work the fields. And the men are just sitting in the shade talking to each other, and they seem to be happy doing so. It surprised me, not only because they let the women do the work, but especially that they do not see the potential to make money.
It looks like the only people that see the opportunity and also seize it, are the Chinese. By coincidence we got to meet a young entrepreneurial Chinese lady while in Moshi. During lunch on our first day we decided to head out to a different restaurant. Not knowing what kind of restaurants would be good, we asked a taxi driver. He told us that there was a good Indian restaurant in Moshi, and he would take us there. Fine with us, as long as we would not get Chinese food we did not really mind. So he drives off with us and 10 minutes later we drive into…. The Panda Chinese restaurant! The taxi driver did not understand that there was a difference, and we decided to just go ahead. As long as they had a cold beer we were fine. The place was not bad actually: a small villa with a nice garden and a terrace, in the Shanty Town part of Moshi. We ordered some dishes and when they arrived we were pleasantly surprised by the taste, it was authentic Chinese! So we asked the African waitress whether the cook was from China, and whether we could talk to him/her.
A minute later a Chinese lady around 30 years old turns up, Ms. Feng Yu. She is not only the cook but also the owner of the restaurant. Originally she hails from Chengdu and has been in Tanzania for several years already. Despite her young age she not only owns this restaurant but is also co-owner of a small chicken farm. We asked her how she ended up in Moshi, which is not the most logical place in the world to start a business, and she just answered “I guess I just took the wrong bus”. We did not feel she was very happy here, but at least she seemed to be successful. She told us that for a while she was the only Chinese person in Moshi, but now there were several more. Some had started a factory, and soon her brother would join to set up a massage place (with masseuses from China). Smart idea, after our Kilimanjaro trip I would have loved to have a good leg massage, and with Kili tourism on the rise there certainly will be a market for this.
Seeing entrepreneurial Chinese here confirms what you read in the foreign media, the Chinese are slowly taking over the economy in several African countries. They are smart, willing to work hard and take risks – some of the reasons why I like to work in China. I just wonder what the reaction of unemployed inhabitants of Moshi will be once the Chinese start to make serious money.