Move around Mtwara’s main streets – the market, the main road past the Regional Commissioner’s residence, the new coast road past the Makonde Beach Club and towards the Holy Redeemer Sisters, or drive towards Mikindani on the main road north towards Dar – you won’t wait long before a large Landcruiser with red number plates speeds past you. The red number plates mean that the car is registered to a government department or an NGO. It also almost certainly means that it was bought and paid for with international aid money. It’s true that experts from the developed world helping Tanzania in its development can’t move around the more remote areas without 4 x 4s. And those donors would rightly be criticised if they never left Dar or Dodoma. It’s just that a cynic will point out that for all the aid money going in, all the experts offering advice and all the 4 x 4s tearing up dust, life for eighty per cent of the Tanzanian population is pretty much as precarious as ever.
It’s true that girls’ access to education is improving, deaths from malaria are falling and international investment (principally from China) increasing. But, infant mortality remains high; access to good healthcare, clean water and quality education scarce. Tanzania is still one of the twenty poorest countries in the world, with nearly eighty per cent of its population existing on less than $2 a day.
When we started Mtwaralinks, we wanted to stick to a very simple principle: we give the money directly to those who need it. In recent years we’ve compromised a little, in that we now give it principally to Sisters who in turn give it to or spend it on those who need it. But we know where every penny is spent and none of it to date has gone on Landcruisers.