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 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 12:30 GMT
Rap star signs up to privatisation
Mr Ebbo recording the video for his single
A video is being shot for Mr Ebbo's privatisation song

The Tanzanian government has recruited one of the country's leading rap artists Mr Ebbo to boost a publicity campaign that extols the virtues of privatisation.

The campaign, by the Tanzanian authorities, aims to educate the public about the benefits of private ownership as the privatisation process in the East African country nears its end.

It has taken a decade to sell off about 260 state-owned businesses with another 130 remaining.

They include one of the largest sell-offs so far, the national railway system. It is also likely to be the most problematic and that is where rap star Mr Ebbo comes in.

Music with a message

Mr Ebbo's latest single is called Ubinaf-sishaji which translates as privatisation.

"I'm singing about privatisation... it's about... to co-operate with the government just to let people know what privatisation is... what privatisation really is... I mean what has to be done to improve our economy"

Mr Ebbo's lyrics

In this song, Mr Ebbo is explaining why it makes sense to privatise the railway system.

He asks whether it's better to let it die in public hands or revitalise it by leasing to investors.

Mr Ebbo, otherwise known as Abel Loshilaa Motika is a Maasai warrior/rapper.

He is an imposing figure in his traditional garb and he has a political, social and economic conscience.

Wide appeal

Rap music is booming in Tanzania and has broad appeal.

Mr Ebbo believes it is the right medium for the privatisation message and a video is also being shot to accompany the song.

But selling the railways is not going to be an easy task. Memories of the rail crash in June last year in which almost 300 people were killed are still strong.

Tanzanian rap artist Mr Ebbo
Mr Ebbo is one of the biggest selling rappers

The privatisation process as a whole in Tanzania has been a massive undertaking lasting more than a decade.

The country's socialist past means that compared to many other African countries it was top heavy with state-owned firms or parastatals.

There are a total of around 400 companies being sold off including everything from regional trade associations to the national airline.

It is difficult to gauge just how much the public knows about privatisation, although many people do see it in a positive light.

Changing attitudes

John Rubambe, chairman of the Parastatal Sector Reform Commission - the body responsible for the privatisation process - said educating the public was a huge task.

James Macharia, African Banking Corporation
James Macharia: the common man hasn't seen much change

"Privatisation is a new thing considering the history of this country and the way the economy was run," he said.

"Progressively people have come to understand what privatisation is all about and what are the benefits."

"One has got to deal with the notion that privatisation is not about selling the family silver."

Changing lives?

The privatisation process is, of course, unprecedented in Tanzania's economic history.

James Macharia, managing director of the investment bank African Banking Corporation, said it has been relatively smooth but real benefits have yet to materialise.

"I don't think the common man has possibly seen much change," he said.

"Maybe indirectly because some of the revenues that the government has collected from privatisation has been ploughed back into social services, but the government needs to bring that awareness to the common man."

The common man will have to take a back seat for the time being, while the authorities concentrate on privatising the remaining parastatals.

The December 2003 deadline to finish the job is unlikely to be met but if all the companies are sold off successfully the authorities will still, no doubt, consider it a job well done.

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