Towards Integral Ujamaa in Tanzania: Trans4m Fellows meet Kigamboni Community Center

19 March 2018: With Kigamboni Community Center (KCC), Trans4m met one of Tanzania’s most vibrant youth-driven community development initiatives with impressive integral features, covering community grounding, cultural renewal, educational programs and, though still in its early stage, economic activities. Two of Trans4m’s Fellows are keen to collaborate closely with KCC to contribute to the full release of its economic and Pan African potential.

Trans4m Fellows Ama Nyarko-Jones from Germany (with Ugandan and Ghanaian parents), and Mohamed Mongy, Co-Founder of the Nile Forum, went together with Trans4m Co-Founder Alexander Schieffer to explore long-term cooperation. Building on the long-standing relationship of Ama with KCC, including a previous visit to Tanzania, and a number of calls with KCC Co-Founder Nassoro Mkweso, the ground for this exploration had been well prepared prior to this field trip.

The field trip affirmed that Ama’s own passion to set up an authentically African fashion enterprise, with an impact on healing the communal and cultural fabric of Africa, as well as economically empowering upcoming women leaders, could be well set in or closely affiliated with KCC. KCC itself had already successfully branched into sewing education for talented young women, eager to develop their own tailoring and entrepreneurial skills.

Together with KCC Co-Founder Kondo Rashid and other KCC team members, we developed the idea and early concept of an Ujamaa (“Familyhood”) Enterprise, building on the community-oriented societal perspective for Tanzania and Africa, crafted by Tanzania’s founding father and Pan-African visionary Mwalima Julius Nyerere. Fostering the economic potential of entire families, in Ama’s case with a focus on fashion design and production, and bringing these families together into some kind of cooperative Ujamaa Enterprise, seemed to be a viable, and locally authentic path towards economic, social, cultural, and educational development of women in Tanzania and Africa.

Conversations, spread over three days, showed how the enterprising possibilities, that lie in the collaboration between KCC and Ama Nyarko Jones, can be further complemented and strengthened through a partnership with the Nile Forum. Its co-founder Mohamed Mongy illustrated how the translocal aspiration of the Nile Forum to create a community of communities across the African Continent, with an initial focus on the Nile countries, can have strong social, educational and ultimately economic benefits for each participating community. Furthermore, he shared how KCC could play the role of a learning hub within the Nile Forum, with a particular emphasis on sharing the Ujamaa inspired capacity of Tanzania to build a society based on the principles of peace and unity – a capacity that would be demonstrated, in practice, by Nyarko-Jones’ integral fashion enterprise.

Trans4m’s role in this constellation would be that of a institutional catalyst, partly through the Trans4m PhD PHD program, in which both Ama Nyarko Jones and Mohammed Mongy are enrolled. Thereby, the focus would be on supporting both the enterprising perspective of a new Ujamaa Enterprise, as well as the Pan-African perspective of a mutually enabling community of communities.

All of these explorations and early concept development took place in the vibrant atmosphere of Kigamboni Community Center. KCC recently turned ten years old. The cultural-creative talents of the Kigamboni youth are the starting point for KCC’s holistic approach to community development. Inspired by the experiences on the ground, the three-days work visit of Nyarko-Jones, Mongy and Schieffer ended with a collective commitment to contribute to the further evolution of this fascinating initiative – in particular by articulating and sharing its cultural and societal innovation potential, and to strengthen and expand its economic capacities – leading to full-fledged sustainability of KCC with the Ujamaa enterprise as a key driver.