I was looking for movies about Tanzania and came across GLM, a Web site all about movies in Tanzania and Burundi. It has a lot of general entertainment news and gossip and full-length films. Some are free, some require registration and pay. I took my chances on a free movie called Sad Moment. It started out in English, but most of the film was in Swahili with no subtitles. I couldn’t really follow the plot: there was a love triangle, and there were a lot of scenes of a middle class life: working in an office, eating out, going shopping, managing the cook. Or something like that.
And what I learned is that lesbianism isn’t completely taboo in Tanzania; people with middle-class jobs can afford a servant; people have middle-class jobs; there is functioning commerce. That may seem trite, but these are scenes that have not been in many of the movies I’ve watched or books I’ve read since this project began.
In fact, Tanzania has one of the more stable economies in sub-Saharan Africa. It has about 50 million people, skewing young, but it has a high literacy rate and a GDP per capital of $1900 – low, but better than most of its neighbors. It is governed through a healthy multiparty democracy, something extremely rare in this part of the world. It has escaped the resource curse.
Tanzania has mineral wealth and strong agriculture. It also has mineral and agricultural processing businesses, which create more opportunities for skilled workers. It has an ocean port at Dar es Salaam as well as ports on Africa’s Great Lakes, and it has a decent tourism industry centered around the Serengeti National Park. There is infrastructure in place for people who come to Tanzania to visit or to do business, and that helps build long-term ties.
The movie site’s name, GLM, stands for Great Lakes Movies. As someone born in Ohio and residing in Illinois, I often forget that Africa has a Great Lakes system that is larger than what we have here. And you know what else that means? Tanzania has access to fresh water, not a given in most of the world, and a huge advantage in a time of climate change.
I’m bullish on Tanzania. And I’m hoping that some day, I will understand Swahili well enough to understand why the one character was considered to be a magician, and what was going on the day that 2/3 of our love triangle went shopping at the store that the other 1/3 managed.