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“Tanzania is a good country”, he said shaking my hand with eyes desperate for me to believe him. This was the customs officer at the airport in Dar Es Salaam, moments after confirming that his colleagues in Mwanza had indeed extorted about 300.00 USD from us.

The money doesn’t matter. People with zero authority accusing us of being criminals and threatening us with jail time on arbitrary charges doesn’t matter. What matters is the overt, unapologetic, and in fact, totally necessary culture of corruption. Corruption is survival. Its the day to day. Its the merchant on the street, its the miner’s from Europe. The landlords in Dar Es Salaam, the mayors in the villages, the Parliament Ministers in Dodoma. The NGOs and the Aid Organizations. The tourists and the filmmakers. Everyone is guilty in Tanzania.

This constant state of hyper-competition and counter-productive exploitation is the legacy of centuries of colonialism and enslavement. The Arabs ran a strong human capital market. Then came the Germans who installed their special version of Ordnung. When the British arrived, and upon seeing how costly fighting resistance forces could be, utilized a laissez-faire version of governance, asking only for the loyalty of the most powerful and violent of warlords. By the time Tanzania reached a state of independence, it had only ever seen the worst forms of government and economic policy.

It’s hard to stay positive in this environment. Cynicism becomes a coping technique under such pressure. So I’ll leave it here, and hopefully the photos can convey something more than my words.

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