Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Legally Tanzanian

Hello all, and many greetings from Moshi where I have just returned after a glorious week in Amsterdam (blog post to come!) on holiday.  I had meant to post this entry before I left, but alas, it was not meant to be, so I am posting now.

Most of you probably know that prior to founding The Toa Nafasi Project, I was a volunteer with Visions in Action, a small grassroots organization out of Washington DC, that places international volunteers with local NGOs in developing countries and oversees their stays.  After six months of that in 2007-8, I then went on to work for Visions for the next 3+ years after which Toa Nafasi took hold and I devoted my time to the Project.

Upon leaving for TZ the very first time, I started a fun and cheeky (if not always politically correct) blog titled "Legally Tanzanian," so that friends and family could keep up with my exploits.  As with this blog, I had a lot of fun writing and was dutiful about posting, but it was definitely a little racier that this Toa Nafasi blog.

The name "Legally Tanzanian" came out of a joke that me in Tanzania was about as likely as Elle Woods at Harvard in the movie franchise, "Legally Blonde."  Guess both me and Elle proved the masses wrong as I believe she made her way at the Yard and I have (more or less) made my way here in Tanzania!

For the purposes of this entry however, "Legally Tanzanian" refers to The Toa Nafasi Project's newfound status as a one hundred percent entirely legal institution in Tanzania!  Not that we were doing anything wrong before; in fact, most of our paperwork was done, but we were awaiting the all-important TIN or Taxpayer Identification Number for the organization.  

I have a personal TIN for my car, but we had a terrible time procuring one for Toa.  I really didn't understand why, as the TIN is a free piece of paper that allows me to pay taxes to the Tanzanian government as well as provide benefits and pensions to my Tanzanian employees, and entitles me to no personal gain whatsoever, but logic isn't always useful here.  And, as the daughter of a prominent international tax lawyer, it just looked really bad that we didn't have the TIN.

We started the application process towards the end of Angi's first trip to Moshi which was roughly three years ago, and was followed by massive amounts of shida/excuses.  The file was lost (once, twice, three times, four times); the person working on our case at the Tax Authority left the job (once, twice, three times, four times); the Toa staff member responsible for following up on this issue was irresponsible (still too angry to talk about this); and the multitude of typically Tanzanian responses from TRA about our plight such as "maybe tomorrow," "in a few days," "try again," or "I don't know."

Everything else was in place fairly quickly: constitution, board, registration, my immigration status, but the TIN remained a thorn in our sides.  Even as recently as this past February when my mother was in Moshi, we were bemoaning our lack of TIN and the fact that not having it puts us and our staff in an awkward position.

Well, behold at long last, I give you The Toa Nafasi Project's Taxpayer Identification Number, on paper and in the flesh.  Now, never mind that "Toa" (a three-letter word) is spelled wrong; once we had it, I wasn't gonna give it up for anything!  And since then, we actually did get it fixed fairly easily.  

So, as of June 2016, Toa Nafasi is LEGALLY TANZANIAN!  WOOHOO!!  We are too legit to quit!!


Next thing on the road to full-blown legitimacy was getting our finances in order and we were able to find a proper Tanzanian accountant to help us with our in-country income and expenditures.  My mom and I met Mr. Mkawo for the first time last year after having been duped by a phony Tanzanian auditor and several frustrating visits to the Tanzania Revenue Authority.  He won Carla over when he proclaimed his distaste for "mediocrity."  Indeed.

Here is video from last year of Mkawo jumping rope as he planned to climb Kilimanjaro for his 70th birthday, just like my mama.  (Sad note: this was shot the day that I found about Vumi's death, so it has some meaning for me as one of the last things I did before the world changed....)

video

Anyhoo, Mkawo came through on his accounting duties just before I left for Amsterdam so with that and the TIN, we are in pretty good shape.  Check out his certified financial documents below.  

I took out all the figures since that's obviously privileged information, but we had an interesting talk as we were going over the numbers about how Toa Nafasi's wealth lies in its people and not its things.  

Truth be told, we have no things!  Mkawo kept asking me about assets and I could not think of a single one to name!!  My greatest asset at school is for sure Hyasinta and in the office, it's Gasto.  Can't put a price on that, can you?!  Mkawo agreed and it was all gooood.


 
Finally, a very tangential and rather random but funny side note.

We just celebrated the Kili Fair here in Moshi at the start of this month, a three-day outdoor trade fair in which local businesses (tour operators, hotels, clothiers, restaurants, and even NGOs) showcase their wares.  

Toa Nafasi didn't bother with a booth - as I just said, we have no things! - but apparently, the Department of Immigration Services represented....

 
Or did they....?  :)  

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