The History and Idea of Pamoja

As our society today is strongly characterised by the coexistence of people from different cultural backgrounds, the importance of promoting intercultural competences is increasing. For now 15 years, this has motivated us to design our own programme to enable an exchange of perspectives between people of different cultures – Pamoja is completely self-organised and based on the high motivation of the participants to carry out all necessary tasks and planning on their own responsibility and with individual commitment.

The idea for the project arose in the course of the seminar „Practice of Development Cooperation“ at the University of Münster, which was led by Dr Reinhold Hemker at the time. It was initiated by the contact between two students – from Germany and Tanzania – who met during a semester abroad in Dar es Salaam (Tanzania). Without further ado, the Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial Academy (MNMA) was won as an official project partner. Pamoja was further developed with the support of Reinhold Hemker and moreover, students from universities in Cologne and Aachen could be inspired to get involved with Pamoja. The growing group of Tanzanian participants increasingly helped plan the project by developing an independent programme, securing funding through successful applications for state, church and private funding and preparing the content of the cultural encounter trip.

In summer 2009, the first meeting of a Pamoja group finally took place: In the first project phase, 20 Tanzanians and 20 Germans met in Dar es Salaam. The MNMA served here and for many other Pamoja generations as a hostel and meeting centre for joint internal and public discussion rounds and also as a reliable supporter of Pamoja in many other ways. In Dar es Salaam, cultural sites and political institutions of international development cooperation were visited during this first programme. During the time together, the group got to know each other personally and cultural differences could be adjusted in a safe environment – the participants started to grow together as a family.

After the time spent together in Tanzania, the course was set for a return exchange in Germany – because an exchange at eye level requires dialogue on both sides, i.e., the same opportunities to gain one’s own experiences – this is the basic understanding of Pamoja. As in the previous exchange phase, funding was successfully obtained, and new socio-political project partners were won for this new phase of encounter. In summer 2010, after the successful procurement of visas, one of the biggest hurdles for the project besides funding, the first Tanzanian Pamoja group arrived in Münster. Sociopolitical, economic, and cultural institutions were now also visited on German ground and Münster’s public was invited to participate in discussion rounds. In the end, all participants and their friends and families were so enthusiastic about Pamoja and had gained so much valuable experience through Pamoja that it was clear to everyone: Pamoja should be repeated many times.

And so, the participants from both countries immediately started looking for a successor generation for a new exchange, which quickly proved to be successful. On the German side, a support group was formed from the first Pamoja generation and external interested parties, which soon developed into the association u-We – Understanding through World Encounter e.V. U-We supported in particular the German part of Pamoja II on a voluntary basis by organising seminars, providing legal assistance and helping with applications for external funding. On the Tanzanian side, this support group was supported by MNMA and especially by the lecturer Richard Stanislaus Kappia, who coordinated the calls for participants of the next Pamoja generation as well as preparatory seminars. Pamoja II was a complete success with an outward exchange in 2011 and a return exchange in 2012, followed by Pamoja III in 2013 and 2014. Both exchange groups were able to benefit from the wealth of experience of previous generations and the support group or u-We e.V. Thus, for three project phases, a collective wealth of experience was built up, although the focus of each Pamoja generation was on the self-responsibility, self-determination, and self-organisation of their own active exchange group.

After the third Pamoja project in autumn 2014, the supporting u-We e.V. separated from the project due to its own political reorientation towards internal political challenges. Some members of Pamoja III joined forces to form a new support group that wanted to continue Pamoja. And so, as before, the soon to be successful search for successor generations began. With Pamoja IV and Pamoja V, two more successful exchange cycles could be experienced together in the following four years. Finally, members of Pamoja generations III, IV and V decided that after ten years, despite the principle of self-determination, the project as a whole needed more stability through structures. The goal was to be able to better follow up and use the diverse experiences of the past years and, above all, to prepare the following exchange groups more sensitively in the future. Thus, in 2019-2020, the project was paused for a year for the first time in order to evaluate experience reports, guidelines and projects experienced, to discuss the basic ideas and ideals of Pamoja anew and finally to develop a sustainable umbrella structure. In all changes, it has always been and will always be of utmost importance that all changes are communicated as best as possible with all project members via our global messenger group and various newsletters and are consensually agreed with all active members until there is no more resistance to change – no one is outvoted, and all opinions receive due attention.

As a result, the project was to be based on four pillars from then on, which were implemented as follows: First, the official university group Pamoja – Tanzanian German Exchange Project was founded on the German side at the University of Münster, which in particular provides technical and spatial infrastructure. In addition, the association Pamoja – Tanzanian German Exchange Project e.V. Münster was founded, which exclusively serves the purposes of Pamoja, in particular as a legal entity. Furthermore, two new partners were found for the cooperation; on the German side, Pamoja joined the association Aktion Humane Welt e.V. under the board of directors of Falk Toczkowski and Beate Steffens, which offers the project a far-reaching political network as well as decades of experience in international development cooperation. The change on the Tanzanian side is particularly noteworthy. Here, the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) was won as a new project partner and host for the future encounter phases in Tanzania and will thus take over all previous tasks and efforts of the MNMA from 2021. After five previous successful Pamoja exchange cycles, the MNMA had previously parted ways with Pamoja due to its own reorientation in socio-political engagement – we sincerely thank them for their previous cooperation. Hence, it was fortunate for us that UDSM was looking for new projects with an international framework and that all project participants and the new UDSM partners were able to agree on all points in time for the 2021-2023 exchange. This profound change was made possible by Masoud Hamis Musa, a former Pamoja participant, establishing contact with Dr Colman Titus Msoka and his research assistant Godfrey Mondi from the Institute of Development Studies at the UDSM.

Based on this new foundation and motivation, new participants for a sixth Pamoja project were sought and found as early as autumn 2019. And so, a new encounter trip to Tanzania in 2020 was imminent, but unfortunately things turned out differently. The Corona pandemic put the entire world in a state of shock in 2020, which naturally meant that a Pamoja exchange could not take place either. Nevertheless, the groups from both countries managed to maintain contact throughout the years of the pandemic, so that the Pamoja6 exchange could finally take place successfully in the summer of 2022.

Pamoja is and remains an impressive and life-changing experience for all participants, the intercultural friendships within the Pamoja family continue long after the respective active project phase, and the memories of the time spent together, what was experienced, made possible and learned together continue to resonate for years. The Pamoja participants from both countries carry the experiences they have gained and the changed world view of a common world into the societies of their own home countries, where they unfold their meaningful effect in the context of further encounters and activities.