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Cut through a wattle forest, the dirt track to Lupembe does not afford the visitor from Europe an easy ride. Tanzania’s tea-growing country, through countryside that is more reminiscent of northern Europe than of Africa. We were now 13 hours by road from the bustle, humidity and ubiquitous Premier League football shirts of the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam. Everyone, it seemed, had a mobile phone and the only visible commercial activity here was based around mobile communication.
There was a shop where you could pay to have your battery recharged and at least two other establishments advertised themselves as part of the M-Pesa network, the mobile money transfer service which millions of Tanzanians prefer to traditional banking. The inhabitants of Lupembe, however, are lucky. 2010, and it has taken its vocation very seriously. The individual tea growers of the area had long felt exploited by the major corporations and had been manoeuvred into a disadvantageous position through restrictive contracts and anti-competitive practices. The newspaper took up their case with a series of campaigning articles and gradually things began to change. It was the first time we felt that people were on our side.