Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Swaziland is one of the few modern-day nations ruled by an absolute monarchy. The capital is Mbabane. One of the smallest nations in Africa, it is populated by mostly ethnic Swazis, who speak Swati and English. The average age of their citizens is 21, and a third of their population is under 14. A landlocked country, it’s neighbored by South Africa and Mozambique. Swaziland has a small, fragile economy that is very dependent on South Africa’s economy. 3/4th of the population is employed in subsistence agriculture. While a geographically diverse and beautiful country, Swaziland struggles with health issues. Aids and tuberculosis are major causes of death. 1 in 3 adults have HIV. They have one of the lowest life expectancies in the world, at 50 years. They have a critical shortage of doctors and medical infrastructure. They have a growing tourist industry that focuses on their wildlife parks and cultural events. (1,2,3)
Swaziland Flag. Credit: Wikimedia commons
An absolute monarchy is one where the monarchy controls the majority, if not all, of the government. Unlike a constitutional monarchy, an absolute monarchy’s power is not restricted by laws or other governing bodies. However, while the monarch appoints the prime minister, the senate and several seats in the house, there are elections every five years to determine some of the seats in the house of assembly. A former British colony, Swaziland gained independence in 1968. Popular protests in the 90’s gradually pressured the monarchy to introduce reforms, including a constitution in 2005. An economic crisis in 2011 enabled South Africa to pressure its neighbor to introduce additional political reforms, in return for a sizable loan. (1)
Swazi Students at Motshane Primary School, Mbabane. Credit: Mantoe Phakathi/ IPS
Despite their other national challenges, Swaziland has a surprisingly high primary school enrollment rate, and strong gender parity. The enrollment and graduation rates of boys and girls is almost the same. Over 90% of children complete primary education. Education receives significant national focus. In 1976, adult literacy was just 55% and by 2015 it had grown to 87%, averaging 12% growth every year.(4,5,6)
Primary education is not mandatory, but it is supposed to be fully funded by the government, including meals, books, uniforms and all school supplies. (5) During the 2011 economic crisis, primary schools suffered from unreliable funding, especially the funding set aside for orphaned and vulnerable children. (7). Primary school includes seven years of schooling, after which children complete a test to determine their eligibility for additional education. (5,6)
Secondary school is not free, and is intended to be academically rigorous, in the hopes of preparing students for college. 80% of children who complete primary school do not continue their education and work to support their families. There are 3 primary reasons: 50% of Swazis live in poverty and can’t afford further education; despite high rates of primary school completion, Swazi children often test below their grade level; and there are very limited “seats” in secondary school. Of the 20% of students who attend secondary school, only 5% go to college or other higher education. (5,6)
Given the national focus education receives, Swaziland’s education statistics will likely continue to improve.
Like the world over, gender roles in East Africa are changing.
Traditionally, women keep house, bear children, grow food, carry water and are considered subservient to their husbands. Husbands are responsible for the material support and protection of their households. Sons typically inherit their fathers' property while daughters are married to a suitor her father approves of. These gender roles are reinforced by poverty, discriminatory social attitudes and violence against women.
This is an old pattern, one found throughout history and still common in many countries. Yet these restrictive gender roles are not sufficient to meet the demands of a modern, global society.
Due to changing economic pressures, and increased access to education, more and more women are starting businesses. They have a stabilizing effect on their local economy by providing employment, selling to residents and buying from local vendors. Women who contribute to or fully provide the family's income have more power at home, and are more likely to assert their political rights.
In Tanzania, family structure depends on the tribe, but is increasingly being affected by western ideas of family. Yet change comes slowly.
A man is always the head of a household in Tanzania. He earns the majority of the money, and makes the final decisions on issues of importance. A woman, on the other hand, earns respect by bearing children. Once a woman has children, she will often no longer be referred to by her first name; instead, she is identified as the mother of her eldest child, or in some instances, her eldest son. For example, our teacher Grace could also be called Mama Chris.
Children spend the majority of their time with their mother and other female relatives. It is not uncommon for older female siblings to help raise the children, in some cases even discontinuing their education to help out. In cases where a man has a daughter from a previous relationship, she is responsible for caring for her father’s new wife's children. In addition, families who can afford more help will often hire a young woman to raise their children. She will live with the family until her service is no longer needed.
Many of these traditions are beginning to diminish as urbanization and westernization become more prevalent. The nuclear family is becoming more common, and women are finding roles outside of the home. For example, our head teacher Grace, like other women in her community identified a need in her community and sought to meet that need. She worked with Felicia to build and lead a non-profit school. East African women are becoming increasingly entrepreneurial, and are beginning to build their own solutions to their problems, whether that means providing a community service or starting a business.
Happy Africa Day!
May 25th celebrates the creation of the Organization of African Unity in 1963. This intergovernmental group aimed to establish peace and better the lives of Africans. In 2002, this organization was replaced with the African Union, and includes all African nations. This shift was partly due to a need to focus on economic, rather than political challenges. Defeating colonialism is no longer a unifying factor, and now many African nations are struggling with how to best approach inter-continental trade, appropriate tariffs, and free travel across borders. The African Union aims to address these and other challenges to create a unified, peaceful and prosperous Africa.
Africa Day often has a theme: last year it was unity, this year it’s youth. Or more specifically “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investments in Youth.” Many African Nations, (And Tanzania is a good example of this) have very young populations, with a large percentage under 30. These young people have the potential to be a huge economic force, if provided good nutrition, healthcare, education, and economic opportunities.
Africa Day celebrations vary widely. Some African nations have declared it a public holiday, however it is celebrated across the continent with concerts, parades, and parties. Members of the African diaspora celebrate too. Celebrants often wear traditional dress, and prepare dishes from their nation of origin.
Tanzania, like many developing nations, has ambitious goals for economic development, yet struggles with unemployment. The Tanzanian government has several top-down initiatives to increase economic growth, including partnering with China to fund infrastructure development and working with neighboring countries to lower trade barriers.  Yet there's also an impressive and growing "grass-roots" style movement of individuals creating their own business. An increasing number of these entrepreneurs are women. [7, 1, 9 ]
The economy is a critical part of the quality of life in any community. When a developing economy struggles to provide enough jobs, people try their hand at running their own businesses. If successful, these ventures create streams of income throughout a community as they purchase supplies and materials, sell goods and services, and hire employees. Successful small businesses bring stability and income to an area. [7, 8
Entrepreneurship is growing in Tanzania and throughout Africa, with a number of organizations providing support and training for young entrepreneurs. [9,2] One example, run by UN Women, is the Joint Program on Youth Employment, which taught women “entrepreneurship, marketing accounting and cross-border trade.”  Other organizations serve as business incubators, to encourage individuals to grow their businesses from a solo act or a handful of employees to medium size or large businesses. “Today, 96% of the entrepreneurs in Tanzania are micro entrepreneurs.”- Dr. Donath Olomi 
Mary Mtaki with her mother at their Tunduma store, Tanzania. Photo Credit: UN Women, Tanzania, Deepika Nath 
Business incubators and entrepreneurial workshops are critical resources that help business owners navigate the challenges common to businesses everywhere and the challenges unique to developing nations. Young businesses and entrepreneurs have some significant stumbling blocks to work past, including limited access to capital, poor infrastructure such as limited roads and railways, and unreliable phone lines, internet connections and electricity. [3, 9]
When people hear ‘entrepreneur’ they think tech start up, or a one-man shop that that makes and sells something. Even in African countries, this is a common perception. YET, almost 80% of the Tanzanian work force is employed in the agricultural sector  and there’s a lot of entrepreneurial activity happening there as well. Individual farmers, and farming families (aka “smallholders”) struggle from the same setbacks as other types of businesses. A lack of access to funding, or small loans makes it difficult to invest the capital needed for upgrades to their farms, and poor roads make it difficult to rural farms to access urban city dwellers. [5, 6]
The Tanzanian government has a special interest in entrepreneurs wanting to start new agro-businesses, as this could have the double benefit of stimulating economic growth, and increase food production. So many young people are moving to the cities, that there's a real deficit of "the next generation" of farmers. [4, 5, 6]
Yohana Issaya at his maize farm in Ndurugumi, in Kongwa District, Tanzania Photo Credit: Feed the Future, 
Organizations like TechnoServe provide rural Tanzanian youth with business training and introduce modern agricultural techniques that increase produce yields. When rural Tanzanians can move beyond substance to commercial farming, young people are incentivized to return from cities and build thriving agricultural ventures. Like other types of businesses, these successful “smallholders” create jobs and economic stability in their local communities. Unlike other business types, motivated young people building ambitious farms goes a long way to addressing the growing food needs of a booming Sub-Saharan population. [4, 5, 6]
Located in the Northwestern part of Tanzania, jutting into Kenya and Uganda, Lake Victoria holds the title as the world's largest tropical lake, meaning that the lake never dips below freezing point. With a surface area of 26,660 square miles, Lake Victoria also holds the title as Africa’s largest lake. The lake was named after Queen Victoria, a British queen who funded an expedition for Richard Francis Burton to locate the source of the Nile River. Although lacking the interesting creatures and activities that come with oceans, Lake Victoria offers a variety of worthwhile charms that beg to be seen. For this last installment of National Travel and Tourism Week, we aim to convince you this is no ordinary lake. Although the lake is worth visiting, heed this warning; Lake Victoria remains unswimmable due to its numerous diseases and dangerous insects and animals. This shouldn’t dissuade you, however, as the best activities don’t require a swimsuit.
Photo Credit: Jonathan Stonehouse
The wildlife around Lake Victoria includes many powerful animals, including hippos and alligators. Along with that, over 400 species of birds call this area home, with otters, monkeys, and rabbits sharing space in this healthy ecosystem. As the Tanzanian government has found that it is not advisable to simply wander this wilderness alone, Rubondo Island National park was created, located within Tanzania's lake boundary. Touring with a guide in an “armored” vehicle provides protection from the variety of predators that are continuously on the hunt, bestowing upon you a safe yet exciting experience.
Just 30 miles north off the coastline of Lake Victoria lies Kakamega Forest National Park, all that remains of a once great forest. Reduced to just 90 square miles, the park services does all that is reasonably possible to protect these last remnants, so don’t expect to wander unhinged. Famous around the world for its animal and plant species, Kakamega Forest offers species that are rarely seen elsewhere nearby, giving you a shot at spotting multiple rare animals. Being surrounded by green vegetation makes for a beautiful scenery, and it won’t be hard to spend hours simply walking around.
Photo Credit: Joshua Tabti
While the natural side to Lake Victoria is surely up to par with many other Tanzanian tourist spots, the surrounding Luo tribes offer a welcoming and unfamiliar experience to all those who visit. Surrounding large portions of the shoreline, many Luo villages have found peace in this unforgiving environment. Working primarily as fishermen, these groups oftentimes dress in colorful and traditional attire, a far cry from the more modern clothing worn by many Tanzanians residing near cities. A stay at the Mfangano Island Camp provides visitors the chance at a guided tour of the closest Luo village and their prehistoric artwork, hidden deep within nearby caves.
All throughout Tanzania lies unforgettable moments and amazing adventures. Although we have covered 7 throughout this week, many remain for you to discover, and many lie off the well-worn trails created by tourists like yourself. When visiting Tanzania, it is advisable to thoroughly research your opportunities, and you might just find yourself with a story unlike any other.
Stone Town, Zanzibar, is without a doubt one of the richest locations in Tanzania in terms of both history and culture. Located just off the Eastern coast of Tanzania on the island of Unguja, the main island of the Zanzibar Archipelago, Stone Town has made a name for itself as a living portrait of the past. Named after the predominant use of coral stone as the primary construction material, Stone Town has a unique look that hardly differs throughout its entirety. With the tides of change including Arab, Indian, European, and African influences, Stone Town remains a true melting pot of tradition with a modern impact from its primarily Muslim population, offering an experience that combines both old and new. One reason many people choose to visit Stone Town is its unique and jam-packed history, which offers much in the way of sightseeing and tours. For National Travel and Tourism Week, we will highlight some of the historical artifacts that make Stone Town a living history lesson, with many of its attractions listed by the World Heritage Convention as sites of importance. When in Tanzania, the short boat ride to Stone Town will be well worth your time.
Photo Credit: Victor Ochieng
One of the most prominent attractions in Stone Town happens to be one of the forts guarding it, at least metaphorically. The Old Fort of Zanzibar, once a legitimate fort that provided protection for the city’s slave and spice trades, now stands unguarded and decommissioned, a relic of past times. Built in the late 17th century by Omanis as a means of defense from the Portuguese, the fort faced little action in its time, although reports say it did successfully stop an invasion at least once. However, its lack of action lead to a remarkably strong structure; so strong, in fact, that the local government briefly used it as a prison. It’s time as a prison was short lived, and eventually the fort was used both as a barracks and as a storage facility. Today, you won’t be readily reminded of the forts previous history, as much of it has been converted to attract tourists to the island. The fort’s main courtyard serves as a cultural center, with a variety of shops selling merchandise geared towards tourists. Part of the fort now also serves as an open-air amphitheatre, providing lively entertainment that starkly contrasts to its notable history. Although much of the fort is now used for much more cheerful reasons, its structural integrity still lends itself to the tours reminding us of its varied past. With many of the locations accessible with guides, it's not hard to imagine what it must have been like defending a city nearly identical today as it was hundreds of years ago.
Photo Credit: Flikr user Irene2005
Another glimpse into the past comes from the Hamamni Persian Baths. Constructed by Sultan Said Barghash between 1870 and 1888, the baths remained for public use until 1920, when the water was shut off. Built with Persian influences, the architecture may remind some of the times of Ancient Greece. Although no longer functioning, the baths remain in near pristine condition, giving your imagination an easy time when recalling the days when the baths were filled to the brim with citizens.
Finally, the Old Dispensary, locally known as Ithnasheri Dispensary, is a mix of Indian, African, and European architecture, for it passed through the hands of many owners before its eventual finish in the early 1900’s. During this time, it was owned by an Indian merchant, Haji Nasser Nurmohamed, who turned the building into a functioning dispensary, providing charitable help to those in need. Following the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, the building fell into disuse, although more recently restoration projects have brought it back to its former glory.
Throughout Stone Town’s history, the influences of numerable cultures have left their mark, each leaving behind a little piece of their own. Today, Stone Town remains one of Tanzania's most historically rich spots, with World Heritage Site’s around nearly every corner. Although much of what it offers is for those interested in history, the busy atmosphere, lively neighborhoods and close proximity to the mainland all make for great reasons to visit Stone Town.
With a population of nearly 4.4 million as of 2012, with a current estimate of 4.7 million, Dar es Salaam holds the title as Tanzania's biggest city, while being in the top 10 largest cities in the whole of Africa. Founded in only 1862 by Sultan Majid of Zanzibar, the city quickly grew to become a prominent center for business and trade. Throughout much of its early history, Dar es Salaam was influenced by the forces of international politics and colonization, with its Arab leaders overthrown by the German East African Company in 1887, and its German occupation replaced by British rule during WW1. The myriad of cultures have all left influences on the city, leading to a diverse and unique city that flourishes to this day. Today, much of Dar es Salaam’s downtown area is comparable to that of many other large cities. For National Tourism and Travel Week, we will be highlighting what makes Dar es Salaam a Tanzanian getaway unlike the rest.
Being such a large city, Dar es Salaam offers many of the typical attractions one would expect to find in any other large metropolis. One of the reasons many make the trip into the city is for its various water and theme parks, spread throughout the downtown area and its Eastern coastline. Water slides, lazy rivers, roller coasters and all of your favorite classic fairground rides can be found, giving you the fun you are used to mixed with an environment you aren’t. Popular parks include the Kunduchi Wet ‘N’ Wild Water Park and Fun City. Both of these water parks offer reasonably priced tickets and amenities, so you definitely won’t break your wallet having some fun. If roller coasters and lazy rivers aren’t exactly what you would call fun, a number of zoos are located here, housing a variety of local and foreign animals. The most popular zoo is the aptly named Dar es Salaam Zoo, which is covered by a variety of local plants, providing a unique experience that differs from the standard metal cages and fences that you are likely to find in the U.S.
Photo Credit: Flickr user Lucianf
Getting away from the classic attractions you are used to isn’t hard, however, as the Kariakoo market lies in the center of Dar es Salaam and will be sure to make you question what you are seeing, even when you decide to pass up on a purchase. Open for business all day and all night, the market is lined with fresh, local, and bizarre produce and game, offering a fun guessing game for those too scared to ask. You can’t say you have really experienced a new country until you’ve tried something that at first scares you, be it goat stomach or roasted fruit bat. Locals often visit the market for a quick bite to eat or for ingredients for that night's dinner, so there's bound to be something that piques your interest. Rainbows of spices reaching multiple feet high will constantly make you drift towards their smell, and handmade trinkets that make great souvenirs can be found in abundance. Nothing says “I love you” like a piece of handcrafted jewelry of unknown content. Dotting the busy roads lie street performers, offering exciting entertainment for a small token of gratuity. However, due to the nature of big cities across the world, it is ill-advised to bring valuables such as jewelry and expensive cameras, for no matter what country you visit, there is always someone looking to make a quick, unethical buck off an unsuspecting tourist.
Photo Credit: Marco Zanferrari
Given that Dar es Salaam lies just off the coast of the Indian Ocean, maritime activities range from high-end Jet Ski tours to lazy days in a rented canoe. The local fishing economy means that the water is always busy from sunup until sundown, providing a perfect opportunity to simply sit and watch the normal hustle and bustle. Its close proximity to the water makes the land surrounding the city full of life, and local businesses have capitalized on this opportunity with a myriad of opportunities. All in all, a visit to Dar es Salaam will offer you the experience of any large American city, yet while at the same time encouraging you to step outside of your comfort zone and try something new.
Many islands are boring - barren land, rock-filled beaches, and no access to the internet. However, its National Travel and Tourism Week, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint you with one of those. Welcome to Mafia Island, one of Tanzania's best tourist hotspots. Boasting a rich history and culture, excellent marine activities, and beautiful scenery, Mafia Island has something for everyone, from history buffs to daring divers. Despite its enticing atmosphere, Mafia Island remains rather unknown, making it the perfect place to get away from the crowds that flock to many other Tanzanian locations to enjoy some quality quiet time. Although the name may be off-putting, rest assured, as the name “mafia” comes from an Arabic word meaning archipelago. With an area of 152 square miles, it may not be the biggest island, but it certainly has a lot to offer.
Photo Credit: David Bacon
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. And when on an island, do as islanders do. As it turns out, Mafia Island earns most of its income through the sea, meaning that it is the perfect place for anyone wanting to get their feet wet. Instead of tagging along with a group of fisherman on a commercial fishing trip, plenty of opportunities exist for you to try your hand at deep sea sport fishing. Sailfish, marlin, barracuda, and yellowfin tuna, alongside many other large and powerful fish, lurk in the waters off the island, meaning that no matter what you catch, you will be sure to get your money’s worth. Fishing close to shore is forbidden, however, so be prepared to be out in international waters, away from any nearby shoreline. The best fishing season is from August to March, so plan accordingly.
For those not wishing to catch wildlife, charter boats around the island offer both whale and shark seeing charters, perfect for people wishing to stay dry. Coming up close to a whale shark is a humbling experience, for their size is unmatched by anything else on Earth. The captains of these boats are especially knowledgeable on these animals behaviors, an understanding that comes with years of practice. This skill makes for a high chance of finding these creatures, meaning your time won't be wasted. Shark-seeing cruises are also exciting; however, these are often accompanied by chum to draw them to the boat. If you are feeling adventurous that day, various businesses give you the chance to swim alongside whale sharks, providing a truly eye-opening experience. And, should that not be enough for you, time spent in a shark cage surrounded by feeding sharks is sure to get your heart racing.
Photo Credit: David Bacon
And finally, for those wishing to keep safe on land, Mafia Island offers plenty of attractions to keep you entertained. With a history dating back to the 8th century, Mafia Island contains plenty of centuries-old buildings and a culture to match, providing an exciting and hands-on history lesson. Its unique position as a trade outpost provided it with plenty of wealth which translated into infrastructure, some of which still stands to this day. Should history bore, you, the island's ecosystem is full of lush trees and exotic creatures, meaning that a day spent in the wild is sure to provide you with a fun-filled trip. While Mafia Island may be rather unknown to the global community, its charm, excitement, and relaxed atmosphere make it one of the best places to travel to while in Tanzania.
Photo 1: https://www.flickr.com/photos/88657298@N00/
Photo 2: https://www.flickr.com/photos/88657298@N00/
Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tanzania, is well known across the globe for its accessibility and breathtaking views. A dormant volcano with 3 main peaks, Kibo, Mawenzi, and Shira, Kilimanjaro sits on the North-Eastern edge of Tanzania, rising roughly 16,100 feet above sea level. Offering a noteworthy accomplishment for those who finish the climb, yet while at the same time being completable by those with little experience in climbing, Kilimanjaro is a must-see when visiting Tanzania. If you are looking for a mix of excitement, reward, and some exercise, Mount Kilimanjaro may just be your best bet.
Photo Credit: Elisa Taylor
Tourists from around the globe travel to Kilimanjaro not only for the climb, but for its scenery and many other activities. For those not wishing to put the time or effort into a full climb, guides around the base offer day-long hikes along the Shira plateau, providing an equally as exhilarating experience for a much lower cost. For those not interested in a hike, rivers and streams in and around Kilimanjaro offer excellent trout fishing, with local businesses offering to teach the skill to those without the knowhow. Given the fact that Kilimanjaro sits near the Serengeti, local safaris are always bound to be full of excitement, with companies offering quick drives to multi-day adventures. If you wish to get a hands-on look into the culture of Tanzania, various tour guides offer trips into the areas populated and used by the locals, providing an amazing insight into the cultures that make Tanzania special. And, of course, given its popularity as a tourist attraction, you will find many amenities to remind you of home should you be wanting to see the newest blockbuster film.
Of course, the main reason many visit Kilimanjaro is for its climb. With 7 different paths to the summit, the mountain offers easier paths for those with little experience, to more demanding and skilled treks for those who are up for the challenge. With upwards of 15,000 people a year of all skill levels that hike the mountain, Kilimanjaro offers a wide variety of assets for those in need. Surrounding the base are each of the amenities and services that guests may require. Porters, cooks, and guides can all be hired for extremely fair prices, covering all the aspects of the trek except for the trek itself. Due to the sloped shape of the mountain, no extreme measures are required to reach the peak, allowing for a climb much safer than other mountains of equal height. The peak offers amazing views of the surrounding areas, making for a great experience that you won’t be able to find at your local state park.
Next up on our list of Tanzanian travel spots is the Olduvai Gorge, located in the northern part of Tanzania near the Serengeti. Due to its unique fossil records, it is one of the most important anthropological sites on earth, helping scientists to better understand the history of early humans, both from how they looked to where they traveled. The gorge itself is roughly 30 miles long, a product of both volcanism and plate tectonics as well as weathering and erosion.  This process has taken millions of years, and it was worth it, for the gorge has much to offer from both a scientific standpoint as well as being a tourist destination. By visiting the Olduvai Gorge, not only will you be given a chance to set foot where our earliest ancestors once did, but you will be accompanied by a unique learning experience and an amazing array of wildlife.
Photo by Sherwood on Flickr
The Olduvai Gorge first came to prominence in 1911, when German Neurologist Wilhelm Kattwinkel first discovered the bones of a previously unknown and extinct horse. From there on out, it became a hotspot for research, with archaeological and geological teams visiting the locations ever since. It wasn’t until the mid-1900’s when the scientific discoveries really started to alter our perception of human history. Found within the gorge were ancient fossils and stone tools, some dating back to over 2.5 million years ago.  These discoveries nearly proved to the world that humans originated in Africa, settling a long debate. Although the average tourist is not allowed to hunt for fossils, the many sites surrounding the gorge provide an experience not found anywhere else in the world.
Museums around the gorge offer many educational exhibits, ranging from fossils and artifacts of early human ancestors to the skeletons of the animals who accompanied them. One of the best museum exhibits, found at the Olduvai Gorge Museum, is a cast of footprints made by early hominids, the most well-known being Lucy. These footprints were, amazingly, preserved in mud hardened by the sun roughly 3.6 million years ago. The museum also offers other notable finds, such as fossils, tools, and other finds related to early humans. For anyone interested in the history of early humans, the Olduvai Gorge is a must-visit destination.
The Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important locations in all of Africa simply due to its unique and vital presence of early human artifacts. However, that is not the only reason one should visit. The Gorge itself is not far from the Serengeti, meaning that the wildlife surrounding it is sure to be abundant and varied. So, whether you are looking to walk with our earliest ancestors or take a safari nearby, the Olduvai Gorge is definitely an African treasure worth visiting.
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