The other meaning of Bongoland

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Media captionMr Bloom's comments were recorded - Video courtesy The Guardian

A UK Independence Party MEP has been criticised for using the term Bongo Bongo Land. But to some people in Tanzania the term has an innocuous meaning, writes Clare Spencer.

MEP Godfrey Bloom has been recorded in footage obtained by the Guardian saying:

"How we can possibly be giving £1bn a month, when we're in this sort of debt, to Bongo Bongo Land is completely beyond me."

Bloom told the BBC Bongo Bongo Land was "a figment of people's imagination. It's like Ruritania or the Third World".

That didn't cut it with Laura Pidcock, from campaign group Show Racism the Red Card. She said that "these crude stereotypes that see Britain as a civilised place and overseas as tribal" were "incredibly damaging". UKIP have also asked him not to use the phrase again, warning that people abroad might find it "disparaging".

This may all be news to people from Tanzania where the shorter word Bongoland means the polar opposite to uncivilised. Instead it means a place where people have to be savvy and have their wits about them.

That place is the large city Dar es Salaam. It comes from an amalgamation of the Kiswahili word Ubongo - meaning brain - and the English word land.

BBC Swahili reporter Aboubakar Famau explains. "Dar es Salaam is a place where people have to use their brain. You could be a conman or just a businessman but they have to work out how to make money."

It's a relatively new term - Famau estimates it at about 15 years old. His dad wouldn't use it and, he muses, it's probably only known by people under 35-years-old. But it is widespread enough to be the title of a 2003 film about a Tanzanian moving to the US, and its sequel, Bongoland II.

What's more, using the term may get you kudos - not criticism - in Tanzania. "Young people think they sound sophisticated when they use the term," Famau says.

That explanation might have helped Bloom avoid controversy.