Years ago when I was an English teacher in Madagascar, I asked a class to write about their home town. Most of the class began with a sentence like “Tulear is 600 kilometers from Tananarive, the capital and 6000 kilometers from Paris”. For them, Paris was the focal point of the world; Africa might as well not have existed. Similar attitudes prevail throughout Africa wherever different languages and customs adopted during the colonial era have led to a lack of awareness about neighbouring countries.
One of the many products of the agonisingly slow and belated progress towards increased co-operation in Europe has been a desire to lessen these barriers between Africans created by colonial rule, and to encourage development and regional co-operation. Bilateral assistance, conditioned as it often is by language and traditional trade ties, usually tends to reinforce these divisions. By bringing together several former colonial powers and other important bilateral donors, the European Community is uniquely well placed to encourage pan-African initiatives such as the preferential trade area, as well as supporting joint action amongst countries affected by problems such as the spread of pests and diseases, or desertification.
Readers of the Bulletin will be aware of the importance of such concepts as Pan-African co-operation in Tanzanian policy over the years since independence. From the beginnings of the Organisation of African Unity through to present day initiatives like the PTA and the Southern African Development Co-ordination Conference (SADCC) Tanzania has been prepared to lend its weight, even though its own experience of closer co-operation in the East African Community highlighted the difficulties which can arise. If such problems can arise between countries with strong historical ties how much more hazardous must wider co-operation be ! Yet it is not only natural – the early explorers would surely be dismayed at the cultural gulf and plain lack of contact between some of the areas in the region – but even a geographical necessity that a common approach to problems should be sought. Tanzania’s importance stems not just from its political will in approaching these issues but from its strategic position as a transit country for much of central Africa and from the importance of its own natural resources in the potential development of the region* The EEC through the European Development Fund is supporting Tanzania’s efforts to improve transport facilities which are important for the development of neighbours such as Rwanda and Burundi, by improving the port facilities at Kigoma, assisting Tanzanian Railway Corporation and helping to construct new facilities at Isaka and a road linking them with Rwanda. Emphasis has also been placed on the working out at national level of policies for food production; such a strategy has now been produced for Tanzania. The idea is to bring together all the various factors affecting the provision of an adequate diet for all the population. Regional food security is best achieved by starting at village level or even the individual shamba.
Tanzania has the potential not just to feed itself, but to produce exportable surpluses. However, before that potential can be realised, many constraints must be overcome. Tanzania is almost the poorest of African countries, with all the problems that they share: acute shortage of foreign exchange, weak planning capacity, poor institutional performance. Moreover Tanzania faces particular difficulties in ensuring that all its people have sufficient food, not only because of its size and the poor state of its infrastructure, but also the remoteness of the food producing areas from the deficit regions. Any responsible programme of assistance towards the provision of food for all in Tanzania must face these problems within a realistic time scale.
The Tanzanian Government acknowledges that the sector has suffered from inadequate investment, inadequate incentives to producers, poor performance of the relevant institutions, a lack of foreign exchange and a transport service in a state of disrepair. In its 1982 policy statement on agriculture, on the basis of which the national food strategy was prepared, the Government outlined measures covering institutional reform, prices and input supply and marketing in order to move towards the objective of self sufficiency in food.
It was within the framework of this approach that talks were held in Dar es Salaam in July 1985 between the Tanzanian Government and the European Commission delegation headed by Dieter Frisch, the Director- General for Development. The aim was to agree on the way in which funds available to Tanzania for its national development programme, from the EEC would be allocated. Put simply, the question was, what was the best way for Tanzania to spend about Shs.2,130 million in foreign exchange?
Most farmers in Tanzania grow crops for cash as well as for their own food. In some areas the two crops are grown on the same piece of ground, as is often the case with coffee and bananas grown in the North and North-West. How much each family decides to grow of each depends partly on the price which they will receive for each crop as well as on the suitability of the soil and their own requirements. But Tanzania needs to earn foreign exchange from export crops like coffee and cotton to buy both the inputs needed to grow more food, and the spare parts and fuel to move food around the country. A balanced programme requiring food and cash crops was therefore required. As the EEC has been the main donor for the development of coffee production in Tanzania over the past few years, through a fairly successful programme of support to the Coffee Authority of Tanzania (now the Coffee Marketing Board) which has ensured that coffee production levels were maintained, it was decided to focus the allocation of the finance available on agriculture in the coffee-growing areas. The programme to be supported will cover all the problems affecting coffee and food production in the se areas, including the need to ensure that the newly formed co-operatives can do their job properly. Transport is a particular problem in some of these areas, and the BBC agreed to consider proposals for the repair of lorries along the lines of a successful project carried out a few years ago, and for the maintenance of minor roads giving access to agricultural areas.
The funds available to this programme result from the signature in 1984 of the third Lome convention, a contractual agreement between the EEC and over sixty countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (known as the ‘ACP’ countries). This is a unique agreement covering not only finance for national and regional development, but also a scheme for the stabilisation of export earnings (‘STABEX’ for short) and a wide variety of other forms of support. The EEC’s food aid and its scheme for co-financing projects with voluntary agencies like Christian Aid and Oxfam are funded separately from the Convention (they come from the EEC annual budget) but every attempt is now being made to ensure that all these different forms of co-operation fit together within a coherent framework. The EEC is fast becoming one of Tanzania’s major aid donors, and in fact the share of Tanzania’s aid coming from the Community (including Member States ‘bilateral programmes) is now over 40%. Coupled with the fact that about 50% of the country’s trade is with the European Community, this means that the ties between the two are stronger than at any time since independence.