NYERERE OF TANZANIA: THE LEGEND AND THE LEDGER. UFSI Reports 1987/No 3. pp13. US$ 3.50
In the mid-Sixties Gus Liebenow found Dar es Salaam one of the cleanest cities in Africa, its port charming, and its citizens honest and industrious. He expands on this romantic view by describing the University at that time as a modern Camelot where Tanzanian scholars met with a host of radical expatriate academics. At the Round Table they set about constructing a new development strategy based on the concept of African Socialism in what is described as one of the most intellectually stimulating campuses in Africa.
Gus Liebenow was shocked when he returned to Tanzania in 1986. He observed dilapidated taxis; decaying streets, pavements and buildings; uncleared garbage; sanitation and water supply inadequacies. He noted reports in the Daily News of cholera outbreaks, neglect of duties by Government employees; increasing incidence of AIDS; food and cash crop smuggling; striking sugar cane workers killed by Field Force Unit police; public sector inefficiency, laxity and dishonesty.
What went wrong? According to this highly readable and concise survey, pretty much everything. The problems are judged to have begun with pre-Colonial Arab influence on the mainland followed by 70 years of German and British rule. Adverse economic factors beyond the control of the Government such as climate, falling commodity prices and higher oil bills in the 1970’s are cited. Then there were costly political events such as the break-up of the East African Community and the war with Uganda. Much of the blame is placed on the Socialist development strategy, which is considered ill – judged and disastrously implemented. While the Left seeks to explain the failure by claiming that the strategy has not really been socialism at all, Gus Liebenow observes that in June 1986 the remarkably open, self-critical and pragmatic Tanzanians moved to begin winding up the great experiment in African Socialism.
It’s tempting to continue Gus Liebenow’s imaginative Morte D’Julius analogy. Much of the time in Camelot was spent in organising a fruitless search for the Holy Grail. The downfall of the fellowship and high i deals of the Round Table came about when the trusted Sir Lancelot betrayed King Arthur by kissing Queen Guinevere. Who should be cast in these roles – is Lancelot the state bureaucracy and Queen Guinevere inefficiency and petty corruption – or is Lancelot Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Queen Guinevere the IMF?
LABOUR AND POVERTY IN RURAL TANZANIA. Ujamaa and Rural Development in the United Republic of Tanzania. Clarenden Press: Oxford, 1986. pp 143.
This is a small book with great pretensions. Aiming to provide an up-to-date assessment of Tanzania’s experience in rural development (a big subject) it claims to provide “a basis on which many of the current controversies can at last be solved empirically”. This it certainly does not do, even if it provides some interesting statistical results worthy of further investigation. Its claim to superiority is its application of econometrics, based on a sample here of 600 households drawn from over 8 regions in a range of different ecological situations . One might say that the results demonstrate both the advantages and the limitations of the approach. As far as the sample is concerned, it is nevertheless concentrated in a curve along the East and Centre of the country from Tanga through Dar es Salaam to Dodomaa : Sukumaland and most of the West and the South East are omitted. At the same time there are problems associated with bringing together households taken from villages within agro-ecological zones which vary greatly and considering them as a group.
The core chapter is on peasant differentiation which is found to be substantial – not in itself an original finding . The interesting result here is that, despite the range of conditions from which the sample is drawn, only 15% of inequality is accounted for by inter-village variation, 85% being due to variation within villages irrespective of location. Looking at the cause of this variation in income per adult equivalent, this turns out to be differences in non-labour endowments. Of the total variation 44% is due to crops, 21% to livestock and 30% to non-farm income. To illustrate the criticism made earlier, there are difficulties here in analysing the livestock factor since livestock play very different roles in different areas of Tanzania, being virtually absent, for instance, in the South East. Access to crops such as coffee is important in respect of cash crop income and here the results may disguise differences in the quality of land owned, coffee land being a very different kind of asset from that in the lowlands. There is no discussion in the book of correction for land quality. The variation in crop income is ascribed to differences in the use of inputs , associated itself with greater income, which also is thought to generate a greater willingness to assume risks, rather than any difference in land or labour availability.
There is some useful hard data on the economics of the communal plot, which is the focus of Ujamaa. As much as 20% of total labour time is spent on the communal shamba, although output yielded per household is only some 28 shillings from individual plots, implying a substantial opportunity cost.
The authors summarise with a strongly negative view of the Tanzanian economy in which “Rural isolation is compounded by a poor transport system and limited availability of even the most basic goads. In this way, Tanzania’s economy is in sharp contrast with many other peasant economies which are characterised by a dense network of market transactions and a wide variety of economic activities”. The implication is that this is largely the consequence of rural and development policies adopted, including Ujamaa. It is probably an exaggerated picture which fails to take adequate account of regional variations within Tanzania and the handicaps of infrastructure and climate with which it has to contend.
Nevertheless the statistical vigour of the approach followed, the hypotheses put forward for testing, and the variety of individual findings derived present a challenge first to establish a broader statistical base to the data, along the lines of Kenya’s Integrated Rural Surveys, and secondly, to explore them in more detail at the level of each agro-economic zone.
TANZANIA AFTER NYERERE: ed. Michael Hodd, Pinter Publishers, London and New York. 1988.
This book presents in abbreviated form some of the papers submitted at a conference under the same title held at the School of Oriental and African Studies in June 1986. At the time of the conference it was fully expected that the chapter of Tanzanian history coinciding with the influence and leadership of Julius Nyerere would come to a close in the following October on his final retirement from the Chairmanship of the Party. But his unexpected re-election to office for a further five years means that this collection of essays must now be regarded as an interim report rather than an epilogue. From the title one would have also expected a tinge of prophesy, but mercifully nearly all the contributors have wisely avoided any such endeavour. Only one, taking his life in his hands, has concluded that ‘an authoritarian state, gravedigger of democracy, is appearing’. Well, we will see.
As an account of various facets of the Tanzanian experience during the years of Nyerere’s presidency the book has much to commend it. All the essays are short and most of them reproduce in summary form the gist of accumulated knowledge without too much partisan treatment. There are, however, two aspects of the history of the period that, though not entirely absent, might profitably have received greater emphasis.
One is the issue in which the evolution of policy reflected a learning process. An example is to be found in the changing attitude towards legislation. In the sixties there was certainly a naive belief that Government had only to issue an order and the desired result would ensue. Today there is a clearer perception of the limits of Government power and of the importance of a longer perspective. The relaxation of price controls was not simply obedience to the IMF, but a recognition of their futility in times of dire scarcity, when the alternative market takes over. It would be unfair to attribute these changing perceptions solely to a learning process in a young democracy. Some aspects of policy, such as the belief in capital intensive agriculture, at the time was conventional wisdom, shared by so-called experts everywhere. We must not overlook the fact that we, too, are learning.
The other feature of the period under examination was the personality of Nyerere himself. This is touched upon by one or two writers, but deserves wider recognition. Nyerere is after all a giant of a man, not only in his own country, but also the world over. His utter incorruptibility, his frugality amidst poverty and above all his readiness to admit mistakes, failures and shortcomings were certainly part of the secret of his great moral influence. As a factor in the history of the period it is characteristically difficult to assess, but it is nevertheless undeniably an important component.
It is a pity that the book retains quite a number of printing errors, a few of them significant, such as a statistic that accidentally loses the word ‘million’. The use of initials and acronyms without explanation is also unfortunate. But there is good stuff in this book and I commend it to your readers.
J. Roger Carter