NYERERE’S ECONOMIC POLICIES
I happened to see the interview you gave on CNN on the day that Julius Nyerere died. On the whole, I would like to congratulate you on your success in fielding the questions thrown at you.
However, there was one particular answer that you gave which troubled me. It was on the question of Tanzania’s economic policies under Nyerere when you appeared to agree with the interviewer that they were mistaken, and more or less the cause of Tanzania’s economic difficulties. Using Nyerere as a scapegoat for Tanzania’s economic problems has become something of a conventional wisdom which, to say the least, is quite unfair.
First, it needs to be pointed out that people in most other underdeveloped countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are not noticeably better off, if not much worse off, than in Tanzania, without, presumably, having been ‘subjected’ to Nyerere’s economic policies.
But, more important, what were those economic policies and their background? For the first few years of independence, government policy was that being promoted (and still is being promoted) by the IMF, the World Bank, etc. -namely to make the country as attractive as possible for foreign investors, offering tax breaks or other subsidies financed by foreign loans and the like. The result? It became more or less a satellite economy of Kenya. Because of the latter’s more developed infrastructure, and the larger number of people wealthy enough to provide a market, Kenya received the lion’s share of foreign investment in East Africa.
Meanwhile, the few significant industries that Tanzania did have were subsidiaries of foreign companies, the profits of which were mainly transferred abroad (either directly or indirectly through the device of transfer pricing), and were therefore not available for reinvestment in Tanzania. Furthermore, during the first few years of independence, the international prices of Tanzania’s major export crops began to decline sharply. Something had to change. Hence the Arusha Declaration.
The nationalisation of those few foreign-owned enterprises, and the subsequent establishment of a number of new parastatal enterprises, did have the desired effect of stimulating economic development, and put in place the means by which profits generated by workers in Tanzania could be recycled within the Tanzanian economy rather than disappear abroad. Unfortunately, that initial success could not be sustained. Partly, this was due to the lack of attention given to strategy -all was very ad hoc. In particular many parastatals were heavily dependent on imports. Thus, when there was a squeeze on foreign exchange, many could not function or only at very low capacity. Much more emphasis should have been placed on developing industries utilising Tanzania’s own natural resources
Other types of creeping inefficiencies can be attributed to the fact that many were local monopolies which led to various types of management inefficiencies. However, the problem here was that the Tanzanian economy in the early 1970s, related to its extreme state of underdevelopment, simply was not big enough in most cases to accommodate more than one major enterprise in anyone sector. This would have applied equally had these enterprises been privately owned, which, in any case, at the time, would hardly have been possible since there were few individuals or institutions wealthy enough (apart from the government) that could afford such investments.
In other words, managers of Tanzania’s new parastatal enterprises needed to be particularly self-disciplined and experienced, and considering the severe lack of trained personnel immediately after independence, it is hardly surprising that mistakes were made. A further issue, with hindsight, is that the government and Tanzanian managers of parastatals should have been more distrustful of the foreign collaborators supplying technology and technical know-how, because many of the deals struck turned out to be highly exploitative and became a drain on foreign exchange.
The proposals for rural development following the Arusha Declaration also made sense. In essence, the policy was to create a system to pool local resources -especially labour -to develop the rural economy rather than wait around for years for the government to provide finance (which it simply did not have) or for outside investors to come along (which would have created new foreign debts and all the implications of that). The policy got off to a bad start for three major reasons. First, again, was the lack of attention given to strategy. Second, practically all the politicians entrusted with the process failed to emulate Nyerere in that they had become elitist, and, lacked respect for rural people and their immense knowledge of their local environment. In many areas, notoriously, people were moved against their will. In other words, it was not the policy as such, but the way it was implemented that was more of the problem. Rural people were further alienated by the failure of the government -which controlled prices for rural produce -to raise prices in line with inflation.
It is possible that in different economic circumstances, all these various teething troubles and practical difficulties would have been less intense or could have been addressed. But soon after the new industrial policy had been launched, and even before the new rural policy was under way, the international economy was lurching into deep crisis, triggered by the United States government decision to print dollars to finance its war with Vietnam and its welfare programme. This led to worldwide inflation, and extreme economic instability everywhere -and ultimately to the global debt crisis of the 1980s, which severely affected all countries, not just Tanzania -and from which, despite much wishful thinking, the world has yet to recover.
More important, the problems Nyerere was seeking to address in the 1960s are still with us. Nobody has come up with any real alternative for rapid and sustainable development. Indeed, the policies being pushed on to developing countries by advanced industrial country governments and the international banks that serve their interests -such as measures to encourage foreign direct investment, removal of import controls and the free movement of capital in and out of the country -are likely to make matters worse. They are a recipe for the giant transnational corporations to get rich at everybody else’s expense, thus, in effect, holding back development. Moreover, it is a matter of historical fact that no country in the world has ever achieved an advanced state of development by that route. Thus, there is a strong argument for all underdeveloped countries, not to reject, but to revisit Nyerere’s ideas adapting them to their circumstances.
FREE INTERNET SERVICE
I think that your readers may be interested to know that there is a new free internet service. It is at http://newafrica.com and has lots of information about Tanzania on it.
IMPROVING KISA YA KISASA
I congratulate you on the decision to include in ‘Tanzanian Affairs’ articles on Swahili with new words and contemporary meanings of old and familiar ones. However, perhaps Kisa ya Kisasa -3 could have been improved in its structure. The first three sentences are impeccable. In the 4th extract, the second sentence would be better translated by ‘I had been around in different parts of Tanzania for some time but my Swahili was far from up to date’. Last sentence: I don’t think anybody now or then, would say na wewe; nawe is the idiomatic term. In the penultimate sentence in the English version “I thus learnt … ‘ does not appear in the Swahili (although it fits the context). The last sentence is of course true but it is an editor’s gloss and not a translation of anything. I suspect that the greatest interest for people with former fluency in archaic Swahili is to have a literal translation followed, where appropriate, by the idiomatic, contemporary one.
In the 8th entry the phrase ‘striking out’ is in no way a translation of kugoma kuondoka (perfectly correct in the 6th entry).
The English omits any reference to the complainant, the main reason for the trouble and alipofunguliwa shitaka is sloppy : it should be lilipo …
But the articles are great fun. Please let us have more.
SAFARI BY STEAM
I attach a note about a UK tour operator’s 17-day’ Safari by steam’. It begins at a remote beach camp in the Sadani Game Reserve. After sailing down the Wami river and driving to Tanga the group boards the train at Mombo for the Ngorongoro Crater. Details: 01420 541007. I wonder if any reader has raised his/her eyebrows at this! Has anybody been on the tour?
A CHRIST-LIKE FIGURE
Re the reference (in the last issue’s review by Christine Lawrence of the book Heroes of the Faith’) to Neil Russell who became Bishop of Zanzibar in 1961, I remember in about 1950 seeing him in the distance approaching our camp at Kongwa. As he got nearer I recognised the ‘Kanzu’ type gown he was wearing, slip-slops on his feet and a long staff in his hand. My friend Steven Faithfull, who was responsible for accommodation of our visitors, offered him a fully-furnished tent with bed, blankets and all the trimmings plus a servant but he refused and asked if he could have an empty tent as he preferred to sleep on the ground … after two nights with us communing with his Wazigua friends, he walked out of our camp, as he came in, to visit the next camp, about eight miles away – he was the nearest to a Christ-like figure I have ever seen.
Ronald W Munns. Adelaide, Australia