I have noted the astonishing news that Tanzania was the third largest recipient of international aid (official development assistance?) in 2007. I, for one, would like to think that what is driving the resurrection of the EAC to new heights, is precisely that kind of embarrassing and, I’m sorry to say, shameful news. Bar a hiccup involving the Royal Navy in 1964, and, while the OAU stood by, Nyerere’s honourable war to rid Uganda of Idi Amin in 1978, Tanzania has been at peace since internal self-government, half a century ago. Why should it still be needing so much demeaning outside support?
Tanzania is blessed with a coastline, is on a major shipping route, enjoys a large land mass with a variety of climatic zones and eco-systems, it harbours great existing and potential mineral resources, and its population is large, if ill-distributed, but not so large that the advantages of a sizeable market are outweighed overall by land-stress and pressure on resources. Yet it languishes in the arms of the aid gravy-train, for whom it is a veritable paradise – experts, official and NGO, on fabulous salaries crawling all over the place, aid funds sloshing about, too often diverted and secreted out of the public domain by the scurrilous and venal. The gap between rich and poor is, I suspect, greater today than at Tanganyika’s independence, and the purchasing power of the poorest, in real terms, lower than in 1961, certainly since the end of the 1960s.
Is Tanzania’s population still growing at a speed which means a GDP growth rate of 6-8% a year needs to be achieved? I think everyone is agreed on that, but it begs the question as to why the country can not achieve and, more important, sustain such growth rates. Is it still too small in global terms to be able to withstand outside economic shocks?
Aside from all the other well-documented, internal causes of under-development since the Independence era, the scandal of world terms of trade continue to dog the efforts of smaller states to consistently achieve higher growth rates; but to think that, even with a Doha Round resolution, those in economically-dominant positions globally are going to cede their dominance voluntarily to an extent acceptable to poorer nations, is wishful thinking.
With an internal common market the EAC is at last beginning to reach a stage where it can, like the EU, start building influence, and affect global decisions, in its own right, as a trading bloc, just as South Africa does now – remember, a century ago South Africa was four separate countries about to be amalgamated – having the size and economic muscle, if not yet to be quite a ‘ BRIC ‘ country. Following Nyerere’s vision of an East African state, Tanzania needs to hasten EAC integration towards eventual political federation or union, as its charter details. Is it a fond hope to think that an impetus towards irreversable political integration could bring to the fore a new generation of more altruistic, public-spirited politicians, sensible to a wider and more diverse population, and, through size, a more responsible standing in the world? President Kikwete is one of this younger breed of politicians, an ideal East African president?