Tanzania’s development challenge is how to grow the economy inclusively
Dr Kate McAlpine

These reflections emerged from a listening exercise in January 2020 instigated by the Institutions 4 Inclusive Development Programme. I4ID was designed by UKAid in 2015, as a response to the challenge why Tanzania’s decade of significant growth had left many people still in poverty. As the I4ID programme comes to an end, and after implementing several initiatives to demonstrate how actors within the system could be supported to work towards change to prioritise inclusive growth and services (with some degree of success), we decided to take a step back. The listening exercise was an opportunity to change the lens from detailed implementation challenges and consult with like-minded people about some of the bigger, structural and contextual challenges holding back inclusive development. We consulted with a range of development practitioners, political actors and businesses in Tanzania about the preconditions for Tanzania’s inclusive development and what they felt was important.

A consensus emerged that, fundamentally, Tanzania’s biggest development challenge is how to grow society and the economy inclusively. A legacy of bias towards elites, diverging visions of Tanzania’s future, and still evolving institutions, make this particularly challenging. However non-state actors also face the practical dilemma of how to navigate a complex environment in which the agenda and priorities are driven by a state in full developmental mode, with which they struggle to influence or contribute.

The following are some key take-aways from the diverse group of people who were consulted:

The country is rich, but how can it enrich its own people?
The Government faces a macroeconomic challenge of creating the conditions for economic growth that equally benefits the rural and urban poor. It must grapple with population growth in the face of limited jobs, livelihood opportunities and natural resources. The country is yet to hit ‘peak youth’, the proportion of the population under 30 years and carrying the burden of working age responsibility is already huge and growing. The national development strategy needs to do two things: invest in building skills and capacities that enable the people to be productive; and stimulate non-extractive, job creating investment that will enable the Government to increase tax revenue.

Institutional function is still sub-optimal; despite the narrative of good governance
As in most countries, vested interests still exert a great deal of influence over the system and take advantage. After Independence, the State, led by President Nyerere, aimed to re-engineer society and the economy around one language and one community. In the 1980s, President Mwinyi opened the door to capital and trust was put in the private sector. There was an explosion of micro-businesses and the State largely withdrew from the economic aspects of individuals’ lives. Many feel it did so prematurely because there were unclear boundaries. “In letting in capital, the little people were hurt.”

During the 1990’s and 2000’s, Presidents Mkapa and Kikwete opened up space for human rights discourse, civil society and economic growth. But this growth did not seem to benefit many rural Tanzanians and the market often seemed to be captured by vested interests.

Many feel the 5th phase Government, led by President Magufuli, is undertaking a necessary course correction to correct advantage taking in the past. Despite the anti-corruption narrative, the feeling is that corruption will remain embedded in the system, particularly when those with vested interests want to maintain the status quo. Anti­corruption efforts have not always improved institutional functioning, as evidenced by the divergent views of the Controller and Auditor General and Parliament in 2019.

Social progress relies on whether we can build innovative institutional capacity
We framed the challenge to participants thus: Social progress relies on building institutions that can pursue a common purpose, that embed values such as fairness, freedom and the rule of law and that combine equity of values with an efficiency of outcomes and a sense of emotional commitment (RSA Journal, Issue 3, 2019).

While the State is setting the agenda for a common purpose, it would benefit from offering more space for divergent views to meet and build consensus. However there seems to be an increasing attitude within Ministries that local government authorities are unable to deliver services better than the centre, which may undermine their sense of commitment. Furthermore, recent reforms to combat political and economic corruption and the influence of big business in political parties, have produced winners and losers which has undermined the sense of fairness.

Tanzania needs a national conversation about who Tanzanians want to be as a nation
“Nation building is a long-term endeavour with bumps, but the key thing is to define the ethic of the nation.” This sentiment was echoed strongly by many of our respondents. A nation is a joint notion that is actively created and nurtured over time. The concept of the nation is not just a functioning tax system, nor a reliable Parliament, nor just the legislation that is implemented. The nation of Tanzania also resides in more spiritual notions. For many it is a felt sense of the land; and of an individuals’ place and security in relation to their ethnic group, village, and family.

Tanzanians need an opportunity to collectively consider who they want to be as a nation. What are the civic values that motivate them? How do they want to live and develop? What is the generative vision for the future that would motivate them?

Mechanisms that could foster inclusive development
State and non-state actors can come together, with their divergent views, to effect inclusive development in this time of political, social and economic complexity by:

1. Aligning political, business and ideological interests in defining and reinforcing the ethic of the nation. Hosting and diffusing a national conversation about where Tanzania is heading; recognising that achieving the national vision requires multiple means and actors.

2. Creating space, structure and process for productive interdependence by:

a. Going where there is emerging visible energy for development

b. Getting system actors in the room and building trust

c. Co-creating a shared understanding of complex systems and aligning interests in support of connected action

d. Embracing equifinality

3. Establishing more balanced power relationships with communities and fostering a variety of citizen driven development pathways. This requires citizens and their representatives to be educated about the nexus between tax paying, democracy and accountability; and centring citizens in government planning processes by decentralising and devolving power sub-nationally.

4. Innovating in the design, delivery, scaling and impact measurement of development aid. Aid modalities should make long-term bets; and reframe the question of scale to focus less on reach and more on change in complex systems which supports inclusive growth. There should be a focus on aggregating the impact being achieved and demonstrating what the multiplicity of outputs and effects add up to as a contribution to inclusive development.

5. Finally, there should be greater constructive critique and resistance to development fads that are driven by the aid industry.

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