2011 marked the 50th year of Tanganyikan independence (becoming Tanzania in 1964). The African Economic Outlook (AEO) for 2011 notes that Tanzania is the recipient of the highest levels development assistance in Africa. At the same time, donors also hail Tanzania as a development success- it has had a number of years of strong economic growth. It has attracted foreign investment and opportunities for private enterprise are expanding. The AEO report does note that some of the economic growth is also due to large inflows of aid and suggest that a budget deficit is also growing.
Aid has always played a significant role in Tanzania and Tanzania has danced successfully to the donors tune- during the Nyerere era, then market liberalisation, through to the preparation of Poverty Reduction Strategies (MKUKUTA) in the new millennium.
Mwalimu Nyrerere stated in the 1967 Arusha Declaration that:
It is stupid to rely on money as the major instrument of development when we know only too well that our country is poor. It is equally stupid, indeed it is even more stupid, for us to imagine that we shall rid ourselves of our poverty through foreign financial assistance rather than our own financial resources.
World Bank figures suggest that Tanzania received 46$ per person in ODA in 1990, falling to 31$ in 2000 and rising again to 55$ per person in 2009. Dependence on aid to fund social programmes is growing not falling.
Where aid has changed social indicators:
Tanzania is highly likely to meet the MDG on Primary School Enrollment- debt cancellation and direct budget support led to a rapid expansion in primary school enrollment through abolition of fees and a programme of classroom building. Yet education quality has been eroded and classrooms offer few useful skills. A two tier system is increasing inequality with those who can pay putting their children into English language private schools and the rest left behind in classes of 100……..
The MDG on Infant mortality (but not maternal mortality) may also be achieved. Hans Rosling on the wonderful gap minder website hails Tanzania as reducing infant mortality faster than Sweden ever did but he does acknowledge that this is largely due to aid spending.
However income poverty has remained persistent- reducing in the urban areas but falling only marginally in the rural area (37.6% in 2007 from 38.7% in 2001) but due to population growth it is estimated that there are 1.3 million more individuals living in poverty in Tanzania than a decade ago. The World Bank figures also suggest that 34% of the population is undernourished as compared to 28% in 1990. Inflation in the consumer prices index stands at 19.8% and puts pressure on family spending.
So what is going wrong? Why is poverty still so persistent? I remember buying a book at the University of Dar-es-Salaam in 2004 (with contributions by a range of eminent Tanzanian intellectuals) which was titled: “Why is Tanzania still poor after 40 years of independence?” In 2012 – this title still rings true only another decade has passed. Aid is clearly not the answer and in fact is part of the problem but I will return to this another time.
Using the power of social media I asked students studying Masters Degrees as part of the Bradford-Mzumbe collaboration for their assessment of Tanzania@50 and received many interesting answers which I have tried to summarise:
Tanzania can be proud of being a peaceful country for the last 50 years but now there is a lack of leadership and vision. Direct criticism of Kikwete see him as continuously engaged in foreign trips for the purposes of begging for more aid- this set of comments on his recent trip to Davos have been circulated far and wide on the internet. External aid and loans fund the lifestyles of the political and aid class- fueling spending on sitting allowances and luxurious cars. Leaders, Civil Society Activists and Intellectuals have a duty to challenge this.
Inequality is growing- the rich can pay for services but the poor must make do with what is left behind. Power shortages, unemployment and poor infrastructure are holding the country back.
Tanzania is rich in resources (land and minerals) yet the government has allowed foreign companies to rush in and take what they want and to enjoy long tax holidays and bribes. Economic growth has been in aid, mining and tourism not in the sectors that would reduce poverty such as agriculture.
So what will we be saying in another 10 years? Will a new vision for the future emerge? A swell of criticism of the government in both the traditional and social media suggests a new generation gaining in voice and in a collective momentum to challenge the status quo…. will this be enough?