WRONG TURN AT ARUSHA (Spring 1968)  p. 1 of 2

          In 1967 Tanzania adopted a series of policies that focus on rural development. They represent a turning away from the dual development of shining capital cities and stagnating rural areas that so typifies Africa. These policies have been variously described as unmistakable signs of Mao disease, contracted from the sick island of Zanzibar, and as a pragmatic reaction to internal strains. (26, p. 3)   


Jungle Bridge   


         In this paper I shall discuss the factors weighing on President Julius Nyerere as he determined these policies and try to assess their impact on the course of Tanzania’s development. 


          Tanganyika* was exploited for slaves and ivory for centuries, but nothing that could be termed economic development occurred until after 1884 when Germany claimed the territory as a colony. The Germans introduced sisal, coffee, tea, cotton, and rubber estates but did not encourage African cultivation of cash crops. Following World War I, a mandate was given to the United Kingdom to administer the country. Crop production expanded gradually during the interwar period, but little new capital was invested. The second World War brought a spurt of production of sisal, cotton, coffee and foodstuffs. (22) 

*Tanganyika united with Zanzibar in April 1964, to become the United Republic of Tanzania. 

          Following the War, Tanganyika continued to expand primary crop production at a healthy rate. From 1948 to 1963 only six countries had an annual compound rate of increase of total crop output of more than 5%, and Tanganyika was one of them. The major expansion was in sisal, cotton and coffee. It was brought about largely (68%) by an expansion of acreage, with 25% of the increase due to high yields and only 7% to the introduction of new crops. (10) 

          By independence in December 1961, the national product was estimated at L 103,300,000, roughly L 20 per head, and 53% came from agriculture. Agricultural and livestock products accounted for 80% of exports. (28) 

          The population at independence was estimated to be 9.4 million, including over 20,000 Europeans and nearly 100,000 Asians (Indians, Pakistanis and Goans). Trade and small manufacturing was largely in the hands of the Asians, while the Europeans were mainly administrators, estate managers, and employees of international firms. 

          Primary education expanded rapidly after the war, from 124,000 places to 450,000, but only one in eight of those entering school went beyond four years. By 1960 only 480 had completed 12 years of school and sat for the Cambridge School Certificate examination. At independence, Tanganyika had less than 100 African university graduates. (22, 28) 

          A little over a month after Tanganyika became independent, Julius Nyerere resigned as Prime Minister in order to work on party organization. It was a typical Nyerere move, audacious, unprecedented, impetuous, but motivated by what he regarded to be a crisis in his country. He was to return to state office in eleven months’ time as the first President of the new Republic, but in the meantime he toured the countryside bolstering party organization and sense of purpose. He was aware that the Tanganyika African National Union had had little purpose or plan since it was formed in 1954 but to achieve independence. Now it was necessary to define new goals, to make the people understand that independence did not mean instant prosperity. 

          Nyerere had preached Uhuru na Kazi, Freedom and Work, since 1959, but the accent in most people’s minds was naturally on the former. Now, with independence duly celebrated, he began his efforts to accent the latter. His campaign was labeled “Self-Help.”  All community development campaigns have their defects, and this was no exception. Roads were built leading nowhere, schools put up with no hope of teachers; it is a familiar story. But perhaps, for a year, this one was more successful than most. It brought a sense of participation to the people in rural Tanganyika that they had not felt before, a sense of nationhood and of progress. And it gave their leader a chance to arouse the country people and to experience their response. If the economic returns were not great, they were almost certainly more than their opportunity cost. (15) 

          From the unplanned and uncoordinated self-help program, Tanganyika moved to a campaign for the resettlement of scattered rural populations in villages. This was based on an analysis of the country’s devel­opment potential published by the World Bank just prior to independence. It had been prepared by a nine-man Bank Mission that visited the country in 1959. Agricultural policy was stressed, and the recommendations made a major impact on Nyerere and his Government. (28) 

          The Mission noted the highly satisfactory performance of Tanganyika over the preceding fifteen years in increasing agricultural exports and predicted continued progress for a few years. But the Mission warned in strong terms that traditional African farming methods would lead increasingly to depletion of soil fertility and to erosion, and that Tanganyika would progressively exhaust certain comparatively easy development possibilities. They judged that in most areas, traditional methods had a low level of productivity, incapable of being increased rapidly in order to raise the living standard, incapable of a major contribution to the economy and incapable of yielding satisfactory returns on capital investment. While it was important that the Government continue such “improvement” programs as extension, the Mission recommended, for the longer run, a “transformation” approach, with the dual aims of making more productive use of land while protecting its fertility, and of instituting the type of farming which would justify the injection of capital. 

          “Transformation” was a concept that fitted very well with Nyerere’s social ideas. While the Bank Mission did not specify organizational forms for the implementation of the recommendations, Nyerere saw that resettlement of the rural population into progressive agricultural villages could meet the economic requirements outlined by the Mission and at the same time provide a framework for social integration. Traditionally, rural habitations were scattered over the countryside, making it difficult for Government to provide educational or health facilities, water supplies, or community instruction. A program of “villagization,” as it was initially called, could provide the social setting for the “transformation” of agricultural practices. 

          In December 1962, the village settlement program was launched.  A Nyerere speech fired up the regional leaders, who promptly began organizing new settlements, often with little regard for soil fertility or cropping feasibility in the area selected. Some saw in the settlements a way of disposing of unwanted unemployed people from the towns, others a way to reward cronies or relatives with leadership positions. For many reasons these ill-planned ventures were up against heavy odds, and it is not surprising that most quickly failed. 

          The Government program began more cautiously. An Israeli expert came in to advise the Government and recommended, among other things, that five pilot projects be set up and studied for five years before undertaking any major national investment. Tanzania was, and is, a country in a hurry; there was no chance that such advice would be heeded. A Village Settlement Commission was soon appointed, and the program became the focus of rural development activities under the Five Year Plan, 1964-69. Sixty village settlements, with capital investments averaging L 150, 000 each, were to be started under the plan. The Government credited the World Bank Report with providing guidance for this policy. 

          But the Bank should not be held responsible for what followed. The organizational, financial and personnel problems suffered by the Village Settlement Commission were immense. In late 1965 a highly qualified team of British economists was invited to review Tanzania’s progress during the first year of the Plan. Their report was not made public, hut it was quickly apparent that they considered the settlement schemes overcapitalized and disastrous. After considering the evidence, the Tanzania Government agreed, and no more pilot schemes were initiated. In all, five of the new-type settlements had been set up, and all but one were given no hope of ever becoming economically viable. 

          Perhaps even more disappointing to the President were reports that the peasants settled on the schemes had failed to develop the desired social attitudes. They were reluctant to acknowledge the debt incurred by their settlements (L 130,000 out of L 150,000 was to be repaid) and they continually raised new demands for additional Governmental support. 

          The goal of transformation was not, however, abandoned. Most of the unspent capital allocation was transferred to the Ministry of Works, but the Village Settlement Commissioner, and the Ministry of Lands, Settlement and Water Supply into which his organization had been incorporated, were ordered to find other, less expensive, ways to bring transformation about. Months were spent agonizing over new approaches, but the ideas inevitably came to sound much like “improvement” measures, already the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture. By the end of 1966, it had not proved possible to define a new and different approach. 

January 1967 

          President Nyerere spent January of 1967 touring rural Tanzania. It was his most extensive rural tour since the year before he became President, and it may be an appropriate time to pause and review briefly several events of the previous four years that may have been on his mind; for he was to follow this rustic sojourn with a series of policy statements that would change Tanzania’s course. 

          Tanzanian diplomacy could not be described as successful. Although Nyerere personally maintained broad international prestige, disputes with Germany over the East German representation in Zanzibar and with the United Kingdom over Rhodesia had cost Tanzania most of the aid she expected from two of her three largest donors. This was not entirely Tanzania’s fault, at least in the German case, and Nyerere interpreted these events to mean that a country could not depend on foreign aid if it was to conduct its affairs in a principled fashion. (20) 

          By January 1967, the five-year plan period was half over. Recurrent expenditures had risen by between 13% and 14% a year, well in excess of the 6% planned rate. Investment was proceeding at only 65% of the planned rate, but this was not due to capital restraints; indeed, each year there was 6% more capital available than it was found possible to utilize. Project planning and management were the bottlenecks. Investment by Government corporations was only 30% of the planned level. (7) 

          Employment statistics were equally discouraging. Between 1962 and 1966, employment fell by nearly one-sixth while the wage bill rose by almost 40%. A minimum wage bill had the effect of lowering employment in the lower categories. In the rural areas, per capita purchasing power was not more than 5% above what it was at independence. The gap between the standard of living of employed urban workers and the peasant cultivators was widening rapidly. (7) The peasants were doing their share. Cotton and coffee production approached 1970 target levels in 1966. Sisal, the other major crop, but largely estate-grown, declined in output sharply in 1965 and 1966. This was due to a 50% drop in the world price between 1964 and 1965. (7) Ironically, sisal is the only crop in which Tanzania’s share of the world market is significant. About one third of the world’s supply is grown in Tanzania. The World Bank Mission had been more optimistic about sisal prices, but apart from that, their projection of continued healthy increase in primary product production was essentially correct. This is not to imply the increase was automatic. It took hard and dedicated effort on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture, working with one jealous eye on the funds squandered by the unsuccessful “transformation” projects. 

          So, while the economy was not on the verge of disaster, the increase in agricultural output which held it up was not as encouraging as it might have been, because not only was the increase forecast by the Mission, but it was specifically labeled a short-run phenomenon, incapable of sustained performance. And the long-run corrective, the “transformation” scheme, had failed. 

          One other event deserves mention before we proceed. In October 1966, the Government announced that Tanzanian university students, all of whose scholarships were Government-financed, would be expected to spend two years in the National Service upon graduation. Actually, the scheme would not affect the students particularly adversely. After a few weeks in basic training they would be assigned to positions in the Government similar to those for which they would have been eligible anyway. Their emoluments would be somewhat smaller, but they were tax free, and clothing would be provided by the National Service. It was not a large sacrifice to ask of people whose education was costing the country twenty times the average national income per year for three years; but it was not explained well to the students. It was announced flatly, without details, and the students demonstrated in protest. The demonstration was not in good taste, and when they confronted the President with signs implying that colonialism was better than their present Government, he had their names taken and they were expelled from the university. They represented about one third of Tanzania’s total enrollment at the University College, Dar es Salaam. Nyerere took the episode to be an indication that privileged groups with little regard for the welfare of the country were developing in Tanzania. 

          This belief, that nascent classes were developing, became prominent in Nyerere’s mind and he wasted little time in acting on it. Later the same month Nyerere announced a cut of 10% in his own salary. The Ministers and civil servants quickly followed suit and a broad decrease was then legislated. In March 1967, the Ministers “voluntarily” gave up their Mercedes official cars. But the major attack on privilege came in February, in the Arusha Declaration, and to this we now turn.  (continued)

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