Administration and Economic Planning in Eastern Africa: A Ford Foundation Program Evaluation    1977                                                                   p. 7 of 8


To satisfy the principal purpose of an evaluation exercise, i.e. to assess what we have learned from the experience, it is appropriate to attempt to distill in this concluding section the lessons of the Foundation’s 15-year engagement with economic planning and administration in Eastern Africa. The following sections focus on operational pointers, generalizations on success and failure, reflections on development strategy, and a possible agenda for future Foundation work. 

D. 1. Operational Pointers

          Although the list could be extended, the following five points seem to me most critical concerning the conduct of the program: 

a. Technical advisory assistance is most needed and most effective in the early years after Independence. 

As we observed in connection with their work on management improvement, foreign advisors have the opportunity to play a more vital role just after Independence than later on when interest groups have been articulated, habits formed and more trained local people become available. The early years are particularly important because serious errors made then, for example in the allocation of large-scale investments, can limit the country’s options for many years in the future. Similarly, the creation of effective procedures and systems in the early years can have a beneficial impact on the decision-making process well into the future. This point has obvious relevance to the potential emergence of Namibia and Zimbabwe in southern Africa. If the Foundation is to become involved in the planning or administrative processes of those states it should do so very soon after their creation. 

b. The most effective advisors have rare combinations of personal and professional qualities; they must be personally capable of identifying themselves with the national objectives of the governments they serve and professionally able to adapt their knowledge imaginatively to local conditions. 

The building of planning or administrative systems will initially be modeled to a greater or lesser degree on foreign experience, and it takes a person of unusual qualities to recognize ways in which imported procedures and techniques can be adapted to meet local needs. This is not to endorse foreign institutional models as ideal; in practice, however, indigenous institutions capable of handling the tasks of a modern nation-state are likely to evolve only over time and with experience. 

c. Effective programs are more likely to emerge from the interaction of able advisors with their colleagues in government, rather than from either Foundation or government preconceptions alone. 

This point may boil down simply to the notion that an effective response to a particular need is most likely to emerge from a mixture of specific situational factors and a broad array of possible alternatives. The advisor presumably is familiar with a variety of feasible alternatives to deal with a situation, and his colleagues in government, through interaction with him, help to find the most suitable for that environment. 

d. Field Offices play a vital role in mounting effective technical assistance programs. 

Representational staff, based in the field, yet one step removed from actual governmental activity, are able to perceive developmental trends without becoming directly engaged in the process or committed to a particular line of action. The advisors, who are fully engaged, are best able to suggest program options in many cases, but an allocative function must be performed for the Foundation by someone less intimately involved, like the representative. 

e. Probably the most difficult decisions concern the timing and manner of withdrawal from a program. 

There is seldom universal agreement on this point. The government or department concerned generally wants continued technical assistance, while those in other parts of government or society are critical of continued reliance on foreign support. In East Africa I found no criticism that the Foundation stayed in these programs too long, and only in selected cases was the withdrawal considered in retrospect to have been premature. An exception to this is the field of management, where, at least in Tanzania, the Foundation is thought to have given up too soon.  

Professor Cranford Pratt of the University of Toronto described the style of the Foundation’s technical assistance program in a concise, if flattering, way as follows: 

“The Ford Foundation’s activities in Kenya and Tanzania have been marked by three very special features. Firstly there has been a shrewd and farsighted identification of problem areas that are simultaneously of great importance and involve activities that it is within the competence of the Foundation effectively to assist. The identification of these problem areas by Foundation officers or advisors has on some instances preceded their identification by the governments concerned - or at least has been in terms far more precise and operational than those in which they had as yet been conceived by the Governments. Secondly, the Foundation proved able to recruit individuals whose experience, training and capacity to work effectively in Africa were unrivalled by other sources of technical assistance. Thirdly the individuals were recruited with less regard either to national origin or to ideology than by any other aid agency and they were encouraged to give their full loyalty to the department or agency for which they worked rather than to feel themselves also as part of a Foundation team. These three factors explain why, in both countries, the governments have recurrently turned to the Foundation for help in regard to issues that were highly important and quite sensitive. This is surely an achievement of very substantial proportions for an agency that could very easily have been closely associated in African eyes with the U.S. government.”   

D. 2. Generalizations on Successes and Failures

          Despite sharp divergences in the chosen strategies of Kenya and Tanzania, the Foundation was able to work amiably and intimately with both countries and continues, I believe to enjoy their confidence. 

In substantive terms, the record is also largely positive, but there were areas of considerable disappointment. As we have noted, most difficulty has been encountered in arresting the decline in the quality of the public service, in decentralizing planning and administration, and in improving public sector management. Is it possible to generalize about the source of these difficulties; can they be traced to a common cause? 

If so, it may be found in the contradictions between alien institutions and cultural values. 

We have observed that the functioning of modern (western) institutions requires not only information, which can be acquired through training and experience, but also a set of attitudes and values that sometimes conflict with traditional attitudes and values, as in the case of performance evaluations. Western attitudes and values can also be learned through training and experience, but they may not be internalized; hence, the divergence between public and private morality which Hyden remarked upon. 

Albert Maleche touches on this dichotomy in describing the typical African management trainee in the following terms: “His deeper patterns and relationships have already been formed and determined within the kinship setting. Furthermore, as we see continually, the demands or obligations and concerns of kinship are not compartmentalized, but themselves permeate and effect the working situation.” 

Kinship loyalty is often regarded as an obstacle to effective performance; indeed, under the name of nepotism it is commonly considered in the West to be a form of petty corruption when detected in public or business affairs. Yet tribal identity and kinship loyalty are important elements in the fabric of African society, and one wonders if some accommodation with these powerful forces would not be beneficial in at least some spheres of developmental activity. 

Goren Hyden’s impressive study of cooperatives in Kenya (1973), for example, focuses on the deleterious effect of “mechanical solidarity,” by which he means loyalty to family, clan or tribe. Mechanical solidarity is contrasted with organic solidarity, based more on conscious occupational or class interests. There is a presumption in this work and in others that organic solidarity is more advanced and more desirable and the other type needs to be eradicated as soon as possible. 

One should at least examine the possibility, however, that the greatest gains in output and social development could be found by using existing loyalties and identifications, rather than by opposing them. The sine qua non for cooperation of any sort is a community of trust. It seems doubtful that one can legislate or achieve through ideological pronouncements the broadening of this basis of cooperation as rapidly as it can be found through exercising the potential that already exists. Chambers, for example, notes in passing that the Harambee movement was originally built on clan-level groupings but that in recent years it has become possible to broaden cooperation in order to achieve larger projects, such as the construction of regional technical institutes. One wonders if the movement would ever have been launched if it had had to begin at the level of cooperation it has now achieved. 

Tanzania has moved rather sharply away from recognition of tribal and kinship obligations. I don’t refer here to the abolition of chieftainships shortly after independence. The formal tribal institution is less important than the internalized sense of identity that survives. Disbanding the Bahayya and Chagga marketing cooperatives are more pertinent examples. Finucane points out that in the Mwanza region, Government and Party are virtually the only viable rural organizations. This exclusive reliance on modern institutions may turn out to be a serious error. An important psychological basis for productive cooperation is being neglected. 

Possibly the socialist values enunciated so eloquently by President Nyerere will provide a new and better basis for cooperative effort. This, more than the weather or the price of oil, is to me the question that will determine the outcome of Tanzania’s experiment. 

In some organizations or institutions there would seem to be no room for the exercise of kinship or tribal loyalties. The economic planning system in Kenya is one example. For the system to function efficiently and effectively, a high level of professional skill exercised in an objective, impersonal manner is required. 

The Economic Service is a device that serves to buffer its members from pressures growing out of traditional obligations. It can be a vehicle for enhancing skills and promoting professional values and identity. 

When seen in these terms, the Service becomes more than a parallel career path in government. It offers one means to protect the integrity and enrich the experience of its members. Despite the fact that economists seem always to be in short supply, it may be more important to deepen the knowledge and professional commitment of members of the Service than to greatly increase their numbers. 

This perspective also makes one dubious about the wisdom of assigning members of the Service to regional and district planning posts. Traditional values are presumably more powerful in the rural areas, and the professional armor of these new knights of impartial rationality may be too thin to withstand assault alone. The possibility might be considered of inviting several countries to send graduate students in development economics to work alongside these Kenyan officers in the field. The foreign students would learn a great deal, and the Kenyans would be holstered by the presence of professional allies. 

Large-scale enterprises using complex and costly technology will also have difficulty in accommodating traditional values and obligations. There are many economic and social arguments leveled against capital-intensive industries, so the case here is but another straw on the camel’s back. It is now widely recognized that the modern industrial sector is not going to grow to incorporate the masses of the population of East Africa in the foreseeable future, no matter what strategy is followed. 

It may in fact be wise to severely limit the number of import-substitution industries, and let them be run along western lines by a liberal number of western managers. They could be regarded as an enclave, necessary in the short run until local methods and organizations can be devised to do their tasks, or until a modern African management system emerges which can take them over. The main benefit of these industries should be efficient output, not training or experience, because they may not represent the way things will be done in a modern Kenya or Tanzania. 

That position is overstated. Some industries, like airlines, need to be run in an international manner and it is simply a question of learning to run them that way. But international techniques may not be the long-range answer for many African enterprises. 

How could a more distinctively African system for managing large-scale enterprises using complex technology be found?  The two possible sources that first come to mind are (1) through African adaptation of modern techniques used elsewhere and (2) through the evolution of traditional African techniques. 

Either of these processes could be facilitated by outside assistance, but both would in the final analysis need to be accomplished by Africans. They could be facilitated in several ways: 

          a. Experienced African civil servants and managers could be invited to reflect on the ways in which available institutional models could be altered to better meet local circumstances; 

          b. Workshops could be organized wherein African managers and anthropologists would try to improve curricular elements of local management training institutions. Manager/anthropologist consulting teams could also do diagnostic studies of selected African enterprises. 

          c. Comparative studies of management systems employed in diverse developed countries such as Japan, USSR, Germany and the U.S. could be undertaken by African scholars in search of techniques most adaptable to African needs. 

          d. Voluntary organizations in the rural areas could be encouraged; and the more successful analyzed for keys to their success.   

D. 3. Reflections on Development Strategy

          It is not my purpose to judge the merits of the governments of East Africa, but there is an obligation in an exercise such as this to order our thinking about development strategy. The experiences of Tanzania and Kenya are of greater interest today than ever before; they are both stable and in some respects successful, in an era when much of Africa is in baffling disarray. 

Yet both Kenya and Tanzania are victims, in a sense, of an essentially Western debate over social values. Kenya has followed a sensible, growth-oriented strategy, based to a reasonable degree on economic analysis. In this it has been remarkably successful, although it has had to pay the penalty of the emergence of a dual economy and the skewed income distribution inherent therein. Tanzania has equally successfully sought to avoid the damaging social effects of a dual economy, achieving admirable income distribution patterns and relying generally on class analysis for guidance. The debate between Kenya and Tanzania over their respective strategies is generally expressed in growth and equity terms reminiscent of the post-war European ideological competition. 

But the Europeans could afford to debate the merits of growth and equity, freedom and the proper role of the State, without becoming unduly engrossed with the problem of raising the general cultural level of their populations to the point where they could design, produce and use modern technology. These human capacities had generally been achieved; it was a question of finding an appropriate harness in which they could pull together to accomplish the chosen objectives of their societies. 

In East Africa, much of the human capacity required by modern technology and social organization remains to be realized. Developing human potential may be the main task; undue stress on either growth or equity at this stage may retard or even defeat the broader development effort. 

Education and training programs do increase human capacities, and both countries have consistently given high priority to them. Formal learning is doubtless an essential condition for raising the general level of cultural efficacy, but we need to understand better than we do the developmental impact of different kinds of occupational experience. 

Participation is a popular word in today’s development literature. Local-level participation in planning and decision-making is an explicit Tanzanian objective. One can observe, however, that participation in an irrigation scheme has a highly developmental effect, and that is an environment in which the farmer has very restricted choices. One needs to ask what changes in competences and attitudes are fostered through participation in cooperatives, Harambee and other voluntary organizations, irrigation schemes, local planning, and small private enterprise. This is a dimension of the development process too often lost sight of in our concern for the orderly functioning of the essential central planning and administrative capacity of government. 

Several people I spoke with remarked that an optimal strategy in East Africa would be somewhere between Kenya’s and Tanzania’s. That is an easy prescription to accept in principle because it covers a very broad range of alternatives. I wouldn’t presume to try to define an optimal strategy, but I would suggest that in addition to considerations of growth and equity, outcomes should from time to time be reviewed in terms, necessarily less concrete, of the realization of human potential. One may ask such questions as:

-        Are people voluntarily spending more time learning and producing?

-        Are people accepting more responsibility for their conditions with respect to occupation, fertility, education, housing, and health? In short, has their sense of personal efficacy increased?

-        Are people becoming better able to cooperate with others from different backgrounds? Has their sense of empathy broadened?

D. 4. Agenda for the Future?  

          Perhaps it is in the nature of the evaluation process that one concludes with more questions than answers. As we contemplate future program opportunities in Africa and elsewhere, a number of issues pertaining to our experience in East Africa may well be in our minds: 

Public Administration and Staff Development

-        Would a more innovative and imaginative approach to training and organization have been appropriate in the immediate post-independence period? Would the new African government have welcomed it?

-        Is there any feasible way to reverse the apparent decline in civil service effectiveness in African governments?

-        What kind of civil service will the more successful African countries have in ten or twenty years?   How can one assist in the evolution of a stable, effective African system? 

Economic Planning

-        Is “the establishment of a lasting, effective planning process, indigenously staffed, widely spread and used throughout Government” a realistic objective anywhere in Africa? If so, under what conditions?

-        Should we concentrate on improving the professional quality and the sense of professionalism of the Economic Service in Kenya? Elsewhere? How important is the Ph.D. degree for planners?

-        Is there a need for an Africa-wide professional association of economists, or public service economists, paralleling AAPAM?

-        Can district and regional-level economic planning with broad local participation be successfully organized in either Kenya or Tanzania? How would local and national priorities be reconciled? 


-        Can modern, Western management be transferred to Africa? If so, where has it succeeded? Is emphasis on training appropriate? What institutional development is needed?

-        If not Western management, what is the alternative? Can a modern African management system evolve from experience in the present modern sector? Is it more likely to emerge from experience with smaller scale enterprises?

-        How could the Foundation advance the frontiers of knowledge about how non-Western cultures can acquire the ability to manage large-scale, complex, technologically sophisticated productive organizations?

-        Are there questions of values, cultural taboos and inhibitions, fundamental beliefs, and culturally dictated patterns of interpersonal relations to be explored, normally beyond the bounds of the management field?

-        How does one determine the extent to which technology and organization must adjust to the cultural terrain, and the extent to which cultural elements will be forced to adjust to the requirements of modern technology? 

Human Development and Cultural Change

-        Most foreign aid is directed towards institutional modernization in one form or another. Should not more attention be focused on the process of change at the individual and micro-institutional level?

-        Could a concept of “appropriate institutions” be elaborated for different cultural settings with a validity similar to that of “appropriate technology”?

-        And finally, recognizing that the cultural aspects of modernization probably must be analyzed and dealt with by the people of that culture, which disciplines will be most critical to the process? Is any existing training program adequate to produce the skills appropriate to the task?

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