Peter Temu is an economist who has taught in Kenyan and Tanzanian universities, served in the Tanzanian government, and advised the UN in various capacities. His Tanzania: My Country as I see it is an edited version of a series of articles that originally appeared in The Guardian from 2008-2009.
It starts by asking whether Tanzania is really all that poor. Temu dislikes the label for how it disempowers people and upholds the west’s stranglehold on economics. Temu believes that Tanzania is rich in natural and people resources but that these have been mismanaged. A question that comes up time and again is, ‘Why are we not moving forward?’ You can sense his frustration as you read – there are lots of ‘shoulds’ in this book!
Despite the straightforward writing style, much of the economics stuff went over my head. However, Temu’s discussion encompasses a range of aspects of life in Tanzania: agriculture, infrastructure, health, leadership, tourism, aid, education, law and order, etc. Of interest to me was that amidst such breadth, there was very little mention of religion, apart from an attack on witchcraft as backward and a suggestion that religion is positive for people’s quality of life because it gives them good values to live by.
Here are some of his comments that I found particularly relevant to our context. This is not an endorsement of these comments, but rather another exercise in listening to Tanzanian voices.
On indigenous solutions
‘Let me explode one myth right away: the myth that the solution to our problems will come from an external source. I am convinced that just as the source of our problem is internal, so must its solution be.’
‘The bottom line is that the development of our people, must have its own indigenous roots: it cannot be a mere transplant or carbon copy of some cherished model imported from the outside.’
‘It seems to me that the top-most priority is the imperative need for honesty and integrity on the part of the nation’s leaders… Unprecedented corruption scandals have caused Tanzanians to lose faith in their national leaders, whose call for poverty eradication is now seen as empty rhetoric.’
‘Many Tanzanians who attain high professional and technical qualifications end up working abroad. Why does this ‘intellectual cream’ of Tanzanians… go to Europe and America at a time when their skills are sorely needed at home? … It is naive to think that they left out of selfishness or lack of patriotism. The huge remittances they make annually to their home countries, and their frequent re-visits, speak volumes of their loyalty and patriotism. … The undeniable fact is that we have not given our sons and daughters who work abroad due recognition for what their talents are worth, and offered them appropriate remuneration and fringe benefits.’
‘Although much foreign aid is channelled through multilateral bodies, such as the United Nations and its specialised agencies, the constitution of those bodies, including their notorious veto systems ensures that the poorer countries of the world (the aid seekers) are always at the mercy of the rich countries (the aid givers)… Even philanthropic aid is not entirely free from big-donor influence: that is why ‘humanitarian’ aid is not readily available to unpopular political regimes.’
‘My contention is that a donor’s generosity – or the lack of it – ought to be judged, not on the basis of what the donor hands out, but on the basis of the donor’s unutilised capacity to give more. US aid looks impressive to a poor country, but to Americans back home it is mere chicken feed.’
‘It is trade, not aid, that holds the key to the economic development of this country.’
‘Apparently donor countries do not seem to realise that the benefit of their development aid is largely nullified by the damage done by their agricultural subsidies and other domestic policies which deny the recipients access to the donors’ markets. It is ironical that the same countries which maintain agricultural subsidies for their own farmers, want the developing countries to open up their markets to global competition. Giving financial aid to developing countries while at the same time denying them market access for their agricultural products is double standards [sic]. It only inhibits their growth and perpetuates their aid-dependent status.’
On political stability
‘While political stability is a necessary condition for national development, it is not a sufficient condition… The political stability of Tanzania has been of the passive kind. Until recently, no opposition parties were allowed, there was little or no press freedom, no labour freedom, and most of the economy was under public ownership. Political stability existed because – and to the extent that – people had to ‘toe the line’ in conformity with the requirements of the regime.’
‘Western countries try to hide their ulterior motives by saying that African countries are their development partners. Yet their trade and aid policies ensure, in effect, that Africa remains their perpetual underdog. By contrast, China’s co-operation with Africa is an entirely different matter.’
‘[In partnership agreements] China sticks to general policy principles, but the West propagates specific policies and lays down rigorous requirements on how aid recipients should behave. Aid recipients who do not toe the line are punished by having further aid denied. There is no mutuality or reciprocity in this ‘partnership’, nothing that binds the Western donor countries to observe the same policies they stipulate for their recipient countries.’
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.