About Tanzania

TUTAFIKA: Imagining our Future - Tanzania


Yale Yale starts with a sense of optimism. Things seem to be getting better; children are enrolled in school, donors are improving the roads and investors are putting up new buildings in Dar es Salaam. The donors like Tanzania!

The third multi-party elections in 2005 are peaceful. A Fourth Phase government is installed. Donors appreciate the smooth polling and continue their support with promises and delivery of more aid.

The economy grows, with most of the benefits going to the urban areas. The construction industry booms as the wealthy buy and build houses; car dealers rejoice as vehicle sales soar; more modern shopping malls cater to the increasingly choosy middle-class consumers. But most people live in unplanned and cramped neighbourhoods, where life remains very hard.

A major political problem resurfaces early into the new Union government’s administration. There is a serious threat of Zanzibar leaving the Union following a successful opposition-led vote of no confidence in the Zanzibar government. Furious rounds of negotiations are carried out and a new Muafaka is signed, preserving the Union.

Rural areas do not benefit from growth – investment in roads, schools and health centres is very slow in coming. Changing weather patterns leave many rivers dry for most of the year. The need to grow more food to feed the expanding population puts tremendous pressure on the fragile environment. Ecosystems deteriorate and coping strategies are lost with the passing of the older generations.

Over the next few years, we stagnate without making any fundamental changes. Large and small crises erupt from time to time leading to some protest and agitation. In response, grand solutions are announced, but fail to deal with the root of the problems. Explanations are offered which lay the blame on unavoidable circumstances or outside forces. We lose faith. The state is seen as irrelevant at best, and oppressive at worst.

Global economic integration proceeds quickly with the implementation of the East African Customs Union and that of Southern African Development Community two years later. A world of zero tariffs becomes a reality. Tanzania is a wide open market for foreign products, labour and investment.

Because of the lack of a critical mass of skilled Tanzanians, most of us fail to benefit from the opportunities offered by investors who bring in their own employees and suppliers from abroad. Profits are freely repatriated. Unsophisticated production, processing and marketing of Tanzania’s agricultural commodities shut our exports out of the world’s rich markets.

The fourth multi-party elections in 2010 brings in a Fifth Phase President and administration with a promise to make government more effective and accessible – a ‘fresh start.’ Donors like the sound of that and continue their financial and technical support. Foreign investors are encouraged to take advantage of opportunities. However, corruption remains unchecked as officials make use of their positions for personal financial gain.

Population pressure and difficult rural life accelerates environmental degradation. More people seek wood fuel for their energy needs as well as fresh soils and water for their crops. Conflicts over land, water and wood resources increase. The migration from the rural areas to Dar es Salaam continues unabated, as it is perceived to hold all the opportunities. Global markets reward the skilled and connected but are unforgiving on the weak and unprepared. More and more of our youth chase fewer jobs. Poverty worsens, the gap between rich and poor widens and the crime rate increases dramatically in urban concentrations such as Dar es Salaam, Mwanza and Arusha.

Multiple problems remain and there is a deepening sense of crisis. Frantic activity by the government around those issues that generate a popular reaction seem to demonstrate a semblance of progress, but deep institutional transformation does not happen. We turn our back on the state and retreat into communities and identities based on class, religion, ethnicity and race. There is conflict between communities as each seeks to protect its interests and property. This conflict sometimes leads to violent confrontation that the state is not able to mediate. Public life takes on an increasingly parochial character as politicians exploit these divisions for personal gain. Patronage and corruption in the civil service do irreparable damage to the legitimacy of the state.

Yale Yale places enormous stress on our utu net, which slowly tears into smaller and smaller pieces. As the state increasingly fails, we look to those closest to us for comfort, sustenance and protection.  We retreat into smaller groups and communities to manage local problems, unable to deal with the major challenges we all face. As the links between us weaken, we compete with each other for diminishing resources. Confrontation and conflict proliferate, but the state is too confused to mediate or intervene.

The state eventually collapses under the weight of the demands on it after a long, slow decline. The government is unable to assert itself in any meaningful way in the country. Tanzania ends up as a divided society, a mere shadow of a United Republic.

Can Yale Yale remain stable for so long? When multiple problems remain and new pressures are felt, can institutions survive unchanged? If the stability cracks, will our ignorance and apathy play into the hands of politicians and business people bent on personal gain (Mibaka Uchumi)? Or, will Tanzanians react in bold dynamic ways to the challenges and chart a different future for the country (Amka. Kumekucha)?

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