Saturday, July 11, 2009

Why is Tanzania Underdeveloped?

I have been thinking about why a country like Tanzania is underdeveloped for some time now. Why is Africa underdeveloped despite having abundant natural resources? I often come across three things in my search for answers: corruption, legacies of colonialism, and unfair western policies. Yet it is clear that many African countries, like Tanzania, have natural resources that western nations could only dream of. Why then do we remain poor and underdeveloped?

I believe the answers to this question will provide clues for solving the problem of African underdevelopment.

This is what Obama had to say about Africa's underdevelopment in Ghana:

“There had been some talk about the legacies of colonialism and other policies by wealthier nations,” he said, “and without in any way diminishing that history, the point I made was that the South Korean government, working with the private sector and civil society, was able to create a set of institutions that provided transparency and accountability and efficiency that allowed for extraordinary economic progress, and that there was no reason why African countries could not do the same.”

He also criticized the culture of corruption in some African countries, saying that those who wanted to start a business or get a job there “still have to pay a bribe.” While wealthy nations must help, he said, poorer countries “have an obligation” to reform themselves.



Anonymous said...

I'm sometimes amazed by how much attention is given to what leaders in the western world said ?? What Obama said was already well known for many years ! That said, I think African underdevelopment needs pragmatism than just theories !! History shows that outstanding leaders such as Nyerere practised what they preached ! For example, when he wanted to fight corruption, he put mechanism in place which showed his serousness to uproot the problem such as wahujumu uchumi program, he laid down conditions in the ujamaa na kujitegemea manifesto- such as declarations of worth etc.... We can spend centuries discussing about why countries are not developed which is good. however, if we never get leaders who can get things done, underdevelopment is there to stay !! How does one explain that some part in Tanzania people are dying with hunger, while in other parts such as Rukwa, Songea etc.. have no enough storages to store their food !!!! If you cannot solve this small problems, how are you going to solve corruption !!!

salama said...


It's sad to say that the Sub-Saharan Africa is the only major region that many talk about in terms of development...and it's been discussed exclusively in such truncated terms. What Obama has said is a typical and normal language being used to speak about Africa and of course our own country too. It's a business-as-usual-African development policy. With it's glacier pace of progress and the prevailing rates, it's obvious that it's gonna take a while for change to come.

To the Western World and it's allies, Africa remains a puzzle of failed development policy. They have a voracious appetite for our blessed natural resources and rich "HERITAGE" yet it seems inexorably mired in misery and chaos. The worse part is the fact that the African ruling Elites are receiving a lot of help from abroad for their countries but then, the Western donors look the other way as their so called "aid programs" prop up tyrannical regimes.

Whether we like it or not, it is a fact that Africa is not poor because of the residue of colonialism, lack of resources or climate, it's just diss-functional. Africa is rich, only it's politics and policies are rotten poor.

Azaria Mbughuni said...

While it is important to pay attention to what the West is saying about Africa, I am more interested in finding out what we have to say about our own problems. Tanzanians complain a lot, but few want to offer solutions.

Anonymous, why do we always turn to leaders? Why do we continue to expect a savior? What does an average Tanzanian have to do to help our country develop?

Salama, what is this "disfunction" that you are talking about? I would like to talk about just that

Azaria Mbughuni said...

What is it about us as a people that prevents us from taking steps to develop our country?

I can care less what the West has to say about us. There is not a single doubt in my mind that we will have to develop our own country; no one is going to do that for us.

Having great leadership is important. However, I am convinced that we have to change the hearts and minds of the Tanzanian people. There has to be a paradigm shift. For example, almost every Tanzanian is sick and tired of corruption. Yet, these same people do not think twice about bribing traffic police. We complain about poor infrastructure; yet most people hate to pay any kind of government taxes. Where do we expect the government to generate funds to build the infrastructure if we do everything we can to avoid paying taxes? We complain about leadership; yet in the villages, people vote for a politician because he/she brought crates of beer and food the day before elections.

It seems to me that, among other things, we need to have a discussion about the state of mind we are in as a nation.

Anonymous said...

I mentioned leadership due to the fact that Countries develop because of the visionary mind. Therefore, it is a duty of the government to lead the people towards transforming the vision into reality ! There is no country which can develop without a good leadership. You mentioned traffic corruption, who do u think needs to uproot that ?? I'm sure you don't expect a regular citizen to stop that ! If the government does not do anything- people will continue to complain for centuries to come

salama said...


I concur with you that we have to work hard in developing our own country, no one is going to do it for us. If we want change/development, it can and will only happen, "from within our borders" and not outside. An avarage Tanzanian can do a lot to help the development of the country however, I think the chances are so slim for an average person to fully participate in building a thriving nation, they may have the will and ways but they may not have the means.

And I have a question for you, what would you tell a villager who's still struggling to make ends meet and then a politician comes, of course to beg for votes and support by offering, "good stuff". What do you think a struggling villager should do? refuse the 'good stuff', don't support the corrupt politician and continue to hussle or take the good stuff(he might be in need anyways) and support the corrupt politician?
Also, keep in mind that it's pretty hard to play nice in a country like ours, very few people can but the majority can not, not only by means but also by the state of you said.

The diss-functional I was talking about was because of kleptocracy in many African regimes. They're exploiting their own societies with no humane concept that every dicision they're making is for their children and their children's children.

Another thing to keep in mind, in order for our country to start moving to a better trajectory is Somehow, somewhere we need some sort of help/aid. Not to insinuate but we know we do. Now, the helpers/donors speak and work with only those who speak their language(The Elites) Most often members of the small group who may or may not take the interests of the larger society to heart. They hardly bother to reach to an avarage person and try to learn the core of problems and as a result the help/aid often fails to reach and support the real need. We have to work as a chain. Not only us but also spectators.

Maiki said...

This is a very timely discussion. I will make an attempt to answer Azaria's question - "What is it about us as a people that prevents us from taking steps to develop our country?"

The aphorism, "as a man thinketh in heart, so he is," not only embraces the whole of our being, but is so comprehensive as to reach out to every condition and circumstance in human life. A person is literally what he/she thinks, and person's character is the sum of all their thoughts.

The laws of growth and adjustment everywhere obtain. A man does not come to the alms-house or the jail by the tyranny of fate or circumstance, but by the pathway of grovelling thoughts and base desires. Nor does a pure-minded man fall suddenly into crime by stress of any mere external force. The criminal thought had long been secretly fostered in the heart, and the hour of opportunity revealed its gathered power. Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.

Humans do not attract that which they want, but that which they are. Their whims, fancies and ambitions are thwarted at every step, but their inmost thoughts and desires are fed with their own food, be it foul or clean. People are manacled only by themselves; thought and action are the jailors of Fate--they imprison, being base; they are also the angels of Freedom--they liberate, being noble.

All that a person achieves and all that he/she fails to achieve is the direct result of their own thoughts. In a justly ordered universe, where loss of equipose would mean total destruction, individual responsibility must be absolute. A person's weakness and strength, purity and impurity, are their own! They are brought by themselves and not by another; and they can only be altered themselves and never by any other person.

See where I am heading to? Our conditions is our condition and we can't blame it on any other person. It has been usual for us to think and say " Alot of people are slaves because one is an oppressor; so let us hate the oppressor!" On the other hand, there is amongst an increasing few a tendency to reverse this judgement and say, "One man is the oppressor because many are slaves; let us despise the slaves." The truth is that both the oppressor and slaves are cooperators in ignorance, and while seeming to afflict each other, are in reality afflicting themselves. Tanzanians can only rise, conquer, and achieve by changing our attitudes. We will only remain weak, abject and miserable by refusing to change our thinking.

We are a product of our attitudes - for as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is!!

Maiki said...

Salama! Salama! You make a very valid statement - "If we want change/development, it can and will only happen, "from within our borders" and not outside." This is the solution to the whole puzzle. A belief in our ability to improve our well-being/life style. I believe that we have all it takes to make our nation prosperous - we have the man power, we have the resources. But the problem lies in the fact that we are not mentally challenged enough to pursue our dreams. It is time to end the blame game. It is time to wake up from this deep slumber and put words into action! A person's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild; but whether cultivated or neglected, it must, and will, bring forth. If no useful seeds are put into it, then an abundance of useless weed seeds will fall therein, and will continue to produce their kind.

Just as a gardener cultivates his plot, keeping it free from weeds, and growing the flowers and fruits which he requires, so may a person tend the garden of their mind, weeding out all the wrong, useless, and impure thoughts, and cultivating toward perfection the flowers and fruits of right, useful, and pure thoughts, By pursuing this process, a person sooner or later discovers that he/she is the master gardener, the director of his/her life. They also reveals, within themselves, the laws of thought, and understands with ever-increasing accuracy, how the thought forces and mind elements operate in the shaping of their character, circumstances, and destiny.

Thought and character are one, and as character can only manifest and discover itself through environment and circumstance, the outer conditions of a person's life will always be found to be harmoniously related to his inner state. This does not mean that a person's circumstances at any given time are an indication of his/her entire character, but that those circumstances are so intimately connected with some vital thought element within himself that, for the time being, they are indispensable to his development. People are buffeted by circumstances so long as they believes themselves to be the creature of outside conditions. But when they realizes that they may command the hidden soil and seeds of their being out of which circumstances grow, they then become the rightful master of themselves.

Tanzanians are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves. They therefore remain bound. The person who does not shrink from self-crucifixion can never fail to accomplish the object upon which his heart is set. This is as true of earthly as of heavenly things. Even the person whose sole object is to acquire wealth must be prepared to make great personal sacrifices before they can accomplish their object; and how much more so he/she who would realize a strong and well-poised life?

Change in our beloved Tanzania will only be achieved once we purpose to change our mentally..... our thinking.....our attitudes....." as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is!" Need I say more?

salama said...


Well said, I couldn't agree more with you with that statement. As a man thinketh in his heart...
I should also add that, the changes we need comes not only from outside but from within ourselves, our attitudes, our state of mind, and all things to do with our inner-being.
Or else, we might need Divine intervention.

Azaria Mbughuni said...

You got it! That is precisely the direction I have been trying to stirr this discussion towards. I understand what you have articulated here for us.

We have the capacity to do what needs to be done to take the necessary steps. It is all there, in us; just as "you are what you eat," you are also what you think. Corrupted people will become corrupt leaders. If you pay bribe to a police, chances are you will not hesitate to take a bribe once a Minister. If the people are corrupt, their system as well as nation will be corrupt. An incorruptible people will have a nation free of corruption. A people determined to develop their country, will end up with a developed country. Until we fundamentally change the way our people think, we have an uphill battle ahead of us.

My question for you, Maiki, is how do we explain what you have explained eloquently here in a layman's term? I suspect an avarage Tanzanian would read what you wrote and say: "what the ...?%$@$%@!?" They will say leave all that "philosophical" stuff to sophists.

How do we translate all that on the battle ground into action? How do we tell the people, in novice's terms, that we have to change as a nation; we have to change our outlook and our actions will follow through?

Maiki said...

Azaria, you make an excellent observation - "We have the capacity to do what needs to be done to take the necessary steps. It is all there, in us; just as "you are what you eat," you are also what you think. Corrupted people will become corrupt leaders. If you pay bribe to a police, chances are you will not hesitate to take a bribe once a Minister. If the people are corrupt, their system as well as nation will be corrupt. An incorruptible people will have a nation free of corruption. A people determined to develop their country, will end up with a developed country. Until we fundamentally change the way our people think, we have an uphill battle ahead of us."

The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us ... and most of the rest of them made in the name of our needs and desires and preferences. For us to wait for legislation or technology to solve the problem of how we are living our lives suggests we are not really serious about changing —something that our politicians cannot fail to notice. They will not move until we do. Indeed, to look to leaders and experts, to laws and money and grand schemes, to save us from our predicament represents precisely the sort of thinking — passive, delegated, dependent for solutions on specialists — that helped get us into this mess in the first place. It’s hard to believe that the same sort of thinking could now get us out of it!

Individual responsibility and effort are essential to the attainment of any objective. Many a well-considered piece of work have produced inconclusive results because individuals declined to assume their share of responsibility. Organizations can achieve many things through cooperative efforts under able leadership, but the time comes when the individual is the deciding factor. It is well to point out that every man/woman owes something to his/her community.

Great teachers, healers, heads of state, inventors, and innovators have always agreed with the words of Henry Ford: "If you think you can, or think you can't, you're right either way." Or, perhaps you prefer the words attributed to Jesus: "According to your beliefs it is done unto you." A strong person cannot help a weaker unless that weaker is willing to be helped, and even then the weak person(s) must become strong of themselves; they must, by their own efforts, develop the strength which they admires in another. None but himself can alter his condition.

The ability to perceive our responsibility is provided within the awareness sphere. Whether this is also perceived is decided in every case by the respective person himself. It is also possible to ignore the respective information or senses. Even if I look away so as not to have to see the results of my decision, in spite of this I am still naturally responsible for these consequences!

It is time to call a spade a spade and not a big spoon....for as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. We are the products of our own the wise men may put it - "mtoto wa nyoka ni nyoka."

Azaria Mbughuni said...

I suspect we really underestimate the ability of that villager, that TZ citizen, to effect positive change. We have to somehow let that villager know that they are capable of multiplying their agricultural production; that they have can achieve their dreams. But they have to be active participants in bringing the changes they desire.

That villager should not take the bribe they are offered for votes. PERIOD! If they take it, they should realize that they are part of the problem and not the solution. I do understand that sometimes it is a matter of children going hungry or not; worse case scenerio is they take the "good stuff" and vote for someone else. In the final analysis, the second alternative has seeds of the problem we are trying to avoid in the first place.

ACCOUNTABILITY is one of the words I do not hear enough in TZ. Politicians should be held accountable; but the people should also be held accountable. Don't complain if you are part of the problem and not the solution. If you want to complain, be ready to offer a viable solution

The issue of foreign assistance is very complex. We have come to the conclusion that we can not survive without foreign aid. We are stuck in our foreign aid dependency. We have been getting aid since 1961 and development has come too slow; if at all. It is time that we think beyond foreign aid; and when we do get it, we need to make sure that it is put to maximum use. My suspicion is that we can do without it.

Above all, I want to know what we can do on our own.

salama said...


Can I add TRANSPARENCY? together with ACCOUNTABILITY, that will be a better pathway towards TOTAL REFORMATION.
We haven't seen anything yet from our leaders. We don't see lucrative results in their work.
Not only leaders but you said, needs to be responsible in order to make it on our own.

I still beg to differ with you when it comes to foreign aid. "To come to the conclusion" that part alone, that we can still survive without foreign aid is a LONG PROCESS and discussion.

Maiki said...

Salama! I beg to differ. You may be an ardent aid crusader but you are not on the side of Tanzanians because the people you are crusading for say they have had enough of master –servant (aid) relationship. They do not want aid which cripples their economies and makes them less innovative and over dependence. What Tanzania and the rest of African needs are unrestricted trade, investment and a repatriation of the hundreds of billions of dollars that have been stolen and are sitting in Western Banks. Why won't the so called Western Samaritans force their crook banks to repatriate the hundreds of billions of dollars sitting in Switzerland, France, Britain, United States and their colonies of safe haven centres?

It is not a secret the manner in which Multinational Corporations are raping Africa states of their resources and paying close to nothing. Africa will not need aid if multinational corporations are made to pay for what they take from Africa, but the policies of western governments, IMF and World Bank do not force these greedy corporations to pay for what they do in our countries. Tanzania will be much better without foreign aid when multinational corporations are made to stop paying bribes to our corrupt leaders, when they are made to declare all the profits they make in our country instead of declaring about 35% and siphon the rest into their safe haven off-shore accounts

What we needs is a vigorous and aggressive marketing of our economies through the sale of bonds and other mechanisms that can help to raise funds both internally and externally....are you still there? Salama, it is worth pointing out that Tanzania does not want financial aid which gets stolen the day it is released, what they want is western technology and expertise to transform the huge natural resources into usable goods that can benefit the people directly. Technologies that could convert the sun’s energy into electricity that can help reduce cost of running business. Technologies that will enable them to extract minerals sitting deep below the earth crust. Is the West prepared to do that? I don’t think so. Tractors, improved seeds, storage and irrigation sysytems/facilities that can enable farmers to expand their farms, plant all year round and store during bumper season. Are the donor nations ready for that no I don,t think so.

We can't deny that certain interests determine why the "Western Messiahs" chooses to work with particular countries but the bottom line is that democratic countries are rewarded. I hope Tanzanians realize that indeed, they have the power, through their vote, to hold leaders accountable - by granting the responsibility of leadership to politicians who are decent enough to serve their country with high standards of integrity....for as a man thinketh in his heart, so he is!

Iddy said...

Salama, Malik and Azaria. I enjoy reading your argumets. I always ask this question what is the way forward?

Do we have leadership deficiency in Africa? If not, then why out of 50+ countries in Africa less than 1% have successful history concern reduction of poverty.

There are many factors that we should consider when we're making these judgements concern Tanzania economic development.

How about Nyerere factor, did Mwalim help to groomed future leaders? Or did he destroy the whole system? How about the current system, does CCM and Vyama vya Upanzani creates potential leaders? or just same old same?

I am happy to see the blog active again.

Anonymous said...

I was not aware that while Tanzania and Uganda are members of the LDC (Least Developed Countries in the world ) Kenya is not according to the United Nations.


Iddy said...

What difference does it make? The poverty in Kenya is the same as in Tanzania. They do have high GDP, but GDP is one of the worse economic indicator.

January Makamba said...

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is a great debate. No single thesis can answer this question. But certainly it is an important reflection to undertake if we are to move beyond this state of affairs.

Azaria Mbughuni said...

I would like for you to consider the following examples: when I was in University, I used to love to go to the park and feed the ducks. I did that until someone pulled me to the side and told me that it was bad to feed the ducks. I went home and did some research. What happens is that the ducks become dependent on people to feed them. They begin to loose the ability to find their own food. In time, a whole generation of ducks is born that depends on people to feed them.

There was also a healthy looking lady who used to beg for money at a fast food place close to my school. Someone later told me that the woman often made over $100 a day. Do you know what she used the money for? She bought alcohol and drugs. Sometimes giving money to beggers exarcebates the problem and is part of the problem rather than a solution. It sounds harsh, but true. In UK and the US, there are whole communities of people who are totally dependent upon "benefits" and "food stamps" for survival. I admit that there are all kinds of challenges these people face and that their situation is complex; but in the end, many of them seem to give up and come to rely on government aid. They stop looking for a way out; creativity dissapears.

I am generalizing here; but I am convinced this phenomenon can be applied to nations. If someone else is helping to feed you, the incentive to work hard, to work creatively to better oneself, diminishes in most people.

To develop our nation, or to "transform" it as January puts it, we will have to change the way we think as a people, as a nation.

Anonymous said...

n. mbwambo
dispite of the efforts by the government and donors, why do tanzania remain under developed.?

Anonymous said...

if only some you could stop copying and pasting other peoples words eg malik, an the rest, if only you took into heart and mind what you are wasting time saying here then we'd develop, its like u know wat u saying but u too dumb, slow and u=incapable to do nything aboput it. u fall in the same group.....

Ravi Kumar said...

Great debate guys, I am an Indian and was searching answer for my question "Why African countries are poor despite having bulk of natural resources". Your discussion made me aware of lots of problems in African countries are facing today. Many of such problems are also prevailing in my country too, e.g corruption, poverty, unemployment etc. Also, the solutions are same as of yours. Thank you all for your nice views. A very best of luck to everybody so that this whole world become a good place of living beings, including human beings.

Azaria Mbughuni said...

I came up with this provocative question shortly after President Obama visited Ghana about four years ago. Now that Obama visited Tanzania about a week ago, I wonder what will be the outcome of the visit and if it will bring any tangible improvement to the lives of average Tanzanians?More importantly, how can Tanzanians use this opportunity to propel the country forward? I hope the pundits can revisit this important question and use this platform to generate some ideas.