New Internationalist


November 1981

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SRI LANKA [image, unknown] Country profile: Tanzania

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Leader: President Julius Nyerere

Economy: GNP is $260 per person per year.
Debt service repayments as % of exports: 7.4%

Main exports: Coffee, cotton, sisal

Rate of inflation (average 1970-79): 13%

People: 18 million/Town dwellers: 12%

Health: Child mortality (1-4 years): 1.8% (Sweden 0.1%).
Daily calorie availability: 89%
Access to clean water 39%

Culture: Religion: Majority Christian, with Islamic, animist and Hindu minority groups.
Ethnic groups: 120 different peoples of mainly Bantu origins, but also Arab and Asian descendents.
Language: National language Swahili, but English and local dialects widely used.
Previous colonizing powers: Germany from 1891 until 1945, then Britain from 1945 until independence in 1961.

All figures from World Development Report World Bank 1981.

IF YOU look like a tourist in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s only city, then you will soon get 'Change?’ whispered at you by a passing pedestrian. This is the black market. Hard currencies — pounds, dollars, Deutschmarks — fetch three times the official rate, sometimes more, in these illegal deals. In Tanzania, like dozens of other developing countries, this is the superficially ugly tip of a huge economic problem — shortage of foreign exchange.

Apart from its growing taste for consumer goods, Tanzania needs all kinds of imports: fuel to get people to work and their produce to market, rubber for shoes and bicycle tyres, drugs for rural clinics. And the only source of hard cash to pay for such things is a handful of vulnerable export commodities: coffee, cotton, sisal — all subject to the vagaries of world markets.

In 1973 a ton of Tanzanian coffee fetched $1,167. In 1980 only $3,445. During the same period oil prices multiplied five times. Tanzania must now spend more than half its export earnings on oil alone. What’s left over has to be eked out for essential imports — tractors, nails, bags of concrete — as well as luxuries for government and business elites.

Away from the shabby colonial buildings and new tourist hotels on Dar es Salaam’s harbour front the crisis looks different. Tanzania is committed to ‘socialism and self-reliance’ and nearly 90 per cent of Tanzanians live and work on the land. Inspired by President Julius Nyerere’s 1967 Arusha Declaration, land, rented housing, banks and big business have all been nationalised. Now it’s only on the lush green slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, where every yard is filled with alternate rows of banana trees and coffee bushes, that landlessness is a problem. Elsewhere — weather permitting — everyone can grow the food they need to eat.

Change at home has not come easily. Reviewing the Arusha Declaration ‘Ten Years After’, Nyerere admitted his 30 year estimate of the time needed to build a socialist country had been wildly ambitious. The ujamaa policy of ’villagisation’ was loudly criticized in the West when reports of peasants forcibly resettled in ‘villages’ to encourage communal farming began to come out of the country. Today, few villages farm their land co-operatively.

Meanwhile the towns shelter many high-ranking civil servants who exploit the loop-holes in the country’s ‘leadership code’: Tanzanians are not supposed to mix politics with business. But austerity has been hard to cultivate. With Kenyan free enterprise just over the border and fun-loving European tourists arriving in increasing numbers, Tanzania’s consumer-desert must seem very barren. And there have been few rewards for Tanzania’s unstinting ‘frontline’ support of liberation struggles in Africa. The war with Uganda cost over half a billion hard-earned dollars. But Nyerere has few illusions about the price ordinary people must pay for conflict between their leaders: ‘When elephants fight it’s the grass that suffers’.

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in 1969 richest 20% took half of all income. Gap narrowing now.
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Self-sufficiency in food, but dependent on aid and export crops.
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Legal equality, but burdened with agricultural and domestic work.
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[image, unknown] Single party socialist state with democratically elected government.
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Increased from 10% to 66% since independence. Universal, free education plus adult literacy campaigns.
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Some political detainees, press government owned but occasionally critical.

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‘52 years. Primary health care struggles against hospital bias.

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Front cover of New Internationalist magazine, issue 105 This feature was published in the November 1981 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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This article was originally published in issue 105

New Internationalist Magazine issue 105
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