Wednesday, August 28, 2019


This is Part 6 of a series of commentaries on Udadisi Blog entitled Tanzania Institutional Diagnostic: A Response and Comments By Andrew Coulson

Chapter 6: Land Rights

I have read several attempts to describe the confused position of land rights in Tanzania, and this chapter [by S.J. Mramba with discussion by Klaus Deininger ] is comprehensive, well-informed and practical. However, it is not an easy read: I would recommend readers to first read Deininger’s four page commentary at the end of the chapter, which provide a clear summary of practical proposals to improve both urban and rural land tenure.

Turning to the chapter, I would have liked more recognition that land is a form of property, and that control of land is an exercise of power, and that sometimes power is exercised to prevent change or reform. I do not think it is coincidental that the 1999 legislation has not been reformed, because there are individuals and classes that benefit from the present confused situation. There is some political economy in the chapter, e.g. pp.3-4 and the mention of Shivji’s position on p.6, but there could have been more.
One significant development is not discussed – though the comments about bias against villagers and enclosures of “commons” in Para 6.2 are consistent with it (note – the page numbering in this chapter is confusing). It is set out in a paper by a team led from Michigan State University (MSU) by Thomas Jayne et al.: “Africa’s changing farm size distribution patterns: the rise of medium-scale farms”Agricultural Economics Vol. 47, 2016. They present evidence that huge transfers of land are taking place, in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia, to middle-class salaried professionals who are purchasing agricultural land cheaply, without, in the main, living on the farms. This provides a new and valuable source of capital for investment in agriculture. But many of these investors have little experience, or understanding of the risks, and some are not using the land at all, and risk having it taken back. Overall, it is a form of land-grabbing that far exceeds anything by overseas investors. 
The Jayne paper quotes fieldwork by a team at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) led by Prof Ntengua Mdoe, but I am told that this is not yet ready for publication. Much of this land is in marginal areas, such as Kiteto District in Tanzania, the South-Eastern part of Maasailand, where the Mdoe team identified 3668 farms of more than 5 ha. In the past, there are examples where mechanisation has been applied to marginal land such as this with initial success, but it has led to very serious soil erosion and failure (e.g. the Ismani area North of Iringa in the 1970s). 

Much of this land has been used by pastoralists, and continues the grabbing of such land for crop cultivation that was found, for example, in the Groundnuts Scheme or the Basotu Wheat Scheme of the late 1970s and 1980s. But perhaps much more is land that has not been cultivated since the villagizations of the 1970s. Many farmers who were compulsorily moved into villages were given plots far from where they had lived. The land they had cultivated, often with higher quality of soils than where they were moved to, was abandoned. Some of this is now being “sold” to these investors by village committees – for, I was told, a going price of T.Shs.1m per acre, i.e. very cheaply indeed. 
But meanwhile the forms of shifting cultivation, which enabled the fertility of large areas of land to be maintained are no longer possible, and from the 1970s farmers had no option but to adopt permanent cropping. They had little guidance on how to introduce rotations, crops and cultivation practices that will maintain fertility – and yields are falling. In earlier times, when fertility dropped, a family could ask the chief, or village leader, for more land – but with villagization plots became much more inflexible. How to treat this was a challenge when it came to our book on agriculture (Coulson, Ellman and Mbiho, Increasing Production from the Land, 2018). We dealt with it by avoiding the issue directly and pointing out that productivity increases are possible at all scales. 
The issue of land grabbing by overseas investors would have been more contentious if five large projects based on cultivation of biofuels had succeeded. The most specific research on this, which includes comments on all identifiable large-scale proposals, is by Martina Locher and Emmanuel Sulle: ‘Foreign Land Deals in Tanzania: An Update and a Critical Review on the Challenges of Data (Re-)production’, Working Paper 31, Land Deals Policy Initiative, 2013; and ‘Challenges and Methodological Flaws in Reporting the Global Land Rush: Observations from Tanzania’Journal of Peasant Studies Vol.41, No.3-4, 2014. [Note: the author referred to below Box 5 and in the bibliography is Sulle not Sule.]
Deininger’s commentary at the end of the chapter provides four pages which “provide concrete next steps that could allow Tanzania to improve land tenure security at a scale similar to that in Rwanda without giving up some of the distinctive characteristics of land tenure in Tanzania.” One of the main conclusions of the chapter, of the final chapter, p.16, and of the commentary is that rapid surveying of village land, using aerial photos, followed by the issue of titles whose details can be clarified subsequently, needs to be conducted for the whole country, urgently, as it has been for Rwanda. 
Why has this not been done? Maybe because it is opposed by those who are able to purchase land cheaply now. But if the rural areas are to provide a basic living for a large part of the population of Tanzania, they must have security of tenure.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Coulson: On Decentralisation

This is Part 5 of a series of commentaries on Udadisi Blog entitled Tanzania Institutional Diagnostic: A Response and Comments By Andrew Coulson

Chapter 5: Decentralisation

I spent the last 25 years of my salaried employment working in the Institute of Local Government Studies (INLOGOV), at Birmingham University, the leading institution studying local government in the UK. I worked on local government finance, then developed the Institute’s work on local economic development, and ended working on local politics, especially the “scrutiny” function, how councillors can hold council officials to account.
Most writing on decentralisation to regions, districts, cities or towns, or villages focuses either on finance, or on function, not on both of them. This chapter [by Jan Willem Gunning], interesting as it is, is about finance and says little about the possible functions of local government – which functions should be devolved, and how they can balance the advantages of being nearer to the people with the disadvantages of not always being up to date, or of being “parochial” i.e. not seeing beyond their own boundaries.
Many problems of the district councils in Tanzania relate to function – how do they decide which feeder roads to maintain? How many dispensaries to open if they cannot be sure of the drugs to supply them? How much resource to devote to maintaining rural water supply infrastructure constructed in the 1970s? How to use the agricultural extension service effectively when most of the extension officers are not up to date in their technical knowledge about crops and their pests and diseases, or aware of short-term changes in prices etc.?
The chapter does not consider what is not decentralised, e.g. the police and judiciary, or the various inspectorates. Or of scale – is there a case for elected councils for regions and districts, with Regional Commissioners and District Commissioners replaced by Council Leaders? Would Dar es Salaam be better with an elected council for the Region rather than separate councils for 5 districts? 
It is hard to disagree with its main conclusion, that revenue is best collected centrally and divided between councils using a formula. Of course this means that the Centre controls the money, and, when push comes to shove, will boss the districts – especially if many of them, and many of the most important, are controlled by Opposition parties.
However, more could usefully have been said about the disastrous practice of agreeing budgets for a year on the basis that they will only be funded once the revenue is raised. This has kept the spending on local government under some sort of control. But has had the result that district councils often make promises which they are unable to fulfil. It would be better to have less ambitious budgets which are contractually agreed with central government, which can be supplemented if more revenue becomes available.
In most European states and parts of Asia, local government of cities and towns existed before central government – and in America from the 1790s all city councils were run by representatives elected by people who lived there (but it was far from a universal franchise – those who could vote were male and owners of property, and hence white). There are proud traditions of local self-government across mainland Europe, with councils responsible for basic services elected in small towns or villages. But the advent of welfare states which provide expensive professionalised services, led to councils for much larger areas – or several tiers of councils such as the communes, départements and régions in France. Service delivery may be contracted out to private companies, e.g. collection of domestic waste, or maintenance of roads, but this requires the council to have the expertise as client to manage the resulting contracts so as not to be exploited. 
African countries have had to create such structures with much less history. Looking at it the other way round, Tanzania is a very big state, and it is not possible or desirable for all decisions to be taken at the centre – people need to be able to make decisions locally, and to be held accountable for them – but, as the chapter makes clear, this is not without costs and it needs specialist expertise with integrity, e.g. auditors, inspectors, etc. This chapter is very good on what it covers, but there are large areas, and big challenges, which are only mentioned in passing.

Monday, August 26, 2019


This is Part 4 of a series of commentaries on Udadisi Blog entitled Tanzania Institutional Diagnostic: A Response and Comments By Andrew Coulson

Chapter 4: The Civil Service and Economic Development

If you have time to read just one of the chapters here, it should be this one [by Rwekaza Mukandala with Discussion by Jan Willem Gunning]. It provides detailed descriptions of how, since Independence, the civil service in Tanzania has struggled to make, even to develop, policies, because so much has been taken over by politicians. The country has moved from being one of the least corrupt (at the time of and after the Arusha Declaration) to one of the most.
Jan Willem Gunning, in a thoughtful commentary, points out that, in a democracy, politicians should be elected on the basis of promises to implement specific policies – and civil servants put those policies into effect. In reality, in a complex society, many new policies derive from civil servants, but the process of putting them into effect involves a complex interplay with politicians, who have views on how they should be implemented, and have to steer the proposals through Parliament. 

Gunning also points out that there is some confusion in the chapter, especially when it draws on statistics. Thus, in a strict sense, a civil servant is any person who is directly employed by a government – from very junior clerks and (say) watchmen who happen to be employed by the state, to highly specialised technicians such as those who work in various inspectorates, or as judges or magistrates or in research stations, right through to the elite group (in the UK the “executive grades”) who make policy. But the term is also used to describe just the elite managers who head departments or divisions of departments, and that is what most of the chapter is about. A statistical annex, which included figures over time for the numbers of different types of civil servants, would have been a useful addition to the chapter and clarified some of these issues. 
As Mukandala notes, at Independence in 1961, Tanzania “had 21 graduates, out of whom 11 were indigenous Africans” (p.3). To fill the top posts, staff were moved in from other services, especially teaching, or promoted very quickly. It was a major achievement to keep the civil service operational with so little local technical expertise and practical experience.

Inevitably, others were brought in from outside the country. I was a civil servant in the Ministry of Agriculture from 1967-1971. My work, relating to foreign-aided projects, required me to support the senior civil servants in the HQ of the Ministry. They included, until 1968, the remaining “permanent and pensionable” civil servants who had served in the colonial civil service, most as Provincial or District Commissioners or agricultural officers of various specialisms. The Ministry also employed expatriates on contracts (such as me) who did not have previous experience in Tanzania. Most of the Heads of Departments were African Tanzanians - the first generation to be appointed to these roles.
The expertise of some (but by no means all) of the foreigners was very high. To give one illustration, Nicholas Monck, who sadly died recently, studied at Eton College and Cambridge University, and came on secondment from the UK Treasury in 1967 when he realised that he was unlikely to be promoted in the next 3 years. He later became Permanent Secretary of the UK Ministry of Employment and the first UK civil servant to be made a director of a UK nationalised industry (the British Steel Corporation). He was one of the most senior UK civil servants who was also a member of the Labour Party. In Tanzania he headed the team responsible for crop marketing, which included setting the pan-territorial prices, which was done with great care. [Incidentally, apropro pan-territorial pricing, mentioned on p.8, in at least two places Marc Wuyts has recently defended it, as a form of infant-industry protection, no doubt expensive, but it made it possible for crops such as maize to be grown for sale in remote parts of Tanzania, such as Rukwa or Songea].
Different issues apply to the different kinds of civil service employment. Thus, again from my experience, ten years after I had left Tanzania, in 1986, I was employed as a short-term consultant to help NORAD decide whether to continue its support for the Department of Chemistry at the University of Dar es Salaam. The methodology involved identifying as many recent graduates of the Department as possible to find what they were doing. Many were working in the labs of large companies, such as Kilombero Sugar Co. They were using their technical skills as chemists. But there was little expectation that many of them would move on to become the top decision-makers. We recommended that NORAD continue its support, and that the University maintain its chemistry department not just to train teachers but also technicians such as these – alongside the rapidly developing chemical engineering/process engineering department in the Faculty of Engineering. 

Project-aid has had some unintended consequences. A project is created to address a problem. That project includes post-graduate training in regard to that problem, often in the donor country. It also includes a new building for a new institute in Tanzania. Those trained come back, influenced by practice in the country where they have been trained, and take over the project. What they should do, or be prepared to do, is to move into the civil service and use the skills they have gained to develop their technical area. But they are likely to be better paid and with much less stress if they stay with the project. The result is many NGOs and institutes, with complex relationships with the civil service. This may not be the best way to use the skills of those who have been trained abroad.
There is much in this chapter about corruption and how to deal with it, about the motivation of civil servants, about the need to deal with scandals such as “ghost workers”, absentee teachers, and high vacancy rates, the need for competence and performance evaluation, and moral and professional incentives. It is notable for not proposing a reduction in numbers, or more privatization.

Sunday, August 25, 2019


This is Part 3 of a series of commentaries on Udadisi Blog entitled Tanzania Institutional Diagnostic: A Response and Comments By Andrew Coulson

Chapter 3: Politics and Business

Samuel Wangwe has a lifetime of research and writing on industrialisation in Tanzania, and it comes to the fore here on chapter 3 [with Discussion by Hazel Gray]. He also makes very good use of other sources especially Barker et al.’s African Industrialisation: Technology and Change in Tanzania (1986), Bryceson’s Liberalizing Tanzania’s Food Trade (1993), and Gibbon’s (ed.), Liberalised Development in Tanzania (1995). 
However, two recent publications take the historiography to another dimension: 

Chambi Chachage’s A Capitalizing City: Dar es Salaam and the Emergence of an African Entrepreneurial Elite (c.1862-2015). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, 2018

The first part of Chambi’s dissertation is a retelling of the history of capitalism in the colonial period and early years of Independence. Much of it is a reworking of John Iliffe’s (ed.) classic mini-biographies of the African capitalist pioneers and their struggles. The later part includes mini-biographies of key members of the current business elite, and the many challenges they have faced, and, for them at least, overcome. It will be published as a book in the not-too-distant future.
In my opinion, the Mufuruki book is profound not only because of the originality of some of its proposals, but because it is a political statement of a successful Tanzanian businessman (his life story is summarised in Chambi’s dissertation). His main intellectual influences are Ha-Jung Chang and Justin Lin, basically following the South Asian model (Vietnam, Malaysia and, implicitly South Korea). It is a sad reflection on the discourse in Tanzania that it was not widely discussed after its launch, and is only now being taken more seriously. For me that says a lot about who controls the Tanzanian agenda on industrial strategy – a group including key donors, politicians and economists. The Mufuruki book was produced outside this framework, and said things many in this group did not want to hear – such as that energy policy should not be so dependent on gas and oil. It also supports what amounts to the Ethiopian strategy for labour-intensive export-oriented manufacturing, e.g. of textiles or shoes, which has been rejected, or not accepted, by most of the Tanzanian policy-makers. 
There have been times, attending REPOA Annual Research Workshops, when I felt that Tanzania was being offered a different industrial strategy each year, without relating it to, or comparing it with, what had been said in the previous years. Thus, Justin Lin was the keynote speaker in 2016, and proposed a version of the Ethiopia strategy. Lant Pritchett was the keynote speaker the next year, and offered different advice, to the effect that the best strategy was to export as many different products as possible. No one pointed out that this was diametrically opposed to what Lin said the previous year.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Coulson: On Insights for Institutional Diagnostic

This is Part 2 of a series of commentaries on Udadisi Blog entitled Tanzania Institutional Diagnostic: A Response and Comments By Andrew Coulson

Chapter 2: Collecting Insights for an Institutional Diagnostic of Development

This chapter, by François Bourguignon and François Libois, brings together information about the major institutional challenges to development in Tanzania. More than half the chapter reports on questionnaires administered to a sample of 101 elite Tanzanian decision-makers. These include politicians, administrators or civil servants (including those from the justice system, the military, and the foreign service, as well as public administration), business people, and those from civil society. To select the sample “REPOA, in co-operation with Oxford Policy Management, determined a list of target respondents who satisfied the occupational, geographical and gender considerations”. They interviewed these respondents, asking them for their opinions, on a scale of 1-5, on a long list of topics; the most significant were corruption, land issues, the absence of effective regulation especially of infrastructure, and lack of transparency.
83 of the 101 were male (but this does not stop the authors making comparisons between male and female responses – women turned out to be much more concerned about all kinds of discrimination than men), 95% of them were living in urban areas, and just over a third were “directly involved in politics”, divided equally between supporters of the Government and the Opposition. By far the greatest numbers in the sample were born in Dar es Salaam, Moshi, Arusha, Tanga, Kagera or Mwanza – the Southern and South-Western parts of the country were under-represented. 
The questionnaire-based interviews were supplemented by unstructured interviews: “several experts, some of whom are at the highest level of responsibility in the country, were interviewed on an informal or open-ended basis” – about 50 in total.
The chapter then turns to internationally available data from different sources. Very large numbers of indicators were grouped into clusters, six of which were deemed to be most significant: democracy, human rights, administrative capacity, rule of law and corruption, conflict and violence, and competitiveness. Comparisons of these are made with the six countries that border Tanzania, and with five Asian countries. Tanzania outperforms many of its neighbours on all six indicators, and compares very favourably with the five Asian countries. These results are unexpected, to say the least. 
Perhaps many Tanzanians underestimate the levels, and successes, of their economic growth, because only a little of it trickles down to them. Many middle level government employees face this personally, not least because the President has removed many fringe benefits, such as cash allowances for attending conferences and meetings. So, for example, numbers of African Tanzanians able to afford to send their children to elite English-language schools, such as Morogoro International School, have fallen.
The limitations of this kind of methodology are apparent: the surveys are dependent on the selection of the sample and the questions asked. There should have been many more women in the samples, and more effort to get representation from across the country. A deeper criticism is that they reflect what is actually going on but not necessarily what should be. Thus, there is no mention here of global heating (climate change), or population growth. 
The official line, reasserted by the President, is that population growth is good, and a population of 100m will make Tanzania a powerful state on the world stage. Economists, overwhelmingly, see rapid population growth as making it harder to get rises in GDP per capita and finding employment a greater challenge. In our book on agriculture we suggest that small scale agriculture is the only way of providing jobs on the required scale – a reserve army of labour, but not one likely to be called on much (Coulson, Ellman and Mbiho, Increasing Production from the Land: A Sourcebook on Agriculture for Teachers and Students in East Africa, Mkuki na Nyota, 2018). Arthur Lewis had good instincts. Even keeping a large part of the population alive may not be easy to achieve, given global heating, soil degradation, declining sizes of plots in mountain areas, etc. 
I partly blame myself and colleagues for Tanzania’s uncritical response to population growth: in the 1970s we taught a very strong anti-Malthusian message – but when I left the country in 1976 the population was only 16 million! China’s GDP is growing at 6-10%, but its population is reducing, as a result of the draconian one-child policy. I doubt if that would ever be accepted in an African country. But it means that there are that much more resources available to ensure that almost everyone can get an uplift.

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