Tanzania – what lies ahead?

– Tanzania has achieved a lot since 1961, especially in terms of health and education, and to some extent, infrastructure, but we can achieve a lot more in the coming 25 years, says NAI researcher Francis Matambalya, who himself comes from Tanzania. On 9 December Tanzania is celebrating 50 years since its independence. Francis Matambalya will give a keynote presentation at the seminar “Celebrating 50 Years of Tanzania in Nordic Countries: Reflections and Prospects” in Stockholm, which is co-organised by NAI. On 2 December he is one of the speakers at the seminar “Tanzania 50 years of independence the past, present and the future” in Gothenburg which is organised by SVETAN, a Swedish-Tanzanian organisation. NAI researcher Kjell Havnevik will also be presenting at the seminar in Gothenburg. We asked Francis four question about his presentations and the future of Tanzania.

What will your key note presentation in Stockholm focus on?

– I will talk about 50 years of investment, trade, aid and political cooperation between Sweden and Tanzania. In terms of investment and trade the process is still in the beginning and development planners have not yet been properly informed by research on the issue. 

Sweden has a long tradition of providing development aid to Tanzania. Currently there is a shift to replace aid with trade to achieve better results. How can foreign investment make a difference for Tanzanians?

– We cannot completely disconnect aid at the moment but in the long run I believe that trade and investment could replace aid. Investments create employment for local Tanzanians who can start earning money. It is about finding local partners, participating in the local communities. One mustn’t forget that investment is also an opportunity for the investors, it’s about mutual benefits. But of course it is important that there are policies in place in Tanzania ensuring that foreign investors adhere to corporate social responsibility (CSR) norms. The challenge is that everyone is competing for Foreign Direct Investment so the question of adherence to CSR norms often plays a secondary role in the formulation of development strategies, policies, and the enactment of laws. Nevertheless, there has been a qualitative improvement as regards CSR, which to some extent has to do with a stronger civil society both in the global North and South. And at an international level, CSR has been accepted if you look at institutions like the UN, which have made sure these aspects are anchored in their core values. 

A majority of the people in Tanzania today were born after 1961. What is their view of independence?

– There is a feeling, especially among the younger population that Tanzania was short-changed. However, they are not blaming anyone in particular. People do feel that the current leaders are not as committed as those who were in power during the first years after independence. Many are arguing that past leaders sold out the country to foreign investors who took little social responsibility. 

How do you think Tanzania will be described in 50 years time; what will be the major challenges for the country in the coming years?

– Tanzania has achieved a lot since independence but more remains to be done. Most mistakes that the country has made have been home grown. Many people feel that the current path taken by the country’s leaders – particularly of embracing capitalism, by without ensuring that capitalism leads to local economic development – is not right. The lack of a domestic entrepreneurship is felt by more people. It is important that there is a development of local entrepreneurs which are allowed a greater role in society. But Tanzania’s leaders and other stakeholders are learning from mistakes, and policies are changing. The country has a lot of resources and combined with the right blend of foreign investment, domestic economic participation through entrepreneurship and employment, and the fact that the political space has opened up, I believe that Tanzania will achieve a lot in the coming 25 years.

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