Saturday, 8 December 2012

Fifty One Years of Political Independence in Tanzania, Economic Independence remains elusive

Tanzania mainland marks 51 years since it attained independence on 9th December 2012.  At the down of 1960s, many African nations were emerging as sovereign entities in the international system. Others had undergone a protracted struggle under colonial imperialism while others had peacefully negotiated for their independence with their colonial masters. For the first time in modern history, African states had gained global recognition and impetus in world politics and economics.

The African story has been written and authored by a myriad of scholars predominantly Western ones. Tales are told of a ragged and frayed continent, a wrecked continent, a continent of despair, a lost continent, and even the fate of the African continent ravaged by war, disease, ethnicity and underdevelopment has been told. But, despite this hopelessness and despair, apathy and cynicism in the African continent, Africa will forever remain our motherland.

Although independence had come, it had come only in political terms. The most essential element of independence is not political freedom or what we term ‘flag independence’. The continent of Africa was deprived the most precious form of independence; economic independence. As Tanzania mainland marks fifty one years of independence, we should ask ourselves what type of independence we are marking today. It is quite blatant that we are only politically independent and not economically liberated.

Building great nations require selfless leaders who will out of the desire and love for their people mold a nation that will aspire for economic independence and not those who blame their misfortunes on others. The concept of economic independence has elicited sharp academic and political debate. I shall try and contribute to this debate by contextualizing Tanzania. It is quite clear that Tanzania, just like many other African nations, is not economically independent.

As we celebrate this 51st  anniversary of our independence, we should pose and reflect on the past, present and what lies ahead in terms of economic liberation. As Jenerali Ulimwengu (political commentator) says in one of his recent commentaries that ‘birthdays are a time to give thanks to Providence for having survived the vagaries of a cruel world,’ it is also a time to take stock and reflect.

Reflections should be made towards propelling our nation towards economic independence. In doing so, we should reflect on how we can achieve economic liberation. Dambisa Moyo one of Africa’s contemporary scholars in the field of international economics posits that economic independence can only be attained through debunking the western models which promote economic aid.

Her thesis describes the state of postwar development policy in Africa today and she confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth. She asserts that, contrary to the opinion that aid benefits the recipients, it actually traps developing nations in a vicious circle of aid dependency, corruption, market distortion, and further poverty, leaving them with nothing but the “need” for more aid. This cycle deprives the countries their economic independence. Tanzania is still regarded as one of the poorest nations on earth. We are still dependent on economic aid for many developmental initiatives in our country. Our budget is still to a large extent financed by external donors. This is not the economic independence we aspired when we gained independence.

Towards Economic Independence
Economic blueprints in many countries are built with the purpose of liberating countries from poverty and stagnation. One of the best blueprints which has yielded immense success is the Singapore story. Under the close guidance of Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore was transformed from third world to first within a generation. Singapore’s extraordinary achievement has transformed the country into an Asian economic giant. Economic independence comes from doing the small things right, with great love and vision. It comes through identifying your strengths and working on your weaknesses. Tanzania can do just this.

Tanzania is a land of great potential, a land of great people, a country blessed with massive wealth and a country of great diversity. We can harness our potential through identifying what we can do best, this way we shall be in a position to strengthen our economy and thus becoming economically independent. 

As we mark this day, fellow Tanzanians, let’s take a moment to reflect on our path forward. Let us rekindle the desire of progress our fore fathers envisioned, let us pursue a better Tanzania in the next fifty years when we shall be celebrating an anniversary of economic independence, let us aspire for greatness because Tanzania is a nation destined for greatness. God bless Tanzania. 

A reflection: Nico Minde, Nairobi.  

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