The Political Economy of Tanzania: Decline and Recovery
By Michael F. Lofchie
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014, 280 pp.
Race, Nation, and Citizenship in Post-Colonial Africa: The Case of Tanzania
By Ronald Aminzade
Cambridge University Press, 2013, 451 pp.
Since its independence in 1961, Tanzania has combined political stability with economic stagnation. The country has been remarkably free of the ethnic strife that engulfed all its neighbors after independence. However, a variety of socialist experiments led to economic collapse in the 1970s, and the country continues to suffer from slower economic growth than those same neighbors. These two books analyze the seeming contradiction.
Lofchie has written the broader account of the two, and his book provides a compelling introduction to the country’s development since independence. He begins with the socialist ambitions that guided the country’s postindependence leaders, detailing the disastrous consequences. He then explores the fitful and ongoing process of economic liberalization that began in the late 1980s and has produced growth but also endemic corruption and rising inequality. Two excellent chapters explore the tension between the regime’s loudly proclaimed policy of self-reliance and its increasing dependence on foreign aid.
Aminzade’s book covers much of the same ground but is more specifically focused on the contradictions of Tanzanian nationalism. Under the moderate leadership of President Julius Nyerere, who ruled the country from 1964 until 1985, the governing party espoused a tolerant, nonracialist discourse of inclusive citizenship. Nyerere was personally incorruptible and undeniably tolerant, and he instilled Tanzanian political culture with a form of nationalism that united the country and helped it steer clear of the ethnic strife experienced by neighboring countries such as Congo and Kenya. But Nyerere’s government also pandered to anti-Asian sentiments among its supporters and instituted policies that discriminated against the country’s Asian minorities. Aminzade has produced a nuanced and authoritative analysis of this contradiction. As he points out, nationalism almost invariably combines the same troubling mix of exclusion and inclusion.