Addressing social inequality in Tanzania: Aspects of continuity and change in social policy between 1961 and 2020

Chediel R Nyirenda


One of the main challenges that newly independent African countries inherited from colonialism was that of inequality. Reviewing literature on the experience of Tanzania in dealing with this challenge, this article examines some social policies put in place by the Tanzanian state to address inherited inequality. The focus is on policies aimed at curbing inequality through economic centralization and nationalization of major means of production, agricultural products pricing and marketing, state financing of primary education as well as land use for small businesses. The article covers the efforts made by the socialist state in Tanzania starting from 1967 up to the introduction of liberalism in the early 1980s. The period starting 2015 and ending 2020 is treated as a period of attempted return to some of the interventionist social policies of Ujamaa. It is shown that the earnestness and political commitment of the leaders of Ujamaa succeeded in controlling the levels of inequality in the country for only sometime. Forces form both within and without the group of political elites culminated in the reversal of these efforts and the result is that inequality has persisted and, in some cases, increased in the country. Whereas a complete return to Ujamaa is not envisioned, it is suggested that a certain level of state control of capital employment in production and distribution of goods and services in the country is the way to curb the disturbing levels of inequality. 


Key words: inequality, social policy, Tanzania, ujamaa.

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