Maendeleo: From Colonial to Postcolonial Development in Tanzania

Juhani Koponen


This article argues that the concept of maendeleo, which conflates development with progress, has served many contradictory purposes in Tanzania, and traces how it has worked its way through different phases of Tanzanian development history. The starting point is the recognition that the concept of development, and maendeleo even more so, has a great variety of meanings and it is not possible to pick up one as ‘correct’. Rather, the argument goes, it is this ambiguity where the concept derives its power from. While everybody can agree on its significance, many things can be accommodated under its umbrella. It has been made such a concept by its history which has allowed it to accumulate various meanings. The article maps the process of how this happened in Tanzania. The German colonialists introduced the notion in the guise of development of exploitable resources. The British followed the lead, formalizing the idea of mutual benefit as dual mandate and adding “native welfare” to it. A crucial shift occurred during the transition from the late colonial to early postcolonial development. As colonialism approached its end, the idea of development seemed to be in danger to outlive its political usefulness, but it was rescued by African nationalists as maendeleo. They appropriated the concept and made use of it in their independence campaign and later elevated it to a major prop for their rule. The article concludes that while maendeleo undoubtedly has been a politically successful concept, it has been much less effective as a guide for economic and social transformation. This raises the question whether the very concepts of development and maendeleo have become part of the problem rather than that of the solution.

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