50 years of aid has resulted in good relations between Sweden and Tanzania,
Photo: Global Reporting/Susanna Wasielewski Ahlfors
Half a century of cooperation
During the celebration, more than a thousand people are expected to come and listen to panel discussions, watch dance performances and documentary films, attend work-shop, and visit the market place where Swedish companies and partner organisations will demonstrate their work.
For more than 50 years, the Swedish-Tanzanian cooperation has engaged almost all sectors of society, from education, health, water, culture and environment to energy, infrastructure, natural resources and the private sector.
“I remember very well the positive atmosphere and mood of Swedish development cooperation in the 1960s and 1970s. It embraced liberal values, mutual respect and brotherhood. The Swedish general public was also very engaged,” says Anna Tibaijuka, Minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development.
Sweden has supported the educational sector through school projects, adult education, and research. One outstanding example during the first decades was the Literacy Campaign Programme.
“Tanzania became one of the first countries in Africa to achieve 98 per cent literacy rate, for which it received worldwide acclaim. Continuous Swedish support was of vital importance in this success,” says Dr Salim A Salim, former Prime Minister of Tanzania.
But the ties go even further back in time, to the 1930s when Swedish missionaries arrived in Tanzania. One of those was Barbro Johansson, or “mama Barbro”, who arrived in Tanzania in 1946 and set up a girl’s school. Later on she went into politics and became a member of Parliament. Mama Barbro always put the girls’ education at the top of the agenda.
Sweden and Tanzania embarked on collaboration in the energy sector early on, starting with the construction of the Kidatu hydro power station and other hydro power plants and moving on to rural electrification. The rural electrification initiative between 2005 and 2009 has resulted in lights in the classrooms and more women surviving when giving birth when there is electricity installed at the clinics.
But not all industrial projects have been successful. The paper pulp plant in Mufindi, a project financed by the World Bank and Sweden, clearly showed the many challenges that could face such a project, in an environment with limited managerial experience and problems in the supply chain.
Support to liberation movements
Tanzania and Sweden also worked together in the international arena. According to Dr Salim A. Salim, Sweden was one of very few western countries to assist the liberation movements in Africa in their struggle against colonialism and apartheid. This was shown through both diplomatic actions and substantial humanitarian and organisational support.
“We were highly appreciative of this Swedish position. In a way, the position of Tanzania and Sweden converged on this fundamental issue facing Africa and it reinforced the relations between the two countries,” Dr Salim A. Salim recalls.
The country’s economic politics led to an economic and financial crisis that worsened in the 1980s. IMF and other donors pushed for economic reforms and deregulations. The tough structural adjustment programme eventually agreed upon restored fiscal balance paving the way for market and other reforms for economic growth. Many other donors cancelled its support to Tanzania, but Sweden had an active role in pushing for debt cancellation and in arguing for the need to protect social sector expenditures as far as possible.
For many years during the 1980s and onwards, Sweden and Tanzania collaborated on a number of regional programmes related to water and sanitation and natural resource management. The Health, Sanitation and Water Programme (HESAWA) in the Lake region was run between 1985 and 2002. The programme led to a reduction in water-related diseases and was also a forerunner in gender mainstreaming at community levels. Several natural resource programmes and initiatives in the forest sector followed, resulting in better income opportunities while preserving the natural resources.
Many reforms in the last decades
In the 1990s, a multiparty system began to form in Tanzania. Sweden played an active part in the dialogue leading to politicians accepting a first multi-party election in 1995, followed by others in 2000, 2005 and 2010. Today we see a move towards a deepening democracy with different actors in society each playing a vital role.
Tanzania is still a country in transition, both in the political arena and in the economic field. The journey from a state-led economy to a market economy, and from a one-party state to a multiparty system is still underway.
In May 2013, the Swedish Government decided on a new seven year strategy for the Swedish cooperation with Tanzania. The strategy is built on three result areas and it highlights economic growth for poverty reduction, private sector development and human rights and transparency as key elements for a democratic society. Civil society and the private sector are becoming more important partners in the cooperation.