4 Lesson We Can Learn From The Everlasting Life of Julius Nyerere

Ujamaa – Julius Nyerere on Development

The development of a country is brought about by people, not by money. Money, and the wealth it represents, is the result and not the basis of development. The four prerequisites of development are … (i) People; (ii) Land; (iii) Good Policies; (iv) Good Leadership.

The Arusha Declaration

When Nyerere inherited Tanganyika in 1961, he inherited a people devastated by white values and exploitation. The people had suffered greatly under the Germans and later under British colonial rule. Literacy was non-existent and life expectancy was abysmal.

To repair the damage done by a century of colonialism, Nyerere set about developing his newly liberated nation by implementing ujamaa – a kiSwahili word that translates as cooperative economics.

In Western terms, ujamaa looked alot like socialism – a fact that Nyerere embraced when he said the following:

“I am a socialist. I do not, and cannot, believe that we can leave economic questions out of account, when we are considering human freedom. For the freedom to starve, to be diseased, or ignorant is not a freedom which I am willing to accept, for myself or for others. And I cannot believe that the poverty of our people was irrelevant to their struggle against colonialism.

Julius Nyerere understood that White nations did not release African nations from colonial rule out of the goodness of their hearts. They did so out of efficiency. For it was less costly to allow Africans to govern their own Black nations while maintaining white control over the economy.

To take control back from colonial powers who still held on to the means of production, he nationalized banks, industry, and agriculture. While this move did not win him friends in the Western world, it meant he was able to empower his own people with access to resources.

For a colonial power, the continuation of its rule over a colony, therefore, becomes primarily a question of how best to safeguard continued access to markets, and to raw materials, on an exploitative basis. And this exploitation is not affected by flag independence, as such. The colonial power may, consequently, decide to agree to political decolonization, and it will often make this decision with the active support of powerful economic interests in its own country.

Not only did Nyerere change the economic system of the nation, he worked to change the values and behaviors used to turn Africans into wage slaves interested in little more than consumption. In his work titled Freedom and Liberation, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere writes the following:

“It must be clear that liberation from neo-colonialism also involves, for our poor countries, the deliberate rejection of western standards of consumption, both for individuals and for the society. Instead we have to establish, and to implement, economic goals more appropriate for our present and our expected level of national wealth production. An African country which looks at the pattern of consumption in the United States, and Western Europe, and decides to “catch up”, is bound to fail! … Western standards of living are based on the exploitation of the rest of the world, and of their own poor people.

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Eng. JR G Asiimwe
Eng. JR G Asiimwe

Part of Mwalimu Nyerere’s moving speech delivered on 25th May 1963 in Addis, Ethiopia “We did not come here to discover whether we all want a free Africa. Event the greatest enemies of African unity know that the one thing on which there can be no doubt that the whole of Africa speaks with one sincere voice, it is our desire to see an Africa completely freed from foreign domination and racialism. We came here to find out what we should all do now in order to bring about the final liberation of Africa. We did not come here to… Read more »