Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Book Review: Surrogates of the State

It believe in the power of information. As such, I cherish any source of information that could enlighten me on my surroundings, particularly on the Tanzanian life. Well, I just happened to come across a book covering one aspect of the Tanzanian experience, and I am hereby providing a review of the book.


Surrogates of the State: NGOs, Development, and Ujamaa in Tanzania. Michael Jennings. Bloomfield: Kumarian Press, 2007. 243 pp.

In Surrogates of the State: NGOs, Development, and Ujamaa in Tanzania, Michael Jennings delivers an account of the role NGOs, particularly Oxfam, played in supporting Tanzania's government economic policies. In addition, the author provides an account of the historical background on the Ujamaa policy and subsequent failures in implementation of the Ujamaa policy.

This book is an excellent resource to students, educators and anyone interested in understanding not only the role that NGOs played in the development process in Tanzania, but also Tanzania’s attempt to achieve economic progress in the time period spanning between the late 1960s and early 1980s. In reviewing this book, the main criteria included the organization, content and reference sources.

The author kicks off the book with an account of the role and the history of NGOs, detailing the spirit of volunteerism and charity as the driving force propelling the NGOs. The author then takes the reader on the expansion (both financial and operational) of NGOs through the years. The book shows not only an appreciation of the role NGOs as agents of development, but also accounts for the factors that led to the formulation of the Ujamaa policy, the implementation failures that followed, and how NGOs (knowingly or unknowingly) supported the Ujamaa policy.

Michael Jennings is a Lecturer in international development and East African politics at the Centre for Development, Swansea University. A major focus of his work has been the role of voluntary agency activity in development in East Africa, including NGOs, missions, and faith-based organizations. He has worked extensively on the role of civil society in development and has research interests in health issues in sub-Saharan Africa.

The author has organized the book in somewhat a chronological order, allowing the reader to understanding the origination and development of the NGO movement while deliberately focusing on Oxfam. The author also takes a chronological progression of economic policy formulation in Tanzania, key players, and strategic changes immediately after independence to early 1980s.

Regrettably, it takes the author up to the middle chapters to address the main topic – which is proving how NGOs became surrogates of the Tanzanian state. The author also provides historical details that some readers might find unnecessary. Nevertheless, the author supported such detail by making reference to external sources that could be traced to vouch the author’s arguments and conclusions.

While the author attempts to prove how NGOs in Tanzania, such as Oxfam, essentially became surrogates of the state by supporting the official economic policy (Ujamaa) through narrowing of the opportunities for independent action and reinforcing the official paradigm, the author surprisingly provides an explanation to the reasons behind the authoritarian style of governance that is currently a contention point between the incumbent government and opposition parties, some NGOs (such as HakElimu) and other political activists.

With a current explosion of NGOs in Tanzania, this book is definitely a good resource in understanding the history of NGOs and the role NGOs has played as development partners in Tanzania. It is also a good resource for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of Tanzania’s attempt to attain economic progress through the Ujamaa policy and why the Ujamaa policy failed.
The book is scheduled for release in November 2007.


kifimbocheza said...

I had heard that this book was coming out and had been planning to get it. Glad to see a good review, and not only because I used to know Mike Jennings some years ago. This will be a good excuse to get back in touch with him!

One point: historical details are never unnecessary!

Jaduong Metty said...

Good to have you back (noticed your blog is silent). Well, I agree with you that no additional detail is harmful, I recognize that some readers like a writer to get straight to the point.

So the key word there was SOME and not ALL readers. For instance, you just happened to be one of those readers not bothered by extra details.

kifimbocheza said...

fair point. I tend to read with one finger in the references section to enjoy the footnotes. But not everybody....

Liza said...

Good words.