Kenya is at peak Tanzania envy

There’s a veritable reason President John Pombe Magufuli is a Tanzanian, and not a Kenyan. It’s the same reason Chief Justice Willy Mutunga is a product of the University of Dar es Salaam, and not the University of Nairobi. President Magufuli embodies the immutable character forged into the Tanzanian identity by President Julius Kambarage Nyerere, the philosopher-king. It’s a national character of service and selflessness that made Tanzania the anchor of the African liberation movement — the Mecca of all black freedom fighters.

It’s a mchicha [sukumawiki] culture of simplicity that eschews public gluttony, impunity, and vileness. That’s why #WhatWouldMagufuliDo has become a household hashtag. Not since President Nyerere have we seen the likes of Mr Magufuli in Africa. There’s a famous quote, attributed variously to Alexis de Tocqueville or Joseph de Maistre, which speaks of the character of a nation, a people. It says that “In a democracy, people elect the government they deserve.” The keys to the nugget are “democracy” and “elect.” In other words, it speaks of the free expression of the will of the people through an open plebiscite. In Tanzania, the people decided to “elect” Mr Magufuli over the opposition candidate, former PM Edward Lowassa. Even before the election, Mr Magufuli had distinguished himself as the hardest working member of the Kikwete government. Mr Lowassa was wildly popular, but Mr Magufuli beat him hands down. The people spoke.

…… In contrast, faced with a stark choice in Kenya in 2013, my compatriots were said to prefer Jubilee’s Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto over CORD’s Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka. The former faced charges for crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. I was one among many who placed obstacles in Mr Kenyatta’s election. I argued that electing an ICC indictee wasn’t in the national interest. But voters were polarised along ethnic blocks and failed to see my logic. Today — three years after the election — Kenyans are more depressed than ever, and every new scandal sinks the country into a deeper funk. Most Kenyans today wish Mr Magufuli was a Kenyan. I hate to say I’ve no sympathy.

That’s SUNY Buffalo law professor Makau Mutua writing in the Standard.

This is among a long line of Kenya-Tanzania comparisons that often serve to highlight the relative moral/ethical deficiencies of the former. Kenyans are corrupt and boorish; Tanzanians are polite and virtuous. Kenyans are rabid tribalists; Tanzanians have a strong national identity crafted around Kiswahili as a national language and the great Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s vision for the Muungano (full disclosure, like Mutua, I am also intellectually enamored by the Dar es Salaam School).

Like all sweeping narratives there is some truth to these comparisons. And bucket loads of unsubstantiated hype. For example, under both Mkapa and Kikwete Tanzania had its share of mega corruption scandals, not unlike what happens north of the Kilimanjaro. Kenya ranks 145/175 in Transparency International’s perception of corruption rankings. Tanzania is at 119/175, still experiencing widespread corruption. The same slight differences are depicted in Afrobarometer survey results (See above. Tanzania is on the left. Question asks for respondents’ perceived share of government officials involved in corruption).

Also, the income of the average Kenyan is almost 1.5 times that of her Tanzanian counterpart. The infant mortality rates (per 1,000 live births) are 37 and 51 in Kenya and Tanzania, respectively.

Mwalimu once quipped that Kenya is a dog-eat-dog society. To which Kenya’s then Attorney General Charles Njonjo replied that Tanzania is a man-eat-nothing society.

Tanzania’s economy may yet outpace Kenya’s in the near future on account of the former’s solid foundation of nationhood. But for now I think it is fair to say that Kenya’s faux “African Socialism” beat Tanzania’s Ujamaa in delivering the goods, the morality of it all notwithstanding.tanzania

Oh, and what about the tired stereotyping of Kenyans as being more hardworking than Tanzanians? Well, according to Pew survey findings a bigger proportion of Tanzanians (than Kenyans) believe that the best way to get ahead is through hard work.

So there is that.


An Update of Nunn’s “Slave Trades”

Recent studies on African economic history have emphasized the structural impediments to African growth, such as adverse geographical conditions and extractive colonial institutions. The evidence is mainly drawn from cross-country regressions on late 20th century income levels, assuming persistent effects of historical causes over time. But to which extent has African poverty been a persistent phenomenon? Our study sheds light on this question by providing new evidence on long-term African growth-trajectories. We show that slave trade regressions are not robust for pre-1970s GDP per capita levels, or for pre-1973 and post-1995 growth rates. We calculate urban unskilled real wages of African workers in nine British African countries 1880-1965, adopting Allen’s (2009) subsistence basket methodology. We find that real wages were above subsistence level, rose significantly over time and were, in major parts of British Africa, considerably higher than real wages in Asian cities up to, at least the 1930s. We explain the intra-African variation in real wage levels by varying colonial institutions concerning land alienation, taxation and immigration.

….slave export intensity is highly and significantly (at the 1% level) correlated to GDP per capita in 2000, but not to income levels in 1950 or 1960. In 1970 the effect is significant at the 10% level, but the coefficient is much smaller than in 2000. Column 4 to 6 shows the regression on growth rates including initial GDP per capita (ln). A regression of slave exports on per capita GDP growth is only statistically significant for the period 1973-1995, which explains why the regression on GDP per capita in 2000 is so robust. However, for the periods 1950- 1973 or 1995-2008 the correlation is insignificant and after 1995 the coefficient turns positive. Hence, the claim that Africa’s slave trades affect current economic performance is multi-interpretable.

That is Northwestern’s Marlous van Waijenberg and Utrecht’s Ewout Frankema in an interesting paper on the issue of structural impediments to economic growth in Africa.

I also found this paragraph interesting:

The welfare ratios of urban unskilled workers in pre-modern London and Amsterdam were obviously higher than in late nineteenth century British Africa. However, the average annual growth rates in Accra between 1880 and 1965 (1.17%) were comparable to the average growth rates in London (1.14%, 1840-1900). Welfare growth rates in some other countries were even higher, although it has to be said that these growth rates were affected by very low starting points. In Mauritius we observed the highest long-term growth rate (1.58%), which suggests that the Mauritian ‘Miracle’ is not just a post-colonial phenomenon.31 In sum, we find little evidence that suggests that four generations of African urban wage workers in the colonial period were trapped into persistent poverty. Welfare improvements were certainly not confined to very specific regions in British Africa or brief periods of time (such as 1945-1960). In fact, the whole idea that Africa has been the poorest and most slowly growing region since the Industrial Revolution is based on a backward extrapolation of post-1960 growth experiences without a historical empirical foundation.

The paper is not about the Nunn thesis per se, but investigates more generally whether historical moments (like the slave trade period) produced structural impediments that have made Africa perennially the slowest growing region of the world (hence the need for explaining the “Africa” dummy in popular research and thought).

I wish development economists read more history, especially economic history.