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If Development Is Truly About People, Then They Must Care And Fight for It

The overarching question persists: is society genuinely prepared for development?

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During a 4,000-kilometre road journey with my two friends earlier this year, a series of observations prompted a critical inquiry: is our society adequately prepared for development?

This inquiry, distinct from the conventional considerations of policies and infrastructure, emphasises the human factor. During our journey, incidents such as buses idling on roadways adjacent to vacant bus stops and infrastructure vandalism served as catalysts for this reflection.

Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s enduring legacy is underscored by his conceptualisation of development, positing four indispensable components: people, land, clean politics, and effective leadership. 

Nyerere posited that these elements are interdependent, and any deficiency in one would adversely impact the others. Nyerere’s enumeration of these elements transcends casual mention; he ascribed profound significance to them, urging incumbent and future leaders to gauge their performance against these criteria. Within these four pillars, this discourse singles out the pivotal role of the people.

The premise posited here is that development is not solely contingent upon policy frameworks and physical infrastructure but also intricately linked to the habitual and behavioural patterns exhibited by the citizenry. 

READ MORE: Elites Like Preaching About Development. But Whose Development?

Studies have reported the substantial impact of individual and collective behaviours on the overall success or failure of corporate entities and national economies. Particularly in the public sector, where policies are translated into tangible services, employee behaviour assumes paramount importance.

Nyerere’s contention regarding the centrality of people in national development extends beyond a theoretical construct; it delves into the foundational requisites that a nation must navigate for substantive progress. 

Consider the hypothetical scenario of a nation endowed with exemplary leadership, ethical politics, and abundant land yet lacking a citizenry motivated to capitalise on opportunities through passion, positive behaviours, and skill proficiency. In such an instance, can the nation truly advance? This query demands earnest contemplation.


One of our people’s behaviours that hinders our development is wastefulness and overconsumption. Despite the scarcity of many resources, we tend to use more than we need, which can deplete resources, create and worsen inequality, and ultimately increase poverty. 

For example, in Tanzania, the excessive use of charcoal and firewood for cooking and heating has resulted in deforestation, soil erosion, and greenhouse gas emissions.

READ MORE: EU, Tanzania Awards NGOs Working on Sustainable Cooking Solutions

The government has imposed some restrictions on charcoal production and trade and encouraged using alternative energy sources such as natural gas, electricity, and solar power, especially for off-grid citizens. 

However, the excessive use of charcoal is not only driven by poverty and lack of access to cleaner cooking and lighting energy sources but also by behavioural and habitual practices. 

I grew up and visited affluent neighbourhoods where people believed that cooking with charcoal made food tastier, and that alternative cooking energy sources like electricity and natural gas were expensive and diluted the natural flavour of the food they were accustomed to.


Another behaviour that impedes our development is the tendency to resist and conform. 

From those in top leadership positions in our government and corporate structures, resisting new ideas and opportunities and conforming to outdated and harmful norms and practices have limited our potential and progress. 

READ MORE: Socialism or Not, Tanzania’s Problem Is Essentially Not One of Ideology

Resisting and conforming can foster intolerance, prejudice, and violence, undermining social cohesion and peace. 

For example, in Tanzania, some of the norms and behaviours that obstruct development are hesitancy to adopt new technologies and trends, adherence to educational curricula that do not address the urgent needs of our development agenda, such as employment opportunities creation, industrialisation and agricultural revolution, and corruption and bribery in the public sector. 

These norms and behaviours hold us back and must be challenged and changed through awareness, education, and empowerment.


A third behaviour contributing to our lack of progress is indifference to social good. Caring for social good means that people, in large numbers, conduct self-assessments of how their actions and behaviours affect others and ultimately affect national progress and well-being. 

For example, studies suggest that the average vehicular speed in Dar es Salaam was estimated at 25.6 km/hr, and it was feared that if no strategies were taken, it would drop to 10 km/hr by 2030, the vehicular speed between 20 km/hr to 30 km/hr at a distance of 25 to 30 km from the city centre. 

READ MORE: Dar To Become A Megacity. But Is It Prepared?

Within the city centre and its surroundings, the speed was reduced to between zero and 10 km/hr, with the peak in the mornings between 7.00 AM and 9.00 AM and evenings between 03.00 PM and 08.00 PM. 

It was estimated that daily losses due to traffic jams were at a whopping Sh4 billion and Sh1.44 trillion annually in Dar es Salaam alone, which was ten years ago.

Traffic jam alone increases the costs of fuel and reduces the productive time of workers. They reduce the turnover, profit margin and sales of businesses, consume a large portion of the income of low-income workers who rely on public transport, hamper mobility and accessibility of people and goods, and worsen the environmental and health conditions due to air and noise pollution.

The first question is, do ordinary citizens recognise this systemic issue, and if we do, do we care for social good, such that our actions would help ease the traffic congestion? Apparently not. 

It is a common sight for daily commuters in Dar es Salaam to be stuck in a traffic jam in the presence of traffic police, as public buses are parked on the lanes of moving traffic while the bus stops sit idly on the roadside like the notorious Mwenge Bus Stop and many others across the city. 

READ MORE: Getting Ahead or Getting Exploited?: Here Is How We Can Make Bodaboda, Bajaj Driving in Dar Better

But what astonishes many is that neither the traffic police nor the affected commuters within the buses and private cars do anything about it.


The lack of awareness of broader issues or the absence of an attitude to care truly hampers our progress as a country. If we delve deeper into it, it reflects how we elect our leaders and if we care to hold them accountable while in office. 

It boils down to how parents raise their children and whether they help them understand the intricacies and nuances of personal character for personal development and national growth. You would find this model of parenting and social relationships in almost all developed countries except for Africa.

But what can be done? Addressing these challenges requires a concerted effort to foster awareness, instil a sense of accountability, and redefine societal norms. 

While the development path may be fraught with obstacles, a collective commitment to change can pave the way for a more promising future. The overarching question persists: is society genuinely prepared for development? 

The answer hinges not only on the actions of leadership but on the collective consciousness and behaviours of the people.

Kennedy Mmari is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Serengeti Bytes, a Dar es Salaam-based communications, public relations and digital media agency. He’s available at and on X as @KennedyMmari. The opinions expressed here are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Chanzo. If you are interested in publishing in this space, please contact our editors at

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One Response

  1. 1. PEOPLE:
    As a nation, TANZANIANS have the quality of HUMANITY imbedded in their hearts; Don’t Temper With it !!!
    2. LAND:
    We have;
    And the INDIAN OCEAN,
    And the land is VERY VERY VERY FERTILE !
    NOW, Obviously we have DIRTY POLITICS and RULERS (not LEADERS !).
    And as a society, the MAASAI are good example of DEVELOPED people; they DON’T SUBSCRIBE to foreigners — very DEMOCRATIC society!!!
    (I COULD WRITE MORE, but at age 73, I consider myself a Dying Dude mustering last kicks).

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