UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Transportation and economic development in Tanzania. Mkama, Jumanne


Before economic development can take place in a country, there must be a minimal amount of social and economic infrastructure. Good transportation is regarded as one of the prerequisites to rapid economic growth. To be effective, however, it must be related to needs of the country concerned. In the early development of Tanzania, transportation facilities were built mostly for strategic and administrative purposes. Economic motives were secondary, and paramount only in cases where there was hope for immediate returns, like the exploitation of a new mine. The only other economic reason was to facilitate trade, in raw materials and manufactured goods 'between the metropolitan power, other industrialized countries, and Tanganyika. It was also believed that the provision of railways would lead to rapid economic development. However, the provision of railways in the hope that they would generate economic growth was unsuccessful. Instead, railways became a burden to the country because they operated at a loss and had to be subsidized. At the same time, the loans borrowed to build the railways had to be amortized at an annual rate of between 4-4-1/2%. Thus, the railways proved too costly a mode for initiating economic growth. The "cost of capital" used to build railways was totally beyond the means of the country in its early stages of economic growth. It crippled the financial and capital availability for economic development in general. Not only had the country limited capital for development, but other disadvantages, such as being a Mandate Territory, which resulted in further flight of capital. Thus, the total amount of capital used to repay the railway debt before 1948, diverted capital which should have been invested in other sectors of the economy to establish a base for future development . It was at this stage that roads came to be preferred as a less costly mode than railways for opening up new areas for development. The policy adopted was to provide a "country-wide Low-Cost" road system. First, this policy placed too much emphasis on building trunk roads at the expense of feeder roads. Second, it overlooked the geographical characteristics of the country. Finally, the roads which were built were of too low a standard. The net result was the road system did not provide effective links to the rural areas, the mainstay of the population and economy of the country. Also, areas with high growth potential had insufficient number of roads, while less prosperous areas were oversupplied with them. But, even more so, the roads deteriorated very fast with the rapid increase in volume of heavy vehicles and traffic. Consequently, maintenance costs rose very rapidly, calling for increased expenditure. This limited the amount of money which could be spent in further road construction, such as the building of rural feeder roads. Increased maintenance costs diverted capital resources from other sectors of the economy, thereby inhibiting balanced economic growth. In contrast, other factors, though accounting for less capital investment, have been very crucial in the economic growth of the country. The most important factor has been world prices for export crops, especially that of sisal. This crop became important after the fall of rubber prices at the beginning of this century, and not with the building of the railways to which it is usually attributed. Since then, fluctuation in the world price of sisal has affected the revenue of the country and levels of expenditure on new capital works. During the Korean boom, when prices for this crop were favourable, it provided sufficient revenue and encouraged increased expenditure in capital works, in which road development ranked very high. Other factors which accounted for a stable growth include the centralization of marketing of cash crops through cooperatives and marketing boards. The establishment of these institutions made possible the payment of high prices during years of unfavourable world prices from funds accumulated when world prices were good. This has encouraged increased agricultural production, resulting in a rise of income to the farmers and hence demand for consumer items, especially imports. These institutions also undertake to process, auction, and ship the crops of the farmers to markets overseas, in return for a minimal charge on the farmers' income. This has enabled the subsistence farmer to produce his crops at a much more economical basis than if he was on his own. Despite deficiencies in the transportation system, the economy of the country grew. But the levels of growth achieved have remained low because of inadequacies in other sectors of the economy. In agriculture, the continued use of primitive methods of production has been the major limiting factor in increased levels of production. The failure to take cognizance of these problems in the past has limited the effectiveness of transportation on economic development and has resulted in an unbalanced growth. The impact of transportation has also been limited because it depended on imports for equipment and other essentials. A local transport industry, as in the case of the developed countries, is still far from being established. This has been confined to railway repair shops, garages and gas stations. The above are the findings from the examination of the thesis of this study, in that: Rail and Road transportation as initially developed, and despite increased investment in the facilities of these two modes, was not as conducive to economic development as compared to other factors accounting for levels of economic growth achieved. In view of this, and of limited capital resources for development, increased investment and expenditure on rail and road transportation diverted scarce resources from other essential sectors of the economy, such as agriculture. Also, because the tangible benefits from rail and road transportation were less than its costs, the opportunity cost of invested capital was high. This was the case for capital invested, in railways before 1948, and in roads thereafter. This study also points to the fact that the role transportation can play in the economic development of a developing country is different from that experienced in the developed countries. In addition, in the light of growth based on planned development, a sectorial approach to transportation is not enough. Transportation has to be evaluated in terms of how it can assist in rapid fulfilment of the goals of the Five Year Plan. In making decisions on future investments in the economy, priority should be given to those sectors of the economy which are central in enabling the achievement of goals of the Five Year Plan. Within the transport sector, decisions on further investments should be based on a proper evaluation of transport needs of the country. It should also be guided by the role transportation has played in the past to assist rapid growth. For example, a closer examination and assessment of past performances of rail and roads in the development of the country will provide guidelines for a transportation system to service increased production. It will also enable the planner to discover where the deficiency lies in the economy as a whole. The inadequacy of a transportation system may be due to lack of other facilities, such as storage, or a processing plant as has been the case in some parts of Tanzania. In future, organization of transport, especially rail and road, should be pur-sued through policies which will facilitate coordination and integration of the two modes. Another immediate need is a transportation plan to assist in developing a well balanced transport system. In view of the formation of the East African Community, this should be done both at National (micro) and Regional (macro) levels. A National Transport Board should be formed to carry out the above functions. The issue of whether to develop rail or road as the most suitable mode for further development should also be properly evaluated. It would appear, however, that both modes have a role to play because of their complementary nature, the geographical characteristic of the country, and in assisting the formation of a Regional Economic Group including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Ruanda, Urundi, Zambia, Somalia and Ethiopa. Transportation should also be made an integral part of the "Ujamaa Village" planning process. Finally, there should be continuing research in appraising transportation problems in developing countries, so as to establish a theory for transport research and development.

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