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Ownership in the Development Discourse: A Case Study in Education in Tanzania

Today, there is a solid consensus in the international development community that “country ownership” is essential to promoting sustainable development in developing countries. Many donors also address ownership as essential to improving aid effectiveness. In this context, there have been continuous debates and emphasis on the importance of ownership. Meanwhile, the debates were further accelerated by the “Paris Declaration” to reform aid delivery and country ownership as an aid effectiveness principle. Despite various attempts to better define ownership, the notion remains unclear and debatable. Furthermore, the development discourse is still largely dominated by international donors. Consequently, the ownership agenda is yet to be fully owned by developing countries – a serious development paradox. In the context of sub-Saharan Africa, clarifying the notion of ownership is especially crucial because weak African ownership is often quoted as a major contributor to disappointing development and aid results in the region. This study explored the understanding and experiences of country ownership articulated by Tanzanian education stakeholders so as to construct a central notion of ownership in development. The findings reveal that Tanzanians have a vision that places communities and people at the core of national development in determining their own priorities and managing the local development process. Authority, autonomy, and resources are vital elements for effective ownership. The education stakeholders are, however, critical of the state of country ownership as practiced in reality. They cite the lack of decision-making power, control, and needed resources at different levels. Notably, aid dependency is perceived as a major impediment to Tanzanian ownership. There is a dire need to reconsider the ownership agenda given the apparent discrepancy between the donors’ aspirations for ownership and the reality on the ground. The dissertation argues that national stakeholders should determine what ownership fundamentally means to them and what is required for them to pursue their own decisions. Country positions must be clarified locally through broad-based discussions and reflected in their development and donors’ aid efforts to reinforce confidence and autonomy at the country level. This study also demonstrates that Tanzania has distinct and unique conditions for ownership rooted in its development history.
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