During the last week of March I participated in the 17th Annual Research Workshop of REPOA, Tanzania’s well-known research organization on poverty issues, which was held in Dar-es-Salaam. The theme of the conference, which was visited by around 200 researchers, practitioners and policy makers, was “Socioeconomic Transformation for Poverty Reduction”. The Annual Workshop of REPOA is used to disseminate research results, to debate these with policy makers, and contribute to research capacity building. I was there as discussant of various papers that were presented at the conference, on the invitation of Prof. Samuel Wangwe, Executive Director of REPOA. It was a fascinating workshop, opened by the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, H.E. Dr. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, and, amongst others the Dutch Ambassador Dr. Ad Koekkoek.

President Kikwete pointed in his speech to the very high and constant economic growth rates of around 7%  during the period 2000-2011. However, growth in the agricultural sector was much lower, and poverty reduction over the same period was much less than the overall growth rates. This theme was central in the conference, and many papers presented were looking at the quality of growth, effects of growth on poverty reduction, and on sectoral growth, in particular in the agricultural sector, in which many Tanzanians work.

Dr. Phillip Mpango, Executive Secretary of the Tanzanian Planning Commission, was the keynote speaker. He gave an overview of the Tanzanian policies in this respect and an analysis of the growth model. REPOA had invited Prof. Do Duc Dinh, Head of the Developing Economies Study Department at the Institute of World Economy in Vietnam, and Prof. Li Xiaoyun, Dean of the College of Humanities and Development at the China Agricultural University in Beijing, to discuss the keynote speech and also reflect on the introductory words of President Kikwete. The external discussants made the opening of the conference, normally not the most interesting part of such an event, into a fascinating session. The senior Chinese and Vietnamese scholars were both very critical, and contributed crucial elements of the successful “growth with poverty reduction” models of their respective countries, to juxtapose and compare with the Tanzania experience, emphasizing the leading role of the state in the transformation process and the importance of the smallholder (or peasant) sector.

Following this opening a large number of studies were presented and discussed in parallel panels. The conference was concluded in a session led by Prof. Samuel Wangwe and with final comments of my colleague Prof. Marc Wuyts. Papers can be downloaded from the following site: http://www.repoa.or.tz/index.php/events/more/the_17th_annual_research_workshop/

My stay in Tanzania was for the rest dedicated to work with REPOA and ESRF, with which we have a joint post-graduate diploma program on “poverty analysis” (ESRF/REPOA/ISS, financed by UNDP Tanzania), already since 2004.