Justinian F. Rweyemamu - A Wealth of Knowledge

Justinian F. Rweyemamu – A Wealth of Knowledge

“African history at present lacks personalities, without whom history means little to many.” These are the stark words once stated by John Illife, the prominent African historian who wrote the classic ‘Modern History of Tanganyika’. I am pulled to reflect on this as we commemorate this week the 30th anniversary since the passing of Prof. Justinian Ferdinand Rweyemamu, one of the giant intellectuals produced by Tanzania. He passed away in March 30th 1982 at forty years of age.

His name resonates well with academics at ‘the hill’, as well as with the now retired civil servants who were active in the dynamic times of 1970s socialist Tanzania. Sadly, many of the younger generation are neither familiar with his name nor exposed to the outstanding ideas on economic transformation that he had advocated for Tanzania.

Rweyemamu has been an inspiring figure to me as long as I can remember. For some cosmic reasons a portion of books owned by him had accidentally ended up in my family’s book library. I remember perusing through some of these texts religiously during my childhood despite the fact that they were incomprehensible to me. A sense of joy always crept within me as I was propelled in time to the 1960s and 1970s Tanzania, the time in which Rweyemamu was most active – a time frame which in my opinion is the most exciting in the history of what we now call Tanzania.

A young Justinian Rweyemamu at Ihungo Secondary School, Bukoba, Tanzania. Photo courtesy of Rweyemamu family

Rweyemamu was born to Ferdinand Bigambo and Euphrasia Nyakato in September 28th 1942 in Katoma village, Bukoba, situated in northwestern Tanzania (then Tanganyika). As a young man, he was known by many to possess a disciplined work ethic and academic brilliance. He enrolled at St. Thomas More Secondary School (now Ihungo High School) in 1958, where he excelled in academics and held various leadership positions notably as the school’s head prefect. It is said that his exceptional performance in the Cambridge Overseas Secondary School Examination, among other things, later allowed the school to be promoted to a high school status. Among his pinnacle moments during this time was when in 1961 – the same year when Tanganyika got her independence – he mobilized the student body to organize a protest against a dramatic hike in student-fees, and in a separate episode where he sparked a student-led campaign for the recruitment of African personnel in the school management positions. These moments portray that iconoclastic image that many remember him by.

In 1962 he obtained a scholarship to pursue undergraduate studies at Fordham University in New York, USA. While there he studied economics, mathematics and philosophy and was active in the leadership of the university’s economics club. At Fordham Rweyemamu was an immediate success and graduated in 1965, a year early. During this time he had sent a letter to the government of Tanzania requesting for funding to support his postgraduate education. What came as a reply was an immediate call for him to return to Tanzania and teach in secondary schools, which were experiencing a massive shortage of teachers. He obviously had alternative plans. Instead he applied to the Harvard University graduate program in Economics, and received a fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation which at the time aimed to support the “training of talented individuals from developing countries to advance knowledge in various fields and with the aim of bringing highly trained human resources to bear on the basic problems which limit man’s well-being” (The Rockefeller Foundation, Annual Report, 1969).

He landed at Harvard University in the fall of 1965, the time when an active student body was part of the general university life and radicalism was at its peak. At Harvard he was contemporary to the Ugandan sociologist Mahmood Mamdani with whom they were part of a study group of four students forming the unofficial ‘Africa Group’. They met weekly together with radical faculty members to analytically discuss the major issues of the time: imperialism, injustice and how to liquidate underdevelopment.

Fordham University. Photo courtesy of The Maroon 1965

The Harvard economics department of 1960s was bustling with intellectual vitality and had its own share of radical economists whom I believe later influenced Rweyemamu’s approach in his analysis of Tanzania’s economic development and transformation. The major influences one can think of are the leading structural economists of the time: Albert Hirschman, Wassily Leontief, and Hollis Chenery. Wassily Leontief was the founder of input-output analysis, Hollis Chenery on growth models and Albert Hirschman on structural linkages in developing economies. The ways in which structural economists approach economic conundrums is by disaggregating descriptions of an entire economy into its constituent and study effects of individual factors and their interrelationships. This involves looking at the economy with that interdisciplinary eye, an aspect central to Rweyemamu’s problem solving as evidenced in his later roles as an academic and public intellectual. Much of what Rweyemamu ended up specializing in while at Harvard, and later on in his academic career extended on each of the aspects developed by the aforementioned intellectuals.

Rweyemamu had entered Harvard with the intention of eventually returning to Tanzania in an impactful capacity. Therefore, when it came for the time to conduct his doctoral thesis research, doors were wide open at the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM, then known as University College, Dar es Salaam). The economics department hired him as Lecturer in economics, a position that he enthusiastically fulfilled while he completed his doctoral research.

In 1970 he submitted his thesis to Harvard and defended it the following year, it was entitled ‘An Industrial Strategy for Tanzania’. Now with a PhD, it was the right time to return to Tanzania for good. His credentials were impeccable. On his return he was appointed as head of UDSM department of economics, and as dean of faculty of arts and social science. He was twenty-eight years old!

Rweyemamu’s first important academic paper was published in 1969 and was titled ‘International trade and the developing countries’. In this pinnacle essay he describes the causes of poverty in poor countries to be due to their structural dependence, which can be traced to historical relationships between colonial powers and their subjects. By dependence he means “a situation in which the economies of the periphery are conditioned by the development and expansion of the metropolitan economies to which they are subjected. Thus as a result of such dependence (based on differential, power, wealth and resources), trade relations are based on monopolistic control of the market (unequal exchange), which leads to the transfer of the surplus generated in the dependent countries to the dominant ones” (Rweyemamu, 1969).

In this analysis we see for the first time – in print in an international journal – the development of what came to be his main thesis as he examined ways poor countries like Tanzania can liquidate underdevelopment. In this article, he proposes the “less reliance on the traditional export sector under the prevailing international division of labor, and establishment of basic industries – that is, industries which produce means of production that enter into the production of every commodity directly or indirectly.” This was also the central point in his doctoral thesis and later became instrumental for his advocacy of the ‘Big Push’ in industrialization for Tanzania.

1971, PhD in Economics. Justinian Rweyemamu with colleague during his graduation ceremony at Harvard. Photo courtesy of Rweyemamu family

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, UDSM was the hotbed of intense socio-political debates, discussions and research in Africa. This was the time after the 1967 Arusha Declaration, where self-reliance and socialism was the focus of the time, and when the university led a radical critique on global capitalism. It attracted numerous scholars from all over the world who were interested in analyzing the ways at which the politically emancipated nations could free themselves from shackles of underdevelopment. John Saul, Lionel Cliffe, Walter Rodney (author of ‘How Europe underdeveloped Africa’), Clive Thomas, Giovanni Arrighi are some of the names of faculty who sparked the intellectual environment at the time. In the student body you had active members like Issa Shivji (author of the classic work ‘Silent class struggles in Tanzania’), Henry Mapolu, Karim Hirji, Yoweri Museveni and others who challenged the faculty, university administration, and even the government through their radical student magazine ‘Cheche’ and their Sunday ideological classes. It was also not uncommon to see posters advertising talks by charismatic personalities such as Stokely Carmichael, Eduardo Mondlane, C.L.R James or Cheddi Jagan! These were exciting – but also one can imagine – hectic times to be the dean of the faculty of social science. (For a detailed analysis on the UDSM student movement in this era see: Hirji K, Cheche – Reminiscences of a Radical Magazine, 2010)

As dean, Rweyemamu spearheaded the restructuring of the taught curriculum at the university, charting its path away from the previously highly specialized and discipline-based degree structure – a system mostly inherited from colonial days. This experiment aimed at giving a multifaceted education that provoked problem-solving skills with a local bent, rather than one based on certificate seeking only. This push in transformation was heavily debated at the time. Proposals from the top-down were not easily accepted without debate from students or even within factions of the faculty. The university leadership was faced inherently with ferocious opinions from students who felt the need to be engaged in shaping the policy of their university.

During this restructuring episode Rweyemamu argues that the basis of university should be: “responsiveness to the needs of Tanzania by providing our students with the ability to understand Tanzania’s problems and to contribute towards their solution. It should be established with the expectation of preparing students to think for themselves, addressing themselves to local problems first and using their local experience to contribute to universal knowledge” (Rweyemamu, 1971).

On how an education policy should be shaped to create a competitive economy, he elaborates prophetically on a separate occasion that:  “… African leaders must pay more than lip service to Adam Smith’s dictum that wealth of nations depends on ‘the skill, dexterity and judgment with which its labor is generally applied’. This does not mean merely the setting up of more schools, the responsibility that all African governments have not only accepted but carried out with vigor and energy. The school system tends to superimpose forms of knowledge on existing fold knowledge without necessarily deepening the latter. As a consequence little new useful knowledge is produced. There is need to establish mechanisms and institutions that will deepen and expand Africa’s stock of knowledge. Peasants, for instance, are inclined to augment their knowledge primarily from the most successful practitioners of their occupation. What must be underscored is that the basic task of education is the transfusion of values, but values cannot help us much to pick our way through life unless they become our own, a part to say of our mental makeup. An educational system has to give the people of a given culture the ability to make the world and their own lives intelligible. It is through the creation of intelligibility that meaningful education spurs the outburst of daring, initiative, invention and constructive activity” (Rweyemamu, Baltimore MD, 29.03.1981)

As a result of such visions as an educator and in his capacity as dean, a number of common courses notably ‘Development Studies’ and ‘East African Societies and Environment’ were initiated. These courses aimed at invoking in students the necessity to gain an elaborate understanding to the historical, cultural, and physical conditions of their own society and their interplay for the purpose of abolishing underdevelopment. These results were of course possible due to the dynamic contributions from progressive scholars at the institution at the time.

By the time Rweyemamu was thirty-one, a revised edition of his doctoral thesis was published into book form and was titled ‘Underdevelopment and Industrialization in Tanzania: a study of perverse capitalist industrial development’. In the book Rweyemamu delves into the economic history of Tanzania and comes up with elaborate ideas on economic development through industrialization. Again, in this book he emphasizes the key strategy to be the establishment of machine tool industries. These are industries that maximize forward and backward linkages in a developed economy (as initially delineated by Hirschman).

In this work he critiques the policy options employed by the government in the early post-independence years to be those which created a ‘perverse capitalist system’: “There was in fact a belief that the major impulse of the economy was to come from the foreign sector, regardless of the form of that sector. That is to say, there was no expressed intention to alter the ratio of foreign trade to the national product, nor was there a change in the composition of that trade or the importance of trading partners contemplated… The underlying assumption of these early policies was the belief that a temporary sacrifice of economic independence (i.e. by maintaining colonial ties) would, by attracting significant western capital, produce a quicker rate of economic development that would lead ultimately to independence” (Rweyemamu, 1973).

He outlines further that these structures are based on “ dependency on foreign markets for the sale of their output and the provision of basic inputs, technological dependency on the advanced countries and dependency on foreign (private) entrepreneurs – which work in such a way as to produce perverse capitalist industrial growth. Such growth is characterized by the establishment of a productive structure that (a) is biased against the capital goods industries, thus limiting industries contributing to the production of farm equipment and transport facilities, (b) utilizes relatively more capital-intensive techniques of production, thus compounding the problem of urban unemployment and the widening urban-rural differentials, (c) has limited linkage effects, especially with respect to the traditional sector, (d) fosters lopsided development both in terms of geographical location within the country, and sectorial distribution of consumer goods output favoring luxuries, and (e) sets up uncompetitive oligopolistic structures. It is thus obvious that the system that will be adopted in order to overcome underdevelopment must be capable of liquidating the dependency relationship.”

Justinian Rweyemamu (center). Photo courtesy of Rweyemamu family

Contrary to most of our preconceptions about socialism, one should note that Rweyemamu does not outright reject an enterprising economy for surplus or for exports, or the interaction with the world markets. He viewed trade as an important factor to Tanzania’s development; he only advocates the revamping of Tanzania’s economic structure to meet the prescribed goals. He elaborates on this as: “the present pattern of Tanzania exports is such as to continue fragmenting the national economy thus widening the gap between the structure of production and structure of consumption. Almost all exportable goods have no home base; they are not an extension of the internal market. They are rather specifically produced for the external market. This is no doubt the major cause of unequal exchange and its manifestation viz. worsening terms of trade, violent fluctuations of export prices, etc. In order to rectify this pattern we must endeavor to have exports that are an extension of the domestic market as much as possible in the future. The policy with regards to exports therefore is not one of reducing total exports in total product, nor that of ‘inward looking.’ The proper policy will have to look at the nature of the exports themselves. With respect to existing exports we should try to find as much domestic use as it is technologically possible. A commodity-by-commodity study will reveal that there are many such possibilities that have not been exploited largely because our concern has been directed to the traditional export-oriented markets…

It can safely be asserted, for example, that production should be geared to producing basic goods, basic in the sense that they are used in the production, directly or indirectly of all the other goods…

The means of production necessary for guaranteeing the reproduction and expansion of the basic goods have often been given scant attention in our development plans. But these are the only goods that can transform our economy from a dependency relationship to one of economic independence. They include machines and machine tools to make textile machinery, construction materials, hospital equipment, buses, water pipes, tractors etc…

To build such industries implies starting almost from scratch. The technologies chosen must therefore bear this constraint in mind. By a combination of imaginative improvisation and adaption, the absorption of scientific knowledge from abroad, an emphasis on technical education, tolerance of initial imperfections by the customers, and accumulated experience and confidence coming from self-achievement, Tanzania should be able to establish a strong and healthy technology-producing sector over a period of fifteen to twenty years. The Soviet Union, Japan and China have demonstrated in this century that the transition from a largely imitative to an innovatory role can be accomplished in this way. This implies that at least 30 per cent of investment spending must be concentrated in this sector or at least the proportion to be invested in this sector must be large enough to be overcome the ‘threshold’ below which gradual changes dissipate without tangible results to give emergence to a new qualitative situation where economic development becomes a self-feeding process” (Rweyemamu, 1973).

In order to effectively implement these far-sighted recommendations, from 1973 up to 1977, Rweyemamu entered the civil service as Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Planning. It was in that capacity when Mwalimu Julius Nyerere appointed him as chief economic advisor. His goal was to find the middle ground between the socialist ideology of the time and his ideas that prioritized large investments for the development of basic goods industries. A long-term ‘basic industry strategy’ was adopted by the government for its Third Five Year Plan (1976-1981). However, much of what was proposed for industry was not effectively implemented, or at least in the scale envisioned by Rweyemamu. A shortage in foreign exchange was imminent, major cutbacks in government spending began, and an ensuing war with Uganda debilitated the economy.

Justinian Rweyemamu (second from left) during one of the government of Tanzania meetings. Notice Benjamin W Mkapa (far right). Photo courtesy of Rweyemamu family

Rweyemamu’s activity in Tanzania had caught the attention of many abroad. He began to actively involve himself at an international stage to champion economic development ideas for the so-called ‘third world’. In 1975, he became the member of the Third World Forum, which brought together a considerable number of intellectuals from the developing world to illustrate the way towards economic progress. Some of the prominent members of this group included, Ismail Sabri Abdalla, Samir Amin and Mahbub ul Haq. He also acted as president of the Council for the Development of Social Science in Africa (CODESRIA) between 1979 and 1981.

In 1977 he left the country to take up a long-term role internationally as member of staff of the Brandt Commission, chaired by Willy Brandt. This was the special body of experts summoned in a similar fashion to the recent Tony Blair Commission on Africa. Its aim was to study “the grave global issues arising from the economic and social disparities of the world community and to suggest ways of promoting adequate solutions to the problems involved in development and in attacking absolute poverty” (The Brandt Papers, 1980). The conclusions based on the work of the committee were reported in 1980 in a book titled ‘North South: A program for survival’.

When the work of the commission (phase I) ended in 1980, Rweyemamu moved to the United Nations Headquarters in New York to work in the office of the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN. He was the principal officer for development and international cooperation. While at this office he continued to push for the establishment of a ‘New International Economic Order’ whose main tenets was to revamp the balance of power in international trade between the advanced and poor nations. By this time he had written and edited four books, and at least fifty academic papers.

On March 30th 1982 in New York, Justinian Rweyemamu passed away due to complications from cancer. He is survived with Anna and Joan and his children Rushuma, Kemilembe, Kokuhirwa, Rwegoshola, Rwiza, Nyangoma and Nyakato, who now live in Arusha, Tanzania and New York, USA.

The amount of vision that Justinian Rweyemamu exemplified in his short life is admirable. Men of such great heights ought to be celebrated.

The author would like to thank Prof. M Mbilinyi, Prof. D. Rwegasira and the UDSM Economics Department for providing input for this piece.

  *    *    *

Rweyemamu, Justinian F. (1969). International trade and developing countries. The Journal of Modern African Studies, 8(2)

Rweyemamu, Justinian F. (1971). Reorganisation of the Faculty of Arts and Social Science: background, issues, principles and prospects. Taamuli: A Political Science Forum. 1(1)

Rweyemamu, Justinian F. (1973). Underdevelopment and Industrialization in Tanzania: A Study of Perverse Capitalist Development. Nairobi: Oxford University Press

Rweyemamu, Justinian F. (1981). African Natural Resources and African Economic development, paper presented to Diversified Systems Group, Inc. Baltimore MD, USA.

Joji was born and grew up in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He graduated with a B.Sc in Biochemistry in Germany, and is now pursuing a Masters degree in Microbiology & Immunology at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland . Joji is particularly interested in matters related to global health, and basic science research that tackles public health challenges. He is engaged in mentoring Tanzanian students in higher education issues, most notably at the Kibaha High School. In this capacity, Joji blogs with Vijana FM about scientific research and development, and how youth can gain greater access to higher learning.


  1. chambi 7 years ago

    At last umeandika hii kitu, safi sana aisee, nimei-shout out at http://udadisi.blogspot.com/2012/03/remembering-justinian-rweyemamu-wealth.html

    errata: hilo jina la kwanza la mamdani huwa linatuchanganya wengi, it is actually mahmood not mahmoud – nakumbuka nililikosea hadi kwenye application yangu!

  2. Dastan Kweka 7 years ago

    Justinian was such a guru. This article is so informative and basically his(Justinian) ideas are much more relevant today as they were in 1970`s. We have not yet managed to break away from dependence. Reading the essence of Ujamaa as an attempt to free our economy, one looks back with nostalgia and forward with disappointment.We have lost the track of our struggle.

    His life was a gift and so is his ideas.

  3. Issa shivji 7 years ago

    I really enjoyed reading this. it is great. Once i suggested to our Uni Admin to establish a Chair in economic development in the name of Justinian Rweyemamu. Instead they thought it fit to multiply Mwalimu Nyerere chairs by establishing two more chairs in the name of Mwalimu. So we have now vigoda vitatu katika kijiji kimoja!!

  4. marijani 7 years ago

    nice piece! it good to be proud of our own guru

  5. Kati 7 years ago

    Very inspirational and I wish there was more written on people like the late Prof. Rweyemamu. How many more like him have come and gone yet few of us will ever know of them?

  6. Emmanuel Muganda 7 years ago

    It is true the good always die young.

  7. Student 7 years ago

    Thank you for this crucial history lesson. It would be great to see Prof Rweyemamu’s work on more digital platforms, like Google Scholar and Wikipedia 🙂 Increasingly these platforms are making important works available to everyday scholars who can use this knowledge. Maybe in this way the work by him and those he inspired can live on.

  8. Author
    joji 7 years ago

    Thank you for the feedback. There is a lot which was not touched in this space. However, the family is planning to assemble a collection of his hard-to-find essays and talks that will come out as a follow-up to ‘Third World Options‘.

    @chambi, thanks for the shout-out 🙂 Nashukuru pia kwa masahihisho.

  9. SN 7 years ago

    Joji, asante sana mzee!! Tena, asante sana. Wale “vijana wabishi wa siku hizi” nadhani wanatamani wangekuwepo enzi hizo…

    As AK suggested, maybe you should put it up on Wikipedia.

  10. komuntabi 7 years ago

    Excellent piece! Though he was my in-law I never understood his brilliance & motivation until now. Note: you forgot to mention his daughter Kokuhirwa (Koku) who resides in Arusha.

  11. Author
    joji 7 years ago

    Komuntabi. Asante kwa hilo kumbusho.

  12. Rushuma (Michael) 7 years ago

    Joji- I am biased being his son, but i feel that you have outlined his life in a manner consistent with his beliefs. By pointing out his accomplishments and struggles, you clearly outline the unfinished work that still exists. I am grateful to you for acknowledging his life’s work

  13. Jovin 7 years ago

    I am learning new thing about Tanzania, when I remember this Prof.

  14. blandina 7 years ago

    Nice piece joji! Asante sana.

  15. Hyperkei 7 years ago

    Kazi nzuri sana.

    Itakuwa vyema kama Vijanafm itaweza kuendeleza hii kazi na kuandika biographies za watu wengine pia.

  16. Thank you very much Joji. This is a great piece of work which is well researched. I had the opportunity to be taught by him in 1970/71 at BA level, and 1972/73 for my MA in Economics, and also for Ph.D. as my supervisor jointly with Prof. Amartya Sen (1975-79). He had met Prof. Sen in 1973 and was so impressed by his intellect that he requested him to allow me as a junior academic to go and study under him at the London School of Economics (LSE). As Justinian Rweyemamu excelled in academia he also became Permanent Secretary in the Ministry responsible for Planning at the age of 32 years. He managed preparation of the Third Five Year Plan (1976-81) highlighting the Basic Industry Strategy. He was a great scholar Tanzania should be proud of. I support Prof. Shivji’s suggestion that a professorial chair would be appropriate, in fact ideal, for this great scholar and exemplary contributor to knowledge as well as to public service.

  17. Karim Hirji 7 years ago

    Please publish this bio in a booklet form. Rweyemamu’s 1973 book needs to be compulsory reading for all economics students in Tanzania. Yet, realities of life must be stated as I recall two Rweyemamus — a superb, critical economist laying bare the realities of African under-development, and one who began to compromise his stand as he joined the state bureaucracy and institutions of the imperialists like the Brandt commission (the Blair commission is also an imperialist tool). As we remember the good things our heroes and friends have done, let us not set aside our critical thinking facilities. Having said that, I also firmly support the proposal to set up a Justinian Rweyemamu Chair at UDSM.

  18. Author
    joji 7 years ago

    Thank you Prof. Shivji, Prof. Wangwe, and Prof. Hirji for your insights. I will try to organize a petition for such a memorial chair, which I also agree UDSM needs.

    Hyperkei, tutaangalia uwezekano huo. Ila pia wewe msomaji inabidi hii iwe changamoto kwako. Wengi tunafahamu mashujaa wachache mno. Tutamtaja Nyerere, kisha Kinjekitile, Mkwawa, na wengine wawili au watatu. Baada ya hapo inakuwa shida kupata majina zaidi au simulizi hakika kuhusu michango yao kwa nchi yetu. Historia zao zisipowekwa katika maandishi, mwisho wa siku ni wachache watawafahamu, au yale yatakayokumbukwa mengi yatakuwa rahisi kuyabatili ikitegemea na mapenzi ya msimulizi.

  19. Anar Rahemtullah 7 years ago

    I was heading the Deparment of Economics at Aga Khan Mzizima School, Dar from 1971 -1976. I can recall how we used to discuss the ideas and suggestions regarding causes of underevelopment of Mr. Rweymamu and also those of other authors and how the imbalance in international trade prevailing at that time can be rectified.
    I had an intellectually vibrant group of students who took an active interest in this topic particularly and we also used to discuss a lot that came in the local papers, intenational magazines (Time & Newsweek & Economist etc). I am missing those times now. Where are my students now? Perhaps in some good positions from where they can continue to follow the footsteps of Mr. Rweymamu. That is his legacy.

    So, perhaps it was not just the leadership of that time that his ideas influenced but also the future leadership.

  20. Arthur MacEwan 7 years ago

    Forty plus years ago, four graduate students came into my office at Harvard and asked me if I would do a special reading course with them. The four were Justinian Rweyemamu, Mahmood Mamdani, Jim Ault and Ivory Robinson. They wanted to study the political economy of countries of East Africa, and they wanted to do so from a “radical” perspective.

    While I viewed myself then—and still do today—as a radical political economist, a Marxist, who studied the economies of low-income countries, I knew very little about Africa. So we made a deal: They would teach me about the countries of East Africa and I would teach them about radical approaches to economic development. At least from my perspective, it was a very good deal. I learned a great deal about Tanzania (Justinian), Uganda (Mahmood), Zambia (Jim), and Kenya (Ivory). And, from learning the experiences of these countries, I also greatly enhanced my understanding of the political economy of development. I hope these four then-students got as much out of our sessions as I did!

    Our reading course was not only a very positive educational experience, but it was also a lot of fun. At that time at universities in the United States and elsewhere, the high level of political action created a context in which efforts to find new ways, radical ways, to understand economic change, were exciting and engaging.

    After all these years, it is difficult recall the contributions of each individual in the group. However, I do recall that Justinian’s work had a particular impact on us because, at that time, Tanzania was widely viewed as offering a different approach to post-colonial efforts at economic development. He was able to give us all insights on what was happening there, why these efforts were underway, and how they might (but only might) lead in a positive direction.

    We didn’t spend all our time simply on political economy. One of the things I took away from the group was the personal stories of the lives of Justinian and the others. And these stories, important in themselves, enhanced our understanding of the broader experiences of the countries we were studying. I recall, in particular, Justinian’s own unusual route to his elite education at Harvard–from his village, through a Catholic school, and then to college, and graduate school in the states. His story was of course an exceptional one, but exceptional stories often shed light on the more general features of society. His story was also one that demonstrated a remarkable degree of perseverance!

    After Justinian left Harvard, he and I lost touch. I was, however, able to follow from afar his career in Tanzania, his rise to an important role in shaping economic policy. I always wondered if he had been able to carry any of the ideas we developed in our little reading group into his policy role in Tanzania. When I learned of his untimely death, I was quite sad. He was an exceptional person—smart, interesting and nice. Unfortunately, we can only wonder what he would have done in later years.

    • Isaac Ngassa 4 years ago

      he started from scratches ,he is a symbolic figure for most of AFRICAN YOUTH who come from a normal background

  21. Hafiz Juma 7 years ago

    Joji, this truly was a great read. I’ve been trying to find a good synopsis on JR’s life and career (Wikipedia left me wanting) and this certainly was helpful and inspiring. I do think it is important to have more “national personalities” (I use this label with some apprehension) beyond the mainstay of Mwalimu.

    I think these kind of narratives of achievement, struggle and passion are the things that inspire hope and desire beyond the glitz of media.

    Once again, great read. I am on a mission to get my hands on a copy of Justinian’s thesis!

  22. Mabula Clement 7 years ago

    Really, Prof Rweyemamu is worthy remembering! I wish he lived to this moment and help to address the economic challenges facing Tanzania today. I hope there is a lot of unknowns about what happened in the history of Tanzania, especially after the independecy. We need to search out and find the hiden treasuries like this. Thank you very much George for the inspiring piece of work you have done.

  23. Shaban daffa 7 years ago

    Its my second time to hear the name but it’s the first time to understand how this young interlectual deserve the pg in the history of Tanzania .bravo

  24. florian rweyemamu 7 years ago

    Good work.What we really miss as Africans is to honour the best brains. I used to hear the works of Justinian Rweyemamu from the narrations of my own late Father, Robert Rweyemamu. ( his mate at now Ihungo high School, ). Now after reading this piece, I am really grateful.

  25. Turi 7 years ago

    What is to be said about such important academic achievements with regards to women in TZ? Do they have equal participation? This Daily News article claims they do not: “The gender roles in our communities are affecting the participation of women in science related courses as experienced in this college where science subjects are associated with masculinity” (read full article here: http://bit.ly/IBq9Km)

  26. Abertus Paschal 7 years ago

    I have been inspired by this Prof. Rweyemamu.
    In previous I thought my Bachelor degree is enough but there is a great importance of persuing Master degree and PhD.

  27. Musagasa M.I.N 6 years ago

    Sikumjua nguli huyu kabla; nilivutwa kumtafuta baada ya kukuta jina lake likitajwa na Prof. Ali Mazrui katika kitabu chake World and the Black Experience kama miongoni mwa wasomi wa kiafrika waliojadili majaaliwa ya Afrika. Lililonivuta zaidi ni kuona jina lake likitajwa pamoja na majina makubwa kama Samir Amin na Walter Rodney. Kabla sikujua kama Tanzania tuliwahi kuwa na msomi wa kalba hii ya kujivunia. Miaka alobaini ya maisha yake amefanya kila kitu katika “academia” na siasa za ndani na za kiulimwengu. kumfahamu kwangu leo kumeongeza idadi ya “role models” wangu.

  28. katto philbert 6 years ago

    i have read this article and become impressed with prof i hope one day i will be like him since when i read his profile i realize that Tanzania and Africa in general is not only about Nyerere or Nkurumah there are other prominent figure like prof Rweyemamu who are supposed to be promoted on all effort they did to this world and country at large

  29. George Gaudence Kayingi 6 years ago

    Such an insipirational story of late Prof. Rweyemamu. In his only 40 years of life, he managed to contribute so much to our nation.RIP Prof.

  30. Tesha 5 years ago

    nimeipenda kama mwanafunzi nitajitahidi kufuatilia articles zako mbalimbali Joji!

  31. Nico Malik 4 years ago

    This article has made my day. I feel so blessed and honored to reading this article and getting to know this prominent scientist. I have read the comments that have been shared by distinguish Professors and Drs. I have tried to look search his publications online but all in vein, Like you said Joji, it will be so interesting to see his publication available online for us young scientists to read and understand those who have represented our county like the late Prof. Rweyemamu. I wish to see more stories of this kind rather than story za majungu na kukatishana tamaa. Let me go back to the drawing board, in the coming few years, I just hope to see articles like these writing about ME…. ALUTA CONTINUA…

  32. Kalokola 4 years ago

    asante sana but sioni update zako upo kweli???

  33. Ayubu Massau 4 years ago

    I noticed that , in Tanzania and Africa in general we have something to proud, I think its a proper time to utilize effectively the ideas of our great African scholar thanks , Mr joji for remembering us a great story from giant economist Justinian Rweyemamu

  34. Isaac Ngassa 4 years ago

    after what I read of professor Justinian Rweyemamu ,I real have come into great admiration with this such great African figure #he lived & thank you very much Mr joji for this wonderful artical

  35. Augustine Mutakyahwa 4 years ago

    Thanks Joji, excellent research. Imenikumbusha shule yangu, tangu nasoma shule ndogo kabisa kule kijijini nikilelewa na bibi yangu kipenzi. Baadaye nikapata bahati ya kwenda shule za mission na baadaye Chuo kikuu. Ila linalonijia ni pale nimejiunga na Chuo Kikuu pale California 2004 na kuchukua kozi ya Uchumi kwenye shahada ya uzamili! Economics, is something that once you read, you end up asking yourself what heck! Inabidi nirudi tena shule pengine naweza kujifunza zaidi ya Prof J. Rweyemamu. Swali la msingi ni, wapi wanauchumi Tanzania ambao kwa gharama zenu au za serikali mmepata ufahamu zaidi, wakati taifa linakosa michango yenu?!!

    • Sungusia 3 years ago

      Sir, thanks for your comment. To be honest, I first heard the name Justinian Rweyemamu from Marc Wuyts. Marc has been involved in organizing a Post-graduate diploma in Poverty Analysis (ISS, REPOA, ESRF) until recently. He even confirmed Prof. Wangwe comment in this post. I am delighted to have met him.

  36. Nikubuka Philemon Shimwela 4 years ago

    I was an undergraduate student at the University of Dar es Salaam from July 1970 to March 1973 and I attended Dr. Rweyemamu’s economics classes. He was a brilliant lecturer. His mathematics/econometrics genius stood him in excellent stead. I remember one afternoon in 1972 he took issue with an econometrics presentation by another twenty-something old Dr. Marc Wuyts and the two stood together at the blackboard in one of the lecture theatres to battle it out. It was a clash of intellectual giants that I have the fondest memories of to date. He had a quality of speed and accuracy in his thinking and writing that was the envy of many of his contemporaries.
    I then joined DEVPLAN as an economist. When he was appointed our Permanent Secretary he asked me to teach part time at the Hill as his tutorial assistant. I did that for two academic years 1973/74 and 1974/75 and had to quit because of the growing workload at the Ministry. Prof. Rweyemamu was an unparalleled mentor.
    I recall one instance of his intellectual depth at the Ministry which left another lasting impression on me. In late 1974 the Government invited Prof. Turner to review the 1967 Incomes, Wages and Price Policy with financial support from the ILO. The consultant produced his Report in early 1975. Prof. Rweyemamu decided the matter was important enough to deserve his personal attention so he took it up himself. Within a week he produced a rejoinder and commentary (longer than the Consultant’s Report), complete with policy proposals, assignment of responsibilities and an implementation schedule. His draft memo was then shared with us and later submitted to and approved by Cabinet as was – literally. He did not stay long at DEVPLAN before moving to Ikulu to serve as Mwalimu’s Personal Assistant for Economic Affairs but he certainly left an indelible legacy at the Ministry.
    That was the Justinian Rweyemamu I partly knew, whose death, at the tender age of 40, robbed us of an asset of unfathomable value. In my opinion even a posthumous professorial chair at the Hill would not be enough honour to this fallen son of our Motherland.
    May His Soul Rest in Eternal Peace!

  37. Egino Millanzi 3 years ago

    Very inspirational biography and achievements story to young Tanzanians, we need new prof Justinian Rweyemamu to stimulate industrial and economic development in our country, may his soul rest in piece

  38. Erick Ishengoma 3 years ago

    Having read inspirational Rweyemamu\\’s bibliography, all that can be altered is go forward strong mind of great thinkers and excelled academia from Tanzania. But the most significant and problematic,just to find it as a very serious anomaly is the power of referencing that has not given enough acknowledgement from internal excelled guru from Tanzania….. at least we are to let young generation to learn that internal great thinkers have done A,B,C than singlisation individual political past. this will sound like who is who in Tanzania and did what! for I think would extend an cultivate mind of young generation keep extract gingantic ideas. yes, referencing from whoever is important especially foreign thoughts but the danger is that if we have not done enough of balancing or even making insight of marginalised world be ahead, would create even foreign environment which basically surpass of African particularly Tanzania of asymmetrical economies.

  39. Gabriel Mafie 3 years ago

    Please..anyone with Prof. Justinian thesis “an industrial strategy for Tanzania”???

  40. Mwapes 2 years ago

    Its good to have historical background of our educators, we should also use all published books and journals that had been written by them, in order to educate new generation, at the same time to take an action to of their suggestion to boost our country economy.

  41. emiliamaingu 1 month ago



  1. […] Justinian Rweyemamu – A wealth of knowledge Tweet Tagged with: History • Tanzania  […]

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    […] Justinian F. Rweyemamu – A Wealth of Knowledge […]

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