Zanzibar Institute for Social Research:

21 04 2010

Dr Ahmed Gurnah

Dr. Ahmed Gurnah
Department of Education
Sheffield City Council

Paper presented to the International Conference on
The History & Culture of Zanzibar,
Zanzibar, 14-16 December, 1992.

Zanzibar Institute for Social Research (ZISR): Zanzibar Institute for Social Research
A Proposal


The need to have an Institute in Zanzibar has become overwhelming, for Zanzibar is a country with long involved history, and mature culture. It had from centuries back developed subtle class hierarchies and political organizations through the proceeds of local and international, trade, stable agriculture, and small scale related industries. It had champions the development of Kiswahili, innovative architecture and a unique population.

From the 1964 Revolution, the balance of all of these was changed dramatically. Not least, the revolution announced the introduction of political and economic system that more directly addressed the majority of citizens. But for the people, the state, its bureau, the party, or individual, achieves their aspirations, it become even more necessary to failure monitored. There is therefore, an overwhelming need that old ideas be reviewed and new, local and relevant ones be developed through research. ZISR will provide a framework for such work.

Recent changes and work Implications.

In the last years Zanzibar has experienced considerable changes in the following areas:

Economic infrastructure employment and production patterns;
Political system and social administration;
Class hierarchies development and legitimation;
Social and ethnic patterns, settlement and accommodation;
Culture pattern, production and expression;
Educational aspirations and modes of delivery;
Housing need, ownership building, planning and administration;
Linguistic development and transformation;
Population patterns and profiles;
Land tenure, ownership, use and cultivation;
Marketing and distribution of produce;
Emigration and immigration policies;
Leisure industries and take up;
People’s aspirations and ideas
And yet few of these change have been studied systematically or have had their consequence evaluated. There is little doubt, however, that these changes have themselves had a significant impact on people’s standard and quality of life and have
set limits to them and the themselves had a significant impact on people ‘s standard and quality of life and have set limits to them and the state’s ability to mange its internal and external affairs.

The absence of reliable scientific information on inflation, employment and production patterns, parallel economy, for example, are all factors which reduce the states ability to control or improve the economy. The same can be said about production psychology, trade, education, health and so on. The absence of scientific information and appropriate action in turn makes people despair or cynical and renders the task of improving their lives that much more difficult.

Why have an Institute?

In general terms, unless the people themselves understand and articulate there needs scientifically, they will be in no position to improve their situation or insist that the state responds to those systematically. This information is not just political and administrative, but sociological. The task of this research is not to define political objectives for the state or oversee administrative processes, but to clarify confusions, obviate inconsistencies, and stimulate new ideas for the benefit of the public and elected politicians: to gather data and develop analyses for democracy and effective government.

Social research helps to the limits and establishes a framework for what is possible and desirable and then it is up to the people and state to decide. Research also points to alternative models, cheaper ones, more complex or simpler ones, most importantly, relevantly, relevant ones. Furthermore, unlike politicians and administrators who have to respond to immediate pressures, social analysts who have space to see problems to their logical conclusions? They have the time to examine the history and context of problems to the good ones the opportunity to come up with appropriate solution.

The Institute, therefore, can be justified on strategic, educational, political and pragmatic grounds, to serve and the state to serve people in the promotion of democracy and responsibility:

(a) Assist in the Nation’s strategic planning.

The partnership between the state and people works when it is based on goodwill, sound data, a confident population and a strategic approach to governances. Their fore, some of the state’s planning needs can be met by the Institute:

(i) Production data to
Provide politicians and administrations with reliable information for decision making.
Improve targeting of resources and avoid wastage.
Give the state greater control of its physical and people resources the service of people.
Generate fairer criteria for use of public resource.
Assist the state to meet its responsibilities above;

Analyzing Need and Research Appropriate Responses.

Analysis the most effective and economic use of public resources.
Develop long term planning and ensure a tight relationship between policy, and feed back on delivery.
Gather data which anticipates future problems and how to deal with them.
Develop a shared understanding of what is sought.
Research on private sector practices and conduct;

(iii) Evaluation and Monitoring.

Asses mass response to government policies and function as one of the “think tanks” for the state.
Identify clear objectives and targets for government programmers.
Evaluate general effectiveness of public programmers.
Monitor progress and identify blockages
Prepare for the next planning process and appropriate response to public criticisms.
Education and Training:

The existence of the institute will make an important contribution towards the development of Education and training in Zanzibar.
Body of knowledge will be created by the production of analyses and record of important events.
Relevant educational, social, analytical and local material for school and colleges to use.
Publication and organization of seminars for the discussion and assessment of this material.
Context for links with Tanzania and International academic community:

Opportunity for learning will be increased

Provide possibility for further training for Zanzibar graduates and save money send them abroad.
Attract funding from abroad to improve education.
Provide a context for civil servants, teachers and other professional to carry out useful concrete research and improve their own leaning.

Create a sense of responsibility and a curiosity to find out.
Develop high level local expertise presently very scarce.
Develop a focus of education activities which in the future can provide a nucleus for a post graduate institute and university college.
A context for initiating and managing important social debates.

Democracy, progress and independence

Nationwide discussion of objectives which may be stimulated by the Institute will contribute towards the development of the democratic process.

People Power.

It will increase knowledge and improve data upon which honest debates are based.
Increase mass participation in informed social and political decisions.
Reduce slight of hand dismissal of public concern of absence of scientific data.
Maximize social, political communication within Zanzibar and with the world outside;

Independence from and a constructive Relative Relationship with outside Experts

While it is important to have contact and exchange ideas with experts from abroad, it is also crucial that Zanzibar have the ability to make independent judgment. The institute will, therefore, provide a context for:
A critical check on experts from abroad, many of whom know very little about the local conditions but have a lot to offer in general and comparative terms.
Equalize Zanzibar relations with them and generate a productive dialogue.
Have standards from which to assess other contributions and advice;

Challenge to prejudice

The enlightened work which will emerge from the institute can factually help challenge long term prejudices and create the climate for progressive action with regard to:
Regional group’s e. g Wapemba, country folk.
Woman and other social groups.
Greater knowledge will in no doubt improve inter group understanding and increase opportunities for resolving some of the hostilities.

Focus of Talent.
The setting up of the Institute will focus local and outside talent for the benefit of Zanzibar.

Local talent can be pulled together as described under Education and Training.

Zanzibaris Abroad

In the last 30 years many Zanzibar’s have developed professional careers abroad in Europe, North America and other Third World countries. Some of them have reached senior positions in their careers and carry a lot of experience and knowledge which can be of great benefit to their country of origin.

Furthermore, the majority still views Zanzibar with warmth and wish to make a contribution through their social scientific, health, educational, technological expertise etc. The shot term visits or research work probably at no cost to Zanzibar by raising funding through their own institutes.

Other Researchers from Abroad

Many academics, especially from Europe and America, would be interested in researching some aspects of Zanzibar. While the information gathered would be published to advance their careers, it would also be available to Zanzibaris. I have discussed this possibility already with some academics in British universities, and they gave clear and strong indication of their interest to participate.


The approach of the Institute has to be scientific, aiming to assist and not interfere with or distaste on the should perhaps be on social policy and concrete empirical research. Theoretical work, at this early stage, should be about improving research methods and concrete analysis. May be a latter stage of the Institutes development, it can widen its remit to purely academic research.

If government appoints a Director, one resident researcher and an administrator, this will provide a nucleus for the Institute’s activities;

Subsequently, the Institute can be run and grow initially at no additional coast to the state through short term secondments from various government departments. The resident staff can assist the seconded from civil service and teaching Institutions.
Arrangements could be made to accredit their work at Dar-es-salaam University via unit accreditation and accreditation of prior learning, to build up to postgraduate qualifications.

As previously suggested, a lot of work could also be done through seminars, work shop, short courses, day conferences, in habitation and so on. Some of this work could also be accredited to build up towards an undergraduate degree or as part of residential work for an external degree programme with

Dar-es-salaam University or other university abroad. Outside researchers could be invited on a regular basis, bringing their own financing, to carry out research which can be carefully negotiated with them.


The Government need only seek initial finance for the director, one researcher and administrative support. Money for this could be sought for the first 2 years from various sources.

Tanzanian Government.
Dar es salaam University and other East African Universities.
Various International Research Agencies.
Various International charities, if targeted at issue that interest them e. g poverty, malnutrition, heath, children and so on.
Displacement of costs to Zanzibar government departments, which commission research abroad.
United Nations and the European commission.

A comment

If well managed, the development will be a success but will take many years. This should not be viewed as a disadvantage, for it will allow the project to develop organically and systematically. Its success will depend on its productivity and independence.

The Institute cannot, therefore, be treated simply as a government department. But since its key task is to serve the state and the people, it must be made properly accountable to both. That can easily be achieved by setting up an independent governing body which supports and directs the work of the Institute. On this body their can be representative from the school Board, local college staff, Dar-es-salaam University, the government, the Party etc.
Therefore, for the Institute to be genuinely successful and achieve the programme laid out, it also needs to be given space and time to develop and mature without too much daily interference from established vested interests.




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