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The Mistrust Syndrome

Lack of Trust between and within Institutional Actors Hampers any Development Process to be Genuine and Sustainable


01 / 1999

1-The context and the challenge

In Tanzania, the political history and all the recent changes have affected the spirit of voluntarism and participation of the people. They were used to benefit from social services - health education - for free but due to the new political trends, all these services are now to be paid when more people have no job and less money. During this transitional period when the government pulls back from many sectors, it is up to the civil society or on the private sector to play this role. However, many areas still lack these new actors or they are at infant stage and still need to build their capacity. This is particularly the case of many local NGOs.

How to identify the real needy people? What kind of indicators can we use? Who is competent to appraise the proposals received at the micro-project management unit of European Development Fund?

2- The partners

The unit initially used to deal directly with grass-roots communties until recently when contracts were signed with big NGOs who are the ones who directly work with the beneficiaries.

However, the NGOs have to be experienced and reputable. Such condition quite automatically excludes local emerging NGOs who are quite recent in Tanzania. International NGOs are selected although they are very expensive as far as human resources are concerned (technical assitance).

3- Methods of operation and procedures

According to the criteria set by the unit, none of the 130 NGOs who applied for a microfunding qualified.

This is amplified by the mistrust that exists at all the levels between institutional actors - donors and government, delegation and units like this one, expatriate and local staff. Corruption is always seen as governing all decisions made by national staff without any attempt to trust them and give them the responsibility to identify proper actors.

The selection of the NGOs is a very long process where the European Union Delegation has a big say. The unit, although it is hosted in the Prime Ministers Office, is a creature of the delegation since they pay all the salaries of the staff whether national or expatriates.

Outputs are very difficult to evaluate at this stage but, on a personnel point of view, it is a very frustrating situation to be at a post of responsibility on the paper and to be mistrusted and never followed.

The Technical Advisor, who is an expatriate, works closer to the delegation than to the national staff, his colleagues. Donors have a too strong say since they are the ones who can decide on everything without any justification. The ones who have the money decide, others follow.

It is a pity that donors are so arrogant and do not put their interest last. They could try to behave as being client oriented. The language spoken by the donors and the one understood by the society is not the same even if they both talk in English.

Donors have formed their network and exchange informatin on who is to be considered as serious partner or not. This is not bad but it results in the exclusion of Tanzanian operators, whom they do not have the opportunity to meet or to understand. May be technical assistance from other ACPs could be more comprehensive of the situation.

Key words

technical assistance, NGO

, Tanzania


The interview was done in English preceeded and followed by long discussions in Swahili. Mistrust syndrome is indeed very much at the centre of expatriate and national staff relationships."Can we trust them?"everybody ask. This difficult intercultural interaction is even made more intense by the very short administrative distance that exists between a Technical and his/her ambassador compared to the one that exists between the national staff and a Minister. Ministers and Ambassodors meet often, so does the Ambassodor and the expatriate staff, but not the national staff and their ministres.

This difference in the relatinship to power or to policy-makers also instills opacity and mistrust. The command line is unclear. The interviewee was a former higher education lecturer who recently joined the unit but is very disappointed about the role she has to play.


EDF Microprojects Management Unit

Box 2815- Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. E-mail : mpp@ - Phone : 255 51 700604

[Written for the public debate "Actors and processes of the cooperation", which could feed the next Lome Convention (European Union/ACP countries relations). This debate, animated by the FPH, has been started by the Cooperation and Development Commission of the European Parliament and is supported by the European Commission.]

Interview with MAFWENGA, Hilda



FPH (Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme) - 38 rue Saint-Sabin, 75011 Paris, FRANCE - Tél. 33 (0)1 43 14 75 75 - Fax 33 (0)1 43 14 75 99 - France - - paris (@)

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