Almost immediately after President John F. Kennedy established USAID by executive order under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, USAID began work in the newly independent Tanganyika. A new nation with enormous potential, Tanganyika partnered with USAID to build human capacity in the public service sector. To achieve this, education became a high priority, with USAID helping establish the Morogoro Agricultural College (now Sokoine University of Agriculture (link is external)), the Institute of Public Administration, and teacher training colleges in both Iringa and Dar es Salaam.
In 1964, Tanganyika and Zanzibar unified to create the country now known as Tanzania. While focusing primarily on education, USAID also invested in community development, conservation, and infrastructure projects in order to transport food and water to rural areas. Most notably, in 1966 on behalf of USAID, the Stanford Research Institute studied the potential of a Tanzania-Zambia highway. Food assistance also began in this decade when, in 1962, Catholic Relief Services began administering the Food for Peace program (created under U.S. Public Law 480) as a response to food shortages.
The U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1973 sought to refocus aid in an effort to improve the lives of the poorest majority. For Tanzania, this was the rural farming population (roughly 90 percent of the population). The 1970s were marked by an increased focus on large-scale agricultural projects with the goal of increasing small farm outputs. Programs included increasing credit available to farmers and bolstering the extension service within the Ministry of Agriculture, including seed multiplication and distribution. In 1973, the Tanzania-Zambia Highway was completed, linking Tanzania to international markets and increasing accessibility to its own southwestern region. The mission sought to strengthen rural health centers and train health care workers; family planning and maternal health programs also emerged during this decade.
Building on successes from the previous decade, the 1980s began with USAID supporting policies that met Tanzania’s goal of decentralization. USAID worked to empower rural areas to govern themselves effectively in order to maximize agricultural advances of the time.
Despite progress, a foreign exchange crisis loomed over Tanzania. In 1982, in response to non-repayment of loans, the United States invoked the Brooke Amendment of the Foreign Assistance Act, which restricts assistance to any country in default for more than six months on loans made under the act. As a result, no new funds were allocated to the mission, resulting in a phase-out plan over a four-year time period. Through negotiations and debt restructuring, the Brooke Amendment was lifted in 1987, breathing new life into the program.
In the late 1980s, rural road construction remained a core objective, along with HIV/AIDS as rates climbed as high as 40 percent in certain sectors of the Tanzanian population. USAID supported the development of the National AIDS Control Program and began to distribute and promote the use of condoms.
In the mid-1990s, USAID launched Participation in Environmental Resource Management to assist Tanzania’s Wildlife Division in creating plans to protect natural resources. In order to safeguard publicly-used resources at the village level, USAID partnered with the Peace Corps to install trained volunteers across the country. Democracy and governance also became a core objective for the first time, and in 1995 USAID provided election observers to ensure fair voting practices. Additionally, the mission assisted in revenue collection and helped Tanzania recover lost income from tax evasion.
In the 2000s, health initiatives characterized USAID’s biggest accomplishments in the new millennium. In 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was created, a program that funds 95 percent of USAID’s HIV/AIDS programming in Tanzania. As the largest HIV/AIDS donor in Tanzania, USAID’s program emphasizes treatment and prevention, counseling and testing, protection of vulnerable populations, tuberculosis, and male circumcision.
The President’s Malaria Initiative started in Tanzania in 2005. By working with the National Malaria Control Program, the Zanzibar Malaria Control Program, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USAID protected millions of Tanzanians annually through indoor residual spraying and distributed over five million mosquito nets since 2006. This contributed to a 28 percent decrease in child mortality in the second half of the 2000s. The malaria infection rate in Zanzibar is now less than 1 percent, and is at the pre-elimination stage.
Today, Tanzania remains a key development partner of the United States in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2011, the Feed the Future initiative has worked to reduce poverty and improve nutrition by supporting Tanzania’s agricultural sector—a major cornerstone of the economy. Since that time, Feed the Future interventions have benefited 450,000 people, and have supported better access to markets, training, and modern technology among smallholder farmers and the private sector. As USAID moves ahead, Tanzania remains a major focus for additional presidential initiatives, including the Global Health Initiative, Power Africa, the Global Climate Change Initiative, and most recently, Let Girls Learn.
Early International Development Efforts
The modern-day concept of international development assistance took shape after World War II ended in 1945. George C. Marshall, the Secretary of State from 1947 to 1949 provided significant financial and technical assistance to Europe after the war. Famously known as the Marshall Plan, this was a successful effort that allowed Europe to rebuild its infrastructure, strengthen its economy, and stabilize the region.
International Aid Becomes Foreign Policy
Building on the success of the Marshall Plan, President Harry S. Truman proposed an international development assistance program in 1949. The 1950 Point Four Program focused on two goals:
- Creating markets for the United States by reducing poverty and increasing production in developing countries
- Diminishing the threat of communism by helping countries prosper under capitalism
From 1952 to 1961, programs supporting technical assistance and capital projects continued as the primary form of U.S. aid, and were a key component of U.S. foreign policy.
During this time, government leaders established various precursor organizations to USAID, including the:
- Mutual Security Agency
- Foreign Operations Administration
- International Cooperation Administration
International Aid in the 1960s: An Agency is Born
In 1961, President Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law and created USAID by executive order. Once USAID got to work, international development assistance opportunities grew tremendously. The time during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations became known as the “decade of development.”
International Aid in the 1970s: A Shift to Basic Human Needs
In the 1970s, the USAID began to shift its focus away from technical and capital assistance programs. Instead, U.S. development assistance stressed a “basic human needs” approach, which focused on:
- Food and nutrition
- Population planning
- Human resources development
International Aid in the 1980s: A Turn to Free Markets
In the 1980s, foreign assistance sought to stabilize currencies and financial systems.
It also promoted market-based principles to restructure developing countries’ policies and institutions. During this decade, USAID reaffirmed its commitment to broad-based economic growth, emphasizing employment and income opportunities through a revitalization of agriculture and expansion of domestic markets. In this decade, development activities were increasingly channeled through private voluntary organizations (PVOs), and aid shifted from individual projects to large programs.
International Aid in the 1990s: Sustainability and Democracy
In the 1990s, USAID’s top priority became sustainable development, or helping countries improve their own quality of life. During this decade, USAID tailored development assistance programs to a country’s economic condition, which meant that:
- Developing countries received an integrated package of assistance
- Transitional countries received help in times of crisis
- Countries with limited USAID presence received support through nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
USAID played a lead role in planning and implementing programs following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. USAID programs helped establish functioning democracies with open, market-oriented economic systems and responsive social safety nets.
International Aid in the 2000s: War and Rebuilding
The 2000s, brought more evolution for USAID and foreign assistance with government officials once again calling for reform of how the agency conducts business. With the Afghanistan and Iraq wars in full swing, USAID was called on to help those two countries rebuild government, infrastructure, civil society and basic services such as health care and education. The Agency began rebuilding with an eye to getting the most bang out of its funding allocations. It also began an aggressive campaign to reach out to new partner organizations – including the private sector and foundations – to extend the reach of foreign assistance.
Today, USAID staff work in more than 100 countries around the world with the same overarching goals that President Kennedy outlined 50 years ago – furthering America’s foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while also extending a helping hand to people struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country. It is this caring that stands as a hallmark of the United States around the world.
In 2013, USAID launched a new mission statement to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies. This work includes steps to diversify the streams of capital that finance development, improve the way progress is measured and invest in force multipliers like science, technology, innovation and partnership to accelerate impact.
Even as the Agency continues to respond to a record number of humanitarian disasters and ongoing crises, the work to solidify – and build – on progress continues.
Learn more about what USAID does today: