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Nyerere taught us that knowledge is power – SARDC

Nyerere taught us that knowledge is power – SARDC

Julius Nyerere, who was affectionately addressed as Mwalimu (Teacher), recognized the key role of knowledge as a strategic resource for freedom and development.

As Chairman of the Front Line States, he motivated for the establishment of the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre (SARDC), and became the Founding Patron.

SARDC was established in 1985, the year he retired as President of the United Republic of Tanzania. The challenge to be addressed was the collection and distribution of information across borders, and support for regional policy development, following the establishment of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), the forerunner of SADC, in 1980.

The story was told by H.E. Benjamin Mkapa, the former President of Tanzania (1995-2005), who as Mwalimu’s foreign minister was a key adviser on the establishment and early development of SARDC, which has grown to become a widely respected regional policy institute and think tank.

Speaking at the naming ceremony of the SARDC building in Harare, Zimbabwe, as Julius K. Nyerere House, Mkapa said it is important for SADC and the rest of the African continent to value and be guided by the ideals and principles of Nyerere, who believed that unity, integrity and knowledge are critical for socio-economic development.

“Towards the end of the 1970s, when it was very clear that we are going to win, we said now the challenge is not just the question of getting freedom, but also using that freedom in order to strengthen our capacity to develop, and we would require the same knowledge, or more knowledge now, to disseminate it more widely and more deeply so that our people can be inspired to self-develop and our friends can assist us in that development process.

“And that is how the thought and development of the SARDC was conceived,” Mkapa said.

He paid tribute to the Founding Directors of SARDC, including the late David Martin, as a journalist widely respected for his integrity and factual reporting, and “a nationalist beyond borders, a true Africanist,” who used his arsenal of words as a freedom fighter.

Mkapa urged SADC and Member States to give practical support to SARDC as the centre is playing an important role in tracking progress and raising awareness of regional development issues, achievements and challenges.

“I hope SADC Member States can move forward to strengthen the capacity of this centre, but also to drive member states to exchange more information about their development challenges, about their development strategies, (and) about their development paradigms so that we can truly move together in unity towards greater freedom of our people,” he said.

SARDC is a knowledge partner of SADC, and has a large repository of regional information established through has an MOU first signed in 1995, which was revised and broadened in 2005, and refreshed in 2015.

Naming the SARDC premises as Julius K Nyerere House was part of a bigger initiative by the SARDC Board to honour the Founding Patron, that included publishing a book titled Julius Nyerere, Asante Sana, Thank You Mwalimu that is a compilation of his key statements and perspectives on development issues, and is well illustrated with historical photographs.

The SARDC Executive Director Munetsi Madakufamba said “SARDC shall endeavour to uphold Nyerere’s ideals and principles and carry forward his legacy.”

SARDC is a widely respected development research institution that provides knowledge support to regional policy initiatives such as infrastructure, industrialization, energy development, climate change, water resources, gender and development, and China-Africa relations.

SARDC also runs a regional news service, Southern African News Features that provides knowledgeable background articles about regional development issues and events in southern Africa and the African continent, accessible on as well as the SADC website

SARDC works on a range of regional research initiatives, including Infrastructure, Energy, Industrialization, Water Resources, Gender, and issues relating to Environment and Climate. SARDC has a rich historical archive which is being digitized for online access, and is working with UNESCO to produce resource materials on the regional dimensions and linkages of the National Liberation Movements.

He taught us that “Knowledge is Power”.


About The Author

SADC Correspondent

SADC correspondents are independent contributors whose work covers regional issues of southern Africa outside the immediate Namibian ambit. Ed.