The life and times of Prof Reginald H Green- the African Connection

The life and times of Prof Reginald H Green- the African Connection

Professor Reginald Herbold Green who passed on in Sussex, England in October this year, was a seasoned “old African hand.”

An extremely bright intellectual, his Harvard University PhD thesis in Economics was less than 100 pages entailing a lot of econometrics work, although much of his future workload was policy advice and therefore non-mathematical.

Prof Green’s first major assignment in Africa was in Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. Being an American, and given that the 1966 coup d’état against Nkrumah was CIAsponsored, people sometimes looked at him with suspicion.

But he earned the trust of many heroic African leaders from President Julius Nyerere to leaders of liberation movements from Mozambique to Namibia.

It was while he was serving these leaders that I was privileged to know and work with him. I first met him in the late 1960s when he worked as Economic Advisor in the Tanzanian Treasury. Later I became his student, work mate and friend who could push him on any subject, including his personal life issues.

In addition to his government post he taught Economic Planning in the Master’s degree programme at the University of Dar-Es-Salaam(UDSM).

This plus being a prolific writer propelled him to his appointment as Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex when he left Tanzania in 1974.

The IDS Sussex which developed close ties with UDSM’s new IDS became his base for the rest of life. In addition to fostering ties with Tanzanian and African institutions and professionals he was a comfort zone for Africans in UK universities seeking advice on degree courses, etc.

In Tanzania not only did he do economics work at the Treasury, he wrote development economics papers for local and foreign publications but also disseminated the gist of his work through articles in the newspapers.

An ardent supporter of the thrust of President Nyerere’s policies and programmes, he kept clear of the sharp ideological debates between “Ujamaa” and Marxian scientific socialists.

A major part of his work was on the promotion of regional economic cooperation and integration, working with regional economic groupings such as the East African Community (EAC) and the SADC, in the latter case especially on the lessening of economic dependency on apartheid South Africa.

His 1968 book co-authored with Ann Seidman, one-time UDSM don, entitled Unity or Poverty? The Economics of Pan-Africanism (1968) building on Nkrumah’s Africa Must Unite, book whose publication coincided with the founding of the Organization of African Unity(OAU) in 1963, was a major contribution on the urge for economic independence through regional economic communities.

However, Professor Green’s most important contribution was the work he did with the liberation movements in Southern Africa from SWAPO of Namibia to FRELIMO of Mozambique before and/or after independence sometimes as an individual consultant –com-policy advisor but much more as a front for international or regional organizations’ work such as the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF or SADC, whose policy premises and work fitted his own policy inclinations.

In the case of SWAPO of Namibia and its “Nationhood Programme,” he assisted with capacity building of their cadres especially through seminars and helped with analytical work on post-independence political and economic development scenarios and policy choices. A major work with R H Green’s extensive input was a book on policies for an independent Namibia produced in 1984, six years before independence entitled, NAMIBIA: Perspectives for National Reconstruction and Development.

The book with associated sectoral papers from transportation to commerce and industry helped Namibia to start on a firm footing afterindependence. His extensive network of groups sympathetic to decolonization and independence from Oxfam to the World Council of Churches widened the liberation movements’ support and outreach in key constituencies in the Northern hemisphere.

For various reasons Prof Green was in high demand internationally. He was not too money-minded, and he could start work and finalize a contract later.

Secondly, he had a very sharp mind; he was like a walking library, many an encyclopedia. His ability to quickly make credible estimates, extrapolate, tap from similar experiences endeared him well to policy makers such as budgetary officials with tight deadlines.

Working with him on the possibility of independent Namibia using the southern Angolan port of Namibe just in case apartheid South Africa remained with the port of Walvis Bay, since we could not visit Namibia (then South West Africa), once we had important data about the port of Dar-Es-Salaam we were able to estimate what it would take to use the port of Namibe.

We found the prospects of use of Namibe quite shaky. In the event Walvis Bay became an integral part of the new Namibia. In later years he worked very much on the social sectors and indicators, on questions of poverty and hunger, women and children, which became major inputs for monitoring the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the successor, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) not to mention Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs), key instruments for debt reduction and donor funding of poverty eradication programmes.

R H Green was not a darling of the donors having been a critic, albeit constructive, of many of their programmes especially the structural adjustment programmes of the 1980s.

On the contrary they looked at him with suspicion given his socialist leanings. This was vivid when he was proposed a potential Economic Advisor to President Yoweri Museveni when he came to power in 1986.

Paris Club donors in unison rejected him. Prof Green was seen as funny or eccentric in the way he dressed and carried himself around.

His walking was aided by a Bishop- like walking stick, wore a scouts-like scarf tied with a cowrie shell knot, a Muslim cap and was always smoking a pipe which he argued was not as bad as cigarettes! In the late 1960s he disappointed Finance Permanent Secretary, Jacob Namfua when on a trip to Nairobi for an EAC meeting he was dressed thus and appeared with files in “a market woman- like basket”!

He narrated to me how on arrival in Copenhagen on a flight from Dar, airport officials were hard on him, suspecting he was an illegal immigrant, but were thoroughly embarrassed when he produced a Concorde ticket for a flight to New York and when he was picked up for rest by one of the most respected government leaders. Prof R H Green, a veteran expatriate, lecturer, researcher, consultant, author and indeed a major public figure across continents has died when a lot of what he pushed has seen the light of day from the rebirth of the EAC to freedom in Southern Africa.

He joins leading “old Tanzanian hands” in the Diaspora with their resting places quite adjacent, including Father Richard Walsh, Mwalimu Nyerere’s teacher and benefactor, Prof Lionel Cliffe, one of the founding Tutors of TANU’s ideological training centre, the famous Kivukoni College and Miss Joan Wicken, President Nyerere’s veteran Private Secretary.

May his soul rest in eternal peace!

  • Prof NGILA MWASE was a student and workmate of Prof R H Green. (ngila.mwase@yahoo.com; 0752-427427)
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