Development. It's the biggest game in town.

The Germans are here. The Americans are here. The Chinese are here. So are the Swedes, the Canadians, the Finns, the Norwegians, the Danes, and Lord knows who else.

They fill up the Kilimanjaro, New-Africa and Agip hotels. They clog Tanzanian Airways, and keep the downtown prostitutes busy at night.

Many of them cut striking figures. In their double-knit safari suits, they look like drip-dry white hunters.

The governments they represent build roads, hospitals, schools, multisaillion dollar dams, housing projects, television stations and irrigation diches.

Some are quite cynical about what they're doing.

"The United Nations told our country it had to give money some place," said one European development officer.

"The truth of the matter," he added, "is we need Tanzania and the countries like it worse than they need us. We tell them, in effect, 'Sure, we'll help you get a factory started as long as you buy the machinery and all the parts from us.'"

For the record, foreign aid donors generally describe their motives in more altruistic terms.

"One reason this nation has a foreign aid program is that we believe we have a humanitarian and moral obligation to help alleviate poverty and promote more equitable economic growth in the developing world," Secretary of State Cyrus Vance declared earlier this month.

"We cannot be indifferent when half a billion people are hungry and malnourished, when 700 million adults are illiterate, and when one and a half billion people do not have minimal health care," Vance said. "As free people who have achieved one of the highest standards of living in the world, we cannot fail to respond to such staggering statistics and the individual lives they encompass.

"We can be proud that we are a people who believe in the development of human potential."

In dollar terms, the United States remains today the world's largest foreign and donor.

In 1977, it spent $3.2 billion on direct assistance, put up another $1.2 billion for food aid under the Food for peace program, and contributed another $900,000 through the World Bank and other international financial institutions.

Whatever the motives of the domor nations, foreign assistance is an important factor in many developing countries.

If you took all the money various governments spent in Tanzania last year and wrote a check to every Tanzanian, it would come to about $20 a person - a tidy sum in a country where the annual per capita income is $160.