Poverty declines in Tanzania over past decade

Tuesday December 17 2019

Tanzanian President John Magufuli.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli (centre) in Mwanza on December 9, 2019. Poverty is declining in Tanzania according to a new World Bank report. PHOTO | AFP 

PAUL REDFERN
By PAUL REDFERN
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Poverty is declining in Tanzania according to a new World Bank report, but nearly half the population still lives on less than $1.90 per day.

The report, issued last week, said that mainland Tanzania “recorded sustained economic growth and poverty reduction over the past decade, (although) the poverty reducing impact of economic growth has been slowing down”.

The World Bank said that it had confirmed that the government’s “basic needs poverty rate” had declined from 34.4 per cent in 2007 to 28.2 per cent in 2012, and to a further 26.4 per cent in 2018.

“Further reduction in poverty is welcome news,” said Bella Bird, the World Bank country director for Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. “But it is important to accelerate the trend, as the number of the poor is still high, and the majority of Tanzanians are vulnerable to falling back into poverty at the slightest shock.”

The World Bank says that there are “emerging signs of a structural transformation” in the economy that can be seen in the increasing share of industry and services in total employment. Agriculture is employing fewer workers, and those who remain in the sector are diversifying towards non-farm wage and self-employment.

“With an increase in the economic returns outside agriculture, there is a growing need for investments in human capital especially among the poor and the vulnerable. Increasing access to productive employment opportunities is key to sustaining the momentum picked up during the past decade,” Ms Bird said.

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Key findings included improved access to basic services like water and sanitation facilities, as well as energy. School enrolment rates have also increased, and a higher proportion of the labour force is working in secondary and tertiary sectors.

However, despite these improvements, “overall education level and access to basic services remain low, particularly for the poorest and for those living in rural areas. This is reflected in recent growth being less pro-poor, widening the welfare gap between the rich and the poor”.

The World Bank says that poor people in Tanzania still have “limited access to better job opportunities”, adding that persistent high population growth “is a major challenge for poverty reduction efforts, but it can be a huge opportunity with the right investments and policy initiatives”.

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